EAGAN, Minn. — The full-padded THWUMP is finally here.
Forty days before opening the regular season at Cincinnati — and just 11 before hosting Denver to begin the preseason at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings practiced Tuesday for the first time in full pads.
And before that, the Vikings will hold a team scrimmage at the venue on Saturday as part of training camp. Click here for tickets to that session.
For Anthony Barr, the return to wearing pads and playing in front of fans has been a long time coming.
"Very excited for that. U.S. Bank is probably my favorite stadium to play in when it's full of fans and super loud, so that'll be interesting," Barr said. "[Saturday's scrimmage is] not a preseason game or regular-season game, but just kind of to get back on that field will be cool."
Barr only played six quarters in 2020 before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. It was a tremendous loss for the Vikings defense, sidelining the player who has relayed defensive calls from Mike Zimmer during almost all of the head coach's tenure in Minnesota.
Donning all the pads Tuesday caused a stir of emotions, ranging from excitement to a bit of nervousness for the four-time Pro Bowler.
"It's like the first time all over again. It's kind of like that every year, but especially after last year, it's been 8, 9, 10 months or whatever," Barr said. "It's definitely, I'm excited to get back out there, run around, hit somebody and play the game of football."
Barr said the mentality is to remember to take care of teammates as much as possible while trying to replicate a game a little more.
Third-year center Garrett Bradbury has started every game of his first two seasons. He said intensity and focus on technique have been high to open camp, and he's excited for another progression.
"I mean we play football in pads, so it's taking that next step towards getting ready for games and everything," Bradbury said. "I think O-line and D-line will tell you that whether there's pads on or not pads on, we're going full speed, we're working technique and we've had really good work whether they're on or not. Just adding that next step, a little more physical. Get some gap scheme runs in there and get it downhill and run the ball. We're excited."
Quote of the Day
"I would say Jake seeks out coaching more than any QB I've been around. He's always asking for the little details. Arm strength comes to mind, but I would say his release. He's really worked on a quicker release in the last two years I've been here. I think that's made him a better player.
"We always say the faster you go pec to earlobe … the ball gets out that much faster. Jake has really made a conscious effort to go 'here to here' [with the football] in a blink of an eye."
— Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak on Jake Browning
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Tuesday's media session.
1. Bradbury in 'complete command'
The Vikings have placed an emphasis this year on the interior of the offensive line, moving second-year pro Ezra Cleveland from right guard (nine starts in 2020) to left guard and repping Dakota Dozier and Olisaemeka Udoh at right guard.
Bradbury has been a mainstay in the middle, providing continuity with changes on his left, on his right and at quarterback.
Kubiak said Bradbury has shown "complete command of the protections" and is a great asset for the offense in general.
2. One position group but big differences
Udoh spent most of his first two seasons practicing at right tackle, but he was asked by offensive line coach Phil Rauscher just before camp started to try guard.
Udoh spoke with media members and described the difference of moving inside.
"The space, everything is a lot tighter [at guard]. You're probably going to want to punch a lot sooner than you think," Udoh said. "You're moving some big guys like Dalvin [Tomlinson] out there. He's as much as I weigh, except he's compact. So a lot of torqueing and physicality that goes into that position."
The changes continued Monday when Udoh shifted to left tackle with the first team when Rashod Hill was sidelined.