What we learned: 10 takeaways from Thursday

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The Vikings have built their organization the right way. Their general manager Rick Spielman has been with the team since 2006. Over the last two years, he's helped transform the roster to fit coach Mike Zimmer's feisty personality. They are cresting as a budding NFC superpower just in time to move into their new stadium.

Thursday's contract extension for Zimmer was another nod to the team's newfound stability. Zimmer, like Bruce Arians, was ignored for too long in head coaching interviews because he may have been too honest. While Zimmer may not play the politics well, he has the full attention of his players. He has a knack for developing defenders, especially on the defensive line and secondary. They have an all-time great Adrian Peterson trying to squeeze out another season of greatness before his contract becomes an issue. The Vikings boast promising youth throughout their defense and look to take a Cardinals-like leap toward the upper echelon of NFL teams.

On Thursday's Around the NFL Podcast, Marc Sessler took issue with everyone handing the NFC North to the Packers. The natural inclination is to wonder if Minnesota will take a step back after 11 wins last year, but there are plenty of reasons to believe they can be even better. They might have bought low on Zimmer.

Here's what else we learned at training camp Thursday:

1. While Broncos VP John Elway says it's an open competition for the team's starting quarterback job, coach Gary Kubiak has sounded a different note publicly. He gave Mark Sanchez first team reps, with Trevor Siemian occasionally mixing in with the starters. Rookie Paxton Lynch was with the third team and showed "stage fright", according to NFL Media's James Palmer, in his first camp practice. Kubiak admitted Lynch's head was spinning.

2. Don't rule out a Tyrod Taylor extension in Buffalo just yet. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports that the two sides have been talking "frequently" and Taylor still has a chance for an extension before the season. It's a tricky contract to figure out; the Bills would essentially be buying low.

3. One clear change to the Colts' offense showed up at practice on Thursday. The base two-tight end offense appears to be gone, according to the Indianapolis Star, along with Coby Fleener. The team now appears to be working out of a base offense with three receivers on the field: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett. Moncrief and Dorsett are in prime position to make the leap.

4. One notable name missing from the Cowboys' team charter to training camp in Southern California: linebacker Rolando McClain. It's worth wondering if the suspended starter will join the team ever again.

5. Joe Flacco participated in his first full practice since tearing his ACL last season. He wasn't thrilled with his accuracy, but just his presence on the field is great news for the Ravens.

6. Washington's first-round pick Josh Doctson told reporters Thursday that he is set to test out a sore Achilles' tendon, but he hasn't run in a month. Doctson could have a hard time getting healthy in time to earn snaps at a crowded position.

7. Presumptive Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel suffered a setback in his return from a foot injury. Arizona is dangerously thin at the position, especially with Tyrann Mathieu saying he's at least three weeks away from returning to the field.

8. Is Thomas Rawls a lock to carry the load early in the season for the Seahawks? The second-year back is not ready for camp as he tries to recover from a serious leg/ankle injury and Pete Carroll has hesitated to promise Rawls the starting job. The position battle to see who else emerges in Seattle is one to watch.

9. Good news for the Saints, as safety Jairus Byrd was healthy enough to open training camp on the field for the first time in three seasons.

10. Coach Todd Bowles made a few things clear about his quarterback position on Ryan Fitzpatrick's first full day with the Jets. Fitzpatrick is definitely the starter. Geno Smith is the backup and isn't going anywhere. That would seem to put Bryce Petty's job in jeopardy.

At least Fitzpatrick's hair showed up in midseason form:

And this tweet is why Geno Nation will never give up:

We'll be back Friday, when many more teams open camp or conduct their first practice.

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