EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Like every NFL rookie, Xavier Rhodes is trying to soak up all he can during the Minnesota Vikings’ organized team activities.
Minnesota thought highly enough of Rhodes to make him a first-round draft pick in April, and he hasn’t disappointed during the summer practices as coaches and teammates have been impressed with his talent and how he’s acclimated.
Rhodes is really waiting to show what he can do later this summer when the team puts on pads and he can show his physicality, one of the main traits that led the Vikings to quickly snatch Rhodes up with the No. 25 overall pick.
“Yes, yes,” Rhodes said about his eagerness to put on pads. “Right now you can’t really do nothing. So, I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to just playing football. Basically (OTAs) is a phase right now that’s helping me out with playing off and being non-physical. So its helping me out a lot so I can be a versatile corner.”
Rhodes is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds and enjoys the physicality that comes with playing cornerback. While some corners shy from contact, Rhodes said he likes to be the one to initiate with receivers and give them something else to think about.
“You watch film and you see that’s one of my best assets,” Rhodes said. “I don’t have to say, you just watch film and you’ll see.”
Rhodes is soft-spoken, but his play has been doing all the talking for him when it comes to impressing the organization. Coach Leslie Frazier isn’t anointing Rhodes as a starter already, but he is been working in some starting spots. He’s also practicing as an outside corner in the nickel defense, with Josh Robinson playing inside against the slot receiver.
With Rhodes, Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, the Vikings have a set of taller corners and are eager to play a more physical style.
“It’s a little bit harder in these OTAs to gauge some of the defensive backs because of the style of play we want to play here,” Frazier said. “We want to be closer to the line of scrimmage and really get our hands on people.
“This part of the offseason program you’re limited in being able to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage but we see enough of the athletic ability and the size, the size definitely shows up, and the speed. You can see that and the change of direction that he has so we know with those long arms he’s going to be able to go out and do what he drafted him to do and that’s go out and play press coverage. We’ll learn more when he get into training camp and get pads on.”
Cook, suddenly Minnesota’s most tenured cornerback, sees the potential in Rhodes too.
“He’s very confident,” Cook said. “He’s very aggressive. I like that about him. He’s willing to learn. Those are the good things I see about him, especially him being a first-round guy. Some first-round guys come in cocky and don’t want to listen to things, but he’s a good listener. He asks questions. He wants to get better, and he tells me what he thinks he needs to work on. I tell him, ‘It’s all a process. It’s all a process.’ It’s his first year here, so I just tell him he’ll keep getting better as the days keep going.”
Other top picks are making early impressions as well:
– Defensive tackle Kevin Williams on first-round defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd: “He’s an athletic guy. He definitely can move and he’s a strong kid. Now, we just get him in our terminology and just getting him functioning the way we do things over here and let him make plays.”
– Cook on first-round receiver Cordarrelle Patterson: “Oh he’s good. He’s elite. He’s fast. He’s really fast. He’s a confident guy too, and he’s willing to learn. All of our rookies are willing to learn, that’s one good thing about all of them is that they all ask questions. Even Cordarrelle, he comes up to me…Those are things that will help our team as we go along, with the young guys asking all the older guys questions, no matter if it’s an offensive player asking a defensive player or vice versa.”
– Linebacker Chad Greenway on fourth-round linebacker Gerald Hodges: “He’s got great movement. He can move well. The speed is great. Obviously we’ll see the physical intangibles as he comes into training camp. He’s a heady player. He has a mind for the game and wants to soak it up. He won’t pick it all up right away, but that experience will come as he gets more reps.”
Peterson wants even more: MVP running back Adrian Peterson has seen the additions at receiver to the Vikings’ offense, and he surely isn’t going to be forgotten in the running game. But Peterson said at a recent practice that he hopes offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterback Christian Ponder don’t forget about him in the passing game either.
“A lot of people have this misconception that Adrian cannot catch the ball,” Peterson said. “And that’s so false. They’ve really never thrown it to the running backs. But (former quarterback Brett) Favre believed in us more and he’s checking it down to us and getting the ball into our hand in the open field.”
Peterson had a career-high 43 catches for 436 yards in 2009 with Favre at quarterback. Last year he finished with 40 catches, the second-highest, single-season total of his career, but had just 217 yards receiving with one touchdown.
NFL institutes new bag policy: Hoping to increase security at stadiums around the league, the NFL tightened its restrictions on bags allowed into stadiums next season.
Purses, along with backpacks, fanny packs, camera bags, cinch bags and other large bags will no longer be allowed. Purses must be the size of a small clutch bag.
The league is also allowing clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches. The league says similar small clear plastic freezer bags up to one gallon in size will be allowed.
The league and stadium officials will make an exception for medically necessary items.
“Our fans deserve to be in a safe and secure environment,” Jeffrey Miller, NFL vice president and chief security officer, said in a release. “Public safety is our top priority. This will make the job of checking items much more efficient and effective. We will be able to deliver a better and quicker experience at the gates and also provide a safer environment. We appreciate our fans’ cooperation.”