EAGAN, Minn. – The saying goes, "It's always nice to see a familiar face."
But that doesn't necessarily apply at Vikings Training Camp, where Minnesota's offensive and defensive players have seen more than enough of each other on the practice fields over the past few weeks.
So when the Tennessee Titans arrived at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center Wednesday for two days of joint practices, the AFC squad was a welcome site.
"It's always good to go against somebody else," Vikings outside linebacker Danielle Hunter said. "We've been going against our own offense for some time now, and we get to check out intensity by going against somebody else."
Jordan Hicks commented on the extra juice that comes whenever two teams share the practice field.
"It's always nice to get out here and go against someone not in purple. It's hard to contain it, you know what I mean?" Hicks said. "It's good to get some checks and different types of stuff that we'll see. And see how offenses are going to see our defense."
The same goes for Minnesota's offensive players getting a shot against Tennessee's defense.
"Going against someone every single day, they get an idea of your moves, what you are like and how you run your routes," Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson said. "So to see someone else, to get a different look, it's definitely useful."
The Vikings offensive line had a stout challenge from a Tennessee front that helped the Titans rank No. 1 overall in run defense last season.
Tennessee's defensive linemen did some chirping toward the Vikings, and defensive tackle Teair Tart was ejected for throwing a punch at Vikings center Garrett Bradbury.
"We just like to let our play do the talking for us," left tackle Christian Darrisaw said of the extracurricular activity. "It was physical, and I feel like that was the challenge we needed going into the season.
"We knew how these joint practices usually tend to be, a lot of talking," he added. "So we're just out there with the mindset just to come out here and focus on us. Let the noise be the noise and do what we do."
View photos of players during 2023 Vikings Training Camp joint practice with the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 17 at the TCO Performance Center.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell spoke to media members Wednesday and further emphasized the benefit of joint practices.
"I appreciate [Titans Head Coach Mike] Vrabel, their staff, their entire organization, for helping it be extremely organized, getting a lot of good work in," O'Connell said.
"I know we're going to be able to put together some really good practice. Ultimately when you do this, it's not just, 'Hey, we're just gonna joint practice and worry about all that stuff later,' " O'Connell noted. "It goes into the first phone call I make, long before the preseason schedule comes out and trying to see what's a fit based on stadium availability for the preseason games. But the most important thing is the fit of getting good work in and being able to have a good gauge as a group of where we're at as a team and where we need to go as a team to be where we want to be Sept. 10."
Two days of practices with the Titans, plus two days of practices next week with the Cardinals, give the Vikings offense a break from going up against Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores' system every day.
"Selfishly, I'm just ready to be done with Flo's defense for a little bit. To see a different scheme for once," Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips quipped.
Kirk Cousins has participated in multiple joint practices over his years in the league and reflected on the advantages, saying each situation presents a "good challenge" for the respective teams.
"You get so familiar with your own defense, not just during camp, but going back to OTAs. They get used to your snap count, you get used to your personnel, you get used to your cover structures, what they are going to call in certain situations," Cousins said Thursday morning. "You can start to get too familiar. So, having a new defense out here, I could even feel [Wednesday], just how looks can feel a little more muddy and you're not quite sure, personnel-wise, what you are getting."
He added that feeling uncomfortable in a joint practice setting isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's pushing the player to adapt and develop.
"It's why these days are really important for us to get a lot out of it," Cousins said. "I think it's just a good energy. And then looking forward to the game on Saturday. Obviously, starters not expecting to play, but I think it's important to go through that dress rehearsal."