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Notebook: Michael Mauti 'absolutely' expects to be ready for camp

by Tom Pelissero, 1500ESPN.com Updated 11 months ago | 7857 reads

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Michael Mauti intently watched every drill from underneath the brim of his white baseball cap on Friday, putting himself through the mental paces as his new Minnesota Vikings teammates sprinted around him at the start of their rookie minicamp.

The seventh-round draft pick from Penn State was the only one of 68 players on hand who didn't practice at all, though he did jog a bit and stepped through a few drills -- about the most he can do as he continues to recover from the third knee reconstruction surgery of his young career.

"I'm sprinting. I'm doing some light agility stuff. So, it's not like I'm limping around here," Mauti said. "I feel great. But at the same time, it's all about being patient and going through the process. But it is a little tempting to get out there and run around, for sure."

Mauti, 23, tore his right ACL during fall practice in 2009 and missed what would have been his sophomore season. He tore his left ACL four games into the 2011 season, then re-tore it on Nov. 17, at a time he was playing well enough some projected him as a second- or third-round pick.

"That's as good as I've felt in any season," Mauti said. "That's as healthy as I've ever felt, and I feel like that was the best I've ever played. I'm just looking to carry over that into the next level here, and I think that these trainers are going to help me get there."

Mauti arrived for the three-day camp on Thursday night and has spent time discussing his rehabilitation process and program with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. Asked if he intends to be ready for the start of training camp in late July, Mauti said, "Absolutely. That's my goal."

He won't be on the field for any of the Vikings' upcoming organized team activity practices or next month's mandatory minicamp, though, putting him in a challenging position to make the 53-man roster, much less contribute in his first year.

That didn't stop coach Leslie Frazier from mentioning Mauti's name as a possibility for the Vikings' middle linebacker job, along with Erin Henderson, Audie Cole and Tyrone McKenzie. Mauti said he's studying the weakside spot, too, but mainly focusing on the mike.

"He's no question behind as a rookie, to miss all the reps that he's going to miss between now and training camp," Frazier said. "It makes it tough. But he's capable of catching up. He'll have to."

Crash course

Fifth-round pick Jeff Locke made a trip to the Metrodome to punt in front of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who figures to give general manager Rick Spielman an assessment after this three-day camp about whether Locke should move forward unopposed.

"It went really well," Locke said. "It was cool to see (the Metrodome) for the first time, and I thought I punted really well."

A rare May snowstorm forced the Vikings to move Friday's practices into the Winter Park fieldhouse, where the ceiling is too low to punt. So, Priefer took Locke downtown for a workout the rookie said included all the basics -- directional punting both ways, inside the 20s, backed up, etc.

During the afternoon practice, Priefer worked with Locke on holding, another duty that has belonged to incumbent punter Chris Kluwe.

"You just want to make sure he can handle some of the situations we're going to put him in," Frazier said.

Last year, Priefer put rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh through similar paces during rookie camp, and the Vikings cut veteran Ryan Longwell the next day. Kluwe told 1500 ESPN on Tuesday he wants to compete to keep his job, but if they fully intend to go with Locke, "then I would much rather be cut early and have a chance to find a job somewhere else."

That decision could come as soon as Monday, when Kluwe -- like Locke, a former UCLA standout -- and Spielman are expected to meet again.

"I don't want to be too specific," Frazier said, "but there are some things we want to be able to look at with (Locke) and just see if he can get them done."

Good start

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes didn't waste any time flashing his first-round ability.

On the first rep of one-on-ones, Rhodes intercepted undrafted rookie James Vandenberg's pass for practice-squad holdover LaMark Brown.

"I was just ready to come play, man," Rhodes said. "I'm a born football player. I've been playing this game since I was young. I just want to get on the field and show everybody I can play."

Rhodes played left cornerback with the No. 1 defense during team drills, with Bobby Felder -- one of nine non-rookies participating in the camp -- on the right.

"He did some things (Friday) in this first practice that really open your eyes," Frazier said of Rhodes. "I think he has the game that fits what the league is becoming. Now, it's a matter of fast does he mature and how confident can he be when he lines up in that first ballgame?"

Nicked up

Former Gophers cornerback Michael Carter had a decent showing during the Vikings' morning practice but sat out most of the afternoon session and limped off the field.

Carter is one of 34 players participating in camp on a tryout basis. The list includes three other ex-Gophers: tight end John Rabe and linebackers Keanon Cooper and Lee Campbell.

"It's just about getting the plays down," Carter said before the injury. "You have to be in shape for this."

Carter said his cousin, former Gophers and Vikings safety Tyrone Carter, helped him condition in the offseason.

"He just knows the game," Carter said. "He knows the down and distances, splits, difference in hashes. I just have to focus more on NFL plays and concepts."

Quick hits

• Undrafted free agent Colin Anderson (Furman) said playing tight end is "what I'm here for," but he's also one of at least two experienced long snappers in camp, along with tryout player Scott Albritton (Colorado State).

• Sixth-round pick Jeff Baca (UCLA) played with the first-team offense at right guard and got reps at center, too. Seventh-round pick Travis Bond, who played guard at North Carolina, was at right tackle with the first string.

• Felder, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg McCoy, Jerodis Williams and tryout player Duron Carter all worked as punt returners.

• The Vikings have two more practices on Saturday and one on Sunday before wrapping the rookie camp. However, those sessions are closed to reporters.

• The 90-man roster is full, meaning if the Vikings want to sign any of the 34 players trying out this weekend, they'll have to cut someone. "It's a tall task, but it happens," Frazier said. "Marcus Sherels is a great example of it a few years ago. It can happen."

• After camp ends, rookies have a week to return home. They can rejoin the offseason strength and conditioning program on May 13. OTAs begin two weeks after that.

Andrew Krammer contributed.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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