EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Greg Jennings is getting used to his new teammates during the Minnesota Vikings’ organized team activities, but the former Green Bay Packers’ receiver had to sit out Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury.
Jennings, who was limited to eight games last season because of injuries, suffered the injury in Tuesday’s opening of OTAs. Coach Leslie Frazier didn’t seem concerned with the injury.
“Yeah, his ankle’s a little bit sore,” Frazier said Wednesday. “He’ll be fine. Nothing serious. He was working on the side with (athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman. He’ll be fine.”
Jennings was present for the workouts Wednesday and was with the wide receiver group as it went through drills. Jennings, 29, is expected to provide a boost to the Minnesota passing game and be the veteran influence on a group of young receivers that includes second-year player Jarius Wright and Cordarrelle Patterson, who was selected in the first round of April’s draft.
When asked who’s been most helpful in his transition from Tennessee, Patterson said Jennings.”Most definitely,” Patterson said. “It’s good to have someone that is willing to help you out when you need him. On and off the field, I respect him. He gives me all he’s got and I’m going to give him all I’ve got.”
The Vikings were without receiver Chris Summers, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, on Wednesday. Center John Sullivan (rehabbing from knee surgery) and seventh-round draft pick Michael Mauti (knee surgery) were also in attendance, but not participating in team drills. Mauti was working with Sugarman on the side.
Good participation again: Frazier credited the work put in last offseason, in particular the good participation for the voluntary workouts and OTAs, for Minnesota’s trip to the playoffs last season. The Vikings again kicked off the summer with 89 of the team’s 90 players at Wednesday’s practice.
The only player that has been missing has been veteran defensive end Jared Allen, who typically follows his own training regimen in Arizona. Even MVP running back Adrian Peterson and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who was forced to restructure his contract this offseason, were practicing. Minnesota also has its three first-round picks, none of which have agreed to a contract, in practice.
“To have this type of participation — and I explained this to our team yesterday — it’s so hard in today’s NFL to really plan on having a good season if you don’t get this type of participation in the offseason program, we’re very fortunate,” Frazier said. “I think this gives us a very good chance of not only being a playoff team next season, but being a team that can have a chance to go even further in the playoffs. This gives you a chance, when you have this type of participation and guys understand the importance of the work that’s necessary that you have to put in to have a good football team. So I’m really encouraged by our participation and the guys that are practicing.”
Linebacker Erin Henderson, who re-signed with the team to a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent said the heavy participation is part of a standard being set by the team and the veteran leaders.
“We’re doing a good job of coming to work and when we’re here, taking care of what we need to take care of,” Henderson said. “I think it speaks to the character of the guys and the people that we have around here that we want to show up and come to work on days where it’s the offseason, it’s May and people may want to be elsewhere doing other things. But we’re all still here putting the time in.”
Defensive changes: With cornerback Antoine Winfield being released and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Vikings have open positions on the defense.
Wednesday’s open practice was the first chance to get to see the expected changes.
Second-year cornerback Josh Robinson was practicing with Chris Cook on the first-team defense. Henderson was practicing at middle linebacker in his much-talked-about possible move with Marvin Mitchell working as an outside linebacker.
Fred Evans was taking the majority of the snaps at defensive tackle. Defensive end Everson Griffen took the first-team reps in Allen’s right defensive end spot.
In the nickel defense, rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes entered, with Robinson moving inside in the slot. Henderson, getting a full-time chance to show he can play middle linebacker, took all his reps at the spot and believes he’s the starter right now.
“That’s what the depth chart says and that’s what the coaches tell me,” Henderson said. “That’s how I feel when I step out there. That’s what the guys look at me as when we’re in the huddle. I would have to say yes.”
Frazier said the competition at middle linebacker still includes second-year player Audie Cole and Mauti.