MANKATO – During the first week of training camp, the Vikings trotted out five different linebackers with the top defensive unit, and in the past two practices they have tinkered with outside linebacker Gerald Hodges in the middle.
First-round pick Trae Waynes is starting to get snaps with the starters at the expense of 2014 starter Captain Munnerlyn, with Terence Newman moving from his left cornerback spot to the slot to accommodate Waynes.
And young defensive ends Scott Crichton and Danielle Hunter have been getting work with the starters as veteran starter Brian Robison has been given a lighter load.
“I’m just trying to look at ways to get the best 11. However I can get them out there, I don’t care,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “[If it’s] six defensive linemen and one linebacker, I don’t really care one bit. I just want to get the best guys on the field.”
So at what point does Zimmer plan to stop moving guys around and start permanently slotting players into roles?
“I don’t know. It’s just when I feel comfortable with it,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know if I will because a lot of these scenarios may come up during the season. Like I said with Trae Waynes before, I think all of these guys knowing more than one thing is good because so many things can happen throughout the course of the season.”
Turner doesn’t sugarcoat it for Heinicke
After a good performance during Saturday night’s practice, backup quarterback Shaun Hill was used sparingly Sunday. That created an opportunity for rookie free agent Taylor Heinicke to get some reps with the second-team offense.
“Like a lot of young guys, he has some good plays and some really bad plays,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said Heinicke has had to adjust to the coaching style of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who isn’t the type to coddle quarterbacks.
“I’m not sure he’s been coached like Norv’s coaching him. So that’s kind of a new experience. Norv’s not afraid to get after his quarterbacks,” Zimmer said. “Wait until he gets in a game and Norv gets him on the phone.”
Page reminisces about training camp
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page was back in familiar territory Sunday, watching practice from the sidelines and then speaking to the team after practice.
Chatting with a few reporters, he reminisced about the long, physical training camp practices in Mankato and how little things lightened the mood.
“I can remember one day, it must have been about 90 degrees and it was humid. I was tired. We were all tired. The grass was parched,” Page said. “I can’t remember who it was, but somehow somebody picked up a clump of grass and threw it. And it landed on [center Mick Tingelhoff’s] facemask.
“It was one of those deals where it hits the mask, sort of sits there for a second then slowly falls off. Those are the kind of things that sort of made training camp bearable.”
Bykowski leaves his mark before injury
Offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, the Eden Prairie native, has missed two consecutive practices because of a minor thigh bruise. Before then, though, Bykowski had impressed the coaching staff enough to get the bulk of the second-team reps at left tackle.
After the Vikings signed Bykowski last December, they asked him to hit the weight room in the offseason. Zimmer seems pleased with the results.
“He did a nice job. He got stronger, thicker,” Zimmer said. “So that plus he’s a good athlete and he moves good. And he’s a smart guy.”
Bykowski is battling to make the team as a backup tackle. That effort will be aided if last year’s swing tackle, Mike Harris, locks down the starting right guard gig.
Dubose prepared to play offense, too
Rookie defensive tackle B.J. Dubose, a 284-pound defensive tackle from Louisville, joked that he is ready if the Vikings need another pass-catcher in the red zone. After all, the sixth-rounder already has a history with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
In high school, Dubose was on a South Florida 7-on-7 team with Bridgewater. He played linebacker but also moonlighted as Bridgewater’s tight end.
“I was all right,” Dubose said. “I was a lot smaller than I am now, though.”