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Vikings Roundup, 8/18: Players Shed Pads, Stay Sharp

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The phrase "half-speed" hasn't been uttered much between the Vikings in practices at training camp or preseason games where the offense has had a blazing tempo and the defense has shut down opponents.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Tuesday, however, instructed his team to slide their throttles from rabbit toward turtle during a practice held indoors because of storms. Zimmer paused about midway through practice, had the entire team remove its shoulder pads and avoid contact for the final hour.

"He's done a great job this training camp of doing things to make sure that we see he's taking care of our bodies, and when he takes care of us, we have to take care of him," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "By taking care of him, it's practicing sharp."

Zimmer tried to have players go without pads last Thursday for the team's final practice of its 50th training camp in Mankato, and his displeasure with the output was epic.

The Vikings, however, were sharp on both sides of the ball against the Buccaneers early Saturday in a 26-16 win in which they never trailed.

All signs indicated Zimmer was more pleased than displeased with Tuesday's showing. He even ended the session with a game where he had every defensive player line up shoulder to shoulder. The goal was to run 20 yards in 5-yard increments after he blew a whistle.

Zimmer deked defenders, from rookie Trae Waynes to veteran Brian Robison, into jumping across the line early, which sent the entire defense back 5 yards from its goal. He also got the offense, but not as much.

Sharrif Floyd joked, "The offense knows the snap count."

As for the aforementioned tempo, center John Sullivan said it's been a product of Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner mashing the accelerator in practices. It's appeared to carry over into games, particularly for the first and second team offenses.

"I think it's in the Turner's DNA that they want to get in as many plays as possible," Sullivan said. "We'll have 15 seconds left in a walk-through and they'll want five more snaps. We play at a good tempo, and that's from our coordinator on down."

Sully on Clemmings' progress:The biggest storyline of the week, as the Vikings prepare to host the Raiders at 7 p.m. Saturday, is Minnesota's need to replace veteran Phil Loadholt, who suffered a torn Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Tampa Bay.

"We're going to miss Phil," Zimmer said. "He's a great guy in the locker room, he's good on the field, but I feel good about the things that we're doing with these guys right now and where they're at. I'm very hopeful that they'll continue to keep progressing. I think they're starting to develop some chemistry and starting to develop some confidence."

The Vikings have turned to fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings, who played right tackle his final two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh. The reviews of Clemmings' approach and execution have been positive for a player who began his collegiate career on the defensive side of the ball.

"You can tell early on which rookies can play, and T.J. is going to be a great player," Sullivan said. "Obviously there are going to be some bumps in the road. He's young but he's coming out here and working so far and I think he's embracing the fact that he's got to step out there and perform, and we're trying to get him all the way up to speed."

Sullivan said the Vikings, who suffered injuries to Loadholt and Brandon Fusco last season and used five combinations of starting linemen, don't play to do "the whole 'Whoa is me!' thing."

There are plenty of good reasons for that, but an immediate one is that he and Fusco (at left guard) and Mike Harris (at right guard) could be staring at 648 pounds of "Meat and Potatoes" — the nickname Oakland players have given to defensive tackles Dan Williams and Justin Ellis — during Oakland's visit.

Practice notes: Anthony Barr was involved throughout practice, and Zimmer said the plan is for the 2014 first-round pick to have his first snaps in a preseason game this offseason.

"He's feeling good right now, we should get him some reps this week," Zimmer said. "Will you tweet that one? We'll get him some plays this week."

Instead of adding a tweet from that update, here's one to focus on a play made by another linebacker, Brian Peters.

The free agent signed with Minnesota after playing for the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders the past two seasons.

Peters, who had an interception in the Hall of Fame Game, jumped up and speared a pass with one hand and quickly ran toward the end zone, picking up cheering company in the form of linebackers who weren't in on the play. Although Teddy Bridgewater wasn't under center, he gave chase to Peters.

The Vikings signed free agent tackle Stephen Goodin (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and placed Loadholt on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday. Goodin is wearing jersey number 78 and lined up at left tackle.

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