PRO FOOTBALL: Waynes off to good start with Zimmer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Friday was the first day of class for Trae Waynes with the Vikings. It looks as if he earned an "A." Waynes, a cornerback selected with the No. 11 pick in last week's NFL draft, took part in the opening day of a rookie mini...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Friday was the first day of class for Trae Waynes with the Vikings. It looks as if he earned an “A.”
Waynes, a cornerback selected with the No. 11 pick in last week’s NFL draft, took part in the opening day of a rookie minicamp, and his teacher sure was pleased.
“It’s way, way, way early, but I actually told one of the coaches, ‘For a young guy in trying to teach the technique that we’re doing, he caught on probably faster than I’ve ever had a guy on the first day,’ ” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
Waynes has two more days of minicamp and another six weeks of spring workouts to continue his education, but he’s off to a fine start.
“That’s a huge compliment (from Zimmer), but I’m just trying to do my best to pick up what they’re saying and learning as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Vikings hope the former Michigan State star will play alongside Xavier Rhodes to give the team a pair of top-end cornerbacks for years to come. Waynes on Thursday signed a four-year, $12.944 million contract, which includes a $7.674 million signing bonus.
When the deal was done, Waynes said he got congratulatory texts from some Minnesota players who, like him, are represented by Athletes First, although he wouldn’t name any.
“They’ve texted and congratulated me and wished me good luck and let me know it’s game time,” Waynes said.
With his first game four months away, Waynes vows to be ready.
“I’m coming in to compete and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I’m going to compete and try to get a starting spot. If not, I’ll work my way in on special teams and try to contribute to the team as much as I can.”
Waynes isn’t the only one of the Vikings’ 10 draftees in contention for a starting job. Second-round pick Eric Kendricks from UCLA has a shot at claiming the job at middle linebacker, and fourth-round selection T.J. Clemmings of Pittsburgh has an opportunity at left guard even though he was a tackle in college and never has played that spot.
Kendricks was an inside linebacker in college in a 3-4 scheme. He has been reunited with his former UCLA roommate, outside linebacker Anthony Barr, who was a rookie with the Vikings last season.
“Kendricks is a very instinctive playmaker,” Zimmer said. “He makes a lot of plays. He’s very, very intelligent. You can tell that in the meetings (and) when he was out there making the calls and getting things set up. We’re going to start him out at (middle) linebacker and see where that goes. We believe that eventually, down the road, he’ll probably be a (weakside) linebacker for us. But you never know.”
Kendricks is expected to battle Audie Cole and Casey Matthews to start at middle linebacker. He eventually could be the successor to weak-side linebacker Chad Greenway, who might be playing his final NFL season in 2015.
“My thought right now is just getting my alignments correct and understand the play calls and communicating with the D-line,” Kendricks said. “Everything’s coming kind of fast right now (with all the) new terminology.”
The Vikings need a left guard after releasing Charlie Johnson in February, although holdover Joe Berger could fill the role. Clemmings said he worked some at guard Friday and hopes he is a candidate for the job.
“Just be ready to be able to play at guard or tackle, wherever they want me to play or need me to play,” Clemmings said. “I’m aware of (the opening at left guard). I’m going to compete for a job, but first I’ve got to learn the plays and get through the playbook and really just learn.”
Starting rookies was no big deal for Zimmer last season, his first as a head coach. Barr started the first 12 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started 12, and even seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen made three starts at defensive tackle.
As Zimmer said, it’s still early. But if Waynes continues to build upon his strong first day, he just might be in the lineup when the Vikings open the regular season Sept. 14 at San Francisco.