MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Dalton Risner walked around TCO Performance Center on Wednesday as the newest member of the Minnesota Vikings, energized but looking like a lost student at a new college.
Risner was proud to be sporting a Vikings’ No. 66 jersey as the newest member of the offensive line. He’s bringing depth to a unit that’s beat up with Oli Udoh out for the season with a torn quad, and Christian Darrisaw (ankle) and Garrett Bradbury (back) dealing with injuries. He was happy to be back in Purple, after wearing it for four years at Kansas State.
"I’m just enjoying it man. I’m back in Purple, it’s been four years since I’ve been in Purple. I love it up here man," Risner said as his new number was being put up against his locker.
He was asking teammates when meetings were, when offensive linemen were supposed to be out at practice and where to get lunch, still trying to figure out how to navigate through TCO Performance Center.
"It’s an honor to be here, man. I’m happy to be here, happy to bring what I bring to the table here with the Minnesota Vikings," Risner said. "I still have no idea how to get around here, I’ve gotten lost two or three times already so water through a fire hose man, holy cow. I don’t even know where lunch is, I gotta get lunch at some point."
Risner got that call from the Vikings earlier this week, just as another team was showing interest and he was prepared to sign. But Risner is in Minnesota on a one-year deal. He got the call when he was working out at a park near his Colorado home.
He’s been waiting for that call since the offseason started, after being drafted by his hometown Broncos No. 41 overall in 2019. Since entering free agency, he’s been waking up at 5:30 every morning getting workouts in and staying ready. Risner said he heard from as many as 16 NFL teams this offseason.
"I had put on some cleats, I was just working out at the park in my neighborhood. Kids are playing at the park, they hear this grown man, 28 years old who has his cleats on running around in the grass. I feel silly, agent called and said ‘Hey I think a deal is getting done with Minnesota today.’ Vikings swooped in and now I’m out here in Purple," Risner said.
Risner started 62 games in four seasons with the Broncos, and will like give the Vikings competition at the guard spot. He doesn’t yet know what his role will be, or if he’ll play Sunday against the L.A. Chargers.
"We will attempt to get him up to speed as fast as possible, see how he progresses. The guys he’s stepping on the practice field with have been playing football for the better part of two months now, I know he’s in great shape and very excited to be here. We’ll see how he progresses."
"Could I play Sunday? Come on, man. I’m from Wiggins, Colorado brother. I’ll do anything, man. I’m a country boy, brother. I’m not a primadonna. Would I know which direction to go to? I’m not going to lie to you, at this point, probably not. I don’t know what I’m doing yet," Risner said. "If they want me to play, that’s what I came here to do. If they need me to serve water on the sidelines, that’s what I’ll do. If you need me to carry your pads off the field after practice, I’ll do it. I really don’t care what that role is for now."
Risner visited the Vikings back in August, and the two sides agreed to stay in contact.
So why did it take so long for him to get a contract? He cited a number of reasons, among them a dust-up with Mark Rypien on the sideline last Christmas, maybe he had a bad season, maybe the market for guards wasn’t that demanding. A man of faith, Risner said it’s part of God’s plan.
"Dude I wish I knew so if you could do some digging, that would be awesome," Risner joked. "At the end of the day, this is God’s plan. He opened this door for me to be a Minnesota Viking. I love Jesus, man. I feel like this is where I need to be, this is where I want to be."
VIKINGS NOT PANICKING AMID 0-2 START
There is no panic at the Vikings’ practice facility despite opening losses to the Buccaneers and Eagles. Both games were there for the taking, and they likely win both if they don’t give the ball to the other team.
The Vikings are minus-6 in turnover differential on the season with six lost fumbles and one interception. They’ve lost two games by a combined nine points. O’Connell said Wednesday the team does up to seven ball protection drills in practice to prevent fumbling. T.J. Hockenson said it’s about valuing each possession.
The elephant in the room is that since 2007, 125 teams have started 0-2. Just 12 have made the playoffs.
"We go out there every Sunday and we give it our best. That’s not the issue with this team, there’s not an effort thing. When you hold that ball, you have the fate of the entire organization in your hands. That’s just the way you have to look at it," Hockenson said.
Garrett Bradbury (back) and Marcus Davenport (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Christian Darrisaw, Josh Metellus, Jordan Hicks and Jalen Nailor were limited. O’Connell said he’s hopeful Darrisaw can return this week.