Minnesota Vikings: Jamarca Sanford

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

Mike Zimmer started the process after the game on Sunday, when he reacted to the Minnesota Vikings' 34-6 win over the St. Louis Rams in subdued fashion and stated there would be no red wine on Sunday night in celebration of his first NFL coaching victory.

He continued it on Monday, reminding players that for as well as they played on Sunday, they still haven't reached the standard of where the coach wants them to be.

Didn't he want to enjoy his early success just a little bit?

"I’m not trying to preach caution whatsoever, I’m just trying to be realistic," Zimmer said. "This is one game out of 16, 15 now, and I know what we have to do to be a good football team. I think I’m trying to teach our players what we have to do to be a good football team. It’s not about caution, I understand that we haven’t lost in the preseason and like I’ve said before, it’s so much, to me, about the process about how we accomplish things, not so much what the record is at this particular point in time. There will be plenty of time, as we keep playing these games, that people will talk about the records. This is just one week and preseason was the preseason so we’re just on to a different venue really. The schedule, as everybody has pointed out, it’s a little different deal going this week."

This week, of course, brings the New England Patriots to town after a 33-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Tom Brady has been on just seven losing streaks in his career, only one of which was longer than two games, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn reminded his teammates on Monday how good Brady has been at putting the Patriots back on track.

"I do a lot of research. I look up a lot of things," Munnerlyn said. "I was trying to see how I could get my team motivated, and I've seen that stat. I know it's tough for those guys to lose two games in a row. They've got one of the greatest coaches that ever coached this game, and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. I'm moving forward from Sunday."

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
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Sanford
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A stretch of nagging injuries kept safety Jamarca Sanford from making his case to the Minnesota Vikings' new coaching staff as it evaluated a group of safeties who might be able to start alongside Harrison Smith. Now, those injuries have officially ended Sanford's time in Minnesota.

According to a league source, the Vikings released Sanford on Monday with an injury settlement. The team had put Sanford on injured reserve with a strained quadriceps muscle before the start of the season; the release will give Sanford a chance to sign with another team and get back on the field at some point this season.

After the Vikings asked Sanford to take a pay cut during the offseason, though, his standing with the Vikings seemed tenuous. He saw a $750,000 reduction in his base salary, in exchange for $400,000 of guaranteed money in his base salary. He was never able to get on the field during the Vikings' organized team activities or minicamp, and a string of additional injuries in training camp -- first a spate of back spasms, and then the quadriceps strain he sustained in the Vikings' third preseason game against Kansas City -- eventually kept him out of the mix at safety.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the start of the Minnesota Vikings' organizational overhaul in 2011, when Rick Spielman put a greater emphasis on building through the draft, the team's roster has typically ranked among the league's youngest. The youth movement surged again this year, when the team let 33-year-old defensive tackle Kevin Williams and 32-year-old defensive end Jared Allen leave in free agency as it aimed to rebuild on defense.

Saturday's final roster cuts continued that process, as the Vikings cut 34-year-old safety Chris Crocker, 30-year-old defensive tackle Fred Evans and put 29-year-old safety Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve. At the end of it, the team's 53-man roster was the fifth-youngest in the league.

Philly.com examined the rosters of all 32 teams after Saturday's cuts and put the Vikings at an average age of 25.58 years, which was the third-youngest average age in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers were just behind the Vikings at 26.62 years, and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were next, with an average age of 26.65 years.

In 2013, the Vikings were only the league's 13th-youngest team, as they played with five starters (Allen, Williams, Brian Robison, Greg Jennings and Chad Greenway) who were at least 30. This year's team will have four opening-day starters in their 30s (Jennings, Robison, Greenway and Matt Cassel), but the roster is stocked with 23 players from the Vikings' last three drafts, and three undrafted free agents the Vikings signed before the 2013 season -- Adam Thielen, Rodney Smith and Zach Line.

Only eight players on the Vikings' roster are in their 30s, with long snapper Cullen Loeffler being the oldest at 33. Just three more -- center John Sullivan, linebacker Jasper Brinkley and running back Adrian Peterson -- will turn 30 in the next year.

