MANKATO – It’s early. And Riley Reiff is expected back soon from an undisclosed injury.
It must be at least a little disconcerting for the Vikings that Rashod Hill was the No. 1 left tackle Saturday when the team practiced in full pads for the first time this training camp.
When Hill made his NFL regular-season debut in the Jan. 1 season finale, he became the 12th offensive lineman and fifth left tackle to play for the Vikings in 2016. Hill had been with the team a month and a half after being signed off the Jacksonville practice squad.
“Well,” coach Mike Zimmer said when asked for his level of concern, “we don’t want to start the same thing that happened last year. We want to try and get through 16 games with these guys. Yeah, I mean, it’s concerning. You don’t want to get anybody hurt the first day.”
Reiff left the field Thursday, Day 1 of camp, because of an undisclosed injury. He was present at Saturday morning’s walkthrough and afternoon practice but did not participate.
Hill held his own against the starting defense. There were no glaring breakdowns, but he did false start once.
Offensive line coach Tony Sparano said he is not overreacting, citing Zimmer’s comments that Reiff’s injury isn’t serious. As for whether being down a left tackle immediately in camp has a “here we go again” feel to it, Sparano said, “I’m trying to think like it’s impossible for it to happen again.”
Next Greenway needed
Former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway spent Saturday watching his daughter score the winning goal in a state championship soccer game. The Vikings spent Saturday looking for the next Chad Greenway at weak-side linebacker.
“It’s a little weird not having him around,” said Edmond Robinson, one of three top candidates the team is looking at to be the third linebacker in the roughly 40 percent of the snaps spent in the base defense.
Robinson, a backup on the strong side a year ago, worked with the second team throughout Saturday’s practice. Emmanuel Lamur worked with the first team. Zimmer also indicated Saturday that rookie Ben Gedeon shouldn’t be ruled out.
Zimmer also said moving positions hasn’t been difficult for Robinson.
“It’s actually an easier position maybe,” Zimmer said. “There’s a few different responsibilities, but it’s probably a little bit easier.”
Stop, Pack, stop
A reporter reminded Zimmer that Green Bay has won quite a few NFC North titles of late. Then he asked Zimmer what he can tell the fans to indicate the Vikings are, you know, trying to put an end to all of that.
“I think we’re continuing to get better players,” said Zimmer, whose team unseated the Packers from atop the division in 2015. “I think that’s part of it. I think we’ve probably been the best defense in this division for at least three years now, so I think that’s a good start. We’ve just got to improve offensively.”
Tackling the tackling
Although the Vikings are now able to wear full pads in practice, don’t expect there to be much live tackling taking place in camp.
“We’ve been a pretty decent tackling team, I think,” Zimmer said. “We’re not going to do a whole bunch of it. We’ll get a plenty of it in the preseason games. [Practice] is about being in the right position mostly and really the second part of it is, on defense, if you got guys running to the ball the second guy will usually get there. That’s been a big emphasis for us.”
Injured rookie linebacker Shaan Washington was released and replaced on the roster by linebacker Darnell Sankey. The 6-2, 250-pound Sankey spent 2016 as a rookie practice squad player in Oakland and Kansas City.
He is the cousin of Vikings running back Bishop Sankey. According to the team, they had never met before Saturday.