EAGAN, Minn. – It's never ideal to see a teammate sidelined for practice, but Jaleel Johnson is trying to make the most of his opportunity.
Starting defensive tackle Shamar Stephen is currently on the non-football injury list, and Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph has not participated in team drills throughout the beginning of Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
Their absence on the interior of the defensive line has meant first-team reps for Johnson, who is entering his third NFL season.
"[I'm taking] full advantage. I try to use this moment as a stepping stone just to keep building, mentally and physically, every single day," Johnson told Twin Cities media members following Wednesday morning's walk-through. [But] with that, being able to talk to other guys who aren't out there practicing and playing, being able to get tips from those guys, it's been very, very helpful thus far."
Johnson primarily has been asked to play nose, but Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson coaches the defensive tackles to play that spot and the 3-technique spot if needed.
"Any inside guy here, we adapt to that," Johnson said. "That's what we do here as a defense, as a defensive line. Coach Dre's done a very good job of making sure that we're comfortable playing both [3-technique] and nose.
"Just because as of right now I'm at nose, it doesn't mean that I can't go in at 3-tech later in the year or early-on in the year; you never know," he later added.
Johnson, who played in all 16 games last season and started for an injured Joseph against the Jets, was asked if he has a preference or feels more comfortable at either of the interior positions.
"To be completely honest, whatever gets me out on the field to play and contribute, whether it be nose or 3-techniqe," Johnson responded. "It doesn't really matter to me."
The defensive line group is a deep one, and while the starting four seem to be set in stone, there is plenty of competition for the rotational spots behind that group.
"Nothing's ever given, really, so I use this time right now to focus on the things that I can control," Johnson said. "It's a long camp, so we'll see what happens by the end."
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said consistency is what is being stressed to the young interior defensive linemen who have had multiple flash plays and other plays that haven't been as strong.
Edwards added that the Vikings like the aggressiveness that Johnson has shown.
"The thing we talk about and try to emphasize to him right now, I know Coach Patterson is emphasizing it, we're all emphasizing it, is being consistent," Edwards said. " 'Do your job, but then let's get off the block and go make a play.' I think he's got the ability, he's shown the ability to do that. We're trying to get him to do that, not just in a game but every day at practice and understand exactly what we're asking him to do within the scheme of things."
Quote of the Day
"I think … when you're around a team that thinks about expectations or talks about it a lot in the locker room or to the media, what have you, I think that's when you're not playing your best football. I think teams that usually win Super Bowls or are playoff teams consistently just come out here, bust their tail and are not worried about that. I think that's the mindset that this team has right now."
– Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen on blue-collar mentality of the 2019 Vikings
This Vikings.com writer has lots of fond memories of attending Vikings Training Camp with her dad, and it's an activity that many families have made an annual event.
Vikings fan Julie Fleming posted a photo Wednesday of her father-daughter day at camp. The two posed at TCO Stadium, with an array of family and youth football activities taking place on the field behind them.
The Vikings hosted a group from Hammer Travel after Wednesday morning's walk-through, and General Manager Rick Spielman and several players stopped by to sign autographs and speak with fans.
Based out of Wayzata, Hammer Travel organizes vacations and experiences for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.