By the start of the regular season, David Yankey hopes to have a starting role in the Minnesota Vikings offense, but, like his fellow rookie Pac-12 Conference imports, Yankey is on what essentially amounts to a forced sabbatical.
Because Stanford is in session until June, Yankey is unable to attend this week's organized team activities with his new teammates, despite signing a four-year contract two weeks ago. What he tried to do was make a solid impression during rookie minicamp a weekend after he was the fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings.
"Number one, I like his toughness," head coach Mike Zimmer said after seeing Yankey work in a Vikings uniform earlier this month. "His physicality, he's pulled a hundred times with the powers when he was at Stanford. We're going to look at him more … we're playing him all over the place right now."
Initially, Yankey was used at just left guard as he works his way into the team's system as best he can while he is back in California. He planned to take in some long-distance tutoring from his position coaches and hopes he can apply what he learned once he returns for the mandatory minicamp June 17-19.
While Yankey hasn't had the chance to become fully immersed in the system, he got a taste of it during the May 16-18 rookie minicamp.
"In talking to Coach (Jeff) Davidson and going through meetings the first couple of days here, it's been pretty intense and it's good to learn," he said.
"It's going to get real hard."
Fortunately for Yankey, there are some patches of familiarity. He played in an offense at Stanford where there is some carryover to the Vikings' scheme.
"Definitely. There's always similarity. At the end of the day, everyone runs somewhat of the same schemes so it's cool to see a little bit of the carryover," he said.
Then there are the personal relationships.
While Yankey was a staple of the Cardinal offensive line, there was a younger offensive tackle back at Stanford that is able to help him with the transition to the Vikings coaching staff. Nick Davidson hasn't played yet for Stanford, but he is the oldest son of Jeff Davidson, Yankey's new position coach.
"I met him a few times, but hadn't really ever sat down and talked to him. This is still us getting to know each other, which is still just pretty cool," Yankey said.
The start of rookie camp was "more about the techniques with him, play calls, the terminology, things like that, things they can take and go back to their schools and work on," Zimmer said.
Eventually, Yankey may be able to work himself into a contributing role on the offensive line. For now, he joins the other rookies at the bottom of the depth chart with an uphill climb to relevancy after he returns from school.
"They'll start at the bottom," Zimmer said of the rookies. "It doesn't mean they'll end there at the bottom. You've got to line them up somewhere, so they'll start down there and we'll go from there."
Where a player like Yankey ends up in September is hard to tell, especially with limited offseason exposure. A contributing role is possible, but it's too soon to determination with his career in its infancy.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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