Vikings see plenty of fresh faces, missing key veterans at OTAs

It was an absolutely perfect day as the Minnesota Vikings took the field for Week 1 of organized team activities on Tuesday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

It was their second session, but first open to reporters. After a tough winter filled with snow, Christian Darrisaw summed up the thoughts of most Minnesotans soaking in 80-degree sunshine.

"It feels beautiful, it’s finally nice to have some good weather here in Minnesota. It feels great out here," Darrisaw said.

Workouts are voluntary until the Vikings have mandatory mini camp in mid-June. With that in mind, several veterans were not on the field Tuesday.

  • Dalvin Cook, Harrison Smith, Justin Jefferson, Jordan Hicks, Danielle Hunter and Ross Blacklock were among the players not at Tuesday’s practice.
  • First round pick Jordan Addison was there, but mostly stood and watched, and at one point had a brief conversation with Kevin O’Connell as receivers were doing individual drills. Harrison Phillips and Byron Murphy Jr. were also limited.
  • Brian O’Neill, who is still rehabbing a partially torn Achilles, was not on the field.
  • Vikings owner Mark Wilf observed practice for a short time, as the NFL owners are holding their annual meetings this week at the Viking Lakes Omni Hotel.

With Jefferson not there and Addison limited, it was a busy day for K.J. Osborn, T.J. Hockenson and Jalen Nailor in 7-on-7 team situations. All caught passes from Kirk Cousins, including Nailor catching a 20-yard pass threaded between at least two defenders.

It was also a busy day for Alexander Mattison, with Cook absent. Mattison got plenty of looks in short passing situations, and was the clear No. 1 back Tuesday.

Will it stay that way if the Vikings either trade or release Cook next month?

"It’s just a matter of time and the work will show for itself. Whatever position I’m in and whatever as the process goes on. It feels good, I’m happy, I love it here," Mattison said. "I always told people I wouldn’t rather play anywhere else. It’s just an unbelievable organization, unbelievable locker room, team full of amazing guys. I’m blessed to be back."

Mattison tested free agency, but returned to the Vikings knowing he could be the leader in the backfield. He has 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns in 59 career games in Minnesota.

We also saw some promising signs defensively, a unit that has to crawl before it can walk under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. In the secondary, Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans and Lewis Cine were all on the field after all had rookie seasons marred by injuries. Cine, who suffered a compound fracture in his leg/ankle in Week 4 last year, looks healthy again.

He talked after practice about having a championship mentality. After all, he did win one in college.

"If we want to be a championship team, we’ve got to practice like a championship team does. I like that mentality, respectfully and humbly, I’ve won everywhere I’ve gone, so I don’t really plan on stopping here," Cine said. "Iron sharpens iron, that’s kind of the mentality and that’s what we’re going to do, day in and day out."