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Vikings Have “The Right Attitude And The Right Approach” Heading To Training Camp

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 29, 2012 – 6:16 am

A case of training camp fever swept through the Vikings organization and the Vikings fan base on Thursday, as the team announced its new preseason television arrangement and ancillary program schedule. The Vikings also released the 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp schedule.

Training camp is indeed right around the corner, starting in less than a month on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato. This year will mark the 47th consecutive season the Vikings will call Mankato their training camp home.

When the Vikings do arrive down in Mankato for camp, you can count Head Coach Leslie Frazier as one who thinks the team will hit the ground running. In his comments following the conclusion of last week’s minicamp, Frazier indicated he was pleased with how his team worked during the offseason program and with their mindset heading into training camp.

“A lot of good things happened throughout this offseason,” Frazier explained. “This nine-week program that we’ve had, I really feel good about where we are, how our guys have participated and worked as hard as they have. It gives you some hope.”

That Frazier feels as good as he does about his team’s offseason work is notable because NFL coaches and players had adjustments to make this year. It was just a year ago that the NFL and its players were engaged in a labor dispute that eliminated offseason work. The labor dispute resulted in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the new CBA resulted in significant changes to the rules and nature of offseason work.

But Frazier and his staff were able to work through the changes and make the proper adjustments to allow the team to get valuable work done during the offseason.

“We made the most of what we had,” Frazier said. “It is far different in the way things are constructed now than when they were in the past, but for what we were allowed to do, I really believe we got the max out of what we could do. I don’t have any regrets, don’t feel like we should have done this or should have done that. I think we approached it the right way.”

While Frazier is clearly pleased with the way his team improved during the offseason program, he knows there is more work to be done before the 2012 regular season begins. And he also knows his team is in a position to get that work done because of the foundation the team laid during the offseason.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us when we do get to Mankato,” Frazier acknowledged, “but we feel like we’re just so far ahead because of some of the things that have happened in practice, the way the guys have competed, the competition that we have on our roster. We just feel like we’re going into this thing with the right attitude and the right approach and now we just have to take care of some things when we get down to Mankato and put the pads on.”


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Submit Your Pick 6 Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 27, 2012 – 7:43 am

We’ve entered the only abyss of the NFL offseason, but that doesn’t mean business stops here at vikings.com. We keep going, which means another installment of Pick 6 is on the way this week. But we still need a few questions, which means we need your help.

You can submit a question by emailing me (wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net) or leaving the question in the comments section below this entry. You can also submit a question to me on Twitter (@wobby). Remember to list your name and town with all questions.

If you haven’t yet done so, check out previous installments of Pick 6. Last week’s edition discussed if the Vikings should take it slow with Adrian Peterson early in the season, improvements on defense, new kicker Blair Walsh and more.


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Everson Griffen Moving To Linebacker?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 26, 2012 – 6:28 am

Sometimes NFL teams have too many open positions on the field and not enough worthy players to fill them. That’s a bad problem. Other times teams have too many players worthy of being on the field and not enough open positions. That’s a better problem to have.

When it comes to Everson Griffen, the Vikings have a good problem to solve. As a defensive end sitting behind All-Pro Jared Allen and six-year veteran Brian Robison, Griffen provides depth along the defensive line. But the Vikings have figured out that Griffen’s skill set and versatility make him too valuable a player to be on the sidelines more than he’s on the field.

“Everson has worked extremely hard this offseason,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “The thing he gives you is versatility on defense, and how the coaches will figure out to put in different type of packages. He can stand up in the linebacker position, they can blitz him, he’s athletic enough to drop off in coverage, he can speed rush off the right side, he can come off the left side, and we even use him inside some as an inside nickel rusher when we try to get all of our pass rushers. One of the things you really try to hone in on are those guys that have unique athletic traits that can do multiple things for you.”

So what to do? Last summer the Vikings began experimenting with the idea of playing Griffen at LB occasionally, an idea that makes sense given Griffen’s athleticism and the presence of two established starters at his more natural position. And now, as FoxSportsNorth’s Brian Hall noted late last week, the Vikings are once again considering Griffen at LB.

