MANKATO, Minn. —Danielle Hunter's wide-eyed, welcome-to-the-NFL moment of the weekend wasn't visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame, running onto the field before the National Anthem or knowing that the game was being broadcast by NBC on Sunday Night Football.
It was seeing Everson Griffen remove the tape from his hands after the Vikings first team forced a three-and-punt by the Steelers.
Hunter, who at 20 is the youngest Viking, knew that meant Griffen was becoming a spectator. Hunter replaced the Vikings 2014 Defensive Player of the Year and received plenty of reps in the first of five Vikings preseason games of 2015.
"I didn't expect to go out there that early," Hunter said. "I saw Everson, and they did like four plays and got off (the field). They started un-taping, and I was like, 'What's going on?' After I got in there, I never got out."
Hunter said he thinks he conquered the "first-game jitters" during the second quarter.
Griffen, who set multiple career highs last season, including 12 sacks in his first year as a starter, said his understudy "did a great job" and had some good plays and some areas where he can improve.
"You could see it on tape, him thinking a little too much. Everybody thinks a little too much," Griffen said. "He had great rushes, he had some bad ones like everybody else did, but at the same time, he worked, hustled to the ball, he ran, he did his job the whole game, and that's all you can ask for. He did his job, and you're going to see immense improvement in him this upcoming season."
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he wants the 6-foot-5 Hunter to stay closer to the ground when he comes out of his three-point stance and fully capitalize on his athletic gifts.
"He's not using his speed enough to threaten the offensive linemen," Zimmer said. "Right now he is raising up, he's been doing that for about a week, so we're trying to correct that. We've been working real hard on his angles, hand placements and things like that but we've got to get him to understand speed is what threatens them."
Hunter has been described as "raw" and then not quite as raw as once thought during the offseason.
"A lot of people said I was raw because I didn't use my hands and my pass rushing wasn't that good at LSU because we're basically a run defense," Hunter said. "We did a lot of run stopping every day. We barely worked on pass stuff."
Fifth-year pro Justin Trattou also was busy firing off snaps by the Steelers and getting a good push at the other end of the defensive line. Trattou, who won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New York Giants in his rookie season, said he's less raw than he was a year ago.
"Going into my fifth year, I think I developed a lot as a player over the years and really matured as a pass rusher, and I'm going to keep showing that during this preseason," Trattou said. "I think I was really raw and when (defensive line) Coach (Andre) Patterson came in, I learned a lot, in terms of technique and using my hands, so I can put it to use now, and that's made a big difference for me."
Zimmer said Trattou is rushing the passer and defending the run better than a year ago and "understands exactly what we're trying to get done."
Hunter and Trattou were separated by defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, and the second team worked well together. Johnson and Stephen each recorded sacks.
"Me, Tom and Shamar have played a lot together, so it was just another day at work for us," Trattou said.
From Jet to Semi: Jerick McKinnon delivered an early dazzler of a play on the second offensive snap. The second-year running back caught a quick pass in the flat to Teddy Bridgewater's right, juked linebacker Arthur Moats near the line of scrimmage, accelerated for a gain of 13 and trucked cornerback Antwon Blake to the turf.
"(Running backs) Coach Kirby (Wilson) always teaches us working the defenders in practice once you get into the open field, working the last defender and finishing runs and stuff like that, so I think it's just the everyday thing," McKinnon said. "It's a habit to go out in practice and just doing those things and finishing runs and making plays. When it comes to the game, it's just trying to make it like practice, give it a little head fake and get on the outside."
"(Teammates) thought it was pretty nice. I mean they've seen me out here in 7-on-7 or in the competition period and I'm trying to work those guys just like they're trying to work me.
Not in the preseason: Fifth-round pick MyCole Pruitt scored the Vikings first touchdown of the preseason, a 34-yard pass from Mike Kafka, that Pruitt caught at the 15 and easily glided across the goal line because he was **so open**. He was less successful, however, in holding onto it after the play.
"I tried to keep the ball, and they said it doesn't count in the preseason. Teddy Bridgewater said that," Pruitt said. "One of our equipment guys came and scooped it up."
Pruitt, however, said he did benefit from his first pro outing.
"It's always good to get that first game experience under your belt," Pruitt said. "It lets you know that you can play in this league and are ready to continue to do that and build."
View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame game.
Right guard report: Zimmer said Mike Harris has "done a very good job" since he's been at right guard. Harris is first in line to replace Brandon Fusco, who moved to left guard this offseason.
"He's tough, he's not perfectly sound all the time, but he will fight you and he's a big man. I've been pleased with him," Zimmer said of Harris.
The Vikings are taking a look at rookies Tyrus Thompson and Austin Shepherd at tackle and guard. T.J. Clemmings, who had a look at right guard earlier this offseason is working at right tackle.
Notes: Linebacker Anthony Barr, who has been dealing with inflammation in his knee, participated in individual drills. … Zimmer said the first team will "probably start playing a little longer" this week against Tampa Bay.