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Vikings enjoy first practice in U.S. Bank Stadium

MINNEAPOLIS--Charles Johnson didn't expect to see as much of himself as he did Friday. The Vikings practiced at U.S. Bank Stadium in preparation for Sunday's preseason game against San Diego, their debut at the sparkling new venue. Plenty of chat...

Minnesota Vikings players stretch before their first practice at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday, August 26, 2016. The Vikings will face the San Diego Chargers in a preseason NFL football game Sunday, the first-ever game for the team at their new stadium. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)
Minnesota Vikings players stretch before their first practice at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday, August 26, 2016. The Vikings will face the San Diego Chargers in a preseason NFL football game Sunday, the first-ever game for the team at their new stadium. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

MINNEAPOLIS-Charles Johnson didn't expect to see as much of himself as he did Friday.

The Vikings practiced at U.S. Bank Stadium in preparation for Sunday's preseason game against San Diego, their debut at the sparkling new venue. Plenty of chatter among players was about the 8,100-square-foot video board that enables fans to see plenty.

"That's what we were talking about," Johnson, a fourth-year Vikings receiver, said after the workout. "You can see people's zits and stuff. We've got to make sure we're looking right when we come out here because the camera's going to be on."

There are video boards at each end of the stadium. The grandiose one on the west end is the 10th largest in the NFL; its total square footage of 13HD LED is tops in the NFL.

Not to suggest receivers running toward the end zone will want to gaze up and see themselves score, but there's always the possibility of the video board being a distraction. To help his team get used to the distraction, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had the offense go west during the practice.

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"I think it's great for the fans," Zimmer said. "Distractions are what you let them be. That's why I had the offense go this way (Friday), because that screen down there is bigger. Just to get an input on things so they can get a little bit better feel for it."

That was the overall point of Friday's workout. Zimmer wanted his players, some of whom never had been to the stadium, to begin the adjustment to their new home.

Players saw the locker rooms, then got a feel for the new turf and sight lines at the 66,200-seat venue.

Before practice, the massive doors on the west end of the stadium were opened for the first time, a process that takes about five minutes. Zimmer said he could feel a bit of a breeze on the field once the doors were open.

One thing Zimmer really wanted to see was the lighting since half the stadium roof is outfitted with high-tech transparent panels. Zimmer even has information in his office about angles of the sun hitting the stadium.

Zimmer said the sun was "kind of poking down" at one end when the Vikings began at 10 a.m. workout that lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes. He doesn't foresee there being any significant issues with shadows.

"It's really bright in here," Zimmer said. "And I don't think (Friday was) a real bright day."

The Vikings played in the dreary Metrodome from 1982-2013 before spending the past two years outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. Guard Brandon Fusco, a six-year veteran, called U.S. Bank Stadium "a lot better" than the Metrodome, and one reason is the brightness.

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"It makes you kind of feel it's kind of open up top," Fusco said. "It's a good amount of light. I'm happy with what they did. I'm really excited about it."

The stadium cost $1.1 billion. Ground broke on the former Metrodome site in December 2013 and the venue was completed in June, six weeks ahead of schedule.

"How can you not like this?" said linebacker Eric Kendricks. "It's good for the city, and it's good for us. It's going to be awesome to play here. You can't help but be excited."

Zimmer said Friday was the only time the team will practice at U.S. Bank Stadium. After Sunday's game, Minnesota concludes its four-game preseason schedule next Thursday at home against Los Angeles; the first regular-season game at the venue is Sept. 18 against Green Bay.

The Vikings are 2-1 when playing their first regular-season game at a new venue. They won their debuts at Metropolitan Stadium in 1961 and at the Metrodome in 1982 before losing their first one at the temporary digs of TCF.

"Hopefully, we make (U.S. Bank Stadium) a home," Zimmer said. "I hope our crowd is extremely loud every time. That part is a great home-field advantage."

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