Vikings special teams coach Matt Daniels said he's "thrilled" to have Greg Joseph be the team's kicker following a brief competition with undrafted rookie Gabe Brkic this spring.
Joseph is currently the only kicker on the Vikings roster after Brkic was released in June. According to Daniels, it'll stay that way as Joseph enters his second season in Minnesota.
"I have the utmost, highest confidence," Daniels said. "I firmly believe that Greg Joseph will have his best year in his career this year. I'll put it out there right now. I'm sure of it. The way that he finished up his summer, the way he prepared and how he's come back and hit the football has been the best I've seen."
Joseph has made 33 of 35 kicks so far in training camp, Daniels said, following a season in which he made five kicks that helped the Vikings tie or take the lead near the end of regulation. The 27-year-old Joseph quickly became battle-tested in his first full season as an NFL team's kicker.
"It's awesome to kind of keep building," said Joseph, who made 86.8% of his field goals and 90% of his extra points last year. "I just want to keep getting better and better as a kicker. I believe all those situations help me do that."
Assistant special teams coach Ben Kotwica, the former coordinator in Atlanta and Washington, is working with Joseph on the finer points of kicking. Daniels said he's focused on keeping Joseph's mind still for more pressure moments to come.
"We have to find a way to stay neutral," Daniels said. "A lot of the greats, you look at Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, they always talk about the mindset of staying neutral, never getting too high and never getting too low. Just kind of keeping that even keel. That's kind of where Greg is at, and I love it."
Smith briefly exits; Nwangwu out
During the middle of the first padded 11-on-11 reps of training camp, tight end Irv Smith Jr. left the practice field with an athletic trainer. Smith, who is 11 months removed from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, returned later in practice but did not participate the rest of the afternoon. He briefly jogged on the sideline and walked without assistance.
Running back and kick returner Kene Nwangwu was held out of Monday's walkthrough and practice for an undisclosed reason. Daniels said he's "doing well" but did not state a reason for why he was being held out.
"The biggest thing for him is making sure he's got a routine and a process to keep him healthy," Daniels said. "Obviously he's had X, Y and Z in the past, and we're just focused on keeping him healthy for the entire year."
Cornerback Nate Hairston passed a physical and practiced Monday after starting camp on the non-football injury list with an ankle issue. Cornerback Kris Boyd appeared to rehab an undisclosed injury on the side of practice with the training staff.
'Working the football'
Real football returned Monday with the first padded practice of the offseason, but contact continues to be limited in the name of health. Contact also noticeably was directed at the football during practice, when cornerback Cameron Dantzler jarred the ball loose from a running back at the end of a play. Running backs could be seen doing pushups after they fumbled.
"We're not taking anybody to the ground," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "A little thud with the pads, the guys feel it, guys be working the football. That's really the only difference. Get a little closer, just a little more pop in there."
Mond takes lead
Second-year quarterback Kellen Mond took the lead over fellow backup Sean Mannion during position drills and 11-on-11 team reps Monday. Both Mond and Mannion got reps behind the second-team offensive line, but it was Mond who got the first crack at full-team drills, including a late-game situational drill at the end of practice.
The backup quarterback competition is expected to carry through preseason games between Mond, the 2021 third-round pick, and Mannion, the 30-year-old veteran.
- Receiver K.J. Osborn was among the standout players during Monday's practice, catching two touchdowns, including a diving grab near the pylon from Kirk Cousins during a red-zone session.
- Former Gophers quarterback and NFL tight end MarQueis Gray was in attendance, watching practice with his family on the sideline.