With tight end Irv Smith Jr. on the mend following thumb surgery, the Vikings are pressing forward with their unproven crop of tight ends.
Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson and Zach Davidson rotated with the first-team offense on Wednesday, with Mundt — the ex-Rams backup who signed a two-year deal in free agency — getting the most run with the starters. Coach Kevin O'Connell said he wants to evaluate their depth in camp before looking for external options. The Vikings' current crop of tight ends have a combined 11 career catches for 103 yards in the NFL.
"If we feel like at any point in time we want to do that, I'll get with Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah] and his staff," O'Connell said, referring to the Vikings' general manager. "We really want to focus on today, give those guys those opportunities, and then really see where maybe my blind spots might have been."
O'Connell maintained the Sept. 11 season opener is still a feasible goal for Smith to return to action. He clarified that Smith's injury occurred on a "simple, everyday type of block" during one of the first padded full-team drills on Monday.
"Anytime you have surgery, you've got to have that no-sweat period," O'Connell said. "I've challenged Irv, let's not allow that to truly affect your stamina, your conditioning. Because he was in a great spot. He worked his tail off all summer here, when a lot of guys aren't here, to be right where we wanted him."
Cousins holding court
While visiting the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Rhode Island this offseason, quarterback Kirk Cousins said he met tennis pros Andy Murray and John Isner to talk about a sport the 11th-year NFL veteran has used recently as part of his offseason training.
During a Pro Bowl, Cousins said, former Saints quarterback Drew Brees helped talk him into using tennis as part of his training regimen.
"He said, 'Well actually, a serve is the only throwing motion where the object stays in your hand,'" Cousins said. "That actually helps strengthen a lot of the muscles in the back of your shoulder. So I was already sold on tennis at that point, but that kind of put me over the edge."
Backup centers Chris Reed and Josh Sokol stayed after practice to snap to backup quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion after both had botched exchanges during full-team drills. Mond struggled to corral two snaps — one from Reed and one from Sokol — while Mannion dropped an under-center snap from Reed.
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw was replaced by Blake Brandel during team drills shortly after Darrisaw appeared to grimace while having his elbow evaluated by a team trainer.
On the brighter side, kicker Greg Joseph nailed all eight field-goal attempts during practice, including a mock game-tying kick that finished the first-team offense's situational drill at the end of the afternoon. The team cheered Joseph as he drilled his longest attempt from about 55 yards.
Running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison returned to practice after being held out of the end of Tuesday's session because of apparent hand/finger injuries. Kene Nwangwu remained sidelined because of what O'Connell has described as a lower-leg, soft-tissue injury.