Vikings night practice to put it all together

The Minnesota Vikings’ featured night practice Saturday will let coaches get a broader view of the team together and a closer look at the younger player in game-like situations.

Saturday night’s practice under the lights of Blakeslee Stadium at Minnesota State, Mankato is sometimes referred to as a scrimmage, but it is closer to a glorified practice.

The Minnesota Vikings expect a big crowd, per usual, plenty of full-team work and honing their red zone packages on offense and defense. All of that could lead to the biggest hitting of camp to date.

“The history of it is, obviously we get a great crowd here and it’s the first time we really get to go out and be 11-on-11 in a little bit of a high-energy situation,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “I think you get to some high-speed football. It’s good. It’s a lot of energy, the first time under the lights and young guys get an opportunity to go out and try to show up and make something happen. It’s exciting, it’s fun. As long as I’ve been doing it, you get out there under the lights and a little bit more of a speed-it-up atmosphere and your juices get going a little bit, so it will be good.”

Expect Charles Johnson to be one of Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite targets. He was in the last month of last season and has been so far at training camp. But it might also be the first time for some fans to see the varied role of rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt.

The coaches will be taking a more global view of the offense and defense while paying special attention the younger players.

“We have situations where we go 1-on-1, we go 9-on-7, 7-on-7, without the entire team. And then our team period, you watch it and there’s coaches coaching guys after every play. What you’re doing all this for is so when you can get 11 guys on the field out there by themselves, they can function,” Turner said. “It’s amazing how some guys really step up when they’re out there, just 11 guys, and some guys regress, they’re not sure what to do. In these early situations, early preseason games like the Hall of Fame game, I think you get to see these young guys, the adrenaline gets going and they just step up. The number one thing we want to do is make sure these guys can function out there without a coach helping them between plays.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer has the same thoughts pertaining to the night practices the Vikings have as his offensive coordinator does. Many of the young players get excited to be playing in front of a group of people and under the lights. But some players seem to shy back from the moment presented to them.

“Things like tonight are great for these young guys because now they are under lights,” Zimmer said. “There’s a bigger crowds out there and they might split the bill or they might get out of the gates and run.”

Since the night practices are as close to a game-type situation that the Vikings will experience until the preseason, Zimmer likes to treat them as a warm up. This way the rookies and young players can get used to playing on a professional team and in front of their fans, and hopefully get some of their nerves out of the way.

He is not sure what all he will get to see during this first night practice, but he is excited for it either way.

“I don’t know if they play better, but I think they get a little. It’s just a different feeling,” Zimmer said about his young players at the night practices. “It’s more game-like; it’s more realistic in what they’re going to see. Some of these guys, that first preseason game we’re going to Canton and the Hall of Fame game and their eyes are probably going to be that big. Some of these rookies that haven’t experienced professional football and they all think, ‘Wow, this is my first professional football game and I’ve got to win a job.’ So I think their emotions are going to be a lot higher tonight so it should be fun. I’m excited about it.”

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