A roster this young means the Vikings' coaching staff will have to mold players on the fly, but coach Mike Zimmer seems to revel in the opportunity to teach technique, especially on defense. In large part, he'll start with a roster he can shape according to his way of thinking. If it works, the Vikings will be able to grow with Zimmer over the next several years.
Sanford
MINNEAPOLIS -- Safety Jamarca Sanford, who missed most of the Minnesota Vikings' offsesason program and preseason with a spate of injuries, will spend the season on injured reserve, according to a league source.

Sanford's latest injury, a quadriceps strain he sustained while playing special teams in the Vikings' third preseason game against Kansas City, didn't seem likely to keep him out for the entire season, but the move allows the Vikings to retain his rights for the 2014 season. Sanford will be a free agent after the season, but the Vikings could re-sign him, instead of letting him leave for another team sometime this season.

The team has also released defensive tackle Fred Evans, according to a league source, which bodes well for both Linval Joseph's health and rookie Shamar Stephen's chances of making the team.

Joseph, who was struck in the left calf by a stray bullet in a nightclub shooting on Aug. 9, said last week he will be ready for the Vikings' regular-season debut on Sept. 7. Vikings coaches had also spoken highly of Stephen, a seventh-round pick from Connecticut who had played both the nose and three-technique tackle positions during the preseason, and it seems unlikely the team would release Evans if it didn't expect Joseph to be ready and Stephen to be ready for significant playing time as a rookie.

The Vikings have to reduce their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT.
KANSAS CITY -- Minnesota Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt, who briefly left Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a lower leg injury, will have a MRI on Sunday, but coach Mike Zimmer said team doctors don't see cause for great concern.

"They don't believe it's anything real serious," Zimmer said.

Loadholt
Having Loadholt healthy going into the regular season would be of great importance to the Vikings, who are going into their third season with the same five starters on the line and made Loadholt one of the highest-paid right tackles in the game last year. Undrafted free agent Austin Wentworth was beaten on a blitz after replacing Loadholt on Saturday night, and Jaye Howard knocked the ball away from Matt Cassel for a safety, in a moment oddly reminiscent of what happened to veteran tackle J'Marcus Webb last November after he replaced an injured Loadholt in Dallas and allowed an end zone strip-sack that the Cowboys recoveed for a touchdown. The Vikings also count on Loadholt as a key piece of their running game, and the 6-foot-8 tackle's force at the point of attack would be tough to replace.

Safety Jamarca Sanford sustained a quadriceps injury on a special-teams play early in the game, costing him an important chance to earn playing time at safety and keep himself in the race for a starting spot there. "It's hard to evaluate him when he's sitting on the sideline," Zimmer said.

Sanford, who has dealt with injuries since the Vikings' offseason program, wouldn't go into much detail about his latest ailment, other than to say, "I'm good. I don't know how I'm feeling right now. I'm upset, frustrated, just with not being able to go, because you get hurt. It's part of the game."
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings continue to try and establish a pecking order at safety, it appears they'll give Chris Crocker every chance to wind up at the top of it.

The 34-year-old, who signed with the Vikings earlier this month and came out of retirement to play his eighth consecutive season for coach Mike Zimmer, will start alongside Harrison Smith on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Zimmer said the Vikings want to take a long look at four safeties -- Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo -- on Saturday, in hopes of sorting out the position.

That Crocker will start, however, speaks to what could eventually land him the starting job; he's more familiar with Zimmer's defense than anyone else on the roster, and can lend some stability to a position where no one has established a firm hold on the job next to Smith.

Robert Blanton, who is still listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart at strong safety, will miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Josh Robinson -- who's still battling a hamstring injury and appears to be ceding ground to Captain Munnerlyn in the race for a starting cornerback job -- will also sit out. Tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (bullet wound to calf) are the other Vikings players who won't dress.

Fred Evans will start at nose tackle for Joseph, and Matt Asiata will again start at running back in place of Adrian Peterson, who will sit out for a second consecutive week.

W2W4: Minnesota Vikings

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
12:00
PM ET
The Minnesota Vikings (1-0) and Arizona Cardinals (1-0) square off for their second preseason game on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

1. Starters to play more: Coach Mike Zimmer said quarterback Matt Cassel "has a chance" to play the entire first half on Saturday night, which would suggest the Vikings plan to give their first-team offense much more playing time than they saw last Friday against Oakland. Zimmer said this week he's never placed as much importance on the third preseason game as many seem to do, so it's possible the Vikings treat this week's game as more of a dress rehearsal than next Saturday's game against Kansas City. Adrian Peterson still won't play, but if Cassel -- who seems like the favorite to win the Vikings' quarterback job -- gets two quarters of work with the first-team offense, we'll get a good sense of how he's handling offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme against one of the league's best defenses.

