Maybe it was just a way to light a fire under Andre Smith.
If it was, consider the message received.
Smith, the 29-year-old former first-round draft pick, was back as the starting right tackle during Monday’s practice, which bookended his Sunday stint with the backups immediately after Friday night’s preseason start against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Just keeping everybody on their toes,” Smith said.
Smith sounded comfortable in his chances to be the starter, though the Vikings coaching staff hasn’t publicly made that declaration. It was “heading” there, coach Mike Zimmer said last week before the team broke training camp in Mankato.
Though Friday’s inconsistent preseason start against the Bengals, who drafted Smith sixth overall in 2009, resulted in a change. Smith had gone five consecutive practices and an exhibition with the top offense before Sunday, when T.J. Clemmings was moved to starting right tackle for the first time since Aug. 5.
The audition is ongoing, according to Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“It’s a long process,” Turner said. “I think it’s very good competition right now. We don’t have to make a decision right now, so that’s good. Just get a chance to see them play in games against good players.”
The Vikings seek level play on the right edge after stalwart Phil Loadholt retired last month. As a rookie, Clemmings played through growing pains in 17 starts. So the Vikings signed Smith to a one-year deal this spring, which could buy some valuable time for a developing tackle such as Clemmings.
That is only if Smith can solidify his role after a bumpy start Friday in Cincinnati.
“I did OK,” he said. “Coming from preseason, no one is game-ready right now. That’s why they call it the preseason. Just whatever mistakes I made, make sure I don’t make them anymore.”
It’s Adrian’s call
Eight months ago, Zimmer openly wondered if he should’ve removed the bubble wrap early and played Adrian Peterson in the preseason.
The exhibition door has been left open by Zimmer, who said it’s up to the 31-year-old former NFL MVP.
“If he wants to,” Zimmer said Monday.
Peterson can at least begin the discussion. He hasn’t appeared in a preseason game in three years and hasn’t taken an exhibition handoff in five years. If he doesn’t want to play, it sounds as if he won’t.
“Well, I’m going to sit down and talk to him about it,” Zimmer said. “If he wants to play, we’ll discuss what we think. If he goes in there, he’s probably not going to get one pass and out. He’s going to play.”
Outkicking his coverage
Save for one kick, the Vikings liked what they saw from their maligned specialists Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke in Cincinnati.
The one boot, Locke’s game-long punt for 61 yards, led to an 80-yard return for a touchdown by Bengals receiver Alex Erickson.
“He actually really, really punted well the other night,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “Other than that punt — 61 yards, 4.5 hang time — a lot of people think that’s a great punt, it’s not. You’re outkicking your coverage.”
Priefer pointed out five missed tackles from the coverage team.
“That was a totally unacceptable play,” Priefer said. “We had literally five people had their hands on him, two people had him wrapped up and he still got out of it.”
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur returned to practice after sitting out Sunday. Otherwise, the sideline remained populated by injured Vikings.
Four starters continue to be held out: defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring), receiver Jarius Wright (undisclosed) and guard Brandon Fusco (undisclosed).
Defensive tackle Scott Crichton, safety Anthony Harris, linebacker Brandon Watts and cornerbacks Tre Roberson and Melvin White continue to be held out as well.