Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vikings invade Mankato

Photo by John Cross
The Vikings reported to Minnesota State University on Thursday, checking into the Sears Residence Hall by 2 p.m. and preparing for a 3 p.m. conditioning test.

Adrian Peterson, one of the last players to arrive, wasn't too worried about the test, presumably a series of runs and sprints:

"Conditioning test?" the recently married running back said. "I should be able to make that if I take two months off."

Zimmer takes over
This will be the first camp for coach Mike Zimmer, who talked about getting texts from his old mentor, Bill Parcells, as well as advice he's received from Bengals coach Marvin Lewis (Zimmer was with the Bengals last year and worked for Parcells with the Cowboys) as he tried to shape his first training camp.

"A little bit of all of it," he said. " I went back and took a lot of the things we did in Dallas with Parcells and went back and looked at a lot of things we were doing with Marvin Lewis. Talked to (offensive coordinator and former Chargers and Redskins head coach) Norv Turner about it a lot. But I guess when you're an old coach you get more experience that way. It's a combination of a lot of things, I think."

Many players used the word "accountability" when talking about what they expect out of Zimmer's version of training camp.

"I think he's exactly what we all needed," left tackle Matt Kalil said.

The Priefer-Kluwe situation
Much of the focus on Thursday was the Mike Priefer situation. The special teams coach will be suspended for three games when the regular season starts due to comments he made about homosexuals in a team meeting. The situation and ensuing investigation was sparked by comments made former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.

The Vikings were wise to address the issue right away, having Zimmer, Priefer, GM Rick Spielman and long snapper Cullen Loeffler all face the media.

Priefer apologized again (as he did in a statement released last Friday) for his comments and said he's "learned a hard lesson."

There will be more on the Priefer situation in The Free Press, but a couple of interesting comments:

Loeffler not only said he laughed at Priefer's comments ("We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it."), thinking it was a joke, but added that Kluwe laughed at it, too.

Earlier, kicker Blair Walsh might have made a veiled rip on Kluwe while praising current punter Jeff Locke: "He's a great guy, a great punter, who takes it seriously, which is nice."

Who's the QB?
Zimmer said that Matt Cassel comes into camp as the No. 1 quarterback, not necessarily as the "starter" for Week 1. There will be competition for that position and most others.

Rookie Teddy Bridgewater and fourth-year former stater Christian Ponder are the others.

Said Bridgewater: "I have to compete with myself first. That will make me a better player. Then I'll compete with the other guys, and that will make our team a better team."

More to come
The Free Press website has a fan feature by Tim Krohn and a photo gallery by John Cross, as well as Tout videos (on the Freep home page) from throughout the morning/early afternoon.

Reporting day

The Associated Press
The Vikings report to Mankato and Minnesota State today. Players are expected to arrive at the Sears dorm in the early afternoon. Fans can attend a tailgate party on the lawn across from that building from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Check The Free Press' website, as well as this blog for coverage during the day. You can also check different Twitter feeds, including The Free Press, Free Press Sports, Shane Frederick, Chad Courrier and Jim Rueda.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press takes a look at some key storylines for this year's training camp, the first for coach Mike Zimmer (pictured above).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting ready, part 2

Photo by John Cross
In Wednesday's Free Press, we take a look at the field preparation for Vikings training camp. The Minnesota State grounds crew, led by Bruce Leivermann, have been putting in the work to make sure the fields are in perfect condition for the Vikings (as well as for the Mavericks, who will use them once training camp ends) and will continue to do so throughout camp.

"It's very interesting what the Vikings expect, but that's what MSU expects, too," Leivermann said. "We work hand in hand."

The Vikings report to Mankato for camp on Thursday, and the first practices take place Friday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting ready

A work crew from Mankato Tent and Awning set up a shelter on Monday at MSU
Photo by John Cross
We're two days away from the Vikings' arrival at Minnesota State. The university isn't the only entity getting ready for training camp. The city of Mankato and its businesses are also preparing for the next three weeks. Businesses are bumping up advertising and hiring extra staff.

Last year, a record 69,000 fans attended training camp, according to Tim Krohn's article (link above).

On Thursday, there will be a Vikings tailgate party from noon to 2 p.m. at MSU. It will take place on the lawn across from the Sears dorms where the players will stay during camp.

Meanwhile, sports writer Shane Frederick opines about training camp signaling the end of summer.

You can participate in a Free Press reader survey about the Vikings' quarterback situation here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Welcome back, Vikings

Associated Press photo
In just four days (Thursday), the Minnesota Vikings will report to Mankato and Minnesota State University for Training Camp for the 49th year in a row. Practice begins Friday at Blakeslee Stadium (the full training camp schedule can be found to the right).

The Free Free press published its preview on Sunday, with stories on a couple of the team's budding stars and another player with local ties hoping to make the team. There's also an overview of some of the many new faces we'll see this year.

Here are some links:

• Some intriguing new faces this year, starting with coach Mike Zimmer (pictured above) and his staff.

• Defensive end Brian Robison is the man on the D-line now with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams gone.

• Tight end Kyle Rudolph emerged last season but could be in line to really break out in Norv Turner's offense.

• Former Minnesota State wide receiver Adam Thielen made the practice squad as an undrafted free agent last year. Now he's looking to make the main roster.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer three games following the investigation into Chris Kluwe's allegations of the coach's insensitive remarks about gays.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The finale

The Vikings held their final morning practice of training camp on Wednesday and head coach Leslie Frazier was handing out a lot of thank yous.

During his morning press conference he thanked the fans for their support over the last two-plus weeks, saying they created a great environment for the players at training camp. He also thanked the Mankato community for their hospitality as well as Minnesota State University.

"This is our 48th year here and for a lot of that time we stayed in Gage Towers," Frazier said. "This year we moved to a different dorm and things couldn't have gone better. MSU went the extra mile to make us feel welcome."

Another person Frazier thanked, albeit indirectly, was the meteorologist. He said the weather was ideal for the players and he knows they appreciated it.

Frazier himself would have preferred it to be a little more hot because he'd like the linemen to sweat a little bit more, but overall he thought the conditions were nice. He labeled the 2013 camp a success in terms of accomplishing what the team wanted to get done.

The team had a movie night earlier in the week when they all got together to go see the film Reds II, but he said there no plans to do something similar on the final night in Mankato.

"I hope nobody on the team has anything big planned," he said with a chuckle. "I hope it's low key and everybody just gets ready to fly out to Buffalo (on Thursday)."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Movie night for players, coaches

As a form of building team chemistry, the Vikings players and coaches attended the movie Red 2 on Monday night.

There was popcorn and soda for the players, and coach Leslie Frazier said the movie held the attention of the group. However, he put himself in charge of choosing the movie.

"I've had other guys pick it before," Frazier said with a smile. "This time, I got involved."

Frazier said he's looking for the offense to get some first downs and the defense make some stops in Friday's preseason game at Buffalo, where both starting units will likely play into the second quarter, depending on the number of snaps.

Frazier said that cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes will get a lot of work in the next two preseason games as the Vikings try to determine their roles. Frazier said the secondary, which lacks a proven veteran, will be a key area to keep an eye on.

Frazier also talked about rookie punter Jeff Locke, who downed two punts at the 10 or better and had another 48-yarder in the preseason game. Locke also had two punts that weren't very good. Frazier said he's confident in Locke, but he needs to understand the magnitude of each kick, given that the Vikings are built to win with field position and turnovers.

Frazier said that rookie linebacker Michael Mauti will sit out the afternoon practice because of a sore knee. Defensive tackle Christian Ballard, who has missed a couple days with a sore groin, may return today.