EAGAN, Minn. -- Shamar Stephen was getting restless watching from the sidelines.
Who could blame him? It was the same story every day through the first two weeks of training camp.
He would arrive at TCO Performance Center in Eagan and go through extensive workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama. Elsewhere, his teammates were competing on the field, and many of them were gunning for his starting spot on the defensive line.
“I just wanted to be out there with everybody,” Stephen said. “I was just following protocol and making sure I was ready to practice when I was cleared. Now I’m ready to go.”
After spending some time on the non-football injury list with an undisclosed injury, Stephen was cleared for team drills on Sunday. He figures to return to his starting spot on the defensive line for the time being, though he knows he has to perform at a high level with guys like Jalyn Holmes and Hercules Mata’afa right on his tail.
“We have great talent,” Stephen said. “We have a lot of great young guys that are playing pretty well. There’s a lot of competition, and it makes all of us better.”
Not long ago, Stephen was one of those young guys pushing for playing time. Taken in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he found a niche as a rotational player with the Minnesota Vikings before signing a one-year deal with Seattle last offseason. He started 14 games for the Seahawks in 2018, playing mostly nose tackle but also dabbling at the three-technique spot.
When the Vikings came calling this offseason, Stephen said it was an easy decision to come back, especially considering he would get to work with defensive line coach Andre Patterson again.
“He made me the player I am,” Stephen said. “He taught me so much. Just being back here with him, I know I can get to an even higher level and continue to grow as a player. That was a big part for me.”
Asked specifically about Patterson and what he does well, Stephen, who is affectionately dubbed “The Big Fundamental” by head coach Mike Zimmer, spoke at length about how much he stresses the fundamentals.
“He makes sure we stick with that stuff,” Stephen said. “All that work that people don’t want to do. All the stuff we have to hone in on every day. All the little things that go unnoticed. He makes sure we focus on that.
“He also teaches everyone in a way that works for them. He knows everyone learns a little different and and he does a good job teaching us so we all know like, ‘This is the way we’re going to do things around here.’ “
That is something Stephen gained an even greater appreciation for after being away last season, and now that he’s back with Patterson in the Twin Cities, he’s focused on continuing to learn as much as he can.
“He does a great job getting his players to play at a high level,” Stephen said. “I wanted to come back and continue to hone in on my skills every day so I can perform at a high level.”