Vikings get in nighttime goal-line work

The Vikings had their first full-contact goal-line work Monday night, a mix of some success and a couple of big hits.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said he was mainly looking to give players a change-up by having a night practice before their first day off since reporting to training camp last Thursday.

He ended up with a better assessment of some of his players, especially in the goal-line situations.

Jasper Brinkley and the other Mike Zimmer, the linebacker, both had big hits on running backs to stop them short of the goal line in the highlight period of the night practice.

“Thank God I’m wearing red. It’s not time for me to get hit yet,” quarterback Matt Cassel said of the goal-line session. “It was intense. It’s always intense sitting down there. You’ve got a lot of weight being pushed around and guys hitting each other. It’s a great way to get started in terms of tackling and getting physical.”

It was the fourth time through for the Vikings installing portions of the offense. But it was the first time working on the goal-line situations with full contact.

“Just want to introduce them to some full-go stuff, but try to be smart about it,” the head coach said before the practice. “Typically, you don’t get guys too beat up in that, because it is such a condensed area. Then the rest of the time is really practice-wise, we did a lot of run stuff yesterday, (Monday) night will be red zone situation.”

One of the main goals was to get everything through the fully padded practice safely, and in that regard the first of three night practices was mostly mission accomplished. Cordarrelle Patterson, who hasn’t practiced since training camp opened because of a foot injury, was also in full pads but did only limited individual work.

Safety Robert Blanton had a decent showing early, coming for a touch sack of Cassel before Blanton was sidelined with what appeared to be cramps one play after the sack.

In goal-line work, play-action was a big part of the package and it worked twice for passing touchdowns. The first one was a Cassel pass to tight end Rhett Ellison off play-action in which Ellison beat Blanton for a 2-yard touchdown. The second was a Christian Ponder pass to tight end AC Leonard.

Adrian Peterson was held out of the full-contact portion of goal-line work, but did get some work in the receiving game in the red zone and elsewhere.

“It’s a good thing for us and probably a bad thing for defenses, but we’re finding out he can catch. So that’s a good thing,” Cassel said.

In regular full-team work, Cassel hit Greg Jennings with a perfect deep throw down the right sideline that might have gone for an 80-yard touchdown. Jennings also had a drop later in the session, and inconsistency summed up the night for many receivers.

Blair Walsh was a little more consistent on special teams. He hit 7 of 8 field goals ranging from 30 to 52 yards, missing only a 43-yard attempt wide right. He also hit two nice onside kicks later in the session. The first was recovered by Mistral Raymond, but the second one was touched too early by Shaun Prater.

With Patterson out, Kain Colter, Erik Lora, Jarius Wright and Marcus Sherels got turns returning kickoffs.

The night practice drew a decent crowd, probably about 3,000, but Zimmer’s main objective was to subject the players to something new on their fourth day of practices.

“Little bit is to change up camp a little bit. I think it is good to get on a schedule and then change it a little bit,” Zimmer said. “If you’re traveling on the road one time and something happens you have to adjust to it. I also think it is good for the fans that they get a chance to come out, they don’t have to miss work, they can come out and watch us practice.

“Typically when you go to a night practice the tempo picks up a little bit, although I feel really good about the tempo of our practices. I have had several, several comments from people from some of the training camps in the past, many, many of them, even players, have commented on the tempo when we go here. It is good to go in, get work done, go fast, and then get out. We don’t make it shorter but we make it seem like it is shorter, hopefully.”

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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