Everything’s lining up perfectly for Irv Smith Jr.
The rookie tight end will suit up for his first professional preseason game Friday with the Vikings, celebrating his 21st birthday on the same day. And he is traveling to play in the Superdome, where his father, Irv Smith Sr., played five seasons with the Saints.
It’s a whirlwind of circumstances, and Smith said he is not taking it for granted.
“That’s not normal, that doesn’t just happen out of no reason,” Smith said. “It’s going to be special, and I can’t wait to get out there.”
The Vikings visit New Orleans for their preseason opener Friday, inching toward the start of the season.
The veterans will be familiar with the travel and logistics surrounding a game that means little. For rookies such as Smith, though, the preseason game itself is an adjustment. In college, the grind of training camp is similar, but players hit the same teammates for a month before their season opener.
“We just started to game plan for the Saints,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have that game plan go against somebody else. It’s awesome to get four preseason games; it’s something different than college.”
Starters’ playing time
With preseason games, it’s difficult to assess how much starters will play with the stakes so low. Live action means live touches — but also an increased risk of injuries. But touches are important, and while coach Mike Zimmer didn’t talk specifics, he said the starters will get some snaps Friday.
“It won’t be a whole lot,” Zimmer said of the starter’s playing time. “What I want to do is be efficient. Just go out there and do the things we’ve been doing and practicing. They may get some different looks defensively.”
Prime time on the road
Kickoff for Friday’s game is slated for 7 p.m., and with it being on the road, it’s the perfect chance for the Vikings to get acclimated to those conditions, Zimmer said.
The Vikings will play three prime-time games on the road this season: Nov. 10 at Dallas, Dec. 2 at Seattle and Dec. 15 at the Los Angeles Chargers. Each one likely will have a sense of urgency, being so late in the season for a team gunning for the playoffs.
“We’re going to have to play good on the road throughout the course of the season,” Zimmer said. “All these times we’re playing night games in the preseason are going to be important for us.”
• Bene’ Benwikere, the sixth-year cornerback, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Vikings. He’s slated for a $805,000 base salary, $90,000 roster bonus and up to $105,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There is no guaranteed money in his deal.
• Zimmer said he spoke to New Orleans coach Sean Payton leading up to Friday’s game. They talked football and former Vikings-turned-Saints, including Teddy Bridgewater, Latavius Murray and Nick Eason.
“Teddy’s a competitor. He’ll try to stick to us, just like we’ll try to stick it to him.”