EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings haven't faced 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick yet, but they're aware of the challenges the mobile quarterback presents.
Kaepernick spent the first part of 2012 backing up Alex Smith and did not play in a 24-13 win by the Vikings in the third week that season.
A major focus for the Vikings defense this week has been on how to keep Kaepernick in the pocket because he's shown the ability to work magic with his legs and arm after pulling a Houdini act from the imaginary box behind the tackles.
"We can't let him get outside the box and scramble and create plays with his feet," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "He's very, he'll hit you long and deep if you let him scramble."
Griffen, who was one of four Vikings voted as a captain by teammates, said the defense has "more football intelligence" in its second season under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"It's allowing us to play faster and hustle and make more plays where we didn't see them last year," said Griffen, who led the Vikings with 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 70 quarterback hurries in 2014.
The desire to make defensive stops, however, must be balanced by discipline to stick with the plan and have the entire defensive line rush as a unit and maintain structure.
"Everybody accelerates quickly in this league, but with him, we've just got to be smart in the way we rush him and we've got to be smart in the way we play the run," Brian Robison said. "With him, it's all about angles and just taking your shot and doing whatever we can to make him cutback to the teeth of our defense. If we're able to do that, we'll be successful."
Analyst Pete Bercich broke down how teams can have success or struggles in the Menards Film Room segment of this week's Vikings GamePlan. Teamwork and containment was important on a "pirate stunt" that resulted in a sack.
Kaepernick has averaged 6.04 yards per carry and rushed for at least 50 yards in 13 of the 48 regular season games he's played. The 49ers are 7-5-1 in those games.
Robison, who is heading into his ninth season, said the Vikings are expecting a physical game, despite multiple changes to San Francisco's roster.
"We've got to do what we have done in the preseason, which is play our keys and really get after people, try to out-physical them," Robison said. "That's what San Fran has kind of been known for over the past few years, being a physical ball club. We want to be more physical than them and bring the fight to them. If we can do that, I think we have a good opportunity."
Safety Harrison Smith said the back of the defense will be prepared to help as well.
"A guy like (Kaepernick) can extend plays and get out of sacks that are ordinarily going to happen," Smith said. "He's an athletic guy and can move around. You've got to make sure you cover your guy the whole play and don't come down until he's declared himself not a passer anymore."
A Kendricks double-header
Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks and seven other draft picks on the Active/Inactive roster have prepared for their first regular season game. The Fresno, California native might have the biggest contingency at Levi's Stadium, and he can partially thank technology for that.
Kendricks' older brother, Mychal, will be suiting up for the Eagles against the Falcons in the first game of ESPN's Monday Night Football doubleheader. Eric said he spoke to his brother this week about how blessed they both are to be in the NFL.
"They're coming to my game. I'm in California, so everyone's coming to my game," Eric said. "They'll probably have all the updates (from Mychal's game on their phones, but it's cool."
Monday's game will be 10 days after Terence Newman turned 37. The oldest Viking is in line to open his 13th NFL season by starting at cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes. Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Newman's key to still playing at a high level.
"I just think it's good genes," Newman said. "He takes care of his body, works out really hard. He's very smart, that helps. He's seen a lot of stuff. He understands what I'm trying to teach."
It could be Newman's 173rd NFL start and 175th regular season game, and Zimmer said Newman has been a great influence on younger players.
"He had all of the DBs stay after [meetings] yesterday and watch 30 minutes of extra tape, those kind of things that he knows, he helps with these other guys," Zimmer said. "But he's not here to be a coach, he's here to be a player, but those kind of things help young guys understand what it means to be a professional."
Injury report update
Chase Ford, Zach Line, Shamar Stephen and MyCole Pruitt were all full participants at Saturday's practice and are listed as probable for Monday's game.