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Rookie Alexander proving to be a worthwhile 'handful' for Vikings

The ball has a way of finding Mackensie Alexander, but he wasn’t sure who he needed to give it to after the game.

As the Vikings rookie asked for an equipment manager, another team staffer offered to hold  his second preseason interception from Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers. The staffer joked: ‘Are you sure you trust me? You know, Harrison [Smith] says you still don’t have one [interception] yet.’

“There’s more coming, man,” Alexander said. “God [is] good.”

That confidence from the 54th-overall draft pick should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Alexander’s career or simply asked him about his abilities. In only his fledgling NFL snaps, his  game has spoken for him, too.

Handed slot duties in the fourth quarter, the versatile Alexander (5-11, 185 pounds) twice draped Chargers receiver Rasheed Bailey in red zone coverage. The first Mike Bercovici pass was thrown right to him.

Dropped.

“Just read his route, ran his route for him,” Alexander said. “It was too easy, so I dropped it. I was like, I could not believe he really threw the ball.”

The second was even more impressive as Alexander leapt over the top of the 6-1 Bailey, bobbling another would-be drop before securing the interception with his right arm. The only problem was he celebrated on the wrong sideline.

Alexander drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for running down the Chargers’ edge of the field, taunting his opponents. Once he returned to his sideline, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer searched left and right before tracking down his rookie.

“He just said, you know, stay under control,” the 22-year-old Alexander said. “Don’t run to the other sideline, celebrate with our crowd. Don’t run to their sideline. Stuff like that. Little things I have to correct. Not being too hyped. Be happy, but understand what I’m doing and do the right thing.”

Since Zimmer was hired nearly three years ago, he’s made a priority out of ensuring his cupboards were stocked with pass rushers and cornerbacks. Alexander’s early play, while primarily with reserves, has shown the Vikings certainly have the latter. He’s still behind Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes and Captain Munnerlyn on the depth chart. And a sequence like Sunday’s is welcomed by Zimmer, even including the flag on Alexander.

“Lot of ups and downs there, wasn’t it?” Zimmer said. “I love this kid, honestly. He’s going to be a handful until I get him squared away, but I love this kid. He’s a competitor. He works, he studies, he fights, he’s made some interceptions here in this offseason. I would much rather have him that way where they’re going to go in there and I have to pull the reins back than the other way.”

Alexander’s confidence is rooted in a hardworking background as a son of Haitian immigrants whom he and his twin brother helped work long hours in orange groves and tomato fields.  And he’s just one of a handful of NFL players to ever come out of Immokalee High School in southwestern Florida, going through Clemson to do so.

He admitted that confidence needs to be kept “in check” at times, but his new boss doesn’t see that as a big problem.

“He’ll learn; he told me he was sorry,” Zimmer said. “He’ll learn; he’s just a young guy. You can’t take away his athletic ability or his heart, and those are the two things that I want to keep going.”

MyCole Pruitt, Antone Exum Jr. set for further testing on injured legs

A few Vikings starters with nagging injuries were held out of Sunday’s preseason game as a precaution. Though a couple more players were added to the list.

At least theycame away cleaner than the San Diego Chargers, who had multiple players helped off the field during the Vikings’ 23-10 win at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Tight end MyCole Pruitt and safety Antone Exum Jr. are set to undergo magnetic resonance imaging scans onMonday morning, sources told the Star Tribune. Head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed Pruitt would need a MRIscan after injuring his left leg.

Pruitt, the second-year tight end, was injured on an 11-yard catch in the second quarter. He fumbled on the play, allowing Cordarrelle Patterson to recover the ball for a touchdown.

Exum Jr., a third-year safety, left in the first half after getting his leg twisted in a pileup on a kickoff return. He had an X-ray exam done, which didn’t show anything, Zimmer said. Exum Jr. had a brace on his left knee after the game.

Safety Michael Griffin was forced out of the game in the second quarter when his back locked up on him, according to Zimmer. Griffin, 31, was seen exiting the locker room on crutches.

Among the Vikings starters held out were defensive end Everson Griffen, left tackle Matt Kalil and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Second-year defensive end Danielle Hunter made the start for Griffen.

“Everson will be the starter,” Zimmer said. “Just had a couple issues and he’ll be fine. Like I said with Teddy [Bridgewater], I’m going to err on the side of caution with these guys.”

Final, 8/28 1 2 3 4 F
San Diego 1-2 0 10 0 0 10
Minnesota 3-0 6 6 8 3 23

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