Head coach Brad Childress gave about half of the roster – mostly the top half as far as experience – the day off from practice on Thursday.
"No rhyme or reason to it. There was all the way from second years to different numbers of people that were left off, so he gave those guys off today," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Any time that happens for us, we just have to treat it like a situation where you get an injury during the year where the next guy has to step up. Whoever is in that position, he has to be able step up and make plays."
Most of the starters were not on the practice field, but at least a couple of expected starters like quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, linebacker Chad Greenway and running back Adrian Peterson did practice. So did wide receiver Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, guard Anthony Herrera, safeties Mike Doss and Tank Williams, and rookies Brian Robison and Marcus McCauley.
With the entire starting offensive line from 2006 not in attendance, it gave coaches an extended look at some of their undrafted rookies.
"I think that's about the best five that we could come up with and that any of us have been around as far as free agents go," Bevell said. "All five of them have skills to be able to make the team, to be able to fight for competition at different spots as well as the practice squad."
Without pads on during this offseason stretch of practices, it's difficult to gauge the progress of linemen, but Bevell was able to get more of a look at tight end Braden Jones with players like Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan not practicing.
"He's very athletic. He has good speed. He has good ball skills," Bevell said of Jones. "We're excited with that whole position. It's deep. Again, we're not making decisions here in June. We're making those decisions late in August, but there is competition there that is going to help us get better and improve all across the board."
Another raw prospect that was in demand after practice Thursday was rookie receiver Todd Lowber, who has usually been the first receiver on the practice field as he makes the transition from basketball to football and searches for consistency in his game.
"He's made leaps and bounds, and to his credit he's putting about as much time in as any one guy can," Bevell said. "The bad thing for him is that he never had the baseline from when we were all growing up. He must have put the basketball in his hands at the very beginning instead of being out running routes and running around. He's catching up fast. We can feel his speed. If you talk to any of the DBs (defensive backs), they're going to mention him just with his speed. He's made some nice catches, and we'll just have to see how far he can progress."
Bevell said he was "cautiously optimistic" about his playmakers, especially at the deep wide receiver position.
"I really feel some speed out there. I feel some athleticism out there," Bevell said.
Other OTA observations from Thursday:
"We'll see if they can put up a tire swing that will hold up Bryant McKinnie," Bevell joked.