There are a lot of numbers to keep tabs on with Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
10: That’s the number of seasons Williams has logged with the Vikings.
8/16: That’s the date Williams will turn 33, solidifying him as the oldest man on the roster.
1: That’s how many years are left on Williams’ contract after an offseason restructuring that cut the defensive tackle’s base salary for this season by $2.5 million while also erasing the 2014 portion of his deal.
And on Monday, before the Vikings’ first padded practice at training camp, coach Leslie Frazier added another number to the Williams docket, aiming, he says, to play Williams in the range of 30-35 snaps per game this season.
“I’m sure he’s more than capable of playing 50-60 snaps,” Frazier said. “But I think it’ll be better for our football team if we can get those snaps between 30 and 40.”
With top draft pick Sharrif Floyd also in the mix at the under tackle position, the Vikings are excited about the rotation they expect to establish on the interior. Frazier also said he believes Williams’ level of play can elevate with a reduced workload.
“A lot of what he does is based off his experience,” Frazier said. “He’s one of the smartest football players you’ll ever be around. And he’s able to use that to be effective on the football field.”
Third-year receiver Stephen Burton flashed throughout Monday afternoon’s practice, delivering big plays in a variety of ways.
His afternoon ended with a 15-yard TD grab from Matt Cassel during 11-on-11 red zone action. Earlier in the afternoon, Burton hauled in a bomb down the left sideline from Cassel and also capitalized during 7-on-7 work with a precise route up the seam that left the Vikings nickel defense addled and resulted in another long score.
Burton will be fighting for a roster spot as the preseason moves on with four other wide receivers — Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright — all certain to make the team.
Burton has only seven catches for 73 yards in 15 career games but felt extra amped to finally be practicing in pads again.
“It’s more gamelike,” he said. “The tempo is different. You get to be physical and you don’t have to worry about being overly aggressive. You’re not going in there hesitant or soft. This is game time, game speed.”
Have no fear
Second year-safety Harrison Smith continues to be a stabilizing force in the secondary, coming off an impressive rookie campaign in which he recorded 129 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two crucial interception returns for touchdowns.
Frazier said he is continually impressed by Smith’s certitude and composure, two qualities that emerged quickly last season.
Frazier said he noticed the 2012 first-round draft pick had “no fear of failure” as a rookie.
“He played with a controlled reckless abandon from my standpoint and wasn’t afraid to take chances, which allowed him to make some plays,” Frazier said. “And you don’t always see that in rookies. They’re kind of sitting back, letting the game come to them. But he’s aggressive. And in turn, it helped the rest of our guys in the secondary to feed off of some of his playmaking ability.”
True to form
As the pads come on and contact escalates, defensive end Jared Allen said he is looking to make sure younger players understand the playbook while remembering their fundamentals.
Said Allen: “You go from just shorts and T-shirts where you start getting a feel for the kid and a little confidence. And then you put the pads on and it’s like they forget everything they were taught. … Guys will get ramped up a little bit. It’s always like the first couple days of pads, people are out of their minds. And then they get exhausted and us even-keel guys just go ahead and do our business.”
Fullback Jerome Felton didn’t finish Monday’s practice, needing to tend to a personal matter.