When the Atlanta Falcons made the biggest splash of the 2011 draft by trading up to the No. 6 spot to draft wide receiver Julio Jones, it became apparent that free-agent WR Michael Jenkins wasn't going to find his UFA pot of gold in Atlanta. Instead, he's found a new opportunity with the purple and gold of the Vikings.
The Vikings and their fans got the first real look at recently signed wide receiver Michael Jenkins
Friday during the afternoon practice session at Minnesota State-Mankato.
On the first play of the practice in 7-on-7 drills, Jenkins blew past Chris Cook
with a double move and was hit in stride by Donovan McNabb
, raising some eyebrows from his new teammates.
"That was a good way to start practice," Jenkins said. "I was just glad that I was loose. It was a great way to get the afternoon started."
To look at Jenkins on the field or to go over his career receiving stats, he doesn't jump out at you as a speed receiver, but head coach Leslie Frazier said that looks can be deceiving and that Jenkins can cover a lot of ground when he gets up to full speed.
"He's a long guy and he takes those long strides," Frazier said. "It doesn't look like he's covering that much ground and then, all of a sudden, he's behind someone."
For his part, Jenkins is a step ahead of his teammates in learning the terminology of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's scheme, but is behind in learning the faces and names of his new teammates. He said that he came to the Vikings knowing more coaches than teammates.
"I knew Antoine Winfield
and worked out with Bernard Berrian
a couple of years ago, but that was about it," Jenkins said. "I knew more of the coaches coming in. Obviously I worked with Coach Musgrave in Atlanta, but [wide receivers coach George] Stewart, he drafted me out of college and coach [Fred] Pagac recruited me out of high school. I'm getting to know the guys and that's always a difficult process, but it's going pretty well."
The biggest challenge for Jenkins has been the unfamiliarity with everything Vikings – from getting to know his teammates, finding a place to live in the Twin Cities and getting his belongings up from Atlanta. His spartan existence has led him to focus almost exclusively on football for no other reason than he has nothing else to occupy his time.
"It's a big change – meeting new people, moving to a new city and not having any of your stuff with you," Jenkins said. "Everything is new. If anything, it's made me more focused because I don't have any of the distractions most of the guys have. All I do is go to my room, go to meetings and go to practice. I didn't even know until today that there was a CVS (pharmacy) right down the street."
Jenkins said he didn't know where his career was heading after seven years with the Falcons. After being a full-time starter opposite Roddy White
, when the Falcons made a bold gamble to move up in April's draft to select speedy WR Julio Jones
, Jenkins said it appeared the handwriting was on the wall. He said the call from the Vikings couldn't have come at a better time and he plans to make the most of the new lease on his football life with the Vikes.
"I'm excited," Jenkins said. "I'm glad to be here and get the opportunity to get a fresh start. I didn't know what the future was going to hold for me in Atlanta. Coming to the Vikings is a chance for me to start over and try to make an impression on this team that I will be good for both the team and for myself."
FRIDAY PRACTICE NOTES
The team practiced for almost two-and-half hours in a spirited full-squad practice that included some 11-on-11 drills in which even star Adrian Peterson was taken down hard by the Vikings first-team defense.
The stands were filled to capacity for Friday's practice, with both bleachers filled, fans standing three and four deep along the sideline fence and some fans climbing to the top of the bleachers at Blakeslee Stadium to get a bird's eye view of practice.
Kenny Onatolu and Anthony Herrera both sat out the afternoon practice – Onatolu wearing a walking boot from a left foot injury and Herrera still recovering from surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament. Onatolu told Viking Update he is progressing quickly and hopes to be ready to return to action next week.
Cornerback Marcel Gipson was absent from practice with what Frazier termed as a "family emergency." Frazier said he is unsure whether Gipson will return tomorrow for practice, saying the team will contact him tonight to check on his status.
Percy Harvin appeared to strain his right hip during practice. While he remained in the receiver rotation on passing drills, he was consistently flexing the hip and occasionally grimaced in pain when he did so.
During the punt return segment of practice, the Vikings alternated Jaymar Johnson, Greg Camarillo, Cord Parks and Stephen Burton on return duties.
Jaymar Johnson made the play of the afternoon in 7-on-7 drills, making a diving catch as he laid out in the end zone to beat Brandon Burton deep on a perfectly thrown pass from Joe Webb – earning the biggest ovation of the session.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave spent almost the entire practice exclusively with his quarterbacks.
Rookie Christian Ponder had an up-and-down afternoon, showing some good zip on most of passes, but had two passes intercepted – including a pick by rookie CB Devon Torrence that was returned for a touchdown. Marcus Sherels had the other interception.
Ryan Longwell was perfect on his kicks Friday, making all 12 of his field goal attempts in the initial stages of practice and going 5-for-5 on his attempts during full special-teams drills.
The NFL had an officiating crew looking over practice, but they were a little shorthanded, so when Longwell was attempting field goals, wide receivers coach George Stewart stood under one of the goal posts as a de facto ref.
One thing that seemed clear Friday was that the running back drills will be a little quieter this year. In previous years, fiery position coach Eric Bieniemy could be heard two fields away chastising his running backs. This time around, it was much more calm and peaceful James Saxon overseeing the position.
Chris Cook dropped an easy interception in practice and, as is a ritual, he immediately dropped and did 10 pushups.
Bernard Berrian did a little trash talking with Brandon Burton. While a pass thrown by Ponder sailed high, Berrian put a strong fake on Burton, chirping to him, "Had you beat, rook."
Both Donovan McNabb and Webb connected deep downfield on passes to Peterson out of the backfield.
Lorenzo Booker showed some shiftiness and speed during 11-on-11 red zone drills. On a play designed to go to the left, Booker found no running room, stopped, changed direction and scored by taking it all the way around to the right corner of the end zone.
Booker also took the opportunity to "school up" rookie RB Alexander Robinson after practice, giving him pointers on how to make an impression on the coaching staff and serving as both mentor and cheerleader.
The Vikings will hold two practices Saturday – a one-hour walk-through at 9 a.m. and the annual "live practice" at Blakeslee Field at 7 p.m.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.