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.


Stephen Burton has strong day in Vikings' first padded practice

Posted by: Updated: July 29, 2013 - 5:40 PM

If you’re looking for a standout from Monday’s first padded practice, third-year receiver Stephen Burton had an eye-catching day. Burton flashed throughout the afternoon, delivering big plays in a variety of ways.

His afternoon ended with a 15-yard TD grab from Matt Cassel during 11-on-11 red zone action. Earlier in the afternoon, Burton hauled in a bomb down the left sideline from Cassel and also capitalized during 7-on-7 work with a precise route up the seam that left the Vikings’ nickel defense addled and resulted in another long score.

“We have a few patterns in to where we confuse the defense when we use the switch-release,” Burton said. “They lost me on that switch-release. Cassel threw me the ball. And once you see that nickel back, who’s supposed to be sticking you, leave, you just get ready for it. You run your route to win every time.”

Burton will be fighting for a roster spot as the preseason moves on with four other receivers – Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright – all certain to make the team. The former seventh-round pick said Jennings’ arrival has accelerated his development.

“His knowledge is overwhelming,” Burton said. “He’s such a smart guy and it’s great to be in the classroom with him to pick at his brain. He’s so in tune with route running. We call him G-Smooth for a reason. He knows what to look for. He knows how to get open. He knows the game so well.”

Burton is still looking for his breakthrough. He only has seven catches for 73 yards in 15 career games. He said he is striving for more consistency as he enters his third year and certainly felt extra amped to finally be practicing in pads again.

“It’s more game-like,” he said. “The tempo is different. You get to be physical and you don’t have to worry about being overly aggressive. You’re not going in there hesitant or soft. This is game time, game speed.”

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