Back to work: Training camp starts for Vikings' rookies

It was back to work on Tuesday for Minnesota Vikings' rookies and select veterans at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

The Vikings took about six weeks off after mandatory mini camp. But the team's 37 rookies and a few veterans were in Eagan Tuesday, holding their first practice of training camp. Training camp officially begins on Friday with the first full team workout.

For the rookies, it's a combination of picking up from where they left off at mini camp and getting ready for the next two-plus weeks of workouts before the first preseason game. It felt a little like the first day of school.

"It feels refreshing. It feels good to get back out here and start to get things flowing again and learning some new things and picking up old things," said rookie running back and third-round draft choice Alexander Mattison.

Mattison will get every opportunity in training camp to win the No. 2 running back job. Dalvin Cook is back to lead the Vikings' rushing attack, but Latavius Murray left Minnesota in free agency. Roc Thomas was waived after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The remaining running backs, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdulla and C.J. Ham, combined for 18 carries last season.

Mattison is ready for whatever the Vikings' coaches want to throw at him. He took part in run plays and caught passes out of the backfield on Tuesday.

"It's real, it's all the real that it can get so just taking it day by day, giving it my all every day. I hope I can come in and just contribute in any way that I can," Mattison said. "Be a physical back on the offensive side and just make sure I do my part on the field."

Another rookie happy to be back playing football again Tuesday was center Garrett Bradbury. The Vikings' No. 18 overall selection is doing everything he can to be the anchor and leader on the offensive line. He'll face challenges as a rookie center, but he has experience around him.

For now, he's focused on making every moment in practice matter until the full squad starts workouts on Friday.

"We get three practices out here before the whole group comes. Individually I'd like to just work on everything I can those days," Bradbury said.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday Bradbury has a business-like approach to football and is "a brilliant kid." But his NFL career is just starting, and it will take time for him to develop.

The good news is that everything is new for everybody in Minnesota's new offensive system, led by Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak. Bradbury will have help with veterans on the offensive line in Pat Elflein, Riley Reiff, Josh Kline and Brian O'Neill.

"He's going to have a big load and time like today will help him just to get back in the groove of things a little bit," Zimmer said.

Bradbury will be the anchor and learn to be the leader of the group that is responsible for protecting $84 million quarterback Kirk Cousins. He was sacked 40 times last season, the second-most in his career.

Expectations will be high for the Vikings heading into the season. They entered 2018 coming off a loss to Philadelphia in the NFC title game, then faltered to an 8-7-1 finish last year. The roster hasn't changed a lot, so the expectations remain as high as ever.

Bradbury was fast to dismiss any talk of expectations and outside noise, saying he focuses mostly on his own lofty expectations. After all, the N.C. State product won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football last season. He was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the top interior lineman in college football, and was the first offensive lineman the Vikings have drafted in the first round since Matt Kalil in 2012.

He's concerned more with his personal and team goals than what any outside expectations might be.

"I think expectations and pressure, you don't listen to whatever other people are saying. I have my own expectations for myself and for what I want to accomplish this first year, this offensive line, this offense in general," Bradbury said. "It starts with training camp, so that's where all my attention is. That's where my efforts and focus are is learning this playbook."

Vikings rookies and the few select veterans get two more days of practice before Training Camp gets its full kickoff on Friday in Eagan.