MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have seen their new locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium. They've walked the path from the tunnel to the field and gone through their first practice at the $1.1 billion facility. Now, their task is making it feel like home.
That's no small task for the Vikings, who enjoyed one of the league's most notable home-field advantages for 32 seasons at the former stadium on this site. The team used the Metrodome's deafening environments to great effect from 1982-2013 and became the first team to host a playoff game at a temporary stadium last season when it won the NFC North while playing at TCF Bank Stadium. Now, the Vikings are playing in their third stadium in four years, and they enter with a team that could make a playoff run if it can capitalize in its new home.
"I hope our crowd is extremely loud every time. That part is a great home-field advantage," coach Mike Zimmer said. "The more we can disrupt the opposing offense, the better it will be for our football team."
The intrigue surrounding the Vikings' new stadium -- and a team that hopes to be among the NFC's best -- also comes with its fair share of schedule disruptions. Minnesota has played 28 of its past 32 regular-season games on Sunday afternoons, but it gets a Sunday night, two Monday nights and two Thursday games on the 2016 schedule. The Vikings won't play a regular-season game on a Sunday afternoon at their new home until Oct. 9, and they've got just five on their schedule.
"It definitely can [be a distraction] if you’re not focused," Zimmer said. "Football teams, at least my teams and me, I like to get in a routine and stick to it. Then the next thing you know it’s a Monday night. And then you got a short week. And then you got a Saturday game. And then it’s a Thursday, and then you got to play another Thursday. The routine changes a little bit. Those things can become difficult unless you got guys who are focused on the jobs they need to do.”
Here are some other notes and observations from Friday's practice at U.S. Bank Stadium:
The video board in U.S. Bank Stadium's west end zone is only the 10th-largest in the league, but it's at a low enough angle to be in players' sight lines on that end of the field, so Zimmer spent a good chunk of Friday's practice having his players work toward that end zone. The Vikings also opened up the retractable doors on the stadium's west side and got a decent dose of sunlight through the clear section of the roof on the south side. "I’ve got a sun study on my desk, so there’s a lot of things [to consider]," Zimmer said. "But as far as the on the field and when you’re practice and things like that, this one video board is pretty big, so they are going to have to get used to that a little bit."
Left tackle Matt Kalil sat out another practice on Friday and seems unlikely to play on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. However, he didn't seem concerned about his health after limping off the practice field this past Sunday. Some limited work on Tuesday was the extent of his practice time through the rest of the week. "I'm good," he said. "I'm just resting up some little things, but I'll be ready to go." ... Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) also did not practice and will likely be out Sunday. ... Defensive end Everson Griffen was resting an undisclosed injury, and defensive end Scott Crichton was out once again. ... Tight end Brian Leonhardt also wasn't seen at practice.