New Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland revealed Wednesday he underwent shoulder surgery after Kansas City's Super Bowl appearance in February, which is delaying his first full practice for Minnesota.
But Breeland, the former Chiefs starter who signed a one-year deal on Friday, was still pulled into the mix during Wednesday's practice by head coach Mike Zimmer for a little one-on-one training.
"He was teaching [Patrick Peterson] the technique and [Zimmer] looked over at me like, 'What you looking at, why you ain't out here?'" Breeland said. "I'm like, 'You teach one, you teach all of us,' but he still made me come out there and really get my own rep and get my own feel. He shows each player that they're their own person and treats everybody accordingly."
Breeland's education in Zimmer's defensive system is underway, even as he remains sidelined. The gregarious NFL veteran, on his fourth team, spoke Wednesday about his eagerness to learn from Peterson and safety Harrison Smith, teach the Vikings' younger corners, and maybe even start as an outside corner once he's healthy.
"I'm on track," Breeland said. "The doctors tell me when I'm ready to get on the field. I'm just as anxious as everyone else to see me in this purple and gold and get going out there. At this time, I'm just taking the process of really getting in tune with my body as well as getting in tune with my teammates."
Breeland admitted his "heart was sold" on returning to Kansas City, where he started 32 games in the past two seasons, including two Super Bowls. But the Vikings' top offer, worth up to $4 million, came two weeks after Breeland's May 20 visit to TCO Performance Center in Eagan as the Vikings needed yet another veteran cornerback.
"There's a lot of veteran guys mixed into this defense that are really going to allow me to get up to speed quickly," Breeland said. "There's no one in here really hiding information. I asked questions, they give me the proper answers. They're willing to teach, and I'm willing to learn, so I feel like it's going to be a great fit."
Without Hunter, OTA attendance remains strong
Solid attendance at voluntary Organized Team Activities continued Wednesday as 84 of 90 Vikings players were on the field or sideline. Defensive end Danielle Hunter and cornerback Jeff Gladney are the only players to miss all eight OTAs so far, while running back Alexander Mattison, cornerback Mackensie Alexander, linebacker Chazz Surratt and kicker Riley Patterson were absent on Wednesday, this week's first practice open to the news media. Tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler remain limited due to injuries.
"Definitely better to be in this OTAs session rather than being at home in front of a computer," receiver Justin Jefferson said after 2020 spring practices were canceled because of COVID-19. "You actually can be around the guys, actually communicate and build relationships with them."
The Vikings' first mandatory sessions begin next week, when the June 15-17 minicamp close spring practices. Unexcused absences can result in fines up to nearly $100,000 for all three days.
Jefferson resetting the bar
Jefferson said his only individual goal for 2021 is to eclipse his record-setting 1,400 receiving yards as a rookie. The Vikings' remade cornerback group, and specifically the addition of veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, can only help after Jefferson mostly practiced against fellow rookies last season.
"We don't really get to see a guy like 'Pat Pete' every single game," Jefferson said. "So being able to go against him, and for him to show us different looks and running routes off those different looks gets us way better and makes it easier on game day."
New TE tandem stands out
The Vikings' new tight end tandem of Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin continued to be featured Wednesday during the third spring practice open to reporters, with Conklin making a couple impressive fingertip snags that highlight his potential as a receiver.
"Both of them have had a really strong eight practices," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "It's been fun to see what they're continuing to be capable of. I could compliment them for a while, because they're deserving of it."