Vikings get a taste of season opener with practice at U.S. Bank Stadium

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It’s hard to believe that in a little less than six weeks the Vikings will play host to the rival Green Bay Packers in the season opener on September 11. They got a sneak peak of what they might feel like on Friday afternoon with a lengthy practice at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “It’s always good to be back in here, run around a little bit, go through some game situations, stuff like that, when everyone’s off the field. It’s a little different than a normal training camp when everyone’s on the field and it’s kind of a little monotonous sometimes. It’s always good to be in here.”

Asked earlier this week what he hoped to gain out of the practice at U.S. Bank Stadium, coach Kevin O’Connell noted how it’s the only time the Vikings will be there as a team before the Aug. 20 exhibition game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“It’s as much for anything for our coaching staff to simulate maybe where guys will be for the games,” O’Connell said. “Just get a chance in the ramp-up period, which is very important, to get those acclimated to U.S. Bank Stadium, us as coaches included, so we can have a real clean and precise plan for our preseason game that we’ll get there.”

As for the practice on Friday afternoon, well, there wasn’t much to write home about. It was conducted at walkthrough speed and featured very few highlights.

That said, the day itself was a highlight for linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who has only been in U.S. Bank Stadium as a member of the rival Packers. He laughed when recalling a story from the 2020 season when the Vikings hosted the Packers without any fans in attendance.

“We came here and we could hear all the audibles from the offense,” Smith said with a big smile. “We could hear everything. It was basically like a cheat code. It was something that the offensive line didn’t pick up on one of the stunts, and I asked (right tackle Brian O’Neill) about it, and he was like, ‘Yeah man. You actually got the sack on that play.'”

As soon as Smith concluded his story about how he actually sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook interjected, saying, “It won’t happen anymore.”

“No,” Smith agreed with an even bigger smile than before. “It won’t happen anymore.”

Now the Vikings will return to TCO Performance Center in Eagan for the rest of training camp. It’s going to be a long six weeks until they are back at U.S. Bank Stadium for the season opener, and while everyone is already starting to get antsy, they want to make sure they are 100 percent when they get there.

“There’s nothing better than Sundays in here,” Thielen said. “The guys were talking about it from the second we walked in here. We can’t wait for Week 1 when this place is packed with the “SKOL” chants going. We know the fans are excited for this year, so yeah, it definitely gets us excited.”

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