Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Midday report: Vikings eyeing reduced workload for Kevin Williams

Posted by: Updated: July 29, 2013 - 1:13 PM

 The Vikings have completed their Monday morning walkthrough at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato and afterwards, head coach Leslie Frazier and a handful of players stopped to speak with the media. Here’s your quick midday update.

The older they get …

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 Vikings’ 90-man 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, head 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 believes Williams’ level of play can elevate with a reduced overall 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. So if we can get what we expect out of Sharrif, that’s going to take some of those snaps off [Kevin] and we should get more quality over time.”

The pads come on

For the first time since early January, the Vikings will hit the practice field in full pads, delivering an afternoon workout with added contact and heightened intensity. The Vikings will focus more this afternoon as well on red zone work and third down situations

Frazier spoke to what he was most looking forward to seeing with the pads finally on.

“You want to see how guys respond,” Frazier said. “Are they willing to tackle and how good of a tackler are they? At the same time, if you’re an offensive guy, we want to see if you can break some tackles, make people miss, just find out a little bit about what they can and can’t do.”

Veteran Jared Allen, had this pre-practice take on what he’ll be looking for from younger players as the contact escalates: “Initially, you just make sure they know their plays, they know what they’re doing and then b) just the fundamentals and the technique. Sometimes you go from just shorts and T-shirts and 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 and go back to using their head and shoulders. … Again, it’s going to be fun. 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.”

Have no fear

As the Vikings continue solidifying their secondary, safety Harrison Smith is the one starter who gives the coaching staff continual peace of mind. Smith is coming off an impressive rookie campaign in which he recorded 129 tackles, 13 pass break-ups and two crucial interception returns for touchdowns.

His certitude and presence on the back end adds swagger to the defense.

“We knew physically that he had the attributes to really upgrade our secondary,” Frazier said. “But his composure and the way he played with no fear, that was a good thing to see. … He gave us something that we were lacking and something we really needed in his rookie year.”

Pressed on Smith’s fearlessness, Frazier said he noticed that Smith had “no fear of failure.”

“He played with a controlled reckless abandon from my standpoint and wasn’t afraid to take chances, which allowed him to make some plays. 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.”

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