Minnesota Vikings begin OTAs with new coaching staff

The mood was light and there were plenty of smiles as the Minnesota Vikings gathered at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Tuesday for organized team activities. It was the team’s second session of the week, and the first open to journalists.

Last week, Kevin O’Connell and the new coaching staff took to the field with the team’s 10 draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryouts. Tuesday marked the start of three weeks of OTA, with a mandatory three-day minicamp in June before training camp.

The team has a different vibe, with a new front office and coaching staff in place after Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman were let go after an 8-9 season in 2021.

“I’m not going to get into the comparison of last year and this year. This year is a good start for us, we just want to look forward to what we have here. This is us chasing a championship in the world,” Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said. mentioned.

The task facing O’Connell and the new offensive coaching staff is to find innovative ways to ensure the Vikings’ playmakers have the ball. Justin Jefferson set an NFL record for receiving yards in his first two seasons. Cook has been one of the best running backs in football over the past two seasons, rushing for 2,716 yards and 22 touchdowns in 27 starts.

“It’s just fun to go through the process of learning something new. Being around KO and all of our staff, it’s just fun being around this group and going through the process with the guys we have here,” Cook said.

At practice on Tuesday, Eric Kendricks was an observer and Harrison Smith was absent as his wife gave birth to their first child on Monday. Irv Smith Jr. looks healthy, going 11-on-11 after missing all of last season with a torn meniscus. Garrett Bradbury got all the snaps with the starting offense, and Bisi Johnson and KJ Osborn shared time in place of No. 3 receiver at some facilities.

DANIELLE HUNTER HEALTHY BACK FROM TORN PEC

No one was happier to be back on a training ground on Tuesday than Danielle Hunter. The star defensive end participated in all drills and looked healthy in practice. His 2021 season ended in October, after seven games, after tearing a pectoral muscle in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

He spoke to reporters for the first time since before the injury and said the comeback was a three-month process. He could have returned if the Vikings had made the NFC Playoffs. He says he feels healthy, and has been since March. It is his second season-ending injury after missing all of 2020 due to a herniated disc suffered during training camp that required surgery.

“It’s football, anything can happen playing. I love football, that’s why I’m here. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be here,” Hunter said. “The most important thing was having the right people around me, motivating me and keeping me in the right frame of mind.”

Hunter was the fastest player in NFL history with 50 career sacks in his first five seasons. He had six sacks in seven games last year before his season-ending injury. Now in a new 3-4 defense, he will team up with Za’Darius Smith on the defensive line.

This is after the front office signed Smith in free agency and clawed back Hunter’s $18 million bonus in the offseason despite some trade rumors. Hunter says he never stressed about any of it.

“My biggest thing was finishing my rehab and coming back to play football. All that stuff, the contract stuff, I left it to my agent and the general manager,” Hunter said. “The most important thing was just trying to start playing football again, being with the guys. It hurts a bit to watch people play without being able to play. Glad to be back with my teammates.”

The new Vikings regime has an interest in keeping Hunter in Minnesota as part of a long-term deal. Hunter says he’ll let it be.

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