The Vikings conducted their final full practice before Friday night's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, and they did so under perfect conditions in Mankato. The weather was perfect, as it has been all of camp, and players will certainly agree the circumstances of practice were perfect because head coach Mike Zimmer allowed them to work without pads.
While the team worked without shoulder pads on Wednesday, they maintained their competitive intensity. No, not every moment of practice has been perfect in Mankato, but Zimmer did say on Wednesday that his team has worked hard, which is what led to the shoulder pad-less workout just two days before the first preseason game.
"I told the team last night: 'If they make me happy I make them happy,'" Zimmer said. "They get to take the shoulder pads off today.
The pads will come back on against the Raiders on Friday, of course. While Zimmer and his staff have been reserved about exactly how much certain players will play, the Vikings head coach did explain to reporters on Wednesday morning what the goal of the first preseason game will be for his club.
"Really what we are trying to do in this football game is I want our players to play fast and I want them to not have to think about what their assignment is," Zimmer explained. "We will be very, very basic in everything we do. We are trying to evaluate our players on their athletic ability, not on how fast they're thinking about everything going on. We just want to go out and play, and really it is going to give us a good judge of where we are at playing against some other people. We have been going against each other now for ten or eleven days and it's good to line up against somebody else and find out where we are at as a football team."
Here are a few more notes from Practice No. 11 of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp…
-- Former Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, a member of the vaunted Purple People Eaters, a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor and, of course, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was at training camp on Wednesday. With a Vikings legend watching his team practice, Zimmer asked Page to say a few words to the team following the morning walk-through. Zimmer said Page was an enlightening, smart person who had a good message for the team about what it takes to be a great player.
-- Marcus Sherels did not practice on Wednesday. His status for Friday's game has not been addressed.
-- Rookie cornerback Kendall James got his hands on an interception in Wednesday's practice. Nothing like an interception in the final practice before your first NFL preseason game to raise the confidence. James had a knack for making plays on the football in college, and it would be good to see him continue that in Friday's game against the Raiders.