NFL Nation: Jamarca Sanford

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."

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. Sanford wasn't seen on the field.
  • 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 Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:00
PM ET
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.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings' safeties learn a defense that should bring much more variety to their roles than they had in the team's old scheme, a group of them is also auditioning for a role alongside Harrison Smith in the Vikings' starting lineup.

Coleman
Blanton
The Vikings have been rotating a number of safeties through their first-team defense during organized team activities, with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo sitting out with injuries. Kurt Coleman, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop and rookie Antone Exum have all gotten plenty of work in OTAs, and the Vikings figure to use a number of combinations next week during their minicamp. Coach Mike Zimmer said that the Vikings will likely run through more drills like they did on Thursday, when they had safeties working at something closer to game speed, without as much direction from coaches in between plays.

"I think we'll get a little bit better feel of how it goes the more of this stuff like we did today, where the coaches aren't out there helping them, 'Hey, move this way, move that way. Line up here, line up there,'" Zimmer said at the Vikings' charity golf tournament. "When all the things happen and they have to make adjustments and checks because those guys are a lot like the quarterbacks for the defense when they get back there."

In the Vikings' old Cover 2 scheme, safety was a relatively staid position. The team used a defensive back to rush the passer on just 46 snaps last season, which was the sixth fewest in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals, under Zimmer, sent a defensive back after the quarterback on 76 snaps, the 15th most in the league, and Smith said he expects a more diverse set of responsibilities in the Vikings' new defense. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has talked about how he'd like to be able to use safeties in man coverage, and even the Vikings' zone coverages will have safeties working more aggressively to eliminate space from receivers, so much so that some of the zones will look like man coverage to the naked eye, Smith said.

"The safeties get to do a lot more, whether it's in coverage, sometimes being the free guy, being able to go make a play on the ball, coming down in the box, getting involved in the run game, blitzing," he said. "You really get to do it all."

That means there's more to be gained from finding the right player to go next to Smith. The competition will get even thicker once Sanford and Sendejo are healthy, but it stands to reason the Vikings will take their opportunities to see a number of different safeties, especially when they'll ask them to be a more dynamic part of their defense.

"Harrison's a smart guy," Zimmer said. "Kurt Coleman's doing a good job. Robert Blanton's doing a good job. We've got a lot of guys who are continually working at those spots. We're just trying to get them in the right position where we can get them to go play."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A quick look at the highlights of the Minnesota Vikings' second open OTA of the offseason on Thursday:

1. Bridgewater looking sharp: Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who missed the Vikings' final two OTAs last week while he was attending a NFL rookie marketing event in Los Angeles, is back this week and was impressive in his first full-team work open to the media. He hit his first nine throws in 11-on-11 work, connecting with Adam Thielen on a long sideline pass against tight coverage on his first attempt of the day. Bridgewater also connected with Jarius Wright on a long corner throw during his two-minute drill, which ended with a rushing touchdown. "I thought Teddy did a nice job in the two-minute situation, hit a nice long ball there," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He left for those two days, he was a little rusty when he came back, and he's picked it up since then. He's kind of feeling his way a little bit around the guys, which will come in time. He'll keep progressing, getting more comfortable. I like him a lot."

Cassel
Cassel
Ponder
Ponder
2. Cassel connects, Ponder struggles: Matt Cassel got the majority of the first-team snaps at quarterback, though Bridgewater had some in his two-minute drill. Cassel, by my count, was 8-for-9 in the Vikings' first 11-on-11 period, and hit four of his eight throws during the two-minute drill (though Kyle Rudolph was arguing for interference on one of the incompletions). Cassel found Wright for a touchdown on a red zone throw, and threw another touchdown on a broken play, though the play wouldn't have developed that way had a defense actually been coming after Cassel. Christian Ponder, however, didn't get to throw much, and wasn't impressive in the work he did have. He threw an ugly interception over the middle to Derek Cox during his two-minute drill. Ponder mentioned to reporters on Wednesday that he thought the Vikings not picking up his 2015 option might give him some "leverage," since he could decide where he wanted to be next. If that logic seems hard to follow, Ponder didn't do anything on Thursday to help further his case.

3. Ragged red zone: Zimmer said he was disappointed with the Vikings' red zone defense on Thursday, after the team spent much of its practice session working on red zone situations, and it was easy to see some of his concerns. Bridgewater's two-minute drill ended with a touchdown after newcomer Julian Posey was called for pass interference on Jerome Simpson off a red zone throw, and both Cassel and Ponder hit some open throws near the goal line. "I was least impressed with the defensive red zone this morning. It wasn’t very good. We’ve got to get a lot better there. And then offensively we did a really nice job."

4. Thielen shines: With Greg Jennings gone, Thielen got plenty of opportunities at receiver, and the second-year player made the most of them. He hauled in Bridgewater's sideline throw, and seemed to have a good rapport with the rookie quarterback all day, connecting on a crossing route between two levels of coverage during 11-on-11 work. The Minnesota State product could be fighting for one of the final receiver spots on the Vikings' roster after spending 2013 on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent.

5. McKinnon working as receiver: Running back Jerick McKinnon figures to see plenty of action as a receiver out of the backfield this year, and got a chance to work on his pass-catching skills on Thursday. The third-round pick, who was primarily an option quarterback at Georgia Southern, caught six passes and looked smooth. He'd caught only 10 passes in college, but running backs coach Kirby Wilson has said McKinnon looks like a natural as a receiver.

6. Richardson at tackle: With Matt Kalil out again, undrafted free agent Antonio Richardson got some work at left tackle, splitting time with Kevin Murphy. Richardson had been projected as a possible second-day draft pick, but concerns about his work ethic left him available as an undrafted free agent.

