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.


Youngsters get a chance to shine with Peterson, Jennings absent from OTA

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 5, 2014 - 12:58 PM

The Vikings just wrapped up another week of organized team activities with a Thursday morning practice at Winter Park. Attendance remained high at these voluntary workouts, but a couple of big-name offensive players skipped the practice, giving youngsters an opportunity to shine.

With starting running back Adrian Peterson elsewhere, third-year back Matt Asiata got most of the work with the first-team offense, and rookie Jerick McKinnon also got some run.

McKinnon was hard to ignore when he was on the field, whether he was motioning out of the backfield to catch passes or trying to get around the edge on outside runs. There was a curiosity about how well he would be able to catch the ball after he had just 10 receptions during his senior year at Georgia Southern, but he has looked pretty natural as a receiver, albeit it in shorts and shells with no contact. He stretched out vertically to make to one particularly impressive catch.

After the practice, head coach Mike Zimmer noted that McKinnon and Asiata have two different styles, but there is a need for both types on the roster. He talked about how Asiata is able to do a little bit of everything for the Vikings, including catching passes, too, and handling pass protection.

Another youngster who caught my eye was Adam Thielen, the former Minnesota State Mankato standout who finished last season on the Vikings' practice squad. With Greg Jennings absent from the voluntary workout, Thielen made a few grabs in team drills, including a difficult one down the left sideline in which he twisted his body while running a go route to adjust to a pretty nice deep ball from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

As for Bridgewater and the other quarterbacks, it was a mixed bag. Bridgewater got some reps with a group of offensive players that included many of the present starters -- does that technically count as first-team reps? -- and only a few of passes touched the ground, including a throwaway. Matt Cassel, who got most of the snaps with first-teamers, was solid, too. Christian Ponder, meanwhile, did not get many snaps. And on one of those snaps in the two-minute drill at the end of practice, he locked onto his primary receiver at the snap and never took his eyes off of him as he threw a poor interception to cornerback Derek Cox. Remember, though, that this was just one day in early June.

On the injury front, defensive end Everson Griffen was wearing a bucket hat instead of a helmet today. Zimmer said Griffen tweaked his back, but it was no big deal and he could have practiced if they really needed him to. Also among those present but not participating fully were left tackle Matt Kalil, nose tackle Linval Joseph, safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Josh Robinson.

Speaking of Zimmer, today is his birthday. He said that a good gift from his players would have been a good practice, but while he is seeing progress, consider the birthday boy not fully satisfied.

The Vikings have one more week of these voluntary OTAs before holding their mandatory minicamp in a couple of weeks. After that, players get a few weeks off before reporting to Mankato.

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