A daily dispatch from Eagan
Bailey struggles on opening day
A sparse crowd dotted the sun-cooked bleachers Friday as the Vikings opened training camp in earnest. The first full-squad practice happened under partly cloudy skies, 82 degrees and some strong wind gusts that foretold kicker Dan Bailey’s issues finding the uprights.
Despite Bailey’s miss from 47 yards away to end a hurry-up drill, and coach Mike Zimmer’s demand to run sprints at the end of practice, fans in attendance applauded with a “Skol” clap as players walked off the practice fields.
Former Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt was on hand to take in the campuslike TCO Performance Center and catch up with Zimmer and his former coaches and teammates.
Bailey’s rough start
The long snapper competition began as incumbent Kevin McDermott and rookie Austin Cutting rotated during field-goal sessions. Bailey converted only two of three with each snapper, missing from 41 yards with McDermott and 39 with Cutting. At the end of practice, with McDermott snapping, Bailey pushed a 47-yarder wide left against unforgiving wind gusts. Some groans were heard from the crowd.
Kendricks stands out
Linebacker Eric Kendricks was about the only defender to keep pace with whichever running back was pit against him during 1-on-1 coverage drills. He jumped and deflected passes intended for Dalvin Cook and De’Angelo Henderson, swiftly mirroring their option routes out of the backfield. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also made a couple plays in coverage, twice deflecting passes intended for tight end Tyler Conklin. Quarterback Kyle Sloter’s accuracy was off on some throws, putting his targets in bad positions.
Second-year cornerback Holton Hill might have struggled to break a sweat Friday, as the recently suspended defender was held out of all Vikings team drills and was limited to individual work. Perhaps it’s punishment for his second four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, which was announced this week, tacked onto another 4-game suspension he was given this spring for performance-enhancing drugs. So rookie cornerback Kris Boyd, Hill’s teammate at Texas, was given the second-team reps on defense opposite Mackensie Alexander.
“Fix the ball!” – Vikings special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf yelled at the operator of the JUGS machine, which catapulted balls into the air for awaiting kick returners. Because of wind gusts, the first faux kickoffs flew wide left and out of the returners’ range.
Cornerback Mike Hughes (knee), receiver Brandon Zylstra (hamstring) and tight end David Morgan (undisclosed) were placed on the physically unable to perform list and did not practice. Neither did defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (undisclosed) or defensive end Tashawn Bower (Achilles), who started camp on the non-football injury list. Receiver Jeff Badet (undisclosed) also did not practice, watching from the stationary bike beyond the sideline. Nose tackle Linval Joseph, who underwent surgery this offseason, continued to be held out of 11-on-11 team drills.