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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Injuries, still and always, part of the game

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams devoted part of morning press conference to injuries on Monday. Not injuries to any specific players but how the organization and players should deal with them.

Coaching staffs tend to be fairly closed-mouth when it comes to injured players. Part of that is because they want to respect the player's privacy and another part is because they don't want to tip off the opposition about who may or may not play in the upcoming game.

Williams says young players coming into the league need to do two things. The first is to become more familiar with how their own bodies react to an injury.

"They need to get to know their bodies better," he said. "And once they do that they need to be able to communicate that to the coaches and trainers."

Williams says it's important piece of information for both the coaches and players to have -- not just in practice but particularly in games. If a player tells a coach during a game that he's ready to go in and do the job, and then he aggravates an injury he has and is unable to continue, that can jeopardize the team's chances of winning.

The second thing Williams talked about was young players learning how to practice when they're not 100 percent. If they're not feeling right or have tightness somewhere they need to adjust how they're going to practice accordingly.

There's a fine line between just sucking it up, going out to the practice field and playing with pain and going out when your hurt and making an injury worse. The quicker the players learn the difference, the better they'll be able to contribute.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Floyd with have precautionary MRI

Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said that defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was sorer today than yesterday, so as a precaution, the rookie will have an MRI on his left knee.

"I'm not overly concerned," Frazier said. "He's just sore. We'll err on the side of caution."

Floyd was injured in the second quarter of Friday's preseason game against Houston and did not return. He was on the field for Sunday's morning walk-through but will not participate until the team gets results from the MRI.

Frazier said that Floyd did some good things before the injury, with one tackle and a deflected pass.

Frazier said that rookiie cornerback Xavier Rhodes and free-agent linebacker Desmond Bishop should both return to practice Sunday afternoon after missing time with hamstring injuries. Cornerback A.J. Jefferson may also practice Sunday.

Defensive tackle Christian Ballard will miss practice, as will safety Brandon Bishop.

Cornerback Jacob Lacey will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and Frazier expects Lacey to miss 2-4 weeks.

Frazier said that receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Stephen Burton and fullback Zach Line stood out during the preseason opener. He's concerned about the team's execution, especially in the red zone and on third down.

"The effort was very good," Frazier said. "To have only one penalty in the first preseason game is very encouraging."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

No camp today ...

... but plenty to read as the Vikings leave Mankato for Friday's preseason game against the Texans. They'll be back on the Blakeslee practice fields on Sunday morning. Here are links to The Free Press' coverage over the last couple of days:

* Litchfield native John Carlson was a big free-agent signing a year ago, but an injury in training camp set him back. Consider this summer a do-over for the tight end.

* Thursday's Training Camp Notebook kicks off with Leslie Frazier saying his team is more than ready to play against players in another uniform. They'll get the chance against Houston on Friday.

* The Vikings feel like they have one of the league's best position coaches in wide receivers coach George Stewart (via The Associated Press).

* After almost two weeks, The Associated Press takes a look at former Minnesota State receiver Adam Thielen's progress as he tries to make the roster. Landing a spot in the NFL certainly isn't unheard of for small-college players (via The Associated Press).

* In Wednesday's Notebook, the Vikings suffer their first notable injury of camp as Jared Allen hurt his foot. He will not play on Friday.

* So no one's talking about Matt Kalil this camp. That's a good thing for the second-year tackle, who is coming off an excellent rookie year worthy of his high draft status.

* Defensive tackle Everson Griffen is showing his maturity and improving as a player. Good timing, too, considering he's playing for a new contract (via The Associated Press).

* The Free Press' Shane Frederick recalls the old Cheese League and notes that the Vikings remain one of just 13 NFL teams that still leave their home for Training Camp.

* Old news but still some good stuff in Tuesday's Notebook.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Working for the weekend

Traditionally, the middle of the second week of training camp is about the time the Dog Days of Summer start to set in for the Vikings players.

The drills become a little monotonous, the heat seems to be a little more intense and the players start to get tired of looking across the line at the same faces every day. That's precisely why head coach Leslie Frazier believes Friday's opening preseason game couldn't come at a better team.

"We're at the point where the guys are buying into how we get things done," Frazier said. "They're starting to understand what it's going to take for us to be successful here in Minnesota.

"They're looking forward to lining up Friday night against a different opponent. You can see at times the guys are getting a little bit feisty amongst themselves and it's probably about time to start hitting some other jerseys."

Friday's game at Mall of America Field against the Houston Texans will be a significant evaluation tool for the coaching staff. Defensively, the coaches will be able to see how their players actually tackle in a game. Offensively, they're mostly concerned with each player executes the plays.

The game will be mostly about the rookies, the younger players and the free-agent signees. The Vikings already know what Chad Greenway or Phil Loadholt can do. They know a lot less about their backups and third-stringers.

The fact that it's a home game will have no bearing on how much game-time any individual player gets. Coach Frazier made it clear Wednesday that his No. 1 priority is the evaluation of players, particularly those at the bottom of the roster.

Translation: If you want to see Adrian Peterson or Kyle Rudolph you better tune into the game early.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Two days of practice til preseason opener

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams and defensive end Jared Allen were both asked who is the best talker on the team, and they both agreed: safety Jamarca Sanford.

Anyone who stands near the practice field during an intense defensive period would also agree.

Earlier in training camp, Sanford wore a micropohone during practice, which is a bit like giving the fox the keys to the hen house. It was agreed that there probably was a lot of editing to do, but there would also be a lot of material.

"Erin (Henderson) enunciates a little better, but Jamarca is definitely louder," Allen said. "He can really hit those elevated notes."

Williams said he has not intention of asking Sanford to be quiet.

"I let him go; that's his personality," Williams said. "I'm not going to hold the reins in."

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave talked after morning walk-through, and he was asked how much of the offense he's willing to show in Friday's preseason opener against Houston.

"It's a fine line," he said. "We want to be good enough at our concepts so it's not the first time this year that we run something. We want to be tough to defend, and you want to be good at what you do."

Williams said the competition has been good on the defense, even with some naging injuries in the defensive backfield and with linebacker Desmond Bishop.

"Our big thing is `next man up,' " Williams said. "If someone goes down, we expect the next person to step in."
As for Friday night, Williams said, "We just want our guys to execute their assignments under the lights, with a big crowd."