An eye doesn’t know where to turn first when it enters the billion-dollar bull rush of visual stimulation that surrounds the playing field at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But Friday, as the Vikings stretched before the first practice inside their new home, all eyes found their way to the massive videoboard behind the west end zone.
And by massive, we’re talking more than 8,100 square feet. For perspective, that’s roughly 7,500 square feet bigger than both of the Metrodome’s videoboards put together.
The new stadium’s videoboards captured Friday’s action from the time the Vikings entered the field until they finished the light workout about 90 minutes later.
Players laughed and teased each other before practice as a camera panned the warmup lines and projected the Bunyan-sized close-ups on the videoboard.
Fellow linemen jokingly complimented right guard Brandon Fusco on his large, um, pectorals. He laughed, clowned for the camera and said, “You know the camera adds 15 pounds, right?”
After practice, coach Mike Zimmer mentioned that particular videoboard when asked to comment on the stadium’s various sight lines and potential distractions.
“[It’s] pretty big, so [the players] are going to have to get used to that a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s great for the fans. But … distractions are what you let them be. That’s why I had the offense go [toward the bigger videoboard]. Just to get their input on things.”
Overall, Zimmer gave a hearty thumbs-up to the new digs and said he is looking forward to hearing what it will sound like when 66,665 fans fill the place for Sunday’s preseason home opener against the San Diego Chargers.
Zimmer also said he can’t believe two years passed between the Metrodome being torn down before his debut season as Vikings head coach and Friday’s first team activity at the new stadium.
“These last two years have gone quick,” Zimmer said. “Everything has been a whirlwind. But they’ve done an unbelievable job getting this place ready. It’s a great stadium. Great atmosphere. Lot of purple. It’s good.”
The longest-tenured Viking walked off the U.S. Bank Stadium playing field, looked around and got another bonus moment for being able to play an 11th and probably final season.
“The place is gorgeous,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “I’ve been here a couple times, but to be out here actually practicing on the field is pretty sweet.”
Greenway particularly likes the playing surface.
“It’s great,” he said. “The turf is really good. Nice and soft. I think it’s going to play well.”
Ten years ago, Greenway tore his a knee ligament on a kickoff in his first home preseason game as a rookie. And yet here he is, at 33, getting ready to break in a new stadium on Sunday.
“I was just telling the guys earlier that it’s so great to come back and be a part of this,” he said. “How cool is this to be able to walk in here and play a game? It’s going to be awesome.”
Griffen held out
Defensive end Everson Griffen was held out of practice to rest an undisclosed injury. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but players typically don’t play on Sundays if they don’t practice on Fridays.
Left tackle Matt Kalil (leg) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) sat out practice again and definitely won’t play Sunday. T.J. Clemmings will start at left tackle, and Trae Waynes will start at right corner.
Backup defensive tackle Scott Crichton still hasn’t returned to practice and won’t play. Tight end Brian Leonhardt wasn’t at practice. Zimmer didn’t give a reason.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who missed the second preseason game, was a full practice participant again and is expected to play Sunday.
Don’t blame Stave
Rookie quarterback Joel Stave appeared to purposely throw a couple of interceptions right to the defenders on Friday. Turns out he did.
“That was messed up,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes, when the coaches put on [the scout team play sheet], they draw a circle where they want him to throw the ball. [Stave] was doing that. I went over and told them, ‘Don’t do that’ because it looks bad. And the defense doesn’t get anything out of you throwing them the ball.”
Center battle heated
The battle for the starting center position appears to be heading down to the wire. Joe Berger started practice with the first unit but split the starting reps with John Sullivan. Up to this point, they had been alternating practices as the starter on days when Berger wasn’t needed to fill in at guard.
“We still got a few more days until [the final preseason game] next Thursday,” Zimmer said. “We’ll keep talking about it.”