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Changing Of The Tackle: Vikings Release McKinnie

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2011 – 1:56 pm

The Vikings made several roster transactions in the days preceding 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and their efforts to mold the team’s roster continued early this week. Their latest move revamps one of the most important positions on the field – left tackle – and it marks the end of an era as well.

The Vikings on Tuesday released LT Bryant McKinnie, ending his nine-year run with the Vikings. In his place, the Vikings might call on OT Charlie Johnson, whom the team acquired on Monday. Johnson is entering his sixth season in the NFL and spent the previous five campaigns with the Indianapolis Colts.

“This decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interests of our football team as we move forward preparing for the season,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We appreciate Bryant’s contributions to the Vikings and we wish him the best in the future.”

McKinnie had been a solid starter for the Vikings throughout his career, never missing a game because of injury, blocking for six of the top eight single-season rushers in team history and blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher in the past five seasons. He did what you expect from a #7 overall choice – lock down a starting spot for nearly a decade.

But the time came for Minnesota to replace him. Suspect play over the past two seasons along with other ancillary issues moved the Vikings to make a change. The addition of Johnson will provide Vikings QBs with a capable, experienced blindside protector and it will make them younger at the position.

Johnson, a product of Oklahoma State, has played in 74 career games with 54 starts, yet he’s just 27 years old. He measures in at 6-4, 305 pounds, giving him the size up front to battle in the run game but also giving him the mobility to handle outside speed rushers in pass protection. And you don’t hang around the Colts for six seasons if you’re not productive and reliable.

The Colts selected offensive linemen with their first two picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and then were unable to re-sign Johnson.

The Vikings are itching to get back to the postseason and the addition of Johnson will be helpful in that quest. He’s played in 10 playoff games with five starts, including appearances in two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl start. The Colts won 10+ games every year Johnson played there and Johnson was Manning’s blindside protector for a pair of MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009.

This move truly marks a transition for the Vikings at a premier position. McKinnie has drawn a profuse amount of criticism over the last two seasons, but an objective look at his career should yield a favorable opinion of his tenure in Minnesota. At the same time, this has the potential to be a positive move for the Vikings as they look to build a roster that can take the franchise back to the playoffs.


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A Change In Overall Atmosphere At Vikings Training Camp; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2011 – 10:57 am

The Vikings have moved one step closer to full-contact, all-hands-on-deck mode as they have completed Practice #2 of 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp in Mankato. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the team can finally strap on the pads and then on Thursday all players will be eligible to hit the field.

Tuesday’s practice began around 9:00 a.m. and wrapped up at about 10:45. Coaches and players worked in comfortable temperatures and underneath mostly cloudy skies. A little rain shower about half-way through practice didn’t do much to distract the team.

One observation I’ve had so far early in camp is just a general change in the atmosphere and attitude. There aren’t really any distractions, there is tranquility on the coaching staff and no one is constantly looking over their shoulder for the next piece of adversity to come strolling along.

In last year’s camp, the theme was to basically “bring the band back together” again and make another run at the NFC playoffs after falling in the conference championship game the year prior. This year, though, it’s different because there’s a sense of building toward something. There are going to be a few new starters in the lineup and several new faces on the roster overall, and I think that yields a competitive atmosphere where everyone – even the established starters – is working hard to earn a spot and earn the respect of coaches and teammates.

A few notes from today’s practice…

– Superstar RB Adrian Peterson left practice early on Monday because his fiancé went into labor. He was obviously not at practice today and has been excused.

– A pair of starting offensive linemen were among the Vikings who sat out of practice, as RG Anthony Herrera (PUP list) and LT Bryant McKinnie (NFI list) worked on the side with the strength and conditioning staff. With so many players not allowed to practice and with their being no contact allowed, it’s hard to tell who exactly is playing the first, second and third teams, so we’ll try to drill down on that a bit more in the coming days.

– LB Chad Greenway and S Jamarca Sanford grabbed INTs today. Greenway’s came very early in practice and Sanford’s came toward the end on a deflected pass.

– WR Percy Harvin had the highlight play of the day, leaping into the air to bring down a pass along the left sideline of Field #1, right in front of bleachers full of Vikings fans.

– Continuing our eye test experiment, where I’ll note after each practice a few players who pass the eye test, I’d point to Greenway, Harvin, LB E.J. Henderson, QB Christian Ponder, DE D’Aundre Reed and Sanford. Repeats from yesterday’s eye test are Greenway, Harvin and Reed.


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Are You Following The Vikings On Twitter?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2011 – 8:20 am

Our goal is to provide Vikings fans with in-depth, comprehensive and behind-the-scenes coverage of the team. One important tool for us in that quest is social media and, specifically, Twitter. Are you following the Vikings on Twitter?

If you’re not, now is the time to start. Log on to www.Twitter.com and follow us; our handle is @VikingsFootball. You can also follow my personal account, which I also update frequently; my handle is @wobby. Twitter is a great way to get Vikings information, but not only at training camp. We use Twitter during the regular season to provide game updates, roster updates and links to new videos and content on vikings.com. It’s a great way to get even closer to the Vikings.

Remember, you don’t have to be a tweeter yourself to follow. Just go to the website, find @VikingsFootball and/or @wobby, and you should be set.


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Previewing Day 3 And Practice #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2011 – 7:40 am

It’s Day 3 at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on the University of Minnesota, Mankato campus and it looks like plenty of cloud cover will protect us from the heat, humidity and sun once again today. Hopefully the Vikings can get their work in at practice today before rain and potential thunderstorms hit the area.

Look for more of the same in terms of on-field action at Practice #2, as players operating under new contracts are still prohibited from participating and the entire team is not allowed to have contact in practice until tomorrow. As we did in yesterday’s practice notes, we’ll continue to monitor several areas of the team, such as who is returning kicks and who passes the eye test.

Sounds like Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will meet with reporters again after practice this morning, so check back later for more talking points and for video of the entire press conference in on-demand format.

That’s about it for now, but check back in later for more updates on your favorite team and don’t be afraid to let us know what you want covered by leaving a comment or question in the comments section below this entry.


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