Bryant McKinnie returned to practice as the starting left tackle and Artis Hicks resumed his role at right guard. See what McKinnie and head coach Brad Childress had to say about the offensive line coming back together. Plus, get more than 20 notes from the Wednesday morning session.
Last year, offensive linemen used the analogy of needing five fingers to make a full fist when talking about the importance of all five starters needing to play as a cohesive unit. While those five linemen spent the majority of organized team activities and minicamps working together, one of the more important parts was missing to start training camp.
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie
was back working with the first team after opening training camp on the non-football injury list with a muscle strain. McKinnie missed the first five practices of camp.
"I was trying to work hard on (rehab), but it's kind of hard when you're watching someone else play the position and you feel like you can help out. I was trying to work hard to get back and I'm back now," McKinnie said.
In his absence, the usual starting right guard, Artis Hicks
, was moved to left tackle and Anthony Herrera
worked with the first-team offense at right guard. At Wednesday morning's practice, Hicks returned to the starting role at right guard and didn't seem bothered by letting McKinnie have his job back. In fact, Hicks said he gave McKinnie a hug and told him he was glad he was back.
"It's a lot more work than he realized out there at left tackle," McKinnie said with a smile. "He's glad I'm back and glad to be back at his position.
"I think Artis did a pretty good job for somebody playing out of position. … He has to know both positions."
Head coach Brad Childress said he expects McKinnie to take a few days to get back to form.
"Just learning how to carry those pads again. I saw him get bulled once. Of course, being a 6-foot-8 guy, that's a liability," Childress said. "He's going to have to get some rhythm again, whereas he's pass protecting against a guy who is having a heck of a camp, Ray Edwards
, and has his timing down. He's going to have to time that drop and time that punch. That takes a little bit with your hands."
McKinnie said his injury is 80 to 85 percent healed and that it would probably take him a couple of days to get comfortable at his position again. That would be just about the time that Childress expects McKinnie to start feeling the fatigue of successive days of training camp weighing on his body.
"He's going to go through a stretch in three or four days where he's going to be a little sluggish," Childress said.
McKinnie might not be looking that far ahead. He was more concerned about getting through the afternoon practice of his first two-a-day workout.
No matter how that session goes, he believes the offensive line can come together faster this year after going through some struggles to learn a new system and get comfortable with new teammates.
"I think we can (get better faster) because we have a better feel for each other so we know each other's personalities and we'll mesh a little faster this year," he said.
Other notes from the morning session, conducted in full pads:
Childress said that once McKinnie gets back to himself, the competition between him and Edwards should produce "some monumental battles."
Another person that impressed Childress on Wednesday was defensive end Jayme Mitchell, who on one play came around the edge and swatted the ball out of Tarvaris Jackson's hand and caught the ball in the air for a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
"You guys all remember Simeon Rice," Childress said. "Well, Jayme has that long arm and sometimes as you are coming around the edge those long arms really lend themselves to the quarterback thinking he's safe, but all it takes is a little tap on the ball and all of the sudden you've got something."
Chester Taylor watched portions of practice in a shorts and a jersey but did not participate. Childress reported Taylor as having a bruised forearm, and Taylor had a white wrap from his wrist to his elbow. It's looking doubtful that Taylor will be ready for Friday and Saturday practices with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I'm not really concerned about whether he's back for Friday or not," Childress said. "I'll just kind of listen to what the trainers say and let him listen to his body a little bit. It's kind of a sensitive place on the forearm, not on the inside but right on that bone. You take a direct shot on that bone now and that's a painful thing. I don't know how many of you (remember) in high school, people used to walk around and hit people on that spot where there is no (padding). That's a painful place. He's got a good bit of pain and swelling with that. I don't question his toughness. He'll be back out there as fast as he can. He did want me to tell you guys that we're not thinking about amputating."
Despite a very up-and-down performance from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in the morning session, he did connect early with wide receiver Martin Nance on a long pass during cornerback-vs.-wide receiver drills. Jackson also connected with Nance for a 15-yard touchdown in red zone drills.
Jackson and Bollinger split duties with the first-team offense.
Despite some hesitant passes and a few throwaways, Jackson did have a couple of nice scrambles for positive yardage when the coverage was there.
With Taylor sidelined, Mewelde Moore and Adrian Peterson were part of a split backfield on a couple plays.
Bollinger did throw one interception when Edwards bumped him as he released the ball. Cornerback Mike Hawkins made a very athletic one-handed catch on the pick.
Wide receiver Aundrae Allison left practice with what Childress described as a "tug" in his hamstring.
Quarterback Brooks Bollinger and wide receiver Justin Surrency connected on a pass play of about 45 yards during 9-on-7 drills. Bollinger also connected on explosive plays with Nance and Sidney Rice during those drills.
Wide receiver Troy Williamson dropped what would have been a 15-yard touchdown pass in the end zone from Bollinger during 7-on-7 drills.
During those same red zone drills, safety Dwight Smith made a nice play when he got his hand on a Bollinger pass intended for Jim Kleinsasser. Smith tipped the ball up the air, linebacker Chad Greenway made the interception and later lateralled the ball back to Smith during the return down the left sideline.
Jackson connected with Bobby Wade on a nice fade-route throw to the end zone during red zone drills.
Wade, Moore and Chandler Williams were the punt returners used during a short special teams session. Moore and Williams both dropped punts when fielding them, with Williams doing that twice. Alex Reyes handled the punting duties and ended up shanking one of them.
Offensive lineman Seppo Evwaraye missed practice again Wednesday. He was out of town with a death in his family.
Billy McMullen and Erasmus James continued to be held out of practice. Ben Leber was held out again with an aggravated strain, according to Childress.
Running back Arkee Whitlock, who was cut on Monday after the Vikings signed Adrian Peterson, cleared waivers and is free to sign with any team.
Former Vikings guard Toniu Fonoti passed his physical with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Packers got a trio of players – DTs Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett and WR Donald Driver – back Tuesday when they also passed their physicals.
Thursday evening, the team will have a barbeque for Vikings staff and family members.
Next up: A full-squad practice at 3 p.m.