Chief among those returning to practice from injuries was their biggest free-agent acquisition, nose tackle Linval Joseph.
“We had shoulder pads on (Saturday). He looked good, athletic. Looked good,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
“He’s been working real hard, so I didn’t see anything conditioning-wise, I didn’t see anything technique-wise (to be concerned about).”
Joseph was shot in the calf as a bystander to a shooting in a Minneapolis nightclub hours after the Vikings’ preseason opener and didn’t play in the final three games of the preseason. Monday was the first day he returned to practice with the team, although he started running full-speed sprints to the side.
“Having a big presence in the middle like that should take pressure off of us on the edge as far as getting double teams. With his presence, with the way he can move, I don’t see a lot of teams trying to block him one-on-one,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “If they do, then we’ve got to make things easier for him on the inside by getting some pressure on the edges.”
The defense also saw the return of LB Anthony Barr (ankle) and LB Gerald Hodges (ankle), but fellow linebackers Michael Mauti (foot) and Brandon Watts (leg) didn’t practice. Zimmer said Watts probably won’t play but Mauti should begin practicing on Wednesday.
On offense, right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and receiver Rodney Smith (neck/back) also returned to practice while newly acquired tight end MarQueis Gray was practicing. Fullback Zach Line wasn’t practicing and Zimmer said he needed more information about him.
NEW GUYS AT PRACTICE
While Gray practiced, the other player the Vikings claimed on waivers, offensive lineman Mike Harris, was an observer at the start of practice.
In order to make room for him, the Vikings released rookie offensive lineman Austin Wentworth.
“We’ve got some younger guys, but like I’ve said before we’re always looking,” Zimmer said. “He had a plan going in that we were going to look real hard. We have an idea of who might get released and who wouldn’t. The scouts did a great job of researching a lot of guys. The coaches, too, we came in and looked at a lot of guys before we put the claims in.”
Gray, who played quarterback for the University of Minnesota, was clearly excited to be back in Minnesota with TCF Bank Stadium as his NFL home field.
Gray played for offensive coordinator Norv Turner last year with the Cleveland Browns and Harris played for Turner two years ago with the San Diego Chargers.
“I believe he had a big say-so in me coming here, mainly because I was a part of his offense last year,” Gray said. “He saw first what I can do in this offense and he’s trusting me a lot to be here. I’ve just got to make sure I do my part and uphold all the great things he said about me.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.