Creating turnovers will do that for a cornerback corps that hasn’t had enough reason to celebrate interceptions over the last few years.
Newman, the savvy veteran of the group but first-year Viking, had the first interception of practice, stepping in front of a pass intended for receiver Mike Wallace and returning it during half-field competition between the offense and defense. For Newman, it’s nothing new to instantly diagnose a route and make a move on a ball. He did it several times in training camp and Tuesday was just another example of how his experience should pay off for the Vikings.
“There was a route last week that he was on Wallace and he got in the position that I didn’t like him and I said, ‘Why were you doing that?’” head coach Mike Zimmer recalled after Tuesday’s practice. “He said, ‘Well, he raised up a little bit as he was running down the field.’ I have to replay the tape to see that and see that and see that, and he can see it while the play is happening. I said, ‘Did you tell Wallace that?’ And he said, ‘Not yet.’ I said, ‘Make sure you go over and tell him.’ But he sees things like that.”
That’s been the sort of byplay between Newman and Wallace all offseason and training camp. Both of them are new to the Vikings, and both are expected to be key cogs in a season of hope.
Rhodes, in his second season in Zimmer’s defense, wasn’t outdone. A few plays later, he stepped in front of pass intended for undrafted rookie receiver Isaac Fruechte.
“I just broke on the ball when I seen it and picked it off. Read the route, looked back and saw the ball thrown and picked it off,” Rhodes said.
“That’s just defense. We just wanted to bring energy. That’s how we play our D, play off each other’s energy.”
Defenders seemed to be having a better time of it than the receivers, but they could thank Zimmer for altering the routine this week.
With five preseason games, Zimmer decided for music and a shorter practice on Monday. On Tuesday, the music continued and most of the defenders could be seen dancing and heard hollering after a big play by one of them.
Rhodes said there wasn’t any animosity from the offensive players.
“No. We compete. Us and the receivers, we compete every day. They have energy. We have energy,” he said. “We just go out there and compete and try to get each other better.”
Zimmer may have been responsible for bringing in the music, but with everything from hip-hop to Bon Jovi to Jimi Hendrix, he wasn’t responsible for the selections.
“We had the extra week and so this week I felt like we were dragging a little bit. I just wanted to change some things up,” he said. “That’s why we went real short yesterday, doing some music.”
Zimmer, a disciple of Bill Parcells, realized that might not have flown when Parcells was patrolling the sidelines in Dallas with Zimmer an assistant under him.
“I’m pretty old-school, too,” Zimmer said when told Bud Grant might not have approved of in-practice music. “I don’t think Parcells would appreciate it if I had music out here.”
As long as his defense was making plays and the tempo picked up, the means to the end didn’t matter.
TUESDAY PRACTICE NOTES
“First week it was more learning because it was different alignment so he wasn’t perfect with all that stuff,” Zimmer said of Hodges’ transition to middle linebacker, “but when he’s played he’s done good.”
“We’re just being cautious with him,” Zimmer said, saying Sullivan has been in the building, just not attending practices. “They’re always in the building.”
“I don’t know. Actually, he came out here today and I don’t know how he did. I never really noticed him,” Zimmer said. “I was probably focusing on other things. I don’t know where he’s at right now.”