Notebook: Crocker's experience valuable to young Vikings' secondary
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MANKATO, Minn. - This season will be Chris Crocker's 13th in the NFL.
None of the other 18 defensive backs on the Minnesota Vikings roster has more than five years of experience - and more importantly, none have a played a single game in a Mike Zimmer defense.
"We have a rapport, [Zimmer and I] talk often," Crocker said after his first practice in a Vikings uniform. "At this point in my career, I really didn't want to go anywhere else. I'm not starting over. I wanted to come down here and play for a guy, he's meant a lot to my career. I'll just empty the gas tank and we'll see where it goes."
Crocker, who the Vikings signed on Monday, has played 85 of his 151 career games in Zimmer defenses, both with the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-2013) and Atlanta Falcons (2007). In fact, part of Zimmer's pitch when he contacted Crocker on Sunday was his potential to be a leader in an 18-man group that averages fewer than three years of NFL experience per body.
"I've been in this scheme pretty much my whole career," Crocker said. "Same terminology, I know most the staff. It shouldn't be tough. I obviously know the scheme, I can help these guys learn also."
While Crocker, 34, may have a little extra wear and tear than the other defensive backs on the roster, he brings a relatively deep knowledge of Zimmer's defense that could prove helpful for other players in the film room. On the field, he's the type of coverage safety Zimmer looks for, which likely helped Robert Blanton, a hybrid corner/safety, see first-team reps in training camp before he was sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Zimmer noted the same reasoning for drafting rookie Antone Exum in the sixth round (182nd overall) in May. Exum played both safety and cornerback at Virginia Tech, but Zimmer praised his coverage ability as one reason to put him at safety.
"I'm a cover safety, I've been covering my whole career," Crocker said. "That's what you have to do in this defense. You can't just be an in-the-box guy or a down-the-field guy. You have to do a lot of different things."
Jennings on No. 4
Greg Jennings caught passes from Brett Favre during his first two years in the NFL.
It's been seven years since Jennings caught Favre's record-setting 421st touchdown pass (in the Metrodome), but it'll be another year before the Green Bay Packers formally announce his induction into the team's Hall of Fame and at the same time retire his No. 4 on July 18, 2015.
"I think that's good for him," Jennings said. "Obviously what he's done for that organization is second-to-none. What he's done for this league; he's been a great example of how to play the game, a true warrior, a true competitor."
Thielen returning kicks
Adam Thielen, Kain Colter and Jerick McKinnon will be returning some kicks and/or punts during Friday night's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer pegged the trio as the team looks for players to spell Cordarrelle Patterson when he becomes more of a focal point in the offense.
Thielen, who hopes to make the team as a fifth receiver, looks to bolster his stock by doing as much as he can.
"I did it all through college," Thielen said. "I'm comfortable, I like it. It's another chance for me to get the ball in my hands."
Richardson leaves practice
Undrafted free agent tackle Antonio Richardson left practice on Monday with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Richardson wouldn't discuss the injury after practice, but hobbled off the field under his own power. He, along with Kevin Murphy, Austin Wentworth and Mike Remmers, are the main candidates for the team's swing tackle position.
However, guards David Yankey and Charlie Johnson both have experience playing tackle as well.
• Charting quarterback passes: Matt Cassel completed 6-of-9 throws, Teddy Bridgewater threw 8-for-10 and Christian Ponder saw 5-of-7 passes completed.
• Brandon Watts (hamstring) returned to practice on Monday after sitting out Friday and Saturday. Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) was also in full pads.
• AC Leonard (head) and Robert Blanton (hamstring) sat out. Zimmer said Leonard had another test Monday and one scheduled for Tuesday, but still wouldn't call his injury a concussion. Zimmer also said he doubts Blanton could be ready by Friday's preseason game.
• Crocker worked at safety alongside Andrew Sendejo, who was activated from the PUP on Monday.
• Kurt Coleman and Jamarca Sanford saw some first-team reps at safety, as did linebacker Michael Mauti, who worked on the strong side.
• Thielen, Colter, Marcus Sherels, Jarius Wright and Captain Munnerlyn all fielded kicks during practice.