StarTribune.com

July 2006


No slowing down

Monday, July 31st, 2006

The players and coaching staff have talked about the fact training-camp practices will move at a rapid pace. If Monday’s one-hour plus session was any indication they weren’t kidding. Just practicing in shorts, the tempo was very brisk despite the heat. Things even got physical at times in team drills as rookie corners Cedric Griffin and Charles Gordon were all over the field. On back-to-back plays, Gordon, a free agent from Kansas, made a diving play to break up a pass intended for Dez White and then put a hit on White along the sideline to break up another pass.

Should be interesting to see what guys like Griffin and Gordon do in the first full pads practice at 8:45 this morning. Among the things coach Brad Childress has shown is that he’s not going to tolerate a lack of concentration. At one point, seeing what would have been an offsides penalty, Childress told his players: “There’s no reason for it at all.”

On another note, check out the previous blog entry about Childress’ response to a question regarding the Vikings having 12 receivers on their roster. In his opening comments Monday, Childress came back with research to prove his point that having 12 receivers in camp (five or six will make the team) isn’t rare.

“Just as a note from [Sunday's news conference], NFL training camps, just so you know because it’s good for everybody,” Childress said, warming up. “Offensively, league-wide, the average number of quarterbacks in camps is 4.5 and we have four. For running backs it’s 5.6 and we have five. Fullbacks, 2.8, and we have three. Wide receivers, 11.4, and we have 12. We’re a little high, 0.6 high … ”

And on he went through each position group. “I know you’re curious, so by way of information, there you have it,” Childress said.

Somebody in the Vikings research department needs a raise.

Sore subject

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Although some might think that the 12 receivers on the Vikings roster is a high number, coach Brad Childress disagrees. Strongly.

Asked about his receivers on Sunday, Childress cut off the question, saying: “Excuse me? Do you know how many wide receivers there are in each NFL camp on average? I’ve heard that question a great deal. Do you guys have any idea? As if 12 is a high number?”

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the Vikings would keep the normal five or six receivers and veteran Marcus Robinson said that 10 was a normal number for training camp. Told about Robinson’s comment, Childress made his point.

“Do you think he has looked at it and averaged them?” he said. “Do you think he knows how many the Bears or St. Louis has? No, 12 is about [average]. We used to go with 14. There are some people that go higher than that, and some people that carry more tight ends. I’ll tell you this, you can’t have enough wide receivers.

“I’m looking back at the Eagles right now, and they have four sitting on the sidelines with hamstrings, and when one goes down, that puts a heavy burden on those next bunch of guys that run, because that’s all they do is run coming out of the locker room. I’d say 12 is a moderate number. It allows some competitiveness, and it allows some freshness as well. The same guys aren’t taking reps every time. They couldn’t make it through the whole training camp.”

Speaking of training camp, there will be a workout at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Stay away!

Monday, July 31st, 2006

So what’s the deal with these conditioning tests anyway? The Vikings have scheduled an early-morning test for players this morning and no one except for team personnel is allowed to watch.

The same was true when drills just like this were held during a minicamp. The best guess for why teams don’t want anyone near this is because if a player, or players, are unable to get through the running everyone will find out. Who cares? Well, that might mean an organization might quickly re-think it’s strategy when it comes to a position group. If other teams, or agents, know an organization feels it must add a running back, linebacker, etc., they gain more leverage.

Because the conditioning exercise is closed today, the first full-squad workout of any sort that fans and media members will be able to watch will take place at 3:30 p.m. today. And that will be a session in shorts. Training camp gets started for real at 8:45 on Tuesday morning when two-a-day practices in pads begin.

The good news for players, not to mention anyone else standing around watching, is that temps are supposed to “dip” into the 80s by Tuesday.

Zygi and Brad

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Not only did quarterback Brad Johnson report to camp on time Sunday afternoon but he was one of the first players to arrive and pulled up well before the 5 p.m. deadline. Owner Zygi Wilf and Johnson had about a 10-minute talk in the parking lot near the quarterback’s car. So were they discussing a possible raise for Johnson? There had been rumblings the quarterback might holdout in hopes of getting an increase on the $1.2 million he is due this season.

If the subject was brought up, Johnson certainly wasn’t saying when he stopped to chat with the media before going into Gage Center.

“It’s his second year coming in as the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, so he’s excited and ready for a new year,” Johnson said when asked about the conversation. “He went through a learning curve himself, and I think you make adjustments on the run. He’s excited to be back, I’m excited to be back. Every time I see him I always talk to him in the building. I think we’ve always had a very good relationship. It’s great to see him again.”

Johnson also was asked about the potential for a holdout. “That talk really wasn’t through me,” he said. “Pretty much I really don’t want to talk about any contract really for the rest of the time. That’s kind of where I’m at.”

A smart decision

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

The Vikings just wrapped up their fifth and final practice for selected veterans and rookies. The rest of the team is required to be in Mankato, Minn., by 5 tonight. Once again, the morning session here had a small gathering of fans — and that’s just the way it should be.

Despite the fact there were complaints when the Vikings originally had said the first three days of practice would not be open to the public, most people knew that there was no reason to sit in this heat and watch what amounts to a light workout each day.

The crowds will grow Tuesday when full practices start and players actually are wearing pads. Even the most diehard of fan would have been hard pressed to get much out of these early workouts.

More West Coast

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

We finished the previous post by writing about the West Coast offense and the adjustments that must be made for it to be successful. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gave his thoughts about where things stand with the new system.

“I think it’s something that’s still evolving right now,” Bevell said. “The important part for us is to find out what our personnel is and what we can do best with that personnel. I think that’s been one of my statements from the beginning is that the great thing about this offense is that we can tailor it to the talents that we have on this offense — the offensive line, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers — whatever it is. That’s a great time for us to be out here at camp and flatten those things out.”

Sunday morning will mark the final practice with just rookies and selected veterans. The rest of the team is scheduled to report late in the afternoon. For those of you who can’t get enough Vikings info, about the most interesting thing that happened in Saturday’s second practice was a one-on-one drill that had the receivers going against the defensive backs.

Troy Williamson looked good, catching two passes on rookie cornerback Cedric Griffin. Granted Griffin is raw, but Williamson appears to have made strides from a year ago when his route running left something to be desired.

Of the 11 passes thrown in the drill, six were completed. The defensive backs, however, were at a disadvantage because the coaches did not want physical contact. After receiver Jason Carter and cornerback Dustin Fox collided, Brad Childress let it be known that he did want to see anymore hitting.

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