The Vikings got things going for real Monday, as 79 players were in pads and hitting one another for the first time in almost eight months at training camp's Monday morning practice.
Although Monday morning was officially the sixth practice of the Vikings' 2008 training camp, it could be argued that it was the first "real" practice. The players were in full pads and were allowed to hit one another for the first time.
It was a long time coming for players who last had contact with bad intentions months ago and officially began the process that will play itself out all season – being bruised, sore and always a little banged up.
"We haven't been hitting since January, so it was good to get those first hits done," cornerback Antoine Winfield
said. "A lot of the guys are going to be a little sore tomorrow and for the next few days. But that's all part of training camp – getting your body used to the hitting and being a little sore."
It was clear that the defenders took a little more enjoyment in dishing out the hits than the offensive players did in absorbing them. But, with the multiple drills the team had in a fast-paced morning practice, it not only gave them a chance to get their game-timing back, but also a chance to stockpile some film to study of what they did right and what they did wrong.
"Any time we have pads on, we're hitting," Jared Allen
said. "It's a good measuring point to see where we're at. We have a long way to go and have a lot of growing to do. Days like today are good days because we worked on a lot of different situations that we can look at on film to see where we need to improve."
For the players and coaches, it has been a long time since the season-ending game at Denver to close out the 2007 season. With the promise of a strong 2008 season awaiting them, the coaches and players were glad to finally get things going "for real."
"To finally go live is a big deal for these guys," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "You can only get so much done with light pads and shorts on. Once you get the pads on and start hitting, it tells you what real football is about. It was great."
MONDAY A.M PRACTICE NOTES
Ray Edwards missed his sixth straight practice, but, once again, he was the only player who wasn't in pads Monday morning. DT Pat Williams, who is still recovering from elbow surgery, wasn't wearing his brace during practice and didn't take part in any of the contract drills.
Jared Allen caught the attention of many of the fans in attendance as the Vikings did some red zone passing drills early in practice. With the offense in purple, the quarterbacks in red and the defense in white uniforms, Allen stood out like a sore thumb – the only white jersey practicing with the offense. He lined up as a tight end in a goal-line formation and caught a TD pass – perhaps a portent of things to come for a potential two-way star.
The Vikings had six different players take turns in punt returning – Aundrae Allison, Daniel Davis, Darius Reynaud, Bobby Wade, Bernard Berrian and Jaymar Johnson.
Reynaud didn't have an auspicious first punt return attempt. On a booming knuckleball off the foot of Chris Kluwe, Reynaud fumbled his first opportunity.
Practice opened with position drills and it was clear that the defense was fired up for some contract. Many of the opening drills were high intensity on the part of both players and coaches.
After some inclement weather in the first days of practice, Monday morning was gorgeous – bright sunshine and reasonable temperatures and humidity.
The fan contingent was strong again with one of the two bleachers completely full, the other half-full and fans lining the length of the field behind the fence that separates the field from the stands.
A group of about 20 preschoolers got a thrill by being up close to the action during the initial stages of practice, getting waves and smiles from several players and coaches.
Brad Childress spent almost the entire morning practice focusing on the offense.
Jackson was getting a lot of love from the stands during a passing drill, as he completed several long passes with perfect touch. One of those came on a pass to Jaymar Johnson, who made an impressive double-move on CB Marcus Walker and caught a pass for a touchdown.
Ryan Longwell struggled with field goals in the position drills, missing three of five attempts at one point, but, when the offense and defense came together for 11-on-11 field goals, he made all five attempts.
On the second play of the full team scrimmaging, Jared Allen completely blew up the play – blowing past Chase Johnson and knocking Adrian Peterson out of the way when he attempted to chip block him – drawing a huge ovation from his new fans.
Marcus Johnson got a considerable amount of work with the first-team offensive line during the practice.
Peterson looked extremely impressive in short-yardage situational drills, picking up a pair of first downs in third-and-2 situations with runs of six and seven yards.
Things didn't go as well for John David Booty, who fumbled an exchange on his only drive with the full-team offense. The fumble was recovered by DT Leger Douzable and Booty caught an earful from Childress about ball protection.
The only injury of practice was a rolled ankle by tight end Garrett Mills, who got tangled up with Madieu Williams on a red zone pass play. He returned to practice, but was limping noticeably throughout the remainder of the practice.
Running back Albert Young didn't help his case to make the team with a fumble in the red zone during 11-on-11 drills. He fumbled at the 5-yard line and, after a scrum to come up with it, DT Kenderick Allen came away with the ball.
You can tell that the hitting was starting to take its toll after awhile. In a line drill, DE Otis Grigsby and OT Marcus Johnson got into a little extracurricular shoving match that forced coaches to blow the whistle repeatedly to get them to break it up.
Visanthe Shiancoe made a couple of nice catches over the deep middle in 7-of-7 drills on passes from Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson looked very decisive in the 7-on-7 drills, consistently delivering passes accurately and with a lot of zip.
Marcus McCauley laid a big hit on Sidney Rice in the full-team drills, firing up his defensive teammates. Rice wasn't nearly as excited.
<>LI> On his drive with the first-team offense against the first-team defense late in practice, Jackson went three-and-out.
Bobby Wade made an impressive diving catch to keep the drive moving when Gus Frerotte got his chance – a drive that resulted in a field goal.
On Brooks Bollinger's drive, Reynaud made a solid impression by making three defenders miss to pick up about 15 yards. But, the drive wouldn't end well for Bollinger. On the last play of the morning practice, he telegraphed a pass that was intercepted by Benny Sapp and returned for a defensive touchdown.
* Many of the rookies got their first taste of what full-pad practices entail at training camp. They were easily spotted, because most were carrying two or three sets of pads from their veteran teammates.