It was a welcome sight to see the Vikings back out on the practice fields at Winter Park Tuesday afternoon, as the disappointing end to the 2009 season fades in the rear view mirror (it will never completely go away) and the upcoming 2010 season continues to approach. The team spent about 90 minutes on the outdoor practice fields and enjoyed weather conditions that yielded a favorable teaching environment.
After warm-up exercises, the team quickly moved into a bevy of special teams drills that focused almost exclusively on fundamentals. Following the special teams work the players were split into offense and defense, which allowed the coaches to work on individual and positional drills as well as group work.
A key component of these OTAs is that there is no contact permitted – by NFL rules – so the activities can at times be slightly different than they are during minicamp, training camp and in-season practices. But plenty of work gets done nonetheless.
Here are a few observations I had from Day 1 of OTAs at Winter Park…
– As I stated above, much of the work on Tuesday focused on fundamentals, such as footwork and positioning. But I also noticed that defensive and special teams coaches were emphasizing attacking the football as well as proper tackling technique. Several of the drills required the players to try and rake the football from the ball carrier’s (tackling dummy’s) possession. Many of the tackling dummies have an apparatus with a football attached to it, so players can practice stripping or swatting the ball as they attack the dummy.
– There were a handful of veteran players participating on the field, but obviously the majority of players are rookies and young players. Essentially, many of the guys are still college players who are now going through their first NFL practices. According to my count, there were 25 players on the field during Tuesday’s workout who were 23 years of age or younger. The Vikings coaching staff has 241 combined seasons of college coaching experience, so they are well-equipped to coach up these young players and help them transition from college players to professional players.
– This is the 5th offseason now that I’ve watched QB Tarvaris Jackson practice and his arm strength continues to stand out. He has a zip on the ball that you just don’t see from 90% of the QB population. When receivers or backs come out of their routes, the ball is on them and it’s on them fast.
– Old habits die hard…I noticed right away while watching the WR group that Darius Reynaud wasn’t on the field. Then I quickly remembered he’s now a RB, so I glanced over at that group and found him. Reynaud of course now wears jersey number 27, so it was an odd site at first to see the shifty Reynaud with a different jersey number.
– There were several impressive plays made by players during the 90-minute practice session, but one that stood out to me was a connection between a pair of rookies – QB R.J. Archer and TE Mickey Shuler. Archer, an undrafted passer out of William & Mary, pump faked to Shuler. The former Penn State TE, drafted in the 7th round last month, then continued his route up the left seam and leaped to catch a floater from Archer. Shuler came down with the ball and sprinted up field.
They Said It
“Come on, let’s go! On the jump!” – Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress barked this out as his team moved from one period of practice to the next.
“Head and shoulders on the bob!” – DL coach Karl Dunbar instructed his players to exaggerate their movements as they practiced swim and rip moves against a tackling dummy.
“Finish! Finish! Finish! Finish!” – RBs coach Eric Bieniemy can be heard screaming this during every practice as he demands his players finish every practice play by sprinting toward the endzone.
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The Vikings just completed OTA #1 here at Winter Park, practicing for approximately 90 minutes under bright, sunny skies and in warm temperatures. It appears this set of OTAs are designed with rookies and selected veterans in mind, a strategy that Head Coach Brad Childress has used in the past.
In a few minutes I’ll post a more detailed breakdown of what happened on the field today and I’ll also share with you some of rookie OL Chris DeGeare’s thoughts after OTA #1. DeGeare was selected in the 5th round of last month’s draft and he’s already had a busy week. I’ll explain later.
Lunch and meetings are next on the docket for the players. Lunch and then some writing is next on the docket for me. We’ll be back early this afternoon with more details from OTA #1.
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The Vikings will hit the practice fields later this morning at Winter Park as they kickoff OTA #1, so there’s not much to report right now. In the meantime, though, we can get to know one of the newest Vikings a little bit better.
CB Lito Sheppard signed with the Vikings earlier this offseason and has been around Winter Park the last couple of weeks. And although the Vikings are a new team for him, Sheppard’s transition has been eased by something.
Click here to read more about it…
More About Lito
Favorite food: I love steak, seafood and pasta. Those are my top 3 and I can’t go wrong with any of those.
Last song downloaded: I’m pretty much a rap guy, but lately I’ve liked Usher. So I’d say something from Usher’s new album.
Last movie: Iron Man 2. I’m a big super hero fanatic in terms of action and suspense.
If not football, what would you be doing: Something to do with cars. I love cars and I’ve always wanted to build an engine.
Other sports: Before dedicating myself to football, basketball was my A+ game in middle school and high school. In 10th grade I had to switch to football because of my size.
NBA Finals pick: Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe is the man and his team is great
Hero growing up: That’s a no brainer – my Grandfather. He was strict on us growing up but I appreciate it now. It taught me a lot of disciple and organization. I tip my hat to him.
Tags: Leslie Frazier, Lito Sheppard
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