Safety Tyrell Johnson started nearly half of his rookie year, but it was a learning experience that he plans to apply toward what he hopes is an improved second season in the league. Plus, get a dozen notes from Saturday night's practice.
In order for Tyrell Johnson
to become a better player, he needs to relax. That bit of advice came directly from Johnson when he was asked what he learned from last year, his rookie season in which he started the first seven games as a replacement for the injured Madieu Williams
"Just relaxing. I'd just go out there tense and you can't do anything tense," he said. "Every sport, you have to be relaxed and comfortable in and just let your talent shine through."
Johnson was quickly thrust into becoming a rookie starter when a training camp neck injury sidelined Williams for more than two months. Although Johnson was never an obvious liability, he isn't shy about critiquing his performance.
"I was a step late on a lot of plays. Mostly all the plays I was a step late because I wasn't sure of what I was doing," he said. "When you're sure of what you're doing, you react and you go. Last year, I was thinking, then I'd react and then I'd go, as opposed to just relaxing and go."
That doesn't seem to be an issue in his second season.
"Watching him in the OTAs (organized team activities) and the first three practices, he is a lot more comfortable," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "A lot of that has to go along with being here for a season and getting through his rookie year. Then coming back for your second year, being familiar with our system, the way we practice, the different coaching styles – he is a lot more comfortable, which should translate into better play in his second season. This is what you would expect coming off your rookie year. "
Last year, Johnson finished the season with 29 tackles and an interception on defense and contributed six tackles on special teams. This year, he hopes to continue the progression.
"It's still a growing process now," he said. "You ask Antoine (Winfield) the same question and he'd say the same thing. You're never at your peak, ever. You're always trying to get better. There's always room to get better."
SATURDAY NIGHT PRACTICE NOTES
QB Sage Rosenfels looked better than he did all camp during Saturday night's more intense practice inside Blakeslee Stadium. Rosenfels got the majority of the first-team snaps, but John David Booty also got some work with the starters because Tarvaris Jackson was out with a knee injury. Rosenfels connected with WR Bernard Berrian on a long touchdown pass during one-on-one work when Berrian got a step behind CB Karl Paymah. That was early in the night session. Toward the end of the practice, Rosenfels hit the play of the day when he connected with Berrian again, this time down the right sideline for about a 60-yard touchdown on a bootleg during full-team work.
Rosenfels did throw one interception on a pass intended for Glenn Holt that rookie CB Asher Allen picked off.
Booty's best play of the night may have been a pass over the middle to Garrett Mills late in the practice that gained about 20 yards during full-team work.
Ryan Cook saw a lot of snaps at center with the second-team offense. Cook had played right tackle during his first three seasons in the league, but rookie Phil Loadholt is expected to be the starter there while Cook could be used as a backup lineman that could play any position.
While the passing game got the attention of most, maybe the most entertaining part of the night practice was a drill in which running backs were working on blocking blitzing linebackers. E.J. Henderson looked solid using power one time and juking Chester Taylor another time.
Henderson's backup, rookie Jasper Brinkley, also has looked extremely physical early in camp. He de-cleated WR Aundrae Allison in the morning practice and was even more physical during the night session, sending RB Ian Johnson backwards on one running play. Brinkley also broke up a Booty pass intended for TE Garrett Mills during full-team work.
Defensive end Jared Allen is a Pro Bowler, but he isn't above offering some advice to the younger players, like he did on one occasion after second-year defensive tackle Letroy Guion struggled to get separation during a rushing drill.
LB Erin Henderson had an interception of John David Booty on a pass intended for Ian Johnson.
Both Henderson brothers had passes defensed in short succession during one-on-one drills – the first one made by E.J. on a Rosenfels pass intended for TE Garrett Mills and the second from Erin on a Booty pass intended for WR Sidney Rice.
Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff was 6-for-6 on his field goal attempts.
The Vikings had a solid evening crowd on hand, an estimated 3,500 fans in attendance.
Saturday's chilly mid-summer day was hardly reminiscent of the hot and muggy day exactly eight years ago. It was on Aug. 1, 2001 that Korey Stringer died in a Mankato hospital after complications from heat stroke. A couple of fans at Friday's practice held a large signing reminding everyone who saw it about that tragic day. Since then, the league has taken several precautions to help prevent heat stroke during training camps, ranging from more water breaks to man-made shady areas near a practice field to misting fans during warm days. Saturday's morning and evening practice were more suited for a sweatshirt, but Stringer won't be forgotten by Vikings fans, or media who got to know the light-hearted giant.