Laquon Treadwell refreshed, physically and mentally for Minnesota Vikings

After a mentally draining rookie season in which he barely played, Laquon Treadwell appears on track to be a regular contributor to the Minnesota Vikings and put the demons of his rookie season behind him.

To date, Laquon Treadwell has held off the challenge of Michael Floyd cutting into his time with the starting offense. Treadwell has also held off the demons of his rookie year.

Healthy once again, the Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 first-round draft choice is not only looking better but sounding better after a rookie season that saw the former star from Ole Miss pull in only one reception.

“It’s a lot more fun out there,” Treadwell said Tuesday after the first practice of minicamp. “I just understand what to do, honestly, and how the NFL works. I’m just a lot more comfortable.”

It’s showing with where he is on the depth chart. It’s still early, but Treadwell has been the oft-used third receiver, behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, while Floyd has remained running with the second-team offense.

Now recovered from an ankle/foot injury in college that lingered well into his rookie NFL season, Treadwell appears to have more explosiveness to his game.

He admitted on Tuesday that the injury affected him “a lot” last year.

“It affected me every day, but I’ve got a strong mindset and I’m just hungry to compete and doing what I’m used to doing,” he said.

“I was still motivated [last year], I was still hungry – I was just waiting on my time. Everybody’s timing is different. I didn’t play last year, but I’m looking forward to this year and making plays for the team.”

But, clearly, his lack of playing time affected him. He continued to stay after practice and work on routes and other receiver skills, but going from a star in the SEC to barely playing in the NFL can affect an athlete’s mindset.

“That’s always been the thing with me. I probably think too much about things and probably overthink it,” he said.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said last week that he sees improvement of Treadwell’s understanding of the game, too.

“He came back and he was really on point with what he's supposed to be doing mentally,” Zimmer said. “He's been out here competing and doing a nice job running routes and catching the ball, understanding where he fits in the running game and who to block. To this point, we've been really pleased with his progress based on a year ago.”

Being healthy and setting himself up for a contributing role this year has helped. He appears more upbeat about his possibilities than he was last year.

For him, it seems, better physical health is improving his mental health.

“It helps you relax mentally when you know you’re all the way healthy and you’re able to take some of those hits on your legs. That was the biggest thing for me, even in college, just knowing that I’ve got to take those licks on my legs and bounce back from it. I took it shot last year and it put me out,” he said. “It’s a mental freedom.

“I don’t think about it too much now. It’s just playing ball now and making plays.”

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