Entrenched in a position battle during the early stages of training camp, it's hard to blame Audie Cole for being intentional and methodical in everything he does. Being a seventh-round pick from four drafts ago and competing with a second-round pick from the most recent draft for that starting spot means there is little margin for error. While Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer appreciates Cole's calculated approach to executing his assignments on the practice field, he is also now encouraging the fourth-year LB to take the governor off a bit.
"Audie's doing a lot of things right in practice, and I told him I feel like he just needs to cut it loose a little bit," Zimmer said on Saturday. "He's not playing cautious, but he's trying not to make a mistake. I said, 'Hey, you know what to do. If you make a mistake, make it full speed. Let's cut it loose a little bit.'"
Cole's next opportunity to do so will come on Saturday night during the Vikings first evening practice. The coaching staff doesn't use the term scrimmage to describe the night's activities and there is no official scorekeeping, but there's also no doubting that a night practice ramps up the intensity a few notches, and that gives players an opportunity to shine and it gives coaches an even truer evaluation of how their players may perform on the big stage.
"It's more game like, it's more realistic in what they're going to see," Zimmer explained. "Some of these guys their first preseason game, when we go to Canton in the Hall of Fame game, their eyes are probably going to be that big. Some of these rookies that haven't experienced professional football and they all think about wow this is my first professional football game and I got to win a job and all that. I think their emotions will be a lot higher tonight, but it should be fun. I am excited about it."
Cole won't have the "deer in the headlights" look to him on Saturday night because he's gained too much experience during his Vikings tenure to fall into that mindset. But he will have a chance to strengthen his hold on the starting Mike LB job.
Although Cole has been solid in that role, the Vikings have not declared the position battle over.
"We're going to keep looking," Zimmer said. "We're actually going to put (Gerald) Hodges at Mike linebacker for a couple plays just to see what he's like in there. (Eric) Kendricks has been getting a lot of reps. And actually (Mike) Mauti is doing a good job at Mike linebacker, so we'll see. And that's the beauty of having these five preseason games, we're going to get a lot of reps."
Peters: Peterson doesn't like, but sees value of blitz pickup drill
Adrian Peterson and other running backs were tasked with blitz pickup for the first time of 2015 on Friday. The franchise leader in rushing yards and 2012 NFL MVP was asked of his thoughts of drills like that.
"Do I like it? No, but with not being around football for a year, I feel like that's something that's going to be important for me to get back out there," Peterson said. "We've got a great group of linebackers, so going against those guys, in pass pro in one-on-ones is going to be good for the group and for me to get back into the groove."
Peterson said the key to effective blitz pick up is "keeping your shoulders square and not opening that window for him to cross your face and get in. By all means, even if you've got to trip him, to make sure he stays away from Teddy."
Fullback Zach Line said it's been great to welcome back Peterson to training camp. Line is looking to replace free agent departure Jerome Felton as Peterson's lead blocker and is also focused on pass protection, which he called "a huge skill to have for a back and your position and coaches to know they can trust you in a blitzing situation."
"We keep working with those linebackers," Line said. "Those first couple of times you do those drills against linebackers in those one-on-one pass rushes, it's always hard because you're trying to go for a knockout hit or stop them in their tracks, and really, you've got to work your technique or you're not going to win."
Peters: Wait almost over for Tingelhoff
Center Mick Tingelhoff and his family received a robust send-off to Canton, Ohio, from members of the Vikings family on Saturday.
Former Vikings players — Sage Rosenfels, Dave Osborn, Bob Lurtsema, Jim Marshall, Bill Brown, Rich Gannon, Jeff Siemon, Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel and Doug Sutherland — gathered in Mankato for a special send off to Canton for center Mick Tingelhoff, a week before his enshrinement at the Pro Football Hall of Fame before Saturday night's practice.
Tingelhoff and his family — wife, Phyllis; son, Pat; daughter-in-law Krishna; granddaughters Jazzmyn, Josie and Jaelyn; and daughter Teri Realande convened for the festivities.
After beginning his career in 1962, Tingelhoff was on the 1966 team that held the first Vikings camp in Mankato. He didn't miss a start (240 regular season games; 19 playoff games) in 17 NFL seasons, but waited for years to be inducted after a nomination by the Hall of Fame's Senior Selection Committee.
Pat Tingelhoff spent part of his father's career as a ball boy during training camp and said the family appreciated the support from fans.
"It's great. I remember coming down here as a ball boy years ago and they had training camp for a much longer time," Pat Tingelhoff said. "It's nice that all these people come out for training camp and see the Vikings and support the Vikings. It's great to see all the fan support."
Peterson said it's a well-deserved honor for the longtime Viking.
"It's a great accomplishment," Peterson said. "For guys like me and Chad Greenway, speaking for him as well, those are the guys that inspired us to be the best and one day be in the Hall of Fame as well, so job well done."