The Vikings' kicker competition remains one of the team's top questions, and it hasn't yet started in earnest entering the second week of training camp.
Special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken said he's hopeful undrafted rookie kicker Ryan Patterson will return this week from an undisclosed injury. Patterson has been riding a stationary bike during practices while on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
So far, journeyman Greg Joseph has taken every field-goal attempt in two full-team drills, including kicking a perfect 5-for-5 within 45 yards last week.
"Greg, he's doing a great job," Ficken said. "His mind-set's right, in the right spot, and he knows he's not only competing with who's on this roster, but as kickers and specialists, they're competing with everyone around the league."
The Vikings' three preseason games, which begin Aug. 14 vs. Denver, could go a long way toward deciding kicker Dan Bailey's replacement.
"That's going to be up to, obviously, [coach Mike Zimmer], but every day they're getting evaluated," Ficken said. "It doesn't matter if it's game 1, 2 or 3 — we just see how it shakes out."
Recreating the pressure of an in-game kick at practice isn't easily done, but Ficken said the Vikings have deployed a few tactics to try to make practice kicks as spontaneous as actual games. This includes trying to "freeze" the kicker, Ficken said, simulating an opposing coach calling timeouts.
"We put them in tough situations," Ficken said. "Create some adversity for them, so we can see how they react if they don't have the success we expect to see on the field. We want to make sure we make it very difficult on them, but also be able to boost them back up."
O-line options thinned
Four offensive linemen were among the Vikings players limited or held out of Monday's practice. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin), guard Wyatt Davis (undisclosed), center Cohl Cabral (undisclosed) and tight end Tyler Conklin (ankle) did not practice. Cornerback Jeff Gladney also did not practice as he awaits a decision of a Texas grand jury on a domestic violence charge.
Tackle Rashod Hill, who had been practicing at left tackle for Darrisaw, was held out of team drills for an undisclosed reason. Third-year lineman Oli Udoh, also competing for the right guard opening, took reps as the first-team left tackle.
Receiver Dede Westbrook (knee) and nose tackle Michael Pierce (calf) also remain limited.
Conklin, the fourth-year tight end, said his absence Monday was precautionary. When asked about his taped-up left ankle, he said it's "nothing major." The Vikings offense is expected to rely on Conklin as an often-used No. 2 tight end behind Irv Smith Jr.
Conklin, who had 15 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown in four games after Kyle Rudolph was injured last year, is also playing for a new deal as his contract expires after 2021.
"I'm extremely excited," Conklin said. "This is something I've been waiting for. Every player waits for their opportunity to come. Sometimes it comes faster for others and sometimes you have to wait."
'In the 3,000 memos'
The Vikings were supposed to have the first padded practice of camp Monday, but General Manager Rick Spielman made a rare mid-camp appearance in front of reporters to clarify that NFL rules would not allow it. "For this year only," Spielman said, they were required to give players a non-padded session following Sunday's day off, meaning Tuesday will be the team's first day in pads.
"It was in the 3,000 memos we get," Spielman said, "so there was some confusion amongst us and the league. We're not going to be the only team, but I'll take responsibility for it."