Halfway through Sunday's Vikings practice, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Harrison Smith emerged from TCO Performance Center and joined teammates for full-team drills.
What appeared to be the veterans' scheduled day off turned out to be just a half day, a measure by coach Kevin O'Connell to take care of his experienced starters and one that Peterson, the 32-year-old All-Pro corner, said is helping him "feel great" entering his 12th NFL season.
Peterson, who has thrived in man-to-man coverage for much of his career, also said playing in coordinator Ed Donatell's zone-heavy defense will limit his mileage.
"It's definitely taken a lot of stress off my body," Peterson said. "The opportunity to see a lot of things unfold versus always having to seem like I'm running for my life almost every play for 60 minutes of a football game. Now it's a change of scenery, for sure, and playing with a little bit more depth, playing with vision against every guy that's on the football field. Allows guys on the defensive side of the ball to make plays."
Peterson is adjusting to a new defense, but he said he's playing the same role as a mentor to young Vikings corners in Cameron Dantzler and rookies Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips noted Peterson hands out tips across positions.
"Sure-lock Hall of Famer," Phillips said. "Not only the actual physical reps against him, but you guys know how Pat P is — he's a guy that's talking to guys. Both on defense, the corners over there. He's telling them his experiences and then talking to the young wideouts saying, 'Hey, here's how I jumped that route.' "
The Vikings struggled in Peterson's first season in Minnesota, where the 30th-ranked defense crumbled at the end of halves. Peterson believes "playing loose" in those moments will help. He's taking a similar approach to Year 12.
"Once I come to that point of, 'Ah, it's just another training camp,' I think it's time for me to retire," Peterson said. "But I love the game so much. I love coming to work every day. I love trying to invest into these young guys for the future, to keep the game in good hands and I feel like that's my duty."
Ingram steps in
Second-round draft pick Ed Ingram has impressed coaches so far and continues to get sporadic reps with the first-team offense at right guard, where 30-year-old veteran Jesse Davis got a scheduled off day on Sunday. Ingram took every rep with the starting offense as Davis, the presumed starter, watched from the sideline.
Ingram has been "really strong early in camp," O'Connell said. Emphasis on strong, Phillips added.
"He's very stout," Phillips said. "He's got a great anchor. Late in the rush when he gets on an edge, he's athletic enough to get his feet on the ground and push guys out of the pocket, create some expansion in the pocket. We're really pleased with where he's at."
Reed working behind Bradbury
Veteran guard Chris Reed continued to work as the second-team center. Garrett Bradbury took every rep as the starting center a day after O'Connell said "there's still competition" at that spot. Reed, who has started 29 games at guard in his NFL career, is a viable option because he's "shown mentally that he knows the game and that he can communicate," according to Phillips.
"Communication is huge," Phillips said. "We have a little bit of collaboration between our quarterback and our center. Our quarterback isn't pointing out every single thing. The center has a lot of ownership and then the quarterback can kind of play the trump card based on the looks he's seeing."
- First-round safety Lewis Cine is being seen more with the starting defense. On Sunday, he split reps next to Smith with second-year safety Camryn Bynum. Booth, the second-round pick, got a few first-team reps behind Dantzler.
- Evans, the fourth-round corner, and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor did not practice after both participated in a walkthrough earlier in the day. Evans walked with a slight limp after practice.
- To get the Sunday crowd going, the offensive line sent rookies Ingram and Josh Sokol over to play cheerleaders and start a "Skol" chant.
- Former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was spotted by Cincinnati reporters at Bengals training camp on Sunday. Zimmer's son and former Vikings defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer was hired as an offensive analyst for the Bengals this summer.