OTA notebook: Injuries limiting defense

Seven defensive players were held out of full-team work, including several starters. How were adjustments made around them?

Adrian Peterson might have been the only player absent from the first week of organized team activities, but plenty of other Minnesota Vikings were limited to warmups, individual drills or simple observational duty due to injury.

While Peterson’s absence had him nowhere in sight of Winter Park, it was the defense that had numerous players sitting out for various injury reasons.

Those players included two first-round picks in the last three years – linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Barr had a sleeve on his right leg, but head coach Mike Zimmer said Barr’s issue wasn’t related to the knee injury that prematurely ended his rookie season.

“It’s not the knee that he got hurt, no,” Zimmer said.

But the linebacker corps was especially hard hit. Like Barr, Gerald Hodges had a sleeve on his right leg, and free-agent acquisition Casey Matthews was also sitting out of teams drills.

In the secondary, it was Rhodes and Jalil Carter sidelined.

On the defensive line, Brian Robison, who last week suffered a pectoral injury that isn’t believed to be serious, and Everson Griffen were out.

All the injuries caused a heavy rotation throughout the defense.

Justin Trattou and rookie Danielle Hunter were getting most of Robison’s work as the first-team left end, with Scott Crichton also taking some reps at Griffen’s right end spot.

At linebacker, Audie Cole got most of the first-team work in the middle with rookie Eric Kendricks being eased into the rotation as a second-team linebacker. Veteran Chad Greenway remained at weakside linebacker with Josh Kaddu getting most of the work on the strong side, Barr’s normal spot. Brandon Watts, a seventh-round pick last year, came in on some nickel situations with Greenway remaining on the field.

Without Rhodes in the secondary, veteran free-agent find Terence Newman was the primary left cornerback as first-round pick Trae Waynes was limited to mostly second-team work.

“He’s still thinking, the alignments and a lot of detail stuff that he’s got to continue to improve at, and there’s a lot of things he has to work at, but he is very sincere about trying to get better every day,” Zimmer said. “He’s kind of a quiet kid. Kind of like Teddy (Bridgewater) was last year. The more comfortable he gets, the more assertive he will be in a lot of different ways.”

Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson filled in for Rhodes at right cornerback.

Despite the eight players that were kept out of team drills, including right tackle Phil Loadholt, Zimmer was just happy to conduct a practice with good weather, sunny skies and temperatures approaching 80.

“Actually, it was pretty good. We moved around well. I thought we improved from yesterday,” Zimmer said. “Yesterday we went out and it was a monsoon out here, but it was good for us to get out, good character-builder. I like the way we’re progressing. It’s two days, so we’ve still got a long, long way to go. There’s still a lot of work to get done before we get to where we want to be.”

  • Safety Robert Blanton provided the verbal moment of practice, cussing himself out after he missed an interception when he undercut a route. Blanton worked mostly with the first-team defense.

  • Brandon Fusco, who has started at right guard each of the last two seasons, is now practicing exclusively at left guard. The move was made so T.J. Clemmings, who played his last two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh at right tackle, could remain on the right side of the offensive line as he transitions to guard.

    “It was really about putting him over there, putting Clemmings at the right side and making it easier for him, as opposed to moving to the other side,” Zimmer said. “We know that Fusco can always move back if we plug somebody else in the left guard.”

  • Rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt had the catch of the day, a diving catch near the sideline. It came a short time after he had dropped an easier attempt, which is the sort of inconsistency he showed at rookie minicamp, too.

  • Free-agent acquisition Mike Wallace is working exclusively at flanker and said he is looking forward to being able to stretch the field in Norv Turner’s offense.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson got most of his work with the second-team offense, as Wallace and Charles Johnson worked with the first unit.

  • Shaun Hill, the 35-year-old backup quarterback, provided one highlights when he fooled the defense and kept the ball on a quarterback draw to the outside, making sure to let the younger, faster defenders know it.

  • With plenty of rotation on both sides of the ball, the second-team offensive line shaped up like this, from left tackle to right tackle: Tyrus Thompson, Carter Bykowski, Zac Kerin, David Yankey and Austin Shepherd.

  • Former defensive lineman Isame Faciane, who spent the entire 2014 season on the practice squad, is now working as an offensive guard.

  • Bridgewater is excited to have tight end Kyle Rudolph back healthy.

    “He’s like a whole new player on the team,” Bridgewater said of Rudolph.

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