MANKATO, Minn. -- At the moment, the Minnesota Vikings' search for a safety next to Harrison Smith remains an open competition. Robert Blanton has continued to get most of the work next to Smith in the Vikings' first-team defense, but the Vikings gave Antone Exum Jr. a few first-team snaps during Friday's practice. Coach Mike Zimmer indicated on Saturday that the safety spot won't be decided for a while.
That's partially because the Vikings won't have all the information they need to evaluate players until preseason games start.
"You’re always trying to get the very best athletes in there and I won’t know any of that stuff until we tackle," Zimmer said. "Like Exum is doing some good things and [Shaun] Prater is doing some good things. I know [Andrew] Sendejo can tackle a little bit, but Exum especially, and Prater from tackling from a safety position, it’s going to be a little bit new for him. I am anxious to see those two guys coming out of from the deep part of the field and make tackles."
Prater, who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati, is getting some work at safety for the second consecutive year after coming up as a cornerback. The Vikings eventually scrapped the experiment last year, but seem to be giving him a more serious look at safety this time around.
"That is one of the things I like about Shaun," Zimmer said. "Shaun is a smart guy. He can run and he’s tough and I like smart, tough guys. The more things you can do, you’re on special teams, a guy gets hurt on game day and you’ve got 46 guys and you go in at nickel, you go in at safety, you go in at corner. All those things have value."