For five minutes the night before every Vikings game ahead, cornerback NaJee Thompson expects to stand in front of the defense and present a celebration he'd like for them to do after a takeaway.
While Thompson, an undrafted rookie, didn't play in Monday night's win against the 49ers, he had a key role in preparing defenders for group celebrations like the limbo or Duck, Duck, Gray Duck during a three-takeaway effort.
Sensing a lack of energy after three takeaways in the Oct. 15 win in Chicago, coordinator Brian Flores — known for his stoic demeanor — gave Thompson the new title of "celebration coordinator" to increase energy during games.
"He just came up and was like, 'We got to change this up,'" Thompson said. "He just appointed me for the job."
Flores knows that he isn't the most boisterous personality, saying he can be the "biggest culprit" of a demanding work ethic sapping joy from the game.
"There's a small margin for error in this league and there's so much time that's invested," Flores said. "Our guys work so hard that often times you forget to have fun. So, honestly, I think I can be the biggest culprit of that."
"I don't show the fact I'm having a great time outwardly," he added. "I never have. So, we just felt like as a staff we needed to … coach a little bit of that, too, I guess. I don't know. We'll see what they come up with next week. We got to earn that. We got to earn the right to do those things."
Thompson's duties are simple: devise a group celebration for the first half and another for the second half, perhaps a third in case it's a big game. He stands in front of the defense and presents videos or demonstrates what to do.
"If we get more takeaways in the first half," Thompson said, "I just got to go down at halftime and think of something real quick and bring another one out."
Thompson, 23, wasn't aware that past Vikings teams had done both the Duck, Duck, Gray Duck and limbo celebrations. But that was the offense, safety Harrison Smith recalled. Now the defense is joining the fun.
"I'd never heard of the Gray Duck thing until then," Smith said. "NaJee is young enough to not remember that stuff. He can recycle a few things. It's hard to come up with brand new stuff every time."
Execution is a work in progress. During the limbo, cornerback Akayleb Evans, listed at 6-2, was hoisted by 5-10 linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.
"It never worked how we planned," safety Josh Metellus said. "We chose the biggest corner in the room to lift up instead of [5-11] Mekhi [Blackmon]."
Hockenson practices; Alexander sits for Packers
Tight end T.J. Hockenson caught passes on the practice fields at TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Thursday afternoon and was listed as limited in his return from a foot injury suffered against the 49ers.
Left guard Ezra Cleveland (foot) and receiver Jalen Nailor (hamstring) remained limited. Linebacker Brian Asamoah II (ankle) did not practice.
The Packers practiced without cornerback Jaire Alexander (back), who was limited Wednesday, as well as tight end Luke Musgrave (ankle) and edge rusher Preston Smith (illness). Running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) returned and was limited.
Finding footing at Lambeau
Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips commended players for choosing seven-stud, screw-in cleats during the Vikings' win at Soldier Field earlier this month, giving him confidence they'll make the right choice on what can be a slippery Lambeau Field on Sunday. Players are encouraged to wear the longer cleats, which are also packed for them if needed.
Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels recalled headaches in the Jan. 1 loss at Green Bay last season, when receiver Justin Jefferson was among those slipping without the screw-in cleats, which some players dislike because they can stick in the ground.
"Lot of guys on the ground, slipping, especially when you're talking about trying to set up for blocks," Daniels said.
Shuffling defensive duties
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph remains away from the Vikings this week for what coach Kevin O'Connell and Flores have described as a personal matter.
Flores said Thursday he has taken on some responsibilities in the defensive line room, which has been led by assistant D-line coach Patrick Hill and assistant head coach Mike Pettine. Pettine, a former Browns head coach, was already filling in for outside linebackers coach Mike Smith, who has been away from the team since August.
"There's no real update on that," Flores said. "[Rumph] was on our minds as far as him and that personal situation. But, you know, there's still a job to do and I thought the guys, they played well."