The first practice of Vikings training camp on Wednesday will include an unrestricted Irv Smith Jr., according to head coach Kevin O'Connell, who was pleased with what he saw from the fourth-year tight end when Smith reported to camp early with other rehabbing veterans.
"To see him moving around [Monday], we got out on the grass with those early-report guys," O'Connell said Tuesday. "You can tell the work has been put in. You can tell there's a real mind-set for Irv, and I'm really excited about him. So we're expecting him to be full [go] to start."
Smith, who turns 24 next month, took limited reps in the spring while recovering from the torn meniscus that ended his 2021 season before it began. As Smith enters a contract year, O'Connell said he's expecting the starting tight end to play a "major part" in the new offense.
O'Connell added the Vikings' new training staff will monitor Smith closely throughout the collisions of training camp with an eye on keeping him healthy for the Sept. 11 opener against the Packers.
"We'll take each thing that kind of comes up day by day," O'Connell said. "We'll have a plan for Irv himself, with a mind-set on that opening game."
As the entire team reported to camp Tuesday, the Vikings added cornerback Nate Hairston to the non-football injury list. Linebacker Ryan Connelly and receiver Blake Proehl were placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday as they rehab knee injuries.
Receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette and K.J. Osborn are healthy after being held out of spring practices due to injuries.
Harrison Smith, elder NFL safety
As safety Harrison Smith reported for his 11th NFL training camp Tuesday, he was asked about being the oldest safety in the NFL. Smith, 33, showed off his steel-trap memory by correcting the reporter with a 34-year-old Patriots safety.
"What about Devin McCourty?" Smith retorted. "I'm reaching. I don't know, I get the gist of the question. I haven't thought about it, obviously. Still feel pretty good, still like to play football and learn new stuff. Learning a lot from Ed [Donatell] and his staff on the defensive side, and a lot from [O'Connell] just from general football philosophy, how offenses work and how they change. That stuff has always intrigued me."
'I'll voice my opinion'
Running back Dalvin Cook insisted he doesn't know much about how the new coaching staff will use him this season, but the two-time team captain says he'll feel comfortable offering his opinion. Cook was deployed around the offensive formations during spring practices, including lining up out wide and catching passes.
"In the game, if I'm feeling some type of way about how they're playing me and what they're doing, then I'll voice my opinion," Cook said. "But wherever I'm at, backfield or wherever it is, I'm just trying to make a play and change the scoreboard."
Practicing at U.S. Bank Stadium
The Vikings will practice at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday as O'Connell tries to give the new coaching staff and new players a taste of simulating game day before the first and only home exhibition on Aug. 20 against San Francisco. Coaches will get a "clean and precise plan" for how they'll operate on game days while new players get a feel for the locker room and field.
"It's as much as anything for our coaching staff," O'Connell said. "To simulate maybe where guys will be for the games. We'll test some headset equipment. We'll make sure guys are comfortable."
Bears sign Reiff
Former Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is on his third NFC North team after signing with the Bears on Tuesday. Reiff, 33, played in 12 games for the Bengals last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. He started 62 games, including four playoff games, for the Vikings from 2017 to 2020 before he left in free agency last year. A veteran of the division, Reiff spent his first five NFL seasons with the Lions.