The Minnesota Vikings' running backs depth chart has had a rough go of things so far through training camp. Adrian Peterson just got his first practice in on Wednesday because of a hamstring issue, and even those reps were limited. Jerick McKinnon injured himself on Monday and had to miss Wednesday’s practice because of it. Even fullback Zach Line got a little banged up and was forced to sit out during the morning walk-through on Wednesday.
Peterson and McKinnon are going to make the team, no question there, and while it is always nice to have them in the lineup practicing to help get the offense in a rhythm, having them sit out is somewhat beneficial. It allows the coaching staff to take a closer look at some of the other players at the position who may not have gotten as many reps otherwise.
One of the players who really seems to be capitalizing on all these injuries is undrafted free agent Jhurell Pressley, who was taking reps with the first- and second-team offense during Wednesday’s practice.
“It’s a hard game. It’s a very tough sport. I’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given to me,” he said. “So just me playing with the twos and the ones is just a bonus for me and it’s just me stepping up when the time is coming.”
Pressley is trying to use these opportunities as a way to show the coaches that they can trust him out on the field and that he is worth keeping around. He feels as though he has a great chance to do that during camp because of how well-prepared he is.
He may not be the biggest running back in the NFL, coming in at 5-10, 206 pounds, but he feels like he is prepared enough mentally to earn a spot on the Vikings roster.
“This game is more like 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” he explained. “If you’re in the NFL, physically, you’re capable of playing, but mentally you’ve got to be there.”
Like any young player the Vikings bring into training camp, Pressley is going to need to focus on special teams if he hopes to make the roster, and he has no problem doing that. He played on special teams all throughout his collegiate career because he loved that part of the game so much.
He was a gunner and also participated in kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. But he isn’t just looking to do that in training camp, he’s working every angle on special teams that he possibly can, even saying he’s willing to be the holder is the coaches want him to do that.
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Pressley is likely going to be a bit of a long shot to make the roster during the team’s final cuts, especially if they choose to keep a fullback like they did last season, but that isn’t stopping him from trying. He works hard every rep he gets and is still working even when on the sidelines.
The undrafted rookie is always conversing with his fellow running backs, picking their brains about a number of different things so he can help incorporate those tips into his game.
“It’s a blessing to work next to (Peterson),” Pressley said. “I’m trying to learn from him the best I can, take a little bit from his game and put it in my game, so I can eventually be as great as him.
“I lean on all of them, Jerick, Matt (Asiata), AP, Zach, we all work together. I talk to each and every one of them about any little thing, just to take something from each of their games.”
Peterson’s return to practice on Wednesday likely means the number of reps Pressley receives with the first- and second-team offense will begin to decrease. He may still get some of the second team reps, depending on how long McKinnon is out for, and he’ll be looking to take full advantage of every snap he gets.