MANKATO, Minn. — The equipment room at Minnesota State University, Mankato is stocked with towels and gear, but on Sunday was fresh out of oil.
Or so Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer joked about not having an opportunity to loosen up the arm of 14-year veteran Shaun Hill the day after Saturday night's practice.
Another joke Hill has heard in camp is about how helmets have changed, as in they aren't made of leather as they were earlier in his career.
It's all in good fun, and Hill showed Saturday night that he can fling it in the pass-happy modern era of football. He had a couple of touchdowns to rookie Stefon Diggs and hit Cordarrelle Patterson in stride on a deep route.
"Obviously, he's got a lot of ability, and it's been fun to see him progress in this offense," Hill said when asked about Diggs. "He comes out and works hard every day, has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It's certainly fun to be part of it.
Hill joined the Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2002 out of the University of Maryland, the campus Diggs recently left to join the pro ranks. He also has a past at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, where he played before becoming a Terrapin. Coincidentally, Patterson also played for the Hutchinson C.C. Blue Dragons before joining the Tennessee Volunteers.
Hill spent the first four years of his career with the Vikings and returned via free agency this offseason. He said he enjoyed the atmosphere at the team's first night practice of the 50th training camp in Mankato.
"Any time you get a chance to go out and compete, it's fun," Hill said. "It just is. There were a lot of fans out there, a lot of energy and excitement. The players felt that and the guys were bouncing around."
Hill arrived this year as an experienced backup to undisputed starter Teddy Bridgewater, and because of Hill's experience, the Vikings are able to give more reps to undrafted rookie Taylor Heinicke and veteran Mike Kafka than Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said he's ever used to evaluate a third-string QB.
Bridgewater said Hill is helping him play faster by increasing his understanding of the best options to go with the football before the snap, which could help the Vikings across the field and in the red zone.
"I'm glad to have a guy like him here," Bridgewater said. "He has a history with Coach Turner, so I'm watching him operate. I'm sitting back and amazed, and it sets a good example for me, so now when I get in there to take my reps, I just know how to operate from watching Shaun.
"You watch him operate, and his decision is made before the ball is even snapped," Bridgewater added. "He's playing fast out there and I'm glad to have him on this team."
The humble Hill deferred credit to Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
"I'm still learning that in this offense, so there's certain plays that I've got a lot of familiarity with and maybe I can help him," Hill said. "I think those guys are the most helpful with that."
One-week countdown:The Vikings are scheduled to open the NFL preseason against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 9. Zimmer was asked about his past experiences of coaching in five preseason games in a season.
"Well, I'm pretty old, so I played a lot when there was five preseason games," Zimmer said. "But I played in the Hall of Fame game, this will be my third time. I don't necessarily think there really is a negative to it. I think it gives you good work, especially for a young football team. I think it's good. It gives us another chance to evaluate these young players. We've got a young quarterback; he needs some work. We'll see."
View images from the Sunday, August 2 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
Hodges' introduction to MLB: Gerald Hodges began playing a few snaps at middle linebacker Saturday night. Zimmer described it as "kind of a first introduction, but he did a couple good things."
"Today, he had a good day, I thought," Zimmer said. "He's flying around and he's got some physicality to him and some toughness. When he thumps you, he thumps you. I'm just trying to look at ways to get guys, the best, and however I can get him, out there. I don't care if there's six defensive linemen and one linebacker. I don't really care how we do it, I just want to get the best guys on the field if I can.
Newman reintroduced to slot: Veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who has six previous seasons of playing in a Zimmer defense, worked some at the slot position Sunday, a position that Zimmer said Newman played "a while back."
"He's got great quickness and he's been able to do that in the past," Zimmer said. "He has always been so good at corner that we have kind of left him out there, but I'm just trying to figure out how to get the best crew that I can get in there. I'm looking at all kinds of different scenarios."
Injuries: Gavin Lutman (hamstring), Carter Bykowski (leg), DuJuan Harris (shoulder) did not participate Sunday. Zimmer said Josh Robinson will remain on the physically unable to perform list.
On deck: The Vikings return to more of their normal camp schedule Monday with a walk-through at 10:30 and a full-padded practice at 2:45 p.m. Running backs are scheduled to sign autographs.