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Vikings Roundup, 8/1: Camp Battles Continue

MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is known for taking care of business in a punctual manner.

When he wants something done, he or Vikings assistants make sure it happens.

When asked, however, about his timeline on making the decision about the Vikings starting right guard spot, Zimmer said he wanted it made "yesterday, but I didn't get it done so I am going to have to wait."

Rather than rush, Zimmer wants to be right about that spot and a few others where camp battles are continuing a week after players first reported to Minnesota State University, Mankato for 2015 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

"Really, it's kind of like you would really like to get it done as soon as possible but the most important thing is to make the right decision," Zimmer said. "I watched every play that Mike Harris was in yesterday, I thought he did a good job. He got tripped once, but other than that I thought he did a nice job yesterday. I watched every 1-on-1 with him. So, we'll just keep trying to progress at that spot. It's more important to make the right decision than to make a fast decision."

Harris, a backup tackle last season, opened camp with the first team at right guard, despite only playing there once (at Buffalo last because of multiple injuries) in his college/pro career.

He's seen multiple matchups from defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph, who are both having strong camps, as well as other players and appeared to hold his on in a one-on-one with Floyd.

Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, who coached Harris at offensive tackle when they were both with San Diego, said Harris has looked "surprisingly good in there."

"He's going against good players. We've got good tackles," Turner said. "He's going against good players and I think he's doing well. He's gradually getting his pad level down and you can't play too high in there because you're just going to play against big guys all the time."

Zimmer also was asked about starting middle linebacker duties and the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith.

At middle linebacker, Zimmer said the team is looking at Audie Cole, who has been with the first team in the base defense, second-round pick Eric Kendricks, Michael Mauti and will take a look at Gerald Hodges for a few snaps.

At safety, Robert Blanton has worked with the first team alongside Smith, but the Vikings also have Andrew Sendejo, Antone Exum Jr., Shaun Prater and Anthony Harris. Zimmer will have to wait another week, however, for an important evaluation metric of the middle linebacker and safety spots: tackling. He said the Vikings will not tackle until they face the Steelers in the Aug. 9 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

"Sometimes with the safeties it's the communication between the two safeties, communication with the corners," Zimmer said. "You're always trying to get the very best athletes in there, and I won't know any of that stuff until we tackle. Like Exum is doing some good things and Prater is doing some good things. I know Sendejo can tackle a little bit but Exum especially and Prater from tackling from a safety position it's going to be a little bit new for him. I am anxious to see those two guys coming out of from the deep part of the field and make tackles.

WAYNES LESS 'ROOKIE-ISH'

Xavier Rhodes has frequently credited Zimmer's expertise with defensive backs as helping him progress last season, and rookie Trae Waynes has spoken about how excited he is to play for a DB guru.

Earlier this week, Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall provided a status update on Waynes. Zimmer on Saturday was asked if he thinks Waynes could follow a trajectory similar to Rhodes this season.

"Well, Trae is a very talented athlete, good kid, smart kid. I think he's got toughness, we'll find out a little bit more as we get going, but I'm hopeful that he does continue on that way," Zimmer said. "He shows a lot of good things in practice and he's starting to act a lot less like a rookie than he was through the OTAs. He was a little bit rookie-ish but now, he's doing much better. He's starting to take charge out there and do the things we're asking him to do. He's still got a lot of work to do technique-wise, as all of them do."

SPECIALISTS WELCOME GROUP

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, kicker Blair Walsh, punter Jeff Locke and long snappers Cullen Loeffler and Kevin McDermott welcomed a group of 500 from MRCI WorkSource after Saturday's morning walk-through.

It's the second season in a row the Vikings have hosted the organization that provides transportation services for clients with disabilities. The organization launched in Mankato in 1953 and has grown to have 4,000 clients annually with offices in Fairmont, New Ulm, Mankato, Chaska, Shakopee and Rosemount.

View images from the Friday, July 31 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

"Our focus is on getting jobs for people with disabilities, said Vickie Apel, foundation director at MRCI. "We have training, we get people placed in jobs. We provide transportation at no cost for our clients so they can get to and from work."

Apel said MRCI's clients work in offices, manufacturing jobs, food service and other industries.

"The Vikings have been absolutely awesome to us," Apel said. "We come in, they have provided posters and things of that nature, prizes and lunch for us. Honestly, for many of our clients, this is the first time we've been to training camp, and most of our people are from Mankato.

"You will not find bigger Vikings fans than MRCI clients," Apel added. "They bleed purple and gold."

MASSINO CONTINUES TRADITION

The group from MRCI is among several passionate fans of the Vikings, including Chet Massino, Jr., who made the seven-hour trek from the Chicago area to continue an annual tradition.

Massino, 57, was born with cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. He became a Vikings fan when he was 8 and his mother purchased him a Vikings cap at a Chicago department store. When Massino made his first trip to Mankato 36 years ago, Bobby Bryant was the first player he met.

Massino's father invented the RagBall soft baseballs that allow for adaptive sports, and the ball gained popularity with help from actor David Hasselhoff in 1979.

Massino has missed just one camp (2012 because of health issues) since that year and has become a staple friendly face at camp for former and current players and staff.

ALUMNI GATHER TO CELEBRATE TINGELHOFF

Former Vikings players — Sage Rosenfels, Dave Osborn, Bob Lurtsema, Hall of Famer 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.

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 where Tingelhoff first set foot in 1966 after beginning his career in 1962.

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