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Diggs makes timely debut for Vikings

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a training camp standout who found himself as a healthy scratch during the first few weeks of the season, took advantage of the opportunity when he made his pro debut in a 23-20 loss at Denver two Sundays ago.

And that remains relevant this week when among those missing from Monday’s practice were wide receivers Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson while Jarius Wright is coming off a hand injury.

Against Denver, Diggs caught six passes for 87 yards, tying Randy Moss’ team record for most catches by a rookie in his pro debut. The 87 yards rank third most in the history of debuts by rookie Vikings.

But coach Mike Zimmer seemed underwhelmed Monday when asked if anything surprised him about Diggs’ performances.

“That he put the ball on the ground twice,” Zimmer said. “Other than that, no.”

Regardless, it is a good sign that Diggs stayed focused after three weeks of being a healthy scratch and when he finally had a chance he took advantage, reminding coaches that he was probably the most impressive player in training camp, where the media referred to him as the unofficial Mr. Mankato.

“You’ve just got to understand your role and how you can impact this team moving forward,” Diggs said. “Each day I come in with a positive attitude trying to get better. Whether I’m playing right now or not, I still have an opportunity to get better in practice. It’s like sharpening my blade.”

Diggs, at about 6-0, 190, was a sometimes starter at Maryland, but showed enough potential to be projected as a third or fourth round pick by NFLDraftscout.com, which listed him as the 20th best receiver. The Vikings used one of their fifth-round picks to take him 146th overall and the 20th receiver selected.

He is expected to see more playing time this week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Wallace, who leads the team with 20 catches and is becoming quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to receiver, missed the only practice of the bye week for reasons not revealed, then was absent again Monday

In the Denver game, Johnson was out with a rib injury and Wright played only one snap because of a hand injury. Johnson missed Monday’s practice but did some jogging on his own and Wright went through a team workout.

Zimmer’s less-than glowing account of Diggs’ play was more a reflection of the coach’s sour disposition than it was a knock on Diggs’ play.

He even took aim at the media with this gruff demeanor Monday. Zimmer seemed to lose his patience after fielding several questions about the trade last week that sent starting middle linebacker Gerald Hodges to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick and rookie center Nick Easton.

That trade made room for rookie second-round pick Eric Kendricks to move from his role as a nickel linebacker to a starter and a three-down player. Zimmer was asked if Kendricks’ play is what allowed the trade to be made.

“He’s a good player,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know what else you want me to say. … I didn’t get many questions when my father died about a guy.”

–Center John Sullivan, who is on injured reserve with the designation to return, was spotted at practice for the first time since undergoing back surgery. He was jogging lightly as he hopes to return when he is eligible in three weeks.

–Strong safety Andrew Senjejo, who missed the Denver game because of a knee injury, didn’t practice on Monday. The Vikings will need to upgrade the strong safety position – finally – after the season.

Robert Blanton, who won the strong safety job by default a year ago, regressed to the point where Sendejo, a special teamer, won the spot this year. Blanton was one of the players who botched his assignment and contributed to Denver’s 72-yard touchdown run last week.

The Vikings would like Antone Exum to step up and take the job, but Exum can’t digest the concepts and his assignments in the defense well enough to be trusted as a major contributor.


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