2. Safety dance: The Vikings are still trying to sort out a crowded competition for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith, and Zimmer said he wants to take a long look at four veterans on Saturday night: Chris Crocker, Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman. With Robert Blanton still out because of a hamstring injury, and rookie Antone Exum having played 60 snaps last week, it stands to reason the Vikings will use the four safeties for much of the night on Saturday. It's hard to envision a scenario where all four veterans are on the roster, and Zimmer said he's hoping Saturday's game will help the Vikings establish a pecking order at the position. That pecking order could have some important consequences for a number of players.

3. Cleaning up pass protection: Zimmer wasn't happy with the Vikings' pass protection last week, after the Raiders sacked the Vikings' quarterbacks six times and Teddy Bridgewater nearly lost a fumble deep in Raiders territory. The Vikings spent plenty of time focusing on protection schemes this week in practice, and though some of the blitz pickup work from their running backs looked better, the linemen were responsible for many of the sacks anyway -- especially the three that came late in the game on Christian Ponder. Particularly from younger players like David Yankey and Antonio Richardson, the Vikings will be looking for better results this week.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
7:30
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings will still be without safety Robert Blanton because of a hamstring injury on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals, and coach Mike Zimmer wants to use the exhibition game to get a long look at four safeties in particular: Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman. It seems reasonable to conclude those four are the ones receiving the strongest consideration to start next to Harrison Smith (at least until Blanton comes back), and Zimmer said he hopes Saturday's game will help sort out the depth chart. "Right now, I am looking for the other safety. That is why I want to play these guys quite a bit this week. I want to see how it goes from there and then try to figure out the rest of the pecking order as we get going. Hopefully, this will be a big week for those safeties."
  • Injuries are also affecting the Vikings' plans at the cornerback spot opposite Xavier Rhodes, where the Vikings have indicated Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are sharing the No. 1 spot on their recent depth charts. That seems a bit unnecessary, especially since Munnerlyn has been getting many of the first-team snaps in the base defense, but Robinson has been playing outside when Munnerlyn slides into the slot in nickel, and a third cornerback is essentially a starter in the NFL these days, anyway. Robinson, though, was out of practice with a lingering hamstring injury again on Thursday, and Zimmer indicated that's making it tough for him to nail down a spot. "Well, it’s hard to make the club in the tub," Zimmer said when asked if Munnerlyn was entrenched at the other cornerback spot. "I guess that would be a yes. I don’t know if he’s entrenched, but if you’re not going out there and proving it every single day and proving it in the games then it’s hard to know."
  • Zimmer has talked at various points about the advice he picked up from Bill Parcells when he was the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator for four seasons under the Hall of Fame coach. He said on Thursday he was planning an end-of-training-camp call to check in with Parcells and talk about the Vikings at the end of his first camp as the head coach. "I had Coach Parcells' number on my phone today but I didn’t push the button," Zimmer said. "I plan on calling either tonight or tomorrow, just to talk about things."
  • They've become good friends after two years of rooming together at training camp, and Cordarrelle Patterson went out of his way -- literally -- to stick up for Adam Thielen during a drill on Thursday. Both receivers were returning mock kickoffs, starting their runback with a ball in their hands as defenders tried to strip it away. Patterson was waiting in line for his turn when he thought players were trying to rip the ball away from Thielen a little too forcefully. "Get your hands off him," Patterson snapped. "That's a receiver. You don't touch my receivers like that."
  • In the final autograph session of training camp, things got a bit out of hand. Fans were leaning against a chain link fence to get Teddy Bridgewater’s autograph when it collapsed, leaving a row of kids trying to pick themselves up and stay in line for Bridgewater’s signature. St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer Ben Garvin has a fantastic photo of the scene here.
  • The Vikings will head back to the Twin Cities on Friday after a closed walk-through on Friday; Zimmer said the Vikings will go through a mock game, working through different situations and making sure they have the correct substitution packages for those situations. Then, they'll be back at the team facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, after Saturday's game. Asked how he thought his first camp went, Zimmer said, "I think it was productive. We were able to come out and work efficiently, work quickly, move to different spots. Hopefully I learned something every day about this team, but they haven’t disappointed me. They have been very willing to do whatever. I heard someone say, 'Buy in;' I guess, maybe. There hasn’t been any complaining, whether that is buying in or not. In training camp there is usually some complaining. I like this team; they are good guys and they work real hard. As long as we play together as a team, we play real hard, we do the things that we are trying to coach them to do, then we have a chance to be a good football team."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' stretch of injuries, particularly at the safety position, might soon be coming to an end.