“Yeah, that’s one of the things we’re talking about as a staff, being able to get him a few more reps at linebacker when we get to Mankato because, as you know from last season, we used him in that situation where he was a linebacker in some of our third down defense,” Frazier explained. “We’d like to be able to escalate that a little bit and maybe even in the early downs, get him on the field. We feel like we have two outstanding defensive ends in Jared (Allen) and then Brian (Robison) but with Everson, he’s an excellent athlete. You want to be able to get him more than ten or fifteen snaps a game and this is a way to possibly do that, so we’ll explore and see how he comes along in Mankato.”

Adding credence to the idea of moving Griffen to LB, even if it’s on a part-time basis, is that the Vikings are still unsure of what they have for depth at that position. Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are established starters at outside LB, and the Vikings are hopeful Jasper Brinkley can evolve into a solid starter in the middle. After that there are players on the roster who could provide depth, such as 7th-round draft pick Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian and Marvin Mitchell, but Griffen could be one to compete with those individuals for playing time.

For his part, Griffen just wants to be on the field in whatever capacity the coaches ask so that he can help the team win. Now entering his 3rd season in the NFL, Griffen is used to lining up all over the field, something he can do because of his athleticism. He even plays gunner on the punt team, after all, which is a remarkable accomplishment for a player listed as a DE.

“I’m comfortable,” Griffen said. “With my athletic ability, I feel like I can come and pretty much do anything. That’s not me being cocky. I just feel like I can just come in and adapt to the situation.”

Fans love the idea of moving Griffen to LB because A) it’s a way to get a good player on the field more often and B) it’s a creative way to solve a problem and fans appreciate when their team uses an outside-the-box idea to try and improve.

But is Griffen better-suited to remain in his role as a reserve DE?

“Yeah, we think he can do that, but based on what we see in Mankato, that’s going to determine [if he plays LB],” Frazier said. “We want to give him a chance to see if he can help us at that linebacker spot where we’re still working with our depth, we’re still trying to identify what our depth is going to be at that position.”


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Ponder, Offense Made Strides During Offseason Program

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 25, 2012 – 8:49 am

What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time, Vikings QB Christian Ponder was preparing for his first NFL season away from Winter Park due to a lockout. Calling teammates he’d never met to organize workouts, working with coaches who wouldn’t be with him during the upcoming season and learning a playbook without the help of those who put it together.

A year later, the situation is much better. Ponder began preparations for his second NFL season by going through the Vikings nine-week offseason program and working closely with coaches and teammates.

By design, Ponder and the offense were a slow-go at first, struggling through OTA #1 with too many mistakes and not enough completions. But there was a quick bounce-back, and that’s key for a young QB looking to develop a long, successful career.

One moment that illustrated Ponder’s progression early in OTAs came during a 7-on-7 period. On the first play of the period, Ponder had a deep pass intercepted by CB Chris Cook. On the next play, Ponder dropped back and rifled a pass into the center of the field to hit WR Stephen Burton between two defenders. As Ponder jogged back to the huddle, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave barked “Way to bounce right back!” Later in the 7-on-7 drill, Ponder found Burton once more on a perfectly-placed intermediate pass among three defenders to the right side and he finished the drill by finding a speedy Jerome Simpson running a dig route.

Ponder’s ability to learn from mistakes and respond to adversity has everyone at Winter Park optimistic about his future.

“I think his decision making has gotten a lot better,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said last Thursday. “Just seemed where he was a little frantic early on in OTAs, getting the ball out a little too soon or not recognizing things as quickly as we would like for him to. Now, things have kind of slowed down a little bit for him. He’s able to identify things in pre-snap a lot better, which is something we were all hoping for.

“We think as we give him more reps and keep throwing more things at him, he should get a little bit better in that area but the decision making is a key ingredient to being successful at quarterback and that’s an area we want him to get better and we’ve some improvement in these OTAs.”

Ponder agreed with his coach’s assessment that the offense made great strides during OTAs and minicamp.

“Just to see from day one of the OTAs to the third day of minicamp, we’ve progressed so much,” Ponder said after the team’s final minicamp practice. “It’s unbelievable, especially on the offensive side of the ball. You can tell everyone’s so much more comfortable and confident in what they’re doing, even myself.”

In addition to making improvements on how he operates the offense, Ponder also commented that he’s beginning to develop a rhythm with those who will catch his passes this season.

