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Vikings open training camp with plenty of new faces, optimism

Minnesota added plenty of talent on the defensive side in the offseason to bolster a unit that struggled mightily at times a year ago.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this June 16, 2021, file photo, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer walks through the field during NFL football practice in Eagan, Minn. The Vikings and assistant coach Rick Dennison have found a solution for him to remain with the club despite his unvaccinated status. The 63-year-old Dennison will take a role as senior offensive advisor. He'll do all of his collaboration with the staff virtually. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

EAGAN, Minn. — While the Minnesota Vikings don't kick off the regular season until Sept. 12, fans will get their first chance to look at the new roster in training camp, which opens Wednesday in Eagan.

The Vikings have a handful of new faces this season, primarily on the defensive side, as they look to rebound from a season where they failed to reach the postseason.

Among some of the new acquisitions is veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who joins Minnesota after spending the first 10 years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals.

On Tuesday, Peterson made his presence known, and he didn't even need to step foot on the field to do so. The three-time first-team All-Pro arrived to his first training camp with the team driving a vehicle that looks more suited for Batman than an NFL player – a 2021 Polaris Slingshot.

"Been making statements on the field since 2011 and Nothing makes a statement off the field like the Polaris Slingshot," Peterson posted on Twitter.

Peterson may have been the splashiest move this offseason for the Vikings, but bringing in safety Xavier Woods and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, as well as reuniting with DT Sheldon Richardson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander could prove to be just as impactful.

Woods fills a void left by Anthony Harris, who left via free agency for Philadelphia Eagles. Woods will be playing alongside Harrison Smith to give Minnesota a solid tandem at safety. Peterson and Alexander will also bolster a secondary that was often shredded by opposing quarterbacks. 

Minnesota finished with the eighth-worst pass defense, something that didn't sit well with defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer.

But it wasn't all on the secondary.

Minnesota struggled to put much pressure on the quarterback, averaging just 1.4 sacks per game – fifth-worst in the NFL. Minnesota welcomes back edge rusher Danielle Hunter, who missed all of last season with a neck injury, as well as adding Tomlinson and Richardson in the middle of the defensive line.

Another major addition on the defensive line will be defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who joined the Vikings last season but opted out of playing due to COVID-19.

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"My message is gonna be that we have a good football team but we gotta go out and prove it," said Zimmer during a press conference on Tuesday. "We gotta go out there and earn it everyday we step on this grass. There's gonna be a lot of competition, and I expect these guys to act professional and work really hard and work together, and maybe the biggest thing is maybe let's not fall short of what we can do."

The Vikings offense can't be faulted for falling short last season.

Minnesota had one of the most potent offenses in the league, finishing with the fourth-most total yards in the league.

The often-criticized Kirk Cousins turned in one of the best statistical seasons of his career – 4,265 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions – and receiver Justin Jefferson showed he has the potential to be a gamechanger (1,400 receiving yards, 7 TDs). Adam Thielen will also be back to help the aerial attack, while running back Dalvin Cook will carry the load for the rushing game.

Minnesota also added some pieces on the offensive line, drafting left tackle Christian Darrisaw and offensive guard Wyatt Davis.

Fans will be welcomed back to training camp this year after being held out last year due to the pandemic. For more information about this year's training camp and how you can attend, visit the team's website.

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