At this time last year, Latavius Murray was mostly a frustrated bystander at the Vikings’ minicamp, relegated to the sidelines after offseason ankle surgery kept him out of team practices until three days before the team’s first preseason game.
The Vikings took a cautious approach with Murray, holding him out of game action until their third preseason game against San Francisco.
The running back, who signed a three-year deal with the Vikings before last season, got off to a slow start in the regular season, carrying just 14 times for 38 yards in the first month of the year while Dalvin Cook got most of the backfield work.
Once Cook went down because of a torn ACL on Oct. 1, though, the Vikings turned more to Murray, who ran for 804 yards and scored eight touchdowns in the final 12 regular season games before adding another score in the Vikings’ NFC divisional playoff win. He finished with 842 yards in 262 attempts (3.9 yards per carry) and had 15 receptions for 103 yards.
This year, with Cook still working his way back into team drills after knee surgery, Murray has been the beneficiary of more on-field work, and he’s making the most of it.
“You’re able to come out here and get better and improve,” he said. “Me being injured last year, I wasn’t able to do anything but get better in the weight room. I think that’s obviously the positive now: I can come out here and get better on the football field, which is obviously most important.”
Said coach Mike Zimmer: “Latavius has had a great spring. He looks way better than he did at the beginning of training camp last year, when he was hurt. He’s seeing things well, he’s making good cuts. I think there’ll be good competition.”
The Vikings restructured Murray’s deal before the season, giving him a chance to become a free agent after this season in exchange for a $1.5 million reduction in his base salary. Murray’s $3.65 million base salary is guaranteed for the season, and he’ll receive a $1 million bonus if he rushes for 1,200 yards or more in 2018.
Griffen, Elflein still not practicing
Defensive end Everson Griffen and center Pat Elflein, who were both rehabbing injuries during the Vikings’ organized team activities, continued to be held out of team drills on the first day of minicamp.
Elflein, who is rehabbing ankle and shoulder injuries, worked with the team’s athletic training staff while Nick Easton took Elflein’s spot as the first-team center. Second-year man Danny Isidora practiced at left guard, while Mike Remmers remained at right guard and Rashod Hill at right tackle.
Griffen didn’t practice in any of the Vikings’ organized team activities open to the media, and did some rehab work again Tuesday. Zimmer has said Griffen had “a little tweak,” adding the injury is not related to the torn plantar fascia the Pro Bowl defender suffered last fall. It’s believed Griffen’s injury is not serious, and should not affect his availability for training camp.
With Griffen out, Brian Robison again worked with the Vikings first-team defense.
Directions given for summer break
On Tuesday, Zimmer praised the job strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Uyeyama has done this spring. Before players depart on Thursday, following the end of the Vikings’ minicamp, Zimmer said Uyeyama will have some instructions for them about how they should spend the six weeks before training camp.
“Our emphasis to them will be to continue that when they come back here for training camp, they’ve been continually doing football drills, not just running to get in shape, running long distances, things like that,” Zimmer said.
“That’s when they’ll get the pulls, when they come out here and they start stopping and starting. Mark Uyeyama, who has done an unbelievable job this offseason, is going to talk to them about making sure that they’re hitting some dummies so that their bodies are used to the contact kind of stuff, with their hands and with their shoulders.
‘‘I think we did that pretty good in Phase 1 and Phase 2 [of the offseason program], so hopefully they’ll hopefully continue on when they’re out on their own. I’ll remind them.”