“I think we’ve built a ton of chemistry, especially with Jerome [Simpson], obviously with him being new,” Ponder explained. “I thought what we did together was really great and also with Jarius [Wright] and Greg Childs, those new guys. I think we’ve all learned a lot and I think, for me, picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better. I think the game’s really slowed down in just these ten OTAs and three days of minicamp.”


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Vikings Honored by Special Olympics Minnesota

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 25, 2012 – 6:35 am

The Vikings have enjoyed a wonderful community partnership with Special Olympics Minnesota (SOM) for many years. At this year’s SOM Summer Games, SOM recognized this partnership during its “Champions” Luncheon.

Dave Dorn, president of SOM, presented Vikings Executive Director of Community Relations Brad Madson with the “Champions” award.

“There is a unique bond between the Special Olympic athletes and our players,” stated Madson, who has worked with SOM for 15 years. “I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Sure the athletes enjoy interacting with our players, but our players not only relate to the athletes as competitors, but are also inspired through the sheer joy and determination the athletes demonstrate.”

After acknowledging the athletes, Madson saluted all of the 300 plus volunteers in attendance.

“Seeing an athlete light up when you place their medal around their neck provides all of the volunteers with such a warm feeling,” Madson said, “…and to cheer on an athlete striving to finish a race in such warm conditions, well, there isn’t a more rewarding experience and I thank you all for supporting such a terrific cause.”

A strong contingent of Vikings personnel attended the festivities, including: Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs; Vikings legends Chuck Foreman, Everett Lindsay and John Turner; and current players Jerome Simpson and Blair Walsh.

Simpson and Walsh are no strangers to SOM, having been two of the “coaches” at the Vikings/SOM Punt, Pass and Kick clinic held on June 6 after one of the team’s offseason practices. This past winter, QB Christian Ponder participated in the SOM Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Also recognized as “Champions” at the luncheon were Fox 9 News and Vice President/General Manager Carol Rueppel as well as SOM athlete Danielle Liebl.

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about Special Olympics Minnesota, visit specialolympicsminnesota.org


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Harvin: “See U At Mankato”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 21, 2012 – 7:20 pm

Thursday was a good day at Winter Park, for many reasons.

The Vikings wrapped up their mandatory minicamp and their successful nine-week offseason program with a late-morning practice under nearly ideal weather conditions. Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen hosted his weekday 9-noon radio show from a deck outside of the Wilf office. Zygi and Mark Wilf were in the house to take in the action and visit with some VIPs.

Oh, and Percy Harvin was on the field and in good spirits after practice.

Harvin had voiced some displeasure earlier in the week and did not practice with the team on Wednesday. Vikings GM Rick Spielman met with reporters on Wednesday to address the situation, and Head Coach Leslie Frazier spoke with Harvin to work through the issues.

Harvin, one of the Vikings best players, returned to the field on Thursday and worked sharply with QB Christian Ponder and the offense. Following practice, Harvin (@Percy_Harvin) took to Twitter with a message that settled down much of the buzz.

Here is Harvin’s tweet: “I’m really clueless on the crazy reports…had great prac today ….to all my real fans and real vikes fans see u at Mankato..salute”

Harvin and several of his teammates are featured in this cool highlight video we posted after Thursday’s practice. Check it out.


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Spielman Says Vikings Have No Interest In Trading WR Harvin

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 20, 2012 – 12:59 pm

Vikings GM Rick Spielman met with reporters on Wednesday to address questions regarding WR Percy Harvin’s comments from Tuesday that he’s not happy with the team.

“On everything that’s been reported,” Spielman said initially, “from our standpoint, the Minnesota Vikings, we have no interest at all in trading Percy Harvin. We drafted Percy Harvin here, he’s a key part of our organization and a key part of our football team. Any issues that are out there or are reported, we always handle those internally and will continue to handle those internally.”

Spielman preferred not to go into specifics regarding the nature of Harvin’s displeasure or the timeline of it. Spielman did say that he’s spoken with Harvin’s agent, and that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has spoken with Harvin.

“It’s part of the NFL,” Spielman said. “There’s always going to be some players where you have to deal with specific issues and you have to deal with them internally, get them resolved and move forward.”