Coach Mike Zimmer said safeties Mistral Raymond (concussion), Jamarca Sanford (back spasms) and Andrew Sendejo (lower back/ankle) will practice on Monday night, and are expected to be available for Saturday's exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The only safety who won't be available this week is Robert Blanton, who's still dealing with a hamstring injury. Chris Crocker, whom the Vikings signed last week, will also play on Saturday, giving the Vikings their first real chance to assess the majority of the players competing for a spot next to Harrison Smith.

"It's difficult, because guys aren't practicing as much," Zimmer said. "In the ballgame the other night (last Friday), we had three safeties who weren't playing. We'll sit down and we'll try to get a much better evaluation of the guys who we think need more on tape. This will be a good test with these guys (the Cardinals). They play with four wide (receivers), and they throw the ball around pretty good."

Cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels will return from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford could return from a broken foot in the next 10 days, possibly clearing the way for him to start the season on the active roster instead of the physically unable to perform list.

"He's close," Zimmer said. "He's probably 10 days, maybe, I'm guessing. We'll see how he runs."

The timetable for the return of defensive tackle Linval Joseph isn't quite as clear; Zimmer said he'd like Joseph to play before the end of the preseason, if his calf is recovered from a gunshot wound he sustained in a nightclub shooting early Saturday morning. "We still have to find out where he's at," Zimmer said. "I don't know that 'Sug' (trainer Eric Sugarman) has dealt with this kind of an injury much. There's no booklet on it."

Vikings Camp Report: Day 12

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
8:05
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings came out of Friday's preseason opener relatively healthy, but the Vikings were missing several players at practice on Sunday afternoon. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson and linebacker Dom DeCicco weren't on the practice field, and safety Mistral Raymond (who suffered a concussion during Friday's game) was doing work on the side with safeties Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford, who missed Friday's game with hamstring and back injuries, respectively. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, of course, was not practicing after a stray bullet struck him in the calf in a nightclub incident on Saturday morning. On a more positive note, cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels returned from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) was once again out of a walking boot.
  • The Vikings began their practice outside, but had to move indoors for the first time during training camp thanks to a jagged bolt of lightning off to the west of their practice field. That turned Sunday's session into a glorified walk-through, and the Vikings were only able to do so much work inside the Minnesota State field house. Zimmer said he hadn't written practice schedules for this week until after Friday night's game, and the Vikings will have to resume the work of drilling their mistakes once they get back outdoors on Monday.
  • Zimmer wasn't thrilled with the way the Vikings' secondary played the run, particularly on Darren McFadden's 23-yard burst at the end of the first quarter. Safety Antone Exum had a shot at McFadden at the Raiders' 29, but came down with inside leverage and couldn't fight through McFadden's stiff arm to bring him down until the Raiders' 43. "I tell our guys all the time that long runs are typically because of the perimeter run force," Zimmer said. "We did not do a good job when the safety was coming downhill on that play, so we ended up giving him 14 more yards on that run than we should have."
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen continued to win praise for his work on special teams, after returning three punts for 53 yards and making a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt at the end of the first half. Thielen was visibly upset he didn't score on his second return, which went for 26 yards, but special teams coach Mike Priefer said that was just a matter of Thielen making one more move. "He is probably disappointed that he didn’t score on the one, but that’s something that a young punt returner, that’s a mistake they are going to make," Priefer said. "He saw the seam and he just went for it full speed. He’s got to kind of dip and go to the outside or widen them and go back inside but it was a very, very well-blocked play." Priefer said Sherels is still entrenched as the Vikings' punt returner, but with Sherels fighting a hamstring injury, it's not bad for the Vikings to have another option they trust.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen did well in Friday's game, Zimmer said. He wound up with five tackles in the game and showed some nice push up the middle on a couple run plays. With Joseph likely to miss some time, the seventh-round pick could see some more opportunities.

