At least they were back for the morning walk-through. Neither participated in the afternoon practice.
Getting those two players back at some point soon at least helps the depth at their respective positions on the Minnesota Vikings depth chart. Patterson got some reps with the first-team offense in certain situations before he landed hard on his left shoulder, and McKinnon was taking first-team reps when Adrian Peterson was out with a hamstring injury.
While Patterson’s official position is receiver, he’s further down the depth chart there. However, he has been one of the best – if not the best – kick returners in the league. But coming off a shoulder injury may mean no time for him in the first few games of the preseason.
“Coach (Mike) Zimmer and I will talk about it and we’ll see where he’s at. Obviously he wants to do it to get some reps under his belt,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “I know this is Year 4 for him and he’s got a lot of returns under his belt, but like any young man, especially at this stage of his career, he’s going to need some reps to get prepared for the season. My hope is to use him a little bit, maybe not in the first couple games but maybe in the last two preseason games if we can.”
Patterson has 112 total kick returns in the regular season and playoffs, but Priefer said there are still some things he needs to work on in that part of his game.
“He’s matured over the last three, four years and he’s always taken it seriously. Our big focus with him is ball security,” Priefer said. “Sometimes the ball will get away from him. He had the one we lost last year against Green Bay. That’s unforgivable, but at the end of the day that’s his biggest deal is still working on some of the finer points of his return abilities and then really emphasizing ball security.”
McKinnon returned to at least the walk-through portion of Thursday’s practice, too, and with Peterson being cautious about how quickly he returns from a hamstring injury, McKinnon’s depth would be a welcome addition.
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“It was great. Just having those guys’ presence out there in the walk-through today, it was great,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “We’re going to need all of the guys as the season goes on, so as long as you can keep the guys healthy, it’ll be great for us.”