James played much of last Friday's game, getting a few snaps with the first-team base defensive line and playing much of the rest of the contest, as well as contributing on the punt return team. But if he gets even more time in Seattle, that will mean one thing for sure – more conditioning for the first-round pick who held out of training camp for more than a week.
"It felt a little better," James said of his conditioning against San Diego. "As I went through the whole game, (the legs) kept getting weaker and weaker. It felt great early in the downs, but as I started playing more. … it kind of wore on me toward the end of the game."
James was still able to contribute, registering his first NFL tackle – a sack – but he's making no bold predictions about his maturation in the pros.
"I think I still have a long ways to go. I feel like I'm becoming more and more comfortable every time I play, but at the same time I don't think I'm where I need to be, where I want to be," he said. "It's just more being able to understand the offense that I'm playing against and being able to play at 110 percent without thinking about, Oh, I need to do this. Just doing it right away.
"You're not used to playing a game that comes so fast. You're not used to seeing things right away and just acting on it without thinking about it."
He said not knowing which player is going to be lined up across from him in a preseason game can make the task of preparing against an opponent's weakness more difficult. On the positive side, he said these preseason contests also allow him the ability to play a bit more freely.
So far, head coach Mike Tice is encouraged by James' progress since he joined the team in training camp three weeks ago.
"He's got a ways to go, both physically and mentally. He is working hard, he is working good. I just talked to him about it, how fast he is coming," Tice said. "Certainly, to me, he is going to be a guy that is going to make a lot plays for us this year. I'm trying to get him into more situations, more playing time – more legitimate playing time, the same that we are trying to do with Troy (Williamson). Not cleanup duty, not backup duty. There is a difference between shining with the threes and shining with the ones. I think he is about ready to have a big game Friday night. I thought he looked pretty good yesterday."
PENALTIES STILL AN EMPHASIS
The NFL's former head of officiating, Jerry Seeman, attended the afternoon practice at the request of Tice. The head coach said he would continue to emphasize discipline in practices, and three officials were on hand again for Tuesday's afternoon practice.
"I want it called very tightly. I want it called aggressively," Tice said.
Seeman is still an NFL observer at some games.
RETHINKING THE RETURN
While Keenan Howry is still the leading candidate as a punt returner, the Vikings will continue to search for a kick returner, Tice said.
That person could already be on the roster. Troy Williamson was the deep kick returner at the open portion of practice, with Ciatrick Fason being used as an up back. On the second team, Ryan Hoag was deep with Adimchinobe Echemandu in the up role.
Howry is considered a more natural punt returner because of his quickness.
LIMITED TIME FRIDAY
Tice said he probably will not play the first-stringers too much on Friday. He had planned to play them for one series after halftime in last Friday' game, but when San Diego went quickly to its second- and third-string players Tice audibled. He said he'd play his starters until they have "some level of success" against Seattle, whether that means a field goal or touchdown.
"It depends on how rhythmic we look," Tice said. "We are certainly not going to leave the field until we look like we have good rhythm, I can promise you that."
Smoot said he simply tweaked his knee, calling it "no big deal."