W2W4: Minnesota Vikings

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
12:00
PM ET
The Minnesota Vikings (0-0) and the Oakland Raiders (0-0) open the preseason Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

1. Bridgewater's debut: The Vikings will get their first look at quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a game situation, and they should have plenty of time to see where the rookie is at. Coach Mike Zimmer said Bridgewater will get some first-team work, and it's possible the quarterback could play up to two quarters, especially if starter Matt Cassel comes out after a couple series. The Vikings' game plan should be relatively simple on Friday night, and Bridgewater shouldn't have much trouble running the offense and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, but he'll get to face a live defense for the first time in the better part of a year. If he handles all of it well, he'll make a strong opening case for the Vikings' starting job.

2. Barr starts at linebacker: First-round pick Anthony Barr will get the start at strong-side linebacker for the Vikings, after an impressive first two weeks of training camp. It's unlikely the Vikings will show many of their diverse plans for the linebacker -- they've put him on the defensive line, blitzed him from the linebacker position and dropped him into coverage during training camp -- but he'll have his first chance to compete against players he hasn't seen in practice every day, and the Vikings will get to see how well Barr can react on the fly.

3. Secondary in flux: The Vikings have a number of questions in their defensive backfield, and injuries haven't helped them get any answers. Safety Robert Blanton is unlikely to play because of a hamstring injury, while safety Jamarca Sanford's status is uncertain because of a back spasm. Cornerback Josh Robinson has dealt with a hamstring injury, as well, and 34-year-old safety Chris Crocker -- who might end up being the Vikings' starter next to Harrison Smith -- just came out of retirement this week. Second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes is still adjusting to the Vikings' new defense, as well, so it wouldn't be surprising to see some rough moments from the secondary on Friday night. The game, however, provides an initial litmus test for a position group that had a major hand in the Vikings allowing more points than any team in the NFL last season.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 11

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
6:45
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • In the team's final practice before Friday's preseason opener, coach Mike Zimmer let the Vikings work without pads, and the team finished about 45 minutes early. The afternoon session had the feel of a dress rehearsal, with no 7-on-7 periods and some extra full-team work. The Vikings' starters will likely play a few series on Friday night, and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could play as many as two quarters, with some of his work coming with the Vikings' first-team offense.
  • Bridgewater was intercepted for the fourth time in training camp when he threw a high screen pass that bounced off the fingers of running back Dominique Williams and landed in the arms of cornerback Kendall James. Bridgewater finished the day 6-for-10 in full-team drills, and Matt Cassel was 5-for-6. Third-string quarterback Christian Ponder, who figures to get plenty of playing time once the starters are out on Friday night, had one of his busier days of camp, throwing a total of 13 passes and completing nine. Ponder waited a beat too long on a downfield throw to Erik Lora, but fared better against the Vikings' first-team defense than he did on Tuesday.
  • Zimmer again spent plenty of time coaching cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who appeared out of position on a downfield pass. The coach said on Wednesday he's had to adjust his approach to Rhodes somewhat, trying to go a bit softer on him than he did early in practice. "That's about every player; you try to figure out what buttons to push," Zimmer said. "He's better when he's playing off (the receiver); that was one of his weaknesses early on. He's done that a lot better. He understands the coverages much better. He understands the alignments and where he's supposed to be. The press technique, we've still got some work to do, but he has great recovery speed. He's improved in about every area."
  • Safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Marcus Sherels didn't practice Wednesday, in addition to injured safety Robert Blanton and tight end Chase Ford. Sherels watched practice next to Blanton from the sideline, while Sanford sat out with a back spasm. His status for Friday's game is unclear.
  • The Vikings received a visit on Wednesday morning from Hall of Fame defensive end Alan Page, who addressed the team about what it takes to be great in the NFL. "He said he went to Notre Dame, and I was the only guy who clapped," said tight end -- and Notre Dame product -- Kyle Rudolph. "We've got to get these other guys up on their history." And in the afternoon, Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders was on the sideline, chatting with general manager Rick Spielman. The Timberwolves have regularly held training camp at Minnesota State, where the basketball area is named after owner (and Minnesota State graduate) Glen Taylor. We know what you're thinking, and no, we didn't see Saunders on his phone, trying to complete a deal for Kevin Love.

