MANKATO, Minn. — Micro lakes of sweat collected on Jerick McKinnon's brow and cheeks — after the Vikings walk-through Monday morning.
Nicknamed "Jet" for his speed, McKinnon goes full-throttle and spent the offseason working to be able to do so again after missing the final five games of the season because of a back injury. There were workouts in California as a guest of Kyle Rudolph this spring and then in Houston with Adrian Peterson, whose workouts have a reputation for their difficulty.
View images from the Monday, July 27 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"I focused on explosiveness. I got to work out with AP, and a lot of his stuff is explosive-type stuff," McKinnon said. "I got to work on pass pro and stuff like that. Last year when I first came in I didn't know anything about being a traditional running back and stuff like that. As the season went on, I learned a lot, how to protect yourself on certain hits and stuff like that so I'm just taking it all and bringing it into training camp."
McKinnon teamed with Matt Asiata to fill in for Peterson last season. He rushed 113 times for 538 yards, including a 55-yarder against Atlanta. The injury, however, stopped the promising debut season in its tracks.
"I just feel like I've got the pop back in my step," McKinnon said. "Last year, after going down, I felt like my whole body was just heavy and bearing on me, but after working out this offseason with him and in Minneapolis with Everson (Griffen) and Rudy, I just feel like I've got that pop back in my step and I can get up a little better."
McKinnon said he's working with running backs coach Kirby Wilson to improve multiple aspects of his game this season and build on what he learned last season.
"I think it was everything I thought it would be and a little bit more. I would probably say the first snap the speed was really fast," McKinnon said. "When you look back on it, it's amazing how fast the game moves but once you get in the playbook and everything comes to you more naturally it slows down for you.
"Last year it was, you don't know what to expect," McKinnon added. "You're new, things aren't as fast when you get in the playbook a little bit. It's not working in the newer things, it's more perfecting those things, like Coach Kirby says, perfecting your craft and stuff like that. I think that's the best part."
McKinnon has worked with the second team behind Peterson and been in on plenty of special teams snaps as a returner and cover man.
Wobschall: Norv Says a Leader's Actions Speak Louder than his Words
Everyone pretty much understands that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is not one to embrace hyperbole. But it's clear Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner isn't any bigger of a fan.
Asked on Monday what a player (Mike Wallace) can do to demonstrate more leadership ability, Turner didn't focus his comments on rah-rah speeches or team-building activities.
"To me, the most important part about leadership, and I'll say this about every position, I've heard people talk about how (Teddy Bridgewater's) leadership ability has improved. To me, the only thing that matters is how you play when you step on the field," Turner said. "And I want Wallace to make plays. If he makes plays, he does the things we want him to do, he works hard in practice, he sets an example in his actions in terms of the way he approaches preparation, then that's leadership. What guys say is very meaningless to me; it's obviously what they do."
For the record, Turner is bullish on Wallace and feels his addition to the roster will help the offense become more productive.
As further proof that Turner would rather toss hyperbole to the side than bring it to center stage, the veteran NFL coach also wasn't interested in engaging in League-wide QB rankings.
"You try not to pay attention to those things or see them," Turner said. "I see some of the rankings and none of them matters because, obviously, how he plays is the key.
"The one evaluation we care about is ours, and I think based on where we got to last year and where we think we're going, I think we have a top flight quarterback," Turner added.
Peters: Concentration offseason focus of Charles Johnson
Turner's philosophy on leadership having an on-field basis brings us to Charles Johnson, who is one example of an emerging playmaker for the Vikings.
Johnson caught 31 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns after Minnesota signed him from Cleveland's practice squad last September. Johnson talked about how hard he's seen Wallace work since the veteran arrived via a trade negotiated by General Manager Rick Spielman during free agency.
Wallace is usually the last player off the field and hasn't hesitated to dive for a pass to ensure a completion. Johnson executed a similar feat Monday on a short route and generated one of the largest responses from the crowd at Blakeslee Stadium when he ran a deep post route, gained a step on Terence Newman and didn't let hearing the footsteps of Harrison Smith disrupt his concentration.
Johnson corralled a beauty of a spiral from Bridgewater in stride and zipped toward the end zone, for a play against two veterans that are highly spoken of for their leadership and ability.
"I became more detailed in my route running. That's a key thing for me," Johnson said of his offseason focus. "I like to gain a lot of separation on my routes. I like to be open and just concentrate. A lot of times we drop balls because of concentration and not following it all the way in. That's the thing, with me being so confident with my hands, I tend to look away before it hits, and you'll have drops like that."
Cordarrelle Patterson also drew some "oohs" and "aahs" on a deep route thrown by Shaun Hill. Patterson and Jarius Wright also showed focus through traffic.