Notebook: Antone Exum set for more competition as Vikings get healthy
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MANKATO, Minn. - Antone Exum's nerves quickly left after he wrapped up Darren McFadden and brought him to the turf on his first snap of his first NFL game.
Exum, 23, saw a heavy workload in the Vikings preseason opener on Friday against the Oakland Raiders as four safeties sat out. The rookie played 90 percent of defensive snaps, aside from his special teams duties to begin his career in the NFL.
"I did some good things, but then there's some things with game experience, I'll be able to do better at," Exum said. "I knew I was going to play early, but maybe not as early as I ended up playing."
Harrison Smith played just seven snaps, which opened up the door for Exum to play alongside Kurt Coleman and Brandan Bishop throughout the rest of the game. He finished with two combined tackles, including the take down to stop a 23-yard gain by McFadden, his only carry of the game and Oakland's longest play in their 10-6 loss.
Selected in the sixth round (182nd overall) in May, Exum has hit the ground running as he switches back to safety after playing cornerback during his junior and senior year at Virginia Tech. He's found plenty of room to work with as a host of Vikings defensive backs have missed time to injury.
"[Exum] did a good job," Defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "He does a good job communicating...the communication is the biggest part for a young guy because you get so many things formationally from the other offense that we probably didn't practice going into that game."
As Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo are set to return for Saturday's tilt against the Arizona Cardinals, it's likely Exum's playing time will decrease from the team-high 73 plays (defense/STs) he was involved in on Friday. He's on every special teams unit except the field goal squad.
Exum's hope is he put enough on film for the coaching staff to want to see more. He was given the team's third-best coverage rating (+1.2) by ProFootballFocus.com as he didn't allow a reception on two targets, including one pass deflection on Raiders receiver Greg Jenkins.
"I knew I was going to get a whole lot of snaps," Exum said. "So I tried to take advantage of that."
Keeping mum on QBs
He's got that all figured out, though.
"I know how long they are going play, yeah," Zimmer said. "But I am not going to say. Come to the game Saturday."
Zimmer hasn't divulged that information to Cassel or Bridgewater, either.
"No they don't know yet, because you would ask them," Zimmer said.
'Now I feel comfortable'
Wednesday was Andrew Sendejo's sixth practice back after he was activated from the physically unable to perform list with both back and ankle ailments.
Sendejo has run with the second-team defense alongside different players as he works himself back into the fold at safety.
"Anytime you start practice the first few days, you're going to knock rust off, even if you're healthy," Sendejo said. "I knew that's how it was going to be the first few days, now I feel comfortable and ready to go."
Sendejo prides himself on fitness, there's even a parody Twitter account dedicated to his arms. However, it was difficult for him to keep up the same regime while going through rehab.
"Tried to find ways around it," Sendejo said. "Coaches did a great job modifying workouts for me so I could get in the best shape I could coming into camp."
• Charting quarterback passes: Matt Cassel completed 12-of-14 with two dropped passes, one by Kyle Rudolph and another by Matt Asiata; Teddy Bridgewater threw 12-for-17, including two interceptions on his first six throws to go along with two drops and Christian Ponder completed 6-of-8 passes.
• The play of the day went to receiver Greg Jennings, who hauled in a Cassel bomb down the right sideline for a 30-yard completion over cornerback Marcus Sherels. Cassel's pass looped over Sherels' stretched-out arm and into Jennings' hands as he tiptoed down the sideline.
• Cornerback Shaun Prater deflected one of Ponder's passes aimed for receiver Kamar Jorden.
• Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) left practice early and did not return.
• Former University of Minnesota defensive back Michael Carter, cousin of two-time Super Bowl champion Tyrone Carter, was visiting Vikings practice. He was waived by the Buffalo Bills this week, but said he had not been contacted by the Vikings as of Wednesday afternoon.
• Former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman also attended practice.