Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was named an All-Pro for the first time in 2019, and seemed on his way to the honor a second time in 2020 before a calf injury that took him out for the team's final five games and underscored his value in a different way. The Vikings gave up at least 390 yards in four of their final five games with Kendricks out, allowing 463 on the ground in back-to-back losses to the Bears and Saints that doomed their faint playoff chances.
During the Vikings' first two organized team activities open to reporters this spring, Kendricks did some rehab work and watched practice from the sideline, but during the second day of the team's mandatory minicamp on Wednesday, he delivered a reminder of what's made him so valuable.
Kendricks had one of the practice's biggest plays when he intercepted a Kirk Cousins throw over the middle of the field, returning it down the sideline for a big gain. He broke up a Kellen Mond throw in a 7-on-7 drill, and squeezed Tyler Conklin along the back line of the end zone in a goal-line drill, forcing an incompletion.
"It's been great," Kendricks said after practice on Wednesday. "A lot of smiles, a lot of young guys who are funny, think they know everything from college but it's pretty cool, it's pretty fun, just getting out there with the guys running around a bit, talking, communicating, but just the locker room talk is always great.''
Here are some other observations from the Vikings' second day of minicamp on Wednesday:
—Cornerback Jeff Gladney and kicker Riley Patterson were the only players not seen on Wednesday, as cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Tye Smith came back to practice. Cameron Dantzler, Chazz Surratt and Hercules Mata'afa sat out, as did Danielle Hunter, who watched practice for the second straight day after returning to the team on Monday afternoon. Boyd got some work in the first-team nickel package, with Mackensie Alexander and Patrick Peterson.
—Mond again saw brief first-team work during 7-on-7 drills, but remained behind Jake Browning and Nate Stanley during full-team periods, as he's been all spring. He connected with Shane Zylstra for a touchdown in a red zone drill after Zylstra found a hole between Ryan Connelly and the Vikings' safeties.
—The Vikings kept their offensive line the same as it's looked throughout the spring, with Rashod Hill at left tackle, Ezra Cleveland at left guard, Garrett Bradbury at center, Dakota Dozier at right guard and Brian O'Neill at right tackle. Christian Darrisaw got more work with the second-team offense on Wednesday than he did Tuesday, as the first-round pick continued to work his way back from core muscle surgery.
—Kicker Greg Joseph ended the practice with a field goal from about 50 yards out, on his only attempt in full-team work on Wednesday. Coach Mike Zimmer ended the practice early for the second day in a row, introducing current players to defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who'll be inducted to the team's Ring of Honor this fall.