Vikings wake-up call: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
9:45
AM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Minnesota Vikings camp:

Today's schedule: The Vikings have their normal routine of a 10:30-11:30 walk-through and a 3 p.m.-5:10 p.m. practice at Minnesota State University. Defensive coordinator George Edwards and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer are scheduled to talk to reporters after the morning walk-through.

More observations from Thursday's practice:
  • The Vikings have been doing extensive work with Xavier Rhodes, their talented second-year corner who still seems to be learning to trust his instincts in coverage. Rhodes is expected to be the Vikings' top cover corner this year, and while coach Mike Zimmer's defense typically doesn't ask corners to travel across the field with one receiver, Rhodes will undoubtedly see his share of difficult matchups this season. On Thursday, he drove on a route early in practice, but dropped an interception for the second consecutive day. Later, in a seven-on-seven red zone drill, he showed good technique against Jerome Simpson, playing with inside leverage that forced Matt Cassel to make a difficult throw to the back corner of the end zone, but Rhodes turned a split-second late for the ball and tried to swat it, rather than hitting Simpson's hands as he leaped to catch it. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray explained to Rhodes afterward that he'd played the right technique in coverage, but he just needed to force the ball out, rather than trying to recover by batting it away. It was a vivid snapshot in what's been a camp full of learning for Rhodes.
  • Zimmer continued to mix and match players in his first-team defense, giving Tom Johnson some work with the top unit at 3-technique tackle and rotating Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and rookie Antone Exum in the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith with Robert Blanton out because of a hamstring injury. Zimmer said he will release the Vikings' first formal depth chart sometime next week, and at certain positions it's probably dangerous to assume too much about a pecking order, when the Vikings are trying to get a look at a handful of different players in a variety of roles. ""Really, it's just about figuring out what guys can do," Zimmer said. "The more you can do, the more value you have to this football team."
  • The Vikings are experimenting with first-round draft pick Anthony Barr in a number of different ways. He's played linebacker in their dime package, has rushed from a defensive end position in the nickel, in addition to his normal work at linebacker in the base defense. He'll have to be able to hold up in coverage as a linebacker, but Zimmer's had no complaints there so far. "Coverage is great. He moves well. He’s got a good idea," Zimmer said. "Somebody was telling me that he takes copious notes in the meetings. He’s got pages and pages of them as we talk, so he’s very, very into trying to learn what we’re trying to do and teach. He’s got a lot of raw, athletic ability that helps in the coverage aspect of things. There’s times when he may pull off of somebody a little bit too soon that he’s got to do better at. But for the most part, I’ve been very pleased with that."
They said it: "I would say the sky's the limit, but there's no ceiling to his potential. There really isn't. If he's willing to put in the time, the potential is there. He has everything he needs. He's starting to mature as a player, as an individual, so his success is going to shoot straight through the roof. I'm excited. I told him this, and maybe it was a little premature, but I told him, 'At some point, I'm going to tell my kids I played with Cordarrelle Patterson.'" --Wide receiver Greg Jennings on Patterson.

Vikings wake-up call: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
9:00
AM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Minnesota Vikings training camp:

Today's schedule: After a day off, the Vikings are back on their normal schedule today at Minnesota State. They will hold a morning walk-through from 10:30-11:30, and their afternoon practice will run from 3:30-5:10. Coach Mike Zimmer is scheduled to talk to reporters after the morning walk-through.

More observations from Monday's practice:
  • Sanford
    Safety Jamarca Sanford was back to getting some first-team snaps, after he had mostly been working out with the second team in the first part of camp. Zimmer has spoken highly of Robert Blanton, who has made the most of his time with the first team while Sanford sat out the Vikings' spring program with a pulled muscle, and at the moment, Blanton would seem to have the inside track on a job next to his former Notre Dame teammate, Harrison Smith. But Sanford, who has been the starter the past two seasons, appears healthy enough to make a bid for the job. We'll see how much more time he gets this week with the first team.
  • For all the times Marcus Sherels is forgotten because of his small stature, the cornerback keeps coming back to assert himself in training camp, year after year. He had a textbook pass breakup during individual drills, and after an outstanding season as the Vikings' punt returner in 2013, he appears to be well ahead of any challengers for that job. "He has gotten better every year," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "Every year we have taken a little bit, I don’t want to say more chances, but we have been a little bit more aggressive with him every year and we are going to continue to do so this year."
  • Undrafted free agent Kain Colter is fighting for one of the Vikings' receiver spots after playing quarterback in college, and he showed his athletic ability early in Monday night's practice, leaping to make a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone during a red-zone drill.
Munnerlyn
What I'm watching: The Vikings activated Captain Munnerlyn from the physically-unable-to-perform list, and should get him back on the practice field on Wednesday. I'm curious to see how they will work him into their defense; he has been adamant that he will start at cornerback in the base defense, rather than just playing in the slot in the nickel package, but Josh Robinson looks more comfortable now that he is on the outside again. The Vikings might have to ease Munnerlyn into practice once they do get him back, but how they use him in the next week or so will give us an idea of whether he is going to be playing in their base defense as well as their sub packages. The guess here is Munnerlyn will wind up with the starting spot.

