As expected, the Vikings put more stock in finding out what their young players can do against the Kansas City Chiefs rather than concerning themselves too much with the starters. See who was making plays and who stayed at home for rest and rehabilitation.
The Vikings were in full pads for only the second time during training camp, but the roster itself could best be described as skeleton.
Vikings coach Brad Childress had 15 players stay away their joint practice with the Kansas City Chiefs
in River Falls, Wis., for various reasons.
Kicker Ryan Longwell
, safety Darren Sharper
, cornerback Antoine Winfield
, guard Steve Hutchinson
, center Matt Birk
, tight end Jim Kleinsasser
, quarterback Gus Frerotte
and defensive tackle Pat Williams
were all given over-30 (years old) exemptions. Defensive end Jared Allen
was given a Kansas City exemption (although Benny Sapp
was not), Childress said. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams
and linebacker Ben Leber
were excused for baby duty. Wide receivers Bernard Berrian
and Bobby Wade
, defensive tackle Kenderick Allen
and tight end Garrett Mills
were excused to continue treatment back at camp.
Childress acknowledged that bringing Allen, a Pro Bowl player for the Chiefs last year, into his former training camp atmosphere would have been too much of a circus. Despite all of those missing players being Childress' decision to hold back, he couldn't resist needling Allen via text messaging on the team's way to River Falls.
"I texted him when we were going over the St. Croix River: ‘I'm passing over the St. Croix River and you're passing over Lake Minnetonka, something is wrong with this picture.' He texted me back and said, ‘Cancel. Come on and get in the boat,'" Childress said after the practice.
Besides those players that stayed home, the Vikings were also without cornerback Marcus McCauley
, who suffered a knee injury during special teams work, but said he should be fine. Childress said the report he was getting was that it wasn't serious.
Despite an injury risk, Childress the Vikings-Chiefs training camp ritual results in good work.
"It's premium work for us and you can go back and teach so much off of this," Childress said. "Great night and relatively not bad on the injury front. It's football, so you're going to get some stretches and some strains."
Despite holding back nearly half of their starters on offense and defense, the Vikings at least held their own in the controlled practice environment, and many times looked better than the young, rebuilding Chiefs.
"I thought we did pretty good," said wide receiver Sidney Rice
, who drew a pass interference flag on CB Tyron Brackenridge deep down the field on one pass from Tarvaris Jackson
. "It was good that we got to come over here on the first weekend and see where we were at because next week starts the preseason games. I think it was a great experience for everybody. We still have a couple things to work on. When we get back (Friday), we're going to watch the film and focus on the things that we need to work on."
Center John Sullivan filled in for Birk and Artis Hicks for Hutchinson.
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and Chiefs defensive end Johnny Dingle got into a little shoving match. On another occasion, Vikings offensive linemen Marcus Johnson and Hicks got into a pushing match with Chiefs defensive end Turk McBride, but the night provided little in fight entertainment, a contrast to last year's practice, which ended with Ray Edwards and others throwing punches.
When Hicks wasn't playing left guard for Hutchinson, he would move outside to left tackle and Brian Daniels rotated in at left guard.
Shiancoe didn't start the full-team drills on a positive note. On the first pass of that session, Jackson threw a fastball strike that Shiancoe dropped. From there, Shiancoe recovered, as Jackson went right back to him for a 10-yard completion. However, Maurice Hicks ended that series with a fumble at the 1-yard line after taking a hard hit. Chiefs linebacker Demorrio Williams recovered in the end zone.
Quarterback Brooks Bollinger was solid in his first full-team series, hitting his only two passes on a four-play drive from the Chiefs 25-yard line. The drive resulted in a 9-yard touchdown run by Albert Young.
Like Shiancoe, fullback Jeff Dugan dropped his first pass, that one coming from quarterback John David Booty.
Running back Adrian Peterson didn't get a lot of work, but on one play from the 23-yard line he looked like he eluded enough tacklers for what might have resulted in a touchdown even if the defense was allowed to bring ballcarriers to the ground.
Running back Chester Taylor missed one pass right to him when it deflected off his pads and was nearly intercepted in the end zone.
Jackson started seven-on-seven work by going 3-for-4 on short passes. Brooks Bollinger was 2-for-4 in his first series.
During the second series of seven-on-seven work, Jackson hit rookie running back Albert Young with a short crossing route and former Viking Napoleon Harris and Demorrio Williams leveled him.
Rookie quarterback John David Booty overthrew Nate Jones on his second pass of seven-on-seven work, a miscue that resulted in a Bernard Pollard interception. But Booty also provided the play of the night when he connected with Jones for a 40-yard reception on one of the final plays of the night.
Kicker Steven Hauschka consistently hit mid-range and longer field goals during the early special teams period.
The Vikings defense was going against an offense that had most of its starters intact.
The surprise of the evening for the Minnesota defense had to be third-year pro Jayme Mitchell. With starter Jared Allen not even making the trip of River Falls, the tall end wreaked havoc on Kansas City's inexperienced offensive line most of the practice. What the coaches will be happy with was not only his pass-rushing performance, but with his effort against the run. On one play in particular, Mitchell blew up a running play and stopped Larry Johnson for a 3-yard loss.
On several occasions, Mitchell blew by the linemen and was able to get into the backfield. In fact, during individual drills, Mitchell muscled veteran tackle Damion McIntosh for a sack.
With most of the starters out or playing very little, we saw of fourth-year pro Heath Farwell on field a lot. Farwell looked to be lined up correctly and made some nice plays, but the undersized linebacker was also run at and over several times.
As was the case with Farwell, undrafted free agent J. Leman saw a lot of time because of the starters resting.
Starting CB Cedric Griffin saw some practice time, but the two cornerbacks that stood out were Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp. The one thing that's noticeable about Sapp is that he seems to almost always be around the ball. Sapp will get picked on from time to time because of his size, but he apparently isn't afraid of a challenge. He made several nice plays on the ball during team and individual drills.
Gordon, who has put together a really solid and consistent camp, had two interceptions and seems to be positioned well.
With the starters at safety either resting or not playing at all, we saw a lot of practice time from rookie Tyrell Johnson and second-year pro Eric Frampton. Neither player stood out in practice, but both made some nice plays in traffic with pass deflections.
Chiefs QB Brodie Croyle threw one really bad interception to cornerback Charles Gordon. In fact, there were three Minnesota defenders around the ball on that play and no Kansas City receiver. It's possible it was a miscommunication with his receiver.
Chiefs third-string QB and former Viking Tyler Thigpen had an up and down session. Thigpen is noticeably smaller and will have problems time to time seeing over the defense. However, he did a nice job putting the ball in the receiver's hands for the most part. He did throw a few interceptions which could have been a result of poor timing on his part and the receiver.
Defensive end Brian Robison was caught jumping offside on one hard count.
Defensive end Otis Grigsby continued to show up, this time coming up with a fumble recovery.