MarQueis Gray strolled out of the Vikings locker room, amazed at what awaited him after Monday’s practice.
Thirteen reporters and seven videographers gathered in a semicircle for the former Gophers quarterback, now a tight end, claimed off waivers from the Browns on Sunday.
“All this for me?” Gray uttered as he took center stage, fielding questions about his return to the Twin Cities.
Gray had less than four hours of sleep, arriving from Cleveland at midnight and sleepwalking into Winter Park for a physical.
“That’s part of it,” Gray said. “I’m happy to be here, and I’m all for it.”
While Gray attempts to move his belongings from Cleveland, he’s still trying to process his role with the Vikings. It helps that Gray spent last season in Cleveland under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who used Gray in two tight end formations and Wildcat plays as a rookie last year.
“I believe [Turner’s] trusting me a lot, obviously, because he wants me to be here,” Gray said. “I just got to make sure I do my part and uphold all the great things he’s said about me.”
Gray gives the Vikings three tight ends on the roster. Gray, listed at 242 pounds, said he weighs the same as he did with the Gophers but carries more muscle to assist in blocking situations.
“I just want to be able to do as much as I can to make sure I can help this offense and this team be successful,” Gray said.
Joseph ready to go
Coach Mike Zimmer said nose tackle Linval Joseph practiced Sunday with pads for the first time since he was shot in the calf last month.
Joseph participated again Monday and reiterated that he will start against the Rams on Sunday. Joseph said he hasn’t experienced any limitations and doesn’t expect to be limited.
“My leg is fine actually, to be honest with you,” Joseph said. “No problem with my leg at all.”
Zimmer said he didn’t notice a drop-off with Joseph’s performance in practice. Joseph missed three weeks recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered on Aug. 9 at a downtown Minneapolis club.
“I didn’t see anything conditioning wise, I didn’t see anything technique wise,” Zimmer said. “He looked really good [Sunday].”
Off the hook
The dreaded phone call to meet with General Manager Rick Spielman never came for defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and wide receiver Adam Thielen on Saturday, signaling that they made the 53-man roster.
“I thought about even turning my phone off,” Thielen joked. “It’s crazy but it’s good now, and I’m ready to get going for this first game.”
Thielen, an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota State Mankato who was on the practice squad last season, cracked the roster after an impressive offseason. Stephen, a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, edged veteran Fred Evans as the team’s backup nose tackle.
“It was a little nerve-racking, but it was definitely a good feeling to finally make it,” Stephen said. “Definitely paid off working hard, so I’m definitely focused now trying to get into the season just to come out and play ball.”
• Zimmer said linebacker Brandon Watts (leg) probably won’t play against the Rams. It’s the only player Zimmer expects to miss the season opener because of injury.
• Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt returned to practice after sitting out last week because of ankle injuries. Linebacker Michael Mauti (foot), fullback Zach Line (ankle) and offensive tackle Mike Harris, who was claimed off waivers from the Chargers on Sunday, did not participate in practice.