Vikings wake-up call: Day 3

MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Vikings' training camp:

Today's schedule: The Vikings' first padded practice under Mike Zimmer gets underway at 3:30 p.m. They'll practice at "thud" tempo, where players will make contact without taking ball-carriers to the ground. Zimmer wants to work on tackling fundamentals now that the Vikings have pads on, and he plans to make sure players are getting in proper position to tackle as though they'd be finishing the hit; they just won't get a chance to complete the tackle. "Adrian [Peterson] won't get tackled," Zimmer said.

The team will have its customary morning walk-through from 10:30-11:30.

More observations from Saturday's practice:

  • The Vikings are still mixing and matching linebackers in a number of different spots, and it'll probably be a little while before we get a sense of what they're thinking for a lineup. They've used Anthony Barr in the nickel with Chad Greenway on a number of occasions, but they've also given Audie Cole a chance to play the strong-side linebacker position. Jasper Brinkley has been getting most of the first-team snaps in the middle, but we'll likely see Michael Mauti and Cole get a chance there, too, and Greenway has seen some work in the middle, like he did in minicamp. "Seeing the different skill sets, we think we have a good group of 'Mike' linebackers," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "We just want to see who is going to come to the top competition wise and win out the position."

  • Robert Blanton continued to get first-team work at safety, and it's getting harder to think he won't make a strong push to start alongside Harrison Smith. Andrew Sendejo's lingering injury is costing him valuable time to make an impression on Zimmer, and the time Jamarca Sanford missed this spring has afforded Blanton an opportunity.

  • With Cordarrelle Patterson still nursing a foot injury, the Vikings are taking the opportunity to work out backup kick returners, and had Marcus Sherels, Jarius Wright and Jerick McKinnon taking reps there on Saturday. Coach Mike Priefer has said he wants to find a second return man, in the event Patterson's increased role in the offense prevents him from returning as many kicks.

What I'm watching: Xavier Rhodes had a tough day on Saturday, getting beat on a post route from Greg Jennings and giving up several other completions. Zimmer spent a little extra time with him on Saturday, and now that the Vikings have pads on -- allowing Rhodes to play press coverage -- he should be more in his element. Like many young corners who rely on pressing receivers, though, Rhodes still has to learn about playing the position with his feet and his instincts, not just his hands. The Vikings expect him to be a major part of their defense, so it's worth watching to see how quickly he corrects mistakes in camp.

Programming notice: Today is the Vikings' turn in the 'SportsCenter' spotlight, as ESPN continues its 10-day tour of all 32 NFL camps. I'll be on at various points during the day with interviews and analysis, starting in the 10:00 hour in the Central time zone.

They said it: "He’s like the nicest, meanest coach ever. He’s like, tries to be so mean on the field and then a couple plays he’ll come by and he’s like the coolest guy you’ve ever met. So, I love it. He’s definitely going to get the best out of every player that’s out there and every play that we are to execute; he’s expecting the best result every single time." -- wide receiver Greg Jennings on offensive coordinator Norv Turner.