EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Greg Jennings reached veteran status in his seven years with the Green Bay Packers and didn’t look forward to each year’s four preseason games.
Like many of the league’s established players, Jennings preferred to get his work in during practice and leave game action to those fighting for roster spots or their NFL careers. Jennings knew the Green Bay offense and had a rapport built with the quarterbacks. Preseason games, as Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and others agree, were an undesirable obligation.
Jennings is learning, along with many other circumstances, things are different for him in Minnesota. The Vikings’ new No. 1 receiver is eager for more preseason work with the third preseason game and the first-team offense’s most extensive action upcoming on Sunday.
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“In my opinion, I need the work because I haven’t been here,” Jennings said. “This is a new system, a new quarterback, a new team chemistry, so I need the work. I’ve got to feel comfortable in the offense in a game setting. In practice, it’s cool. I’ve got it. Everything is kind of habitual now. But in the game, things kind of change up. You’ve got an opponent who’s going to throw some different looks, unscouted looks at you. You may not have prepared for it.”
After a two-snap appearance in the first game in which he didn’t see a pass come his way, Jennings was on the field for 23 snaps in last week’s game and the mistiming was still evident between Jennings and his new quarterback Christian Ponder. Jennings was targeted three times and had one catch for five yards and was overthrown on one simple screen.
As a whole, the first-team offense — without MVP running back Adrian Peterson — struggled. Minnesota’s first-team offense had 82 total yards and failed to get a first down on four of its five drives.
“They definitely played faster than us,” Jennings said. “They got to the point of attack quicker than we did, I mean as a whole. Individually, there was definitely things I feel like that I could have done better as far as precession in my route running, different things to help the quarterback. But as a unit, we just got outplayed.”
Jennings said the outlook and the defense’s approach will change with Peterson, who hasn’t played in the first two preseason games, set to play this week. Jennings knows more work needs to be done to get in sync with Ponder as well.
“That will always be the case,” Jennings said. “Kinks will never completely be ironed out. There will always be a new wrinkle that we put in that we’re going to be trying to perfect. Just our relationship, our chemistry, we’re going to try to perfect that forever.”
So, Jennings is ready for more preseason work, a departure from his time in Green Bay.
“It was a little different when you’re accustomed to playing in a system,” Jennings said. “But being in a new system, you want as many reps as you can get at all times.”
Kalil returns to practice, Floyd has surgery: Left tackle Matt Kalil returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since last week’s game. Kalil was dealing with some soreness in his knee. Coach Leslie Frazier said he expects Kalil will play in Sunday’s preseason game at San Francisco.
Receiver Jarius Wright (concussion) still wasn’t ready to return to practice, but he was working and running on the side with athletic trainers again.
“Jarius, we’re going to give him one more day as well and hope to have him back tomorrow,” Frazier said.
Rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee surgery), fullback Jerome Felton (appendectomy) and offensive lineman Tyler Holmes (ankle) didn’t practice Wednesday. Floyd underwent surgery to ease some pain in the front of his knee and he’s still on track to return for the regular season.
“Everything went fine with the work that he had done,” Frazier said. “He should be back with us for sure by the opening game.”
Punt return options narrowing: Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Marcus Sherels and Bobby Felder are the top two options right now in the competition to win the punt return job.
Sherels has been the team’s top punt returner for the past two seasons and Felder impressed when given the chance in last week’s preseason game with three returns for 62 yards.
“He’s getting a shot,” Priefer said of Felder. “He got a shot the other night and he’ll get another shot on Sunday. Yep. I feel comfortable with him getting a shot, sure. And Marcus knows. Marcus is great about it. He knows he has to win the job. … He always welcomes that challenge and he’s got to go out and prove himself again.”
Priefer said Cordarrelle Patterson, Josh Robinson and Stephen Burton are still in the mix. The team is being cautious with Patterson because of his responsibilities as the main kickoff returner and as a wide receiver.
Locke grades out well: Priefer said rookie punter Jeff Locke graded out well in last week’s game, and the only negative grade he received was on his longest punt of the game, a 61-yarder, because he got 4.3 seconds of hang time on the punt.
“Seven punts the other day and he only had one minus punt,” Priefer said. “It went in the air and I went ‘Oh no.’ … But Jeff improved a lot from Game 1 to Game 2. Obviously, his plus-50 punts, he already proved he can do that, his Aussie-style punt. But his field punts were much improved the other day and hopefully we’ll keep going in that direction. He gained a lot of confidence because of that game. You could just tell as the game wore on, he felt good.” Follow Brian Hall on Twitter