They said it: "Everson is a very difficult person to replace. He is such a great athlete. I think Scott has the size; he is not quite the athlete that Everson is, but he is a bigger guy. We will be able to utilize him in lot of different phases. I am excited about working with him, and again, Everson is a very tough person to replace athletically, but I think Scott will be doing some of the things that Everson did when he was playing special teams." -- Priefer, on the possibility of using rookie defensive end Scott Crichton to replace Everson Griffen on special teams now that Griffen is starting at right end.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:00
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Robert Blanton's bid for the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith continues to pick up steam; Blanton was again working next to Smith in the first unit on Sunday, while Jamarca Sanford -- who missed most of the Vikings' offseason program with a pulled muscle -- took second-team snaps. Coach Mike Zimmer said how impressed he was with Blanton's coverage skills on Sunday afternoon and wanted to see how the Notre Dame product fared in run support. Blanton came on strong at the end of last season after injuries forced a move to slot cornerback, and the coverage skills he flashed there could translate well to the safety position. The Vikings want to be able to put their safeties in man coverage at times so they can stay in their base defense and still handle three-receiver sets. "Robert has honestly impressed me with being in the right place all the time," Zimmer said. "He has really good ball skills, and he has made a couple really, really nice plays on the ball. He has been very solid and steady, he understands the checks and really the communication in the back end of where he is supposed to be."
  • Chad Greenway got some work at middle linebacker on Sunday, and it still seems possible he ends up there. The Vikings would be able to put Greenway in charge of their defensive huddle, knowing he'll likely stay on the field in nickel situations and could provide some continuity there. Greenway will have to earn the job, though, and he made a nice play in the Vikings' first padded practice on Sunday, driving Adrian Peterson back into Matt Cassel on the way to a sack. If the Vikings moved Greenway to the middle, they'd be able to put a couple of younger, athletic linebackers on either side of him. Gerald Hodges got some work at Greenway's usual weak-side linebacker spot, while Audie Cole continued to receive snaps on the strong side. Cole played in the middle last season, but if Anthony Barr isn't ready to grab the starting job, Cole could be a good option there.
  • It was another strong day for receiver Adam Thielen, who's easily become the darling of Vikings camp so far. Thielen, who went to college at Minnesota State and is going through training camp at his alma mater, has had a good connection with Teddy Bridgewater since this spring, and it showed again on Sunday, as Bridgewater hit him on a difficult deep out connection along the right sideline. Thielen said he spent his winter working out in the Twin Cities, trying to get faster and stronger, and he looks more impressive this year than he did last year. He also has some of the best hands on the team and has continued making the kinds of catches in traffic he was making during the Vikings' minicamp.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks worked in the same order today, with Cassel running the first team, Bridgewater the second team and Christian Ponder the third. They started practice with a handful of screen passes, again setting up Peterson for a number of impressive gains, and didn't take many shots downfield on a windy and rainy day. In 11-on-11 drills, Cassel went 10-for-13, Bridgewater went 9-for-11 and Ponder went 6-for-7.
  • An odd day of weather made the Vikings' first padded practice feel more like October than July. The team started practice under a threatening sky, and the clouds opened up while the Vikings were still stretching, sending many of the fans and media members in attendance looking for shelter. Zimmer kept the Vikings on the field, though, and continued practice during a heavier period of rain later in the afternoon. In previous years, the Vikings have moved such practices inside, but it's worth remembering that the Cincinnati Bengals -- where Zimmer was the defensive coordinator the past six seasons -- are one of the only teams in the NFL without an indoor practice facility. Especially with the Vikings playing home games outdoors this season, the threshold for moving practices inside will likely be much higher.

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