EAGAN, Minn. - As a new nameplate was installed behind him, Dalton Risner stood in front of an NFL locker for the first time since mid-January.
Everything is new again for the fourth-year veteran guard. Risner, 28, signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, ending his eight-month free agency. He spent the previous four seasons with the Denver Broncos, the team that drafted him No. 41 overall in 2019.
"It's an honor to be here. I'm happy to be here. Happy to bring what I bring to the table here to the Minnesota Vikings," Risner said on Wednesday. "I think my role for now is to come in and be a Minnesota Viking and to help this team win games, however that looks. If the coaches tell me, 'Hey, get that defense ready for this week versus the Chargers, that's what I'm gonna do."
Risner participated in his first Vikings practice on Wednesday, including a morning walk-through. He has much to catch up on, considering his new teammates have been practicing together since late July.
"I want to earn the respect of these guys, and I want to show up every day and show them I'm willing to do whatever role that is. If you need me to carry pads off the field after practice, I'll do it," Risner said. "I really don't care what that role is for now. I just want to earn the respect of guys on this team."
Though he said he is still learning his way around, Risner already met much of the Vikings staff during training camp. During an August visit, he spent time with General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips, and offensive line and assistant offensive line coaches Chris Kuper and Justin Rascati. Cooper and Rascati coached him for three years in Denver.
That initial visit laid the foundation for Risner to join Minnesota following several offensive line injuries. The team lost swing tackle Olisaemeka Udoh to a season-ending quadriceps tendon injury at Philadelphia when Udoh started in place of Christian Darrisaw. Center Garrett Bradbury was inactive last week due to a back injury. He did not practice on Wednesday. Darrisaw did not play last week with an ankle injury. He was limited at Wednesday's practice.
It's still being determined what Risner's role will be on Sunday when the Vikings (0-2) host the Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We spent a lot of time this past weekend as a coaching staff, looking at our run game, looking at what we've done, what we can do better, how we can coach it better, how I can call it better, so I think collectively for that group, I want them to be the driving force behind that success," O'Connell said. "Ultimately with that depth now, you feel very much more comfortable than you would have for the duration of a long season, knowing that you've played eight guys in eight quarters. We'll see how it all shakes out. We'll let Dalton get up to speed."
Injuries and facing two talented defensive fronts have limited the Vikings ground attack. But the Chargers are allowing an average of 105.5 rushing yards per game. Risner is eager to assist, but he said he's still familiarizing himself with his new playbook while also accurately locating the team cafeteria.
"I still have no idea how to get around here. It's a big, nice facility. I've gotten lost two or three times already," Risner quipped. "If they want me to play, then that is what I came here to do. I don't care if I don't know what I'm doing. I'll just ask somebody. But whatever they need from me, I'll do. If they need me to serve water on the sidelines, I'll do it."
Despite starting all 62 games for the Broncos over four seasons, Risner said free agency unfolded differently than planned. He said 16 teams showed interest, but it took until now to find an ideal situation.
With the Vikings, he feels newly inspired to show the league what he's capable of.
"I feel like I'm a really good guard in the NFL. So, I have a lot to prove. Because me being available when I was shows the exact opposite," Risner said.