Lurtsema's Reaction: Rookie Class

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema gives his impressions of what he saw in limited time at the team's rookie minicamp last weekend and how he feels about some players after speaking with them.

VU: What are your impressions of the rookie minicamp portion that you saw, starting with quarterback John David Booty?

BL: Watching Booty and Kyle Wright throw the ball, it was obvious that Wright has a much stronger arm. The consistency factor goes to Booty's camp. The thing with Booty playing at USC and the big games and Pete Carroll's offense, he's very bright. The thing you could see is the way he read his receivers and let the ball go without even looking at them. You know he's got a natural instinct for anticipation, and I think he might also have a little computer chip like Mike Tice had, where you know where all 22 people are within a millionth of a second. You could see his comfort zone out there. I really liked the fifth-round draft choice.

VU: I know it's really early, but do you think Wright is a possibility as a practice-squad guy that they'd look to keep around?

BL: Without a doubt. You can never have enough quarterbacks in the National Football League. I think as late as quarterbacks were drafted, I think you're going to have to play tricks to get them on your practice squad. It's going to be interesting. One of them will definitely be on a practice squad. People already know how good they are. The Vikings lost Tyler Thigpen to Kansas City last year because they saw him practice. I think what's negative for the Vikings' chances to get one of them on there is that there were so few quarterbacks drafted that the ones that were free agents or real late-rounders, a lot of clubs will be looking at them real hard.

VU: What about Tyrell Johnson? Did you see enough of him to get a decent opinion?

BL: He's got great feet. If you watch him, as far as his reaction time and him changing directions, he's really, really fluid. There is no hesitation. A lot of times you notice when the coaches make a motion to move one way or the other, a lot of times you'll see a little body sway or hesitation – very, very slight – but with him there is nothing to that at all. He was very fluid. It was like he knew he was going to his right or he knew he was going to his left. What I really liked, being so bright and he's graduated already, plus working on his Master's, you haven't got any dummy. You talk about the other draft choices and rookies, this is a very bright group of athletes, a very hard-working group of athletes. Their attitude and everything, it's a very refreshing rookie class, outright refreshing. They want to work hard and they've got their heads screwed on straight. I preach it sometimes, but to see it was really, really neat.

VU: Any linemen, whether offense or defense, that you really liked from that rookie camp?

BL: As far as the offensive linemen go, I watched some of their footwork and nobody's footwork stuck out like I would like it to stick out, but I didn't see enough of it to actually criticize it. I just know there are enough "bodies" out there that will be used just in preseason. Those are real obvious. I liked the way that Tim Mattran moved. I enjoyed him, but I didn't get enough time unfortunately to draw a conclusion. They didn't have enough defensive linemen in there to look at, and I was watching the quarterbacks, too.

VU: What are your general impressions of the way they are doing it now, with having a rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft and having more than half of them this year on a tryout basis? Do you think they need to have the rookies in first before you get everybody together for the OTAs (organized team activities)?

BL: I like that from the standpoint that when you break it down on film – even on one of their bag drills – you can tell then the way that they hit and when they hesitate when they get ready to hit the dummy. You can really spot some players. One of the running backs, who was unsigned so I don't know his name, had some great, soft feet – quick – the whole ball of wax for a running back. By having that camp for rookies only and the coaches watching just a select group, you can really place them – he could be second-string, he's a third-stringer, he's a fourth-stringer. He moves better to his right than he does his left, so if you position him to play to the strength that he has, it saves them time. When you get the veterans out there, you don't have as much time to really isolate strictly on new people, new bodies. It's no different than in business – when a guy comes in, is he a strong 8 o'clock guy, what are his strengths during the day? I think it's a great idea to isolate the rookies at first. I think the bag drill that they had was great because you can see the quickness, the reaction that they had, the feet – it told a lot about an athlete. When you're around them enough, you can pick up on that stuff pretty easily.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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