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Players welcome practicing in pads

  • July 30, 2012 - 7:29 AM

Staff writers Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig blog at Access Vikings on startribune.com. Here are the highlights of Sunday's reports from Mankato:

Players welcome pads

As much as the Vikings were enthusiastic about opening training camp last week, they're all looking forward to Monday afternoon much more. That's when the pads come on for the first time. Which means the tempo of practice will go up a notch. The feistiness, too.

And it's then, players insist, when they really start getting a feel for the kind of team they have assembled.

"I think the level of competition that guys have will be seen," left guard Charlie Johnson said. "Once the bullets start flying, you can tell a lot about how hard guys want to compete and how well they can translate what they've learned in the meetings onto the field."

Added defensive end Brian Robison: "You limit yourself with no pads. There are only so many things you can do, especially from a pass rush standpoint. You can't really affect an offensive tackle with your bull rush or your power moves, things like that. At the same time, as an offensive tackle, you can't really jump-set or things like that. But once the pads get on, it's open arsenal. And it's time to prove what you bring."

 Camp cause

As veterans on a team undergoing a noticeable youth movement, Johnson, who's 28 years old, and Robison, 29, believe a lot can be learned during the team's stay in Mankato.

"The significance is being able to get a lot of information in a short amount of time and carrying that over to the field," Johnson said. "And just for the young guys to be able to see the veterans and how they work, how they prepare without having any outside distractions. So we need to use these three weeks to really focus on what each guy needs to do to help us."

Robison has a hunch this team will have a competitive edge to it. He sensed that way back in the spring when players returned for the offseason conditioning program and then channeled their energy from that toward organized team activities (OTAs) and mincamp.

"You could sense the team camaraderie," Robison said. "There was great competition among guys. And you could see not only the want to get better but the fact that guys were willing to do the things that it takes to be a better team than we were last year."

 Robinson watch

It will be interesting to keep an eye on rookie cornerback Josh Robinson during the second week of camp. Robinson tweaked his left hamstring in coverage during Friday's open practice and sat out Saturday.

The third-round draft pick out of Central Florida is touted as having tremendous upside. And while Robinson didn't get his rookie contract finalized until Wednesday, he said he never really felt any anxiety.

"I wasn't really following it," Robinson said. "I just let God do what he has to do and let that whole thing take its course. I wasn't ever worried about it. I was definitely ready to get things moving but never thinking about it too much."

The Vikings hope Robinson flashes the coverage skills to become a secondary starter sooner rather than later. The 21-year-old corner believes showing consistency will catalyze his ascension up the depth chart.

"I need to get that consistency in my game and polish up my skills," he said. "Right out of the gates, I have to make sure I get accustomed to this defense and get accustomed to what's expected of me. That's what I hope I can get done in camp and have those things under my belt."

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