As we move closer toward training camp, position battles will take prominence. Throughout most offseason workouts and minicamps, coaches insist jobs are rarely won or lost. Those competitions don’t ramp up until training camp.
One of the battles to keep an eye on is the Minnesota backfield. Adrian Peterson is out after a decade of being the workhorse. In is free-agent acquisition, Latavius Murray, who signed a three-year $15 million contract in March. The Vikings then traded up in the second round of the draft to select dynamic Florida State product Dalvin Cook.
Joining Good Morning Football on Tuesday, Murray discussed the training camp battle he’s expecting.
“If I’m looking at it from my perspective, here I am, already behind in a sense, going into a new offense, new situation, but I’m injured, coming off an injury,” Murray said of undergoing ankle surgery this offseason. “Dalvin’s already been through the [organized team activities], he’s already been through the offseason. So, he has that up on me. But also, looking at it as, hey, I’m the vet, I have time in this league, I’ve done some good things in this league. So I have a lot to bring to the table.
“You’re looking at it from his aspect, ‘Look this older vet is coming off this injury, it’s time for him to step aside. I want this, and I should be the guy.'”
When it comes to the starting gig, Murray is taking the competitor’s approach: play to win.
“I’m looking at it from my perspective, like, look, this is my time, this is my opportunity,” he said. “This is what I want. When it comes Game 1, I need to be back there lining up.”
The Vikings signed Murray as a veteran replacement for Peterson but were clearly in the market for a back entering the draft. The 27-year-old tailback has shown flashes, but has been inconsistent and dealt with injuries since being drafted in the sixth round in 2013. As the primary ball carrier the past two seasons in Oakland, he averaged 4.0 yards per carry. The Raiders let him walk with little resistance.
Murray said he wasn’t shocked when the Vikings added Cook to their stable.
“Either way you have to be motivated,” Murray said. “I was home, watching the draft — I try to keep up regardless, just with the game itself. So they draft him. It wasn’t a surprise. When you see a guy, again, first-round potential sitting there in the second round, they snatch him up, you can’t be surprised. It motivates me regardless, because they’re always going to bring in somebody to take over for your position.”
The praise the normally toned-down Mike Zimmer has heaped on Cook this offseason, coupled with Murray coming off injury, suggests the rookie has the edge heading into training camp. Shifty Jerick McKinnon is also in line for touches as a change-of-pace back.
Murray noted that just because there is a battle for snaps doesn’t mean he won’t help the rookie whenever possible.
“As I said, MJD [Maurice Jones-Drew], Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, those guys did everything they could to try and help me be a better player, and I’m going to do the same for Dalvin,” Murray said. “Again, it’s going to come down to who is going to be the best player that can play. Because I give Dalvin knowledge and try to help him, doesn’t mean, OK, that I shouldn’t go out there and outperform him and outcompete.”
As for a prediction about who will get the opening snap Week 1:
“I’m on the field … I’m getting the ball,” Murray said.