7. Back injury keeps Griffen out: Defensive end Everson Griffen missed practice with a back strain, though Zimmer said he was mostly sitting out for precautionary reasons. Brian Robison slid over to right end, with Corey Wootton working in Robison's typical left end spot. Safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Josh Robinson, who were each limited because of muscle pulls last week, were again sitting out.

8. Peterson, Jennings gone: The Vikings' first-team offense was without perhaps its two most prominent players -- Adrian Peterson and Jennings. The running back wasn't at Thursday's OTA, and Jennings was gone for a charity appearance.

9. Burns in the house: Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns, who had the head job from 1986-91 after serving as Bud Grant's offensive coordinator, was on hand to watch practice on Thursday. “I knew he was coming out here today," Zimmer said. "I talked to the team about him this morning because a lot of these younger guys don’t know who some of these guys are that we talk about – he’s in the Ring of Honor, head coach at Iowa and so on and so forth, head coach here, six Super Bowls (four with the Vikings and two as an assistant on Vince Lombardi's staff in Green Bay), a lot of those things. But he talked a little bit about what he believes in the football team and the philosophy. He was very good. He’s a good guy, funny guy.”

10. Happy birthday, coach: Zimmer turned 58 on Thursday, and said the "best gift I could have is[to] have good practices." Was Thursday's good enough? "Mmmm ... no," he said. "We've got a ways to go."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings offered former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman a contract after meeting with the free agent on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a league source, but Coleman is still weighing his options.

The Vikings confirmed Coleman's free-agent visit on Friday morning, which meant the safety had left the facility without a contract.

Coleman had met with several teams, and arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin his visit with the Vikings. However, the contract offer wasn't enough to get him to pull the trigger on a deal on Friday. The Vikings and Coleman could still circle back to one another and come to an agreement at some point.

The former seventh-round pick started 27 games between 2011 and 2012 for the Eagles, but was bumped out of a starting job last season. If he were to sign with the Vikings at some point, he'd likely come in as a special-teams contributor and a backup at both safety spots, where he'd compete with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo for playing time at one of them.

Kurt Coleman visiting Vikings

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
8:00
AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman flew to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin a free-agent visit with the Minnesota Vikings, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. Coleman will continue his visit with the Vikings on Thursday, and if the Vikings like what they see, they could add Coleman to what already looks like a crowded safety position.

Coleman didn't start in 2013 for the Eagles after making 27 combined starts in 2011 and 2012. He struggled in run support, especially in 2012, missing 15 tackles that season, according to Pro Football Focus. Coleman had two interceptions in 2012, and four in 2011, but mostly played special teams in 2013. He saw his most playing time on defense in the Eagles' 48-30 loss to the Vikings on Dec. 15, playing 27 snaps at safety.

He'd likely come in as a backup safety and a contributor on special teams, but while Harrison Smith likely has one safety spot locked down, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo can make no such claim at the other spot. Both played well at times last season, but Sanford will be a free agent next spring after taking a pay cut this year, and Sendejo was solely a special-teams player until injuries forced him into the lineup last year. If the Vikings were to sign Coleman -- heading into a training camp where a new coaching staff figures to invite plenty of competition -- it's conceivable he could fight for playing time.

Coleman had visited the Indianapolis Colts last week, but left without signing a contract. Now, he and the Vikings will discuss whether they might make a good match.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings emerge from the busiest period of free agency with more than $11 million left in cap space, they can begin to turn their attention to the pursuits that will occupy the rest of that money.

Rudolph
They'll need roughly $6.5 million for their 2014 rookie pool, though as Overthecap.com estimates, they'd only need about $3.2 million in salary cap space for those players, assuming many of their cap numbers aren't among the top 51 contracts on the roster. The Vikings could also look in the coming months toward a contract extension for tight end Kyle Rudolph, who will be a free agent next spring, has said several times he wants to stay with the Vikings and reiterated that this week in a pair of remarks (to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KSTP-TV).

A league source said there have been "no talks whatsoever" between the Vikings and Rudolph's agent about a contract extension, and even though the tight end wants to get a deal done this offseason, it might behoove him to wait. After missing eight games last season with a broken foot, he'd benefit from a full season in Norv Turner's offense (which has been famously friendly to tight ends) and could command more money with big numbers in 2014. The Vikings haven't been in the mode of signing their players to extensions before the final years of their contracts, anyway; they got Brian Robison's four-year deal done last October, and waited until just before free agency to sign Everson Griffen this spring and Phil Loadholt last year.

But while it's probably too soon to assume things will heat up between the Vikings and Rudolph, it does seem like a good possibility the Vikings will reward the former second-round pick for a big season. The team cut John Carlson this spring, further cementing Rudolph's status as their top tight end, and the Vikings have few other major free agents next spring; guard Brandon Fusco could be in line for a new deal, but players like wide receiver Jerome Simpson, defensive end Corey Wootton, safety Jamarca Sanford and fullback Jerome Felton (who can opt out of his deal after next season) would be relatively affordable to keep, if the Vikings did indeed want to retain them.

With a big season, Rudolph might be able to get a deal along the lines of the one the Baltimore Ravens gave tight end Dennis Pitta last month. Pitta, who was drafted a year earlier than Rudolph and caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 before getting hurt last season, got a five-year, $32 million deal, with $16 million guaranteed. While there's nothing developing between Rudolph and the Vikings in terms of an extension yet -- and there might not be quite as soon as the tight end might like -- he's in a good spot to produce and get rewarded for it.

SPONSORED HEADLINES