EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –*Thwump. Smack. Thwump. Smack. Thwump. Smack. *
Like clockwork, the methodical rhythm of a football being released from the JUGS machine and landing squarely in Laquon Treadwell's grasp can be heard long after the final practice horn sounds.
The receiver starts off turned to the side, his body poised as in mid-sprint, arms outstretched to snag balls spit just far enough to the right to make him reach.
For a total of 16 minutes, Treadwell practices 10 different stances and scenarios – from one-handed grabs, to reaching back for catches at his hip, to overhead catches from his knees. He took 292 reps.
"I'm just working on my different catching points," Treadwell says after a Vikings voluntary organized team activities practice. "Low, high, back shoulder, lower and outside. I'm just prepping my hands and my body for getting in those game situations – the ball could be anywhere."
It's not uncommon for Treadwell to be the last one off the field following a practice. He views the sessions as part of the improvement process.
"It's moving in the positive direction, every day," Treadwell says. "Every day I'm getting more and more comfortable, more and more into the speed of the game."
Treadwell's work ethic stands out to his coaches and teammates, including cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
"The young guy, he works" Munnerlyn says of Treadwell. "Look at him now – over there catching balls and trying to work on his hands even more.
Munnerlyn says he's been impressed with what Treadwell has done so far in practice and is expecting big things from the receiver in his debut season.
"He catches the ball really well," Munnerlyn says in a session with Twin Cities media members. "He has a really high catch radius, he's long, he has strong hands and he's sneaky fast. He can run by you if you let him."
Treadwell hopes to be able to do just that in game situations, and working with his defensive teammates is another tool he's using to improve. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, entering his fourth season with Minnesota, has specifically been teaching Treadwell how to more effectively attack the cornerbacks in their different techniques.
"I asked [Xavier] what he sees in my routes that gives it away," Treadwell says. "I'm always willing to learn and always willing to get better, and he's been helping me a lot. He pushes me."
The rookie receiver says he already sees a big difference in his route running from day one until now, week two of voluntary organized team activities. On the offensive side of the ball, Treadwell identified Charles Johnson as the receiver that he keeps his eye on during practice.
"C.J. kind of has it to a 'T,' in a sense, of how they want the routes ran," Treadwell says. "So I've been watching him. I want to keep learning from him and picking up on his tendencies that he does well against things that I struggle with."
Treadwell says he's building rapport with Teddy Bridgewater, and he's also soaking up everything he can from backup quarterback Shaun Hill, whom Treadwell received a large number of passes from during the second week of OTAs. Hill is entering his 15th NFL season and second under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"Shaun has been helping me on the plays a lot," Treadwell says. "He knows the offense. Sometimes when I'm struggling and trying to figure out what I have when I break the huddle, he'll be right there helping me out."
As Treadwell spends all the time he can practicing and absorbing direction from his teammates, he's grateful to have such a strong coaching staff in Zimmer and wide receivers coach George Stewart.
"Coach Zimmer is a competitor, a high-spirited guy and feisty," Treadwell says, smiling. "I like that. It spreads throughout the team, and it helps all of us come to practice and compete at a higher level."
Zimmer invests in the team, as does Stewart. Treadwell says he appreciates playing for a position coach who genuinely cares about his players, and he's not surprised that a number of Vikings receivers – including 2009 Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin and Pro Bowler Sidney Rice – have come through Stewart's classroom.
"When he comes in the receivers' room, you're going to feel his presence," Treadwell says. "He wants the best for us. He's not just there to make it through the day – he's really pushing us from [the moment] we walk in."
Treadwell feels positive about the progress he's made since arriving at Winter Park just under five weeks ago. He shares a mindset with his coaches, however – there is always room for improvement.
"I just have to get in the playbook and keep learning and moving along," Treadwell says. "I'm just excited to be part of this team."