The Vikings were down two receivers due to injuries during organized team activities, and suddenly free-agent receiver Albert Wilson's phone lit up.
Wilson, who turns 30 in July, signed a one-year deal with the Vikings on Wednesday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Hours later, Wilson was on the practice fields behind TCO Performance Center watching the offense as receivers coach Keenan McCardell talked him through the playbook. Getting him up to speed will take a little longer than contract talks.
"Two days ago, I was just back home training and now I'm here," Wilson said after practice.
Wilson, a speedy 5-9 target, joins a crowded and young depth chart as the most experienced receiver outside of Adam Thielen. This will be Wilson's ninth NFL season. He spent the previous eight with the Chiefs and Dolphins. He has primarily been a slot receiver in the pros, serving most recently as Miami's No. 3 option last year behind Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker. He caught 25 passes for 213 yards in 14 games.
"A veteran player with a skill set we like," head coach Kevin O'Connell said. "When we do have those three receivers on the field, we are going to have competition and use the skill sets of all the guys that end up being able to help us."
Behind Justin Jefferson and Thielen, Wilson joins a competition for snaps alongside K.J. Osborn and Bisi Johnson, who have been running with the first-team offense this spring. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dan Chisena and rookie Jalen Nailor figure to compete for roles on special teams at least.
But Osborn and Smith-Marsette have been limited by recent injuries. Osborn's undisclosed ailment kept him out of the past two weeks of OTAs, with O'Connell saying Osborn could possibly return for next week's mandatory minicamp. The team isn't expecting Smith-Marsette back until training camp after he suffered a right lower leg injury that had him in a walking boot resting on a knee scooter on Wednesday.
The Vikings are hoping Wilson has a little more gas in the tank. His first NFL touchdown came against Minnesota in 2015, when he turned on the jets, taking a screen pass 42 yards for a score. Speed has been his most notable skill.
"That's what I came up doing was stretching the field," Wilson said.
The Vikings waived running back A.J. Rose Jr. to make room on the 90-man roster.
Za'Darius Smith held out of practice
Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith was absent from Wednesday's practice, leading O'Connell to say the team is being cautious with its star defender because of an undisclosed injury. O'Connell added that Smith, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal in free agency, could be back as early as Friday's 10th and final voluntary practice.
"Just a very, very late, just kind of a little cautionary thing with him," O'Connell said. "He should be back ready to roll on Friday."
Smith was one of three players not spotted Wednesday, including cornerback Kris Boyd and edge rusher Kenny Willekes. A handful of recovering players worked with trainers on a different field for parts of practice, including Osborn, rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., receiver Blake Proehl, linebacker Ryan Connelly and tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Johnny Mundt.
The Vikings hosted 22 former players at TCO Performance Center on Wednesday, when safety Harrison Smith could be seen chatting with former safety Joey Browner after practice.
Owner Zygi Wilf was also on hand as players, coaches and team executives caught up with former players who were in the area, including Randall McDaniel, Paul Krause, Chuck Foreman, Leo Lewis, Scott Studwell and Mike Harris.
"Understanding we got a special, special history in this organization," O'Connell said. "I cannot stress that enough, and great people within this community that still live locally here. If they don't, we're going to ask them to come and just be around."
DePaola the softball star
With several Vikings players unable to make it to Thielen's charity softball game on Tuesday night in St. Paul, long snapper Andrew DePaola stepped in and began his night pitching to teammates in the home run derby.
DePaola ended it as the star of the show.
He homered in each of his four at-bats in the game at CHS Field, which pitted the Vikings' offense against their defense and special teams to benefit the Thielen Foundation. Though the event organizers set up a temporary fence in the middle of the outfield, DePaola, a middle infielder at Hereford High School in Parkland, Md., didn't need it on two of his four homers.
He was the only player to send a pitch over the permanent fence at CHS Field, homering off the left-field foul pole in his first at-bat. Then, on his third at-bat of the night, DePaola sent a Dalvin Cook pitch onto the berm in left field for the longest homer of the night. That tied the game 14-14.
"I mean, I don't know if anyone knew I could play baseball; they do now," DePaola said.
In the bottom of the seventh, Osborn, who won the home run derby, hit a three-run walkoff homer to give the offense the win.
Asamoah inks rookie deal
Third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah became the seventh draft pick to sign his rookie contract with the Vikings, the team announced. Asamoah's four-year deal is worth nearly $5.8 million based on his draft position (66th overall).
Three of the Vikings' 10 selections — second-round cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., second-round guard Ed Ingram and fourth-round cornerback Akayleb Evans — are still unsigned.