EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings veterans were sweaty and smiling as they left the practice fields on Friday.
Blue skies dotted with clouds back-dropped the first full-team practice of Verizon Vikings Training Camp, and it felt good to be back in action.
"It's great to be back with all 90 guys. It’s] a great opportunity for us to get better each and every day,” said Everson Griffen, who spoke to Twin Cities media members and [**even fielded a question from a guest reporter**.
Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs emphasized that although it's early in the process, arriving every day with confidence in his teammates is a non-negotiable.
"Just [be] ready to work," said Diggs, who is entering his fifth NFL season. "The chips will fall where they [may], but right now just putting the time in and really leading the young guys and leading by example – that's my main focus at this point."
The page of last season has long since been flipped, but the disappointing taste of going 8-7-1 and missing the playoffs hasn't completely dissolved.
Diggs, Griffen and tight end Kyle Rudolph all talked about learning from past mistakes and bouncing back to where they know the team can be.
Rudolph reminded reporters that it's by-and-large difficult to replicate success from year to year in the NFL. Having been in Minnesota since being drafted in 2011, it's a trend he understands sometimes all too well.
"If you think because you had a good year the year before that you can just kind of roll the ball out there the next year and win football games, you're wrong," Rudolph said. "And … if you had a down year the year before, that has nothing to do with the 2019 Minnesota Vikings.
"For us offensively, our mentality's about going out there each and every day and just putting in the work," Rudolph continued. "Once we get into the grind of training camp, day one, day two, day four, how do we respond? … To get to where we want to be the first week of September, we've gotta string a bunch of good days together."
Rudolph explained that the Vikings "created an identity" in 2017 that helped them finish 13-3 and advance to the NFC Championship game, and he said that last year's team moved away from that identity.
"We know what we have to do to get back, and the good thing about this team is, we're willing to work for it," Rudolph said. "We're going to come out here every day and work. That's one of the things, in my tenure here, I've never been part of a team that's not willing to work."
Diggs echoed Rudolph's sentiments and pointed to the work ethic of each level of the offense, from individual position groups to, specifically, Kirk Cousins.
The quarterback is entering his second campaign in Purple, and Diggs stressed the importance of continuing to grow the chemistry between Cousins and the receiving corps.
"It's a never-ending get-to-know-you process," Diggs said. "The best way to [take that next step] is by investing time on the practice field. And we've got guys who want to work. Kirk wants to be great. He has a thing about his craft; he's serious about it. Same with me, same with the receivers in our room, so just trying to build off of last year. A lot of bad things happened, so we can build off of it. We can learn from them and grow."
Diggs also will continue building a relationship with Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who stepped into the role last December and now holds the position full-time. Diggs said he has "100-percent confidence" in Stefanski and is excited to see where he leads the offense.
After all, the Vikings are just getting started.
The team will practice Saturday and Sunday without pads before donning full gear for Monday afternoon's practice.
Fourth-year defensive end Stephen Weatherly was asked if things "really ramp up" on Monday, and he pushed back against that idea. Regardless of the extent of uniform or level of contact, he said, players need to be full-go mentally.
"You've gotta start now – making the plays, getting into everything – so when we put on pads, it's a seamless transition," Weatherly said. "Pads are nice, we're going to have a lot of days in pads, but during the season we're going to put on pads, like, once a week, so we're going to have to learn how to practice in our shells.
"If we can't come out and fire off the ball and not be afraid to lean on each other a little bit, we're going to have a big problem when the season runs around," Weatherly added. "Our intensity, it's going to sound a lot louder when we put on pads, but it's going to be the same."
With a day of camp behind them, Weatherly and his teammates are keeping at the grindstone.
Heading into Year 10, Griffen said he looks forward to taking each day at a time and improving alongside his teammates.
"We've all got one thing in common, and that's [our goal to] win games," Griffen said.