A Dispatch from Eagan
Setting the scene
Wednesday’s atmosphere was conflicting in more ways than one as the Vikings opened training camp. Sunshine intermittently poked through the clouds, but a somber tone and rain mostly fell on what would have been a festive opening for fans at the new TCO Performance Center. Less than half the team — about 40 rookies, quarterbacks and rehabbing players — pushed through work only days after the death of offensive line coach Tony Sparano. Veterans report to camp Friday.
About 150 fans in the grandstand bleachers settled on the south and western sides of the Vikings’ new practice fields in Eagan. A carnivalesque setting awaited fans, who participated in family-centric games including a football toss and the Vikings Museum. The stadium scoreboard read “In Memory of Tony Sparano 1961-2018” throughout the day. As promised by the team, concessions were reasonably priced with $1 bottled water, $3 hot dogs and $6 burgers. Beer ranged from $6 to $8.
Barone leads O-line
Vikings tight ends coach Clancy Barone took the lead with offensive linemen during practice. At one point, the two tight ends in attendance — Tyler Conklin and Tyler Hoppes — joined the offensive linemen during position drills to work on blocking techniques. During a break, Barone discussed protection calls with the group, quizzing center J.P. Quinn, who had only signed about 24 hours before practice. Coach Mike Zimmer said he hadn’t yet “decided anything” on who will lead the group, but Barone took the reins Wednesday. Assistant offensive line coach Andrew Janocko also helped.
Dink and dunk
Fans turning out to watch practice were greeted with the offense working from a limited playbook, given the most inexperienced part of the roster is on the field at this point. Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter and Peter Pujals spent much of team drills tossing quick throws to Cayleb Jones, Jeff Badet and Chad Beebe, among others. Second-year receiver Stacy Coley made an acrobatic catch in the flat on an overthrown ball from Sloter.
“Kirk Cousins! Kirk Cousins!” — A few young Vikings fans serenaded QB Kirk Cousins by calling his name during team drills. Cousins responded with a wave from the huddle.
• C Pat Elflein was put on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He had ankle surgery six months ago and also offseason shoulder surgery.
• RB Dalvin Cook (knee) practiced without a brace on his surgically repaired left knee.
• Rookie LB Devante Downs (knee) practiced after being held out this spring because of a torn ACL suffered at Cal last fall.