EAGAN, Minn. — Thump. Pop. Thump. Pop.
Minnesota's players donned full pads Monday for the first time of 2022 Vikings Training Camp.
The intensity increased during 1-on-1 receiver-defensive back and 1-on-1 pass rush drills with some thumping during the play and a bit of post-drill chatter from time to time, after without serious escalation.
"It's about not losing your mind when the pads come on, knowing what your responsibility is and just running to the ball," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "It was a little bit of hectic-ness, a little bit of chaos, but you've got to find your brain amongst all that."
Linebacker Jordan Hicks explained why the defense welcomes the pads enthusiastically.
"We get paid to hit people," Hicks said. "We can't effectively, truly do our job if the pads aren't on and it's not real football, so it feels good to finally be able to do that."
The full-padded session ended around 4:15 p.m. after a pair of late-half situational drills. It followed an off-day Sunday that had been preceded by four days of practices (two days in helmets only and two more in shells).
Cornerback Kris Boyd worked on a side field. He had not participated last Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium or Saturday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Tight end Irv Smith, Jr., participated in some team drills but was not involved in the situational periods at the end of practice.
Running back Kene Nwangwu did not practice.
Cornerback Nate Hairston was removed from the Active/Non-Football Injury list before the session and took reps as the second-team nickel during team drills.
Receiver Blake Proehl and linebacker Ryan Connelly remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
Here are three observations from Monday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. The battles up front
The Vikings boosted their defense early in free agency and the draft.
Veteran newcomers showed up in pass rush drills, with outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips coming off the line quickly on their 1-on-1 pass rush reps. Dalvin Tomlinson, a 2021 addition in free agency, also showed power during the period.
The group created some havoc up front during the team period, clogging running lanes and pressuring the pocket but maintaining the discipline needed to protect teammates at the quarterback position.
2. Kendricks is pretty special in this defense, too
One of the best catches of the day was turned in by linebacker Eric Kendricks.
The linebacker dropped into coverage, read the play and reacted by stepping in front of tight end Johnny Mundt for an interception of Kirk Cousins.
Kendricks closed on the ball with lightning quickness and secured the catch as he went to the ground.
It was a sign that the instincts he's shown as a 4-3 middle linebacker have carried over to Minnesota's new system under Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell.
3. Red zone work and a long drive
The Vikings pitted their second-team offense against their first-team defense for a bit of work in the red zone.
Kellen Mond lined up at quarterback for two plays before Sean Mannion took two with the second team.
The first play for each QB in the sequence was a handoff.
Mond's completed a pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on his next snap, a third-and-4 from the 12. It appeared safety Camryn Bynum might have been able to tackle Smith-Marsette shy of the sticks.
Mannion completed a 7-yard touchdown to Albert Wilson on third-and-goal from the 7 with his opportunity.
Cousins did well with the first-team offense during the red zone period.
He calmly navigated the pocket on a first-and-goal from the 7 to allow Adam Thielen to break free for a touchdown that Cousins expertly lofted with great accuracy. Cousins then put another pass on the money for a catch by K.J. Osborn on third-and-goal from the 4.
Minnesota closed the practice with an end-of-half situation.
Zach Davidson stepped in and caught three passes for gains of 10, 7 and 3, and Thielen peppered in an 11-yard reception between Davidson's first two catches of the drive