Zimmer continues to look for versatility

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is testing players with their position versatility more than a week into training camp.

More than a week into training camp, Mike Zimmer continues to look at players in different situations as injuries to backups mount.

Gerald Hodges, who has played mostly outside linebacker, has gotten some looks at middle linebacker. Some of the players in the secondary have gotten looks at nickel cornerback and safety.

It’s all part of a Zimmer training camp.

“I’m just trying to look at ways to get guys, the best 11 however I can get them out, out there,” Zimmer said. “I don’t care if there are six defensive linemen and one linebacker, I don’t really care how we get it.”

Shaun Prater started his Vikings career as a cornerback, has been moved mostly to safety, but has gotten some looks covering slot receivers. It’s that sort of versatility that Zimmer likes in his defensive backs to help disguise the coverages.

The movement isn’t limited to the younger players, either.

Terence Newman, with a dozen years of NFL experience and at 36 years old, has gotten occasional time covering slot receivers, too, even if he is mostly an outside coverage man.

“He’s got great quickness and he’s been able to do that in past. He’s always been so good at corner, but we’ve kind of left him out there. It’s another thing, I’m just trying to figure out how to get the best crew I can get in there,” Zimmer said.

“I think the more these guys know than one thing is good because so many things can happen throughout the course of the season. If Newman ends up having to go inside or Trae (Waynes) happens to go inside or however it ends up being – Captain (Munnerlyn) has to go outside – then they have to know more than one spot. Plus, it gives me a chance to evaluate guys in a lot of different places and maybe see them when they’re a little bit uncomfortable. That’s not always a bad thing.”

Hodges may have the most versatility of the linebackers, so keeping him at the ready at any of those three positions makes sense.

“He had some nice plays. He didn’t play a lot in there. It was just kind of a first introduction. He did a couple good things,” Zimmer said.

“He was flying around. He’s got some physicality to him and some toughness. When he thumps you, he thumps you.”

Several players are dealing with minor injuries in recent days.

  • OT Carter Bykowski has a bruise that swelled up and moved down his leg, but Zimmer cautioned that “it’s just a bruise.”

  • WR Gavin Lutman has a hamstring injury.

  • RB DuJuan Harris has a shoulder injury that has kept him out the last couple days.

    “I think he’s a very good runner. He’s got a lot of quickness,” Zimmer said of the first-year Viking and former Packer. “He sees things. It’s hurting him a little bit right now being out there.”

  • CB Josh Robinson remains on the physically unable to perform list with a pectoral injury suffered in the offseason, and Zimmer said he isn’t close to returning.

    “We had a couple little bumps today so we’ll how those go,” Zimmer said. “So far, so good.”

    QB Shaun Hill was given some rest Sunday after a good showing in the night practice Saturday.

    “We were kind of resting Shaun today. His arm, I think we ran out of oil in the training room,” Zimmer joked. “But Shaun, he did a good job last night.”

    Undrafted rookie Taylor Heinicke received some second-team reps when Hill wasn’t in there.

    “Like a lot of young guys, he’ll have some good plays and he’ll have some really bad plays. We have to try to eliminate some of these bad plays,” Zimmer said. “He’s very conscientious in trying to get everything done the right way. I’m not sure he’s been coached like Norv (Turner) has coached him before, so that’s kind of a new experience. Norv’s not afraid to get after his quarterbacks. He might not have had that quite as much.”

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