MANKATO – Audie Cole has mostly been a backup in his young NFL career, but he has had some memorable performances when given an opportunity to start.
He had a pair of 13-tackle performances for former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier late in the 2013 season. Then in the 2014 season finale, he made 14 tackles and batted down a pass while filling in for weakside linebacker Chad Greenway.
That performance left current coach Mike Zimmer and his staff wondering where the Cole that made all those plays all over TCF Bank Stadium had been on the practice fields at Winter Park.
“Audie’s done a nice job ever since he’s gotten here and, when he gets in games, he makes plays,” linebackers coach Adam Zimmer said last week. “So I’m not afraid to play Audie at all because he does play good when the lights come on.”
And that’s part of the reason why Cole, now in his fourth season with the Vikings, is listed on the team’s first official depth chart as the top middle linebacker ahead of rookie Eric Kendricks. But even as recently as last weekend, Mike Zimmer was imploring Cole to “cut it loose” in practice.
Cole acknowledges that he is working to consistently bring it in practice each day, though he said it helps that he is more comfortable in Zimmer’s defense this summer.
“Everyone out here can step up and play their best in a game,” Cole said. “But it’s hard every single day to come out here in practice and do it every day over and over and over.”
“[I] would definitely say I’m more consistent” in practices this training camp, Cole said. As a result, the 26-year-old linebacker is pretty pleased overall with his performance.
“I think it’s going all right,” Cole said. “We have a lot of camp left still. I’ve still got to work on a lot of things. I’ve just got to continue to keep coming downhill, hitting linemen, getting off blocks, shedding blockers. It’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Turner running the show
Mike Zimmer was away from the team Tuesday to be with his father, Bill, who is in declining health. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner filled in for him, which including running Tuesday night’s practice at Blakeslee Stadium.
Beforehand, Turner said he had no plans to deviate from Zimmer’s practice script.
“We’re rolling pretty good,” said Turner, a three-time NFL head coach. “Coach Zimmer’s getting this team like he does it, the way he wants it. He’s creating an atmosphere where these guys really go hard and compete every day and they’re doing that.”
Zimmer could return to Mankato as early as Wednesday, an off day for the players.
It’s a boy
Center John Sullivan missed practice again while his wife, Ariel, gave birth to a baby boy.
“I haven’t heard a name. I don’t think it’s Norv,” Turner joked Tuesday morning.
No, Sullivan revealed on social media that his son’s name is John Harris Sullivan.
Turner said Sullivan has been having a “great camp.” But he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that Sullivan has been away for a couple of days because it allowed the Vikings to get a look at second-year center Zac Kerin with the first-team offense.
“Zac is a versatile guy and he can play,” Turner said. “In practice here he’s played center and guard, and I thought he was fine yesterday.”
In a boxer’s gym
Vikings top pick Trae Waynes and his good friend and high school teammate, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, spent July 4th weekend in Las Vegas, where they got a chance to train in the gym of undefeated world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
While Mayweather was not present and the two have never met, Waynes said it was a thrill to lift weights, run on the treadmill, wallop a punching bag and do other exercises in the personal gym of one of the most decorated boxers in history.
“That’s something you see on TV,” the rookie cornerback said. “Actually being there was a cool experience because not a lot of people can do that.”