MANKATO, Minn. — Pro football is scheduled to occur every Sunday from now until February.
The Vikings returned to the practice fields at Minnesota State University, Mankato for a Monday morning walk-through and afternoon practice six days before they'll face the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday Night Football in Canton, Ohio.
Vikings players had varied responses as to whether it feels like a game week yet, but Chad Greenway said "100 percent no."
View images from the Monday, August 3 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"This is just training camp, and the reality is it's a preseason game, another step for us to take and a chance to go against someone else and see where we're at," Greenway said. "I don't look at it as a game. I don't think a lot of guys do. It's going to be ramped up because you're competing against another team that you haven't played against, but the reality is we have five weeks of training camp left after that."
In contrast to the 10-year vet, rookie Trae Waynes said he'll consider the preseason opener his first NFL game and likely will have a few butterflies to show for it as the game approaches.
"It's a good thing to be nervous," Waynes said. "I'm not nervous now, but as I get closer to game time, I'll definitely be nervous. It's my first NFL game, so who wouldn't be nervous?"
Guard Brandon Fusco, who hasn't played since Week 3 of 2014 is looking forward to facing another team. He'll start at left guard after moving from the right guard spot this offseason.
"It's exciting. A couple days away, and we'll be back at game time," Fusco said. "I think we're all anxious to show what we've got."
Receiver Jarius Wright said it didn't quite feel like a game week yet, "but at the same time, I try to treat every practice like a game day to get better each and every day."
"It probably won't hit me until Saturday when we're getting ready to travel and things like that, but it's kind of surreal to know that football season will be underway in a week," Wright said.
LB shuffle: Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said the Vikings are likely to rotate linebackers early and often during preseason games to try to get evaluations against opponents' best players. The Vikings have starting outside linebackers Greenway and Anthony Barr returning this season but are looking to fill the middle spot where departed free agent Jasper Brinkley started 11 games in 2014.
"Yeah, we're going to look at guys and we want to see them against their quality starters rather than late in the game," Edwards said. "That's what Coach (Mike Zimmer) is talking about sometimes – you get some guys in there with the third unit and it's not a true evaluation of what they are going to see on Sunday. That's why you see us moving a lot of guys around on the depth chart trying to get those matchups to see how they match up against some of the guys that are more experienced as far as what they are trying to do offensively."
Audie Cole has taken a significant amount of reps at middle linebacker with the ones, but Eric Kendricks, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges have also manned the middle at training camp. The Vikings have utilized multiple combinations at linebacker when they are in the nickel package.
Cole said he feels like the defense is "a lot further ahead than we were last year, so things are going good."
"We do the right things now more than we used to because last year we really didn't know what we were doing, so I think we're a little further ahead than we were last year."
Zimmer said this week that Cole responded to a request to "cut it loose," even though the Vikings aren't tackling teammates this week.
"You've just got to get downhill, get off, hit the blockers" and shed them, Cole said. "That's what they want me to do and that's what I'm trying to do now."
Cole showed up strong at outside linebacker, filling in for Greenway in the 2014 season finale, and he said he's trying to show that each day at practice.
"Everyone out here can step up and play their best in a game, but it's hard to, every single day, come out and practice every day, over and over," Cole said. "Training camp gets monotonous. You've just got to stay on it and do what you've got to do and do what they're asking.
"I would definitely say I'm more consistent by being in the defense and knowing what I'm doing," Cole added. "You don't have to worry about your assignment. You've just got to execute it."
Hodges said he and the defense are looking forward to the "competitive pop" that will occur Sunday. Although he hadn't played middle linebacker before Saturday's night practice, he said "I felt comfortable there."
The difference 12 years makes:Mike Wallace said Sunday that he thinks 13-year veteran cornerback Terence Newman has seen "every single route."
"I've seen routes that you haven't seen, I can tell you that much," Newman said Monday when asked if that was true. "There are routes that teams have run that you don't get very often, so I've seen quite a bit."
When Waynes was asked how many he's seen, the first-round pick said "not even half."
"Just watching T-Newman, he's running the routes before receivers do, and it's ridiculous, so I just hope one day I can be on that level," said Waynes, adding that the Vikings receivers are providing learning opportunities. "They all bring something different, so they're all pretty tough. They're all really good receivers, especially at this level. There's not really a bad receiver, so it's how you adjust to them."
Zimmer visits father: Zimmer departed training camp after Monday's practice to visit his father in Florida. Zimmer told beat writers that Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner will be in charge while he is away.