The Vikings have 39 rookies on the field for their annual rookie minicamp this week: six draft picks, 16 undrafted free agents and 17 rookies who were invited to the team's headquarters for a weekend tryout.
For many of those players, the three-day session is the first time in months they've been able to focus on actual football.
The NFL's annual draft process begins with a series of all-star games, and then puts players through a battery of on-field tests, private workouts, interviews with coaches and meetings with teams. Once they arrive at a team's facility, they're done at last with the application process and ready to focus on their new job.
It's why Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, who can recall his own experience as a Patriots rookie quarterback in 2008, keeps the camp simple and his expectations in perspective.
"Everything's kind of put in for a purpose, to see certain types of movements, see certain type of routes," O'Connell said Friday, "while also understanding we can't take for granted that although they've been training, they've been on the workout circuit. They've been on the visit circuit. Football shape is a completely different thing. So we want to evaluate that, as well. And I do think we've got a really good group and expect a good day tomorrow."
The Vikings took rookies through "the very, very basic parts of our offense and defense" on the second day of their minicamp on Friday, O'Connell said. They will return to many of the same concepts as the camp concludes on Saturday, to see how well players retained what they've learned. Then the rookies will head to an off-campus team bonding activity and adjourn for the weekend, hitting the field with the Vikings' veterans for the first set of organized team activities on May 22.
On Friday, at least, O'Connell seemed pleased with what he saw from first-round pick Jordan Addison, who the coach said has been meeting over Zoom calls with Vikings coaches since the draft on April 25. "You can tell he's a little bit ahead of a lot of the guys on the field today, understanding exactly what that play means for what routes he has," O'Connell said of the new receiver. "But what I was really looking forward to is just seeing how he was moving, coming in and out of cuts and breaks. I thought Jordan had a really, really good day, and just looks the part."
The coach admitted "I tend to maybe overdo it sometimes" with fifth-round pick Jaren Hall, the first rookie quarterback the Vikings have had in O'Connell's tenure. But he said he loves the way Hall handled the Vikings' offense as one of the only two quarterbacks in the camp.
"There were some ups and downs, and that's what we expect," O'Connell said. "And then ultimately just trying to give him things where Monday morning comes around and he's with Kirk [Cousins] and Nick [Mullens], he's got some real tangible things he can work on."
In one sense, the weekend was a culmination of months of work for the Vikings rookies. O'Connell sees it as also just the beginning.
"My message to them today was, 'Congratulations on being here,' " O'Connell said. "Understand the opportunity that you have. And while you're here, regardless of how long that's going to be, you're going to get everything we've got."
Vikings sign four draft picks
The Vikings announced they signed four of their six draft picks — Hall, third-rounder Mekhi Blackmon, fourth-rounder Jay Ward, fifth-rounder Jaquelin Roy — to rookie contracts.
The only picks that remain unsigned are seventh-round running back DeWayne McBride and Addison, though the Vikings' trade of edge rusher Za'Darius Smith to the Browns, which cleared $12.155 million of salary cap space, would help them fit Addison's $2.496 million cap figure on their books.
Tryout list includes four Minnesotans
The Vikings gave tryouts to 19 players as part of their rookie camp, including four native Minnesotans.
Fullback Zach Ojile, a Blaine native, played at Minnesota Duluth. Two of the Vikings' offensive linemen tryout players — Bethel product Travis Sinclair and former Gophers lineman Sam Schlueter — are from Rogers and Victoria, respectively. Safety Eli Weber, a Dawson native, played at Augustana (S.D.) in college.
The Vikings also tried out receiver Armani Carmickle, who played with Ojile at UMD.