MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are starting their third week of training camp at TCO Performance Center, and this week they’re getting ready to welcome the Denver Broncos to the Twin Cities.
The Broncos are coming to Eagan for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday, ahead of the two teams playing their first preseason game on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s the first chance for Vikings players to practice against an opponent, and put to use in live situations what they’ve learned in practice over the last two weeks.
It’s also a reunion of sorts, with George Paton, Teddy Bridgewater and Pat Shurmur back in town. Paton had been an assistant general manager to Rick Spielman, the Vikings drafted Bridgewater to be their starting quarterback before a serious knee injury and Shurmur was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.
Before practice Monday, coach Mike Zimmer provided updates on Justin Jefferson and Anthony Barr, and talked about how he plans to approach preseason games. Saturday will mark the first game at U.S. Bank Stadium with fans since December of 2019.
"I think it’ll be really fun. It’ll be good to get back to as close to normal football as we can," Zimmer said. "I think right now they're excited to get to a game and get over this practice stuff."
JUSTIN JEFFERSON’S SHOULDER INJURY ‘NOT A TWEAK’
Vikings players, coaches and fans had a collective gasp last Friday when Jefferson dove for a catch, and stayed on the ground with a left shoulder injury. Without the benefit of a true offseason or preseason last year, Jefferson set Vikings’ rookie records with 88 catches and 1,400 yards. He also had seven touchdowns, and finished second to Justin Herbert in Rookie of the Year voting.
Jefferson did not practice at U.S. Bank Stadium Saturday, and stood and watched in sweats. He also did not practice Monday, but it appears he avoided a serious injury. Reports indicated he sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder. He was laughing with teammates and playing catch with his right arm on Saturday.
"It’s not a tweak, I’ll just tell you that. He’ll be back quick." Zimmer said.
Zimmer was poking fun at himself after calling Danielle Hunter’s injury in training camp last year "a tweak," before having to have season-ending neck surgery.
ANTHONY BARR RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Zimmer on Monday put to rest any concerns about Barr, who on Saturday missed his third practice in four days and was not at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I’m just taking care of him. I told him not to come to the stadium the other day. Everything is good," Zimmer said.
Barr returned to practice on Monday. Zimmer is being careful with many of his veteran players, giving them rest when they need it with the 2021 schedule switching to three preseason games and 17 regular season games. Barr missed most of last season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2.
HOW WILL MIKE ZIMMER APPROACH PRESEASON?
Mike Zimmer said Monday he’s not sure yet among starters who will play in the first preseason game on Saturday. A lot of that depends on how the joint practices with the Broncos on Wednesday and Thursday ago.
He’s also got to shift his approach to the preseason in general. Typically with a four-game slate, the veterans play the most in the third game as their final live situation before Week 1, and the fourth game is for players battling for a spot in the 53-man roster.
It’s likely veterans will play the most in the second game, and the battle for roster spots will happen in the third preseason game.
"I don’t know, I’ve thought about it a lot. I think it really depends on where we’re at with where we feel like we’re at. I do know that these guys need to get a little bit of action where they’re ready to go going against other people," Zimmer said.