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Notes From Tuesday’s Minicamp Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 20, 2012 – 6:28 am

The Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at Winter Park, but conditions during their afternoon practice made it feel like training camp down in Mankato. The temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity felt like it was at 90%, and when you add in winds that were gusting up to 15-20 mph with no cloud cover, it was a hot mess on the outdoor practice fields.

But the Vikings worked well in the conditions, completing a sharp practice and moving one step closer to the end of their offseason program. The Vikings have two days and two practices remaining in their offseason program, and will go through the same schedule on Wednesday that they went through on Tuesday.

Before we get to what will happen today, let’s go over a few quick notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice…

– Jasper Brinkley was not able to practice, a notable development because he sat out a bit last week in the hopes of being ready to go for this week’s minicamp. Slated to be a first-year starter at middle LB, Brinkley is itching to get back out on the field and the Vikings are surely anxious to get a look at him. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field today. Tyrone McKenzie filled in for Brinkley on the team’s base defense.

– Speaking of the Vikings LBs, it was great to see Chad Greenway back with the team and on the field. Fellow outside LB Erin Henderson also looked good, and will be the guest on this week’s Wobcast, which will be posted on vikings.com and available on iTunes later today.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier brought some calm to a situation regarding WR Percy Harvin, who made comments early on Tuesday indicating he wasn’t happy with the team. “It’s not something that can’t be handled and not something we can’t talk through,” Frazier said. “Not alarmed. Not alarmed at all.”He went on to say: “I really feel like when he and I sit down and talk in depth, whatever is in his heart or on his mind, we’ll get through it.”

– Contact is still prohibited and the team does not practice in pads, so it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on many areas of the team, especially the defensive and offensive lines. With that being said, LT Matt Kalil has had a good offseason program and there was a moment in practice that really stood out to me. We often think of LTs as pillars of the offense who remain stationary and secure the QBs blindside against edge-rushing defenders. But I’ve seen great movement skills from Kalil, including a play on Tuesday where Kalil moved quickly to the second level and covered up a LB who was in great position to make a play.

– Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT during a team offense vs. team defense period of practice. Winfield was playing out of the slot and was sitting in what appeared to be a zone in the middle of the field. A pass was lofted his way, and Winfield quickly jumped in front of a route and grabbed the pass. Winfield was one of the most impressive players early during OTAs, and seeing him make plays like the one he made on Tuesday is a great site after he played in just 5 games last season. Great to have him back on the field; he’ll make a big difference for the Vikings defense in 2012.

– The highlight of the day for the Vikings offense came near the end of practice during a two-minute/hurry-up period. QB Christian Ponder, who appeared to have a sharp practice and did a nice job of driving the offense down the field, threaded the needle on a pass to TE John Carlson. The Ponder-to-Carlson connection occurred right on the goal line, as Ponder rifled a pass to Carlson in between both Greenway and Henderson. Carlson, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy around the locker room, came down with the pass in the end zone and gave an emphatic dunk of the ball over the crossbar.

– Adrian Peterson spent time during practice working with certified head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side. You’ve probably seen the photos of him already, but if you haven’t you need to check them out. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to believe in Peterson, and he remains confident he can be ready to play in the Vikings season opener. In comments on Tuesday morning, Frazier also remained optimistic in Peterson’s chances, saying the RB has remained on pace during his rehab. Whether Peterson will be ready for Week 1 or not remains to be seen, but it’s great to see him working so hard on the side during practice.

– Rookie CB Josh Robinson, who was originally issue jersey #31, has switched to jersey #21.


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Frazier Optimistic Peterson Will Be Ready For Season Opener

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 19, 2012 – 5:02 pm

It’s easy to believe in Adrian Peterson.

Since entering the League in 2007, no one has rushed for more yards (6,752) or more TDs (64). And soon, no one in Vikings history will have more rushing yards because he’s just 66 yards behind current record-holder Robert Smith. Oh, and Peterson also holds the NFL’s single-game rushing record with a 296-yard performance against the San Diego Chargers during his rookie season.

There are many more superlatives to Peterson’s credit, but you get the point. It’s easy to believe in #28 because he’s the best RB in the NFL and he consistently does things on the football field that cause you to reach for your DVR remote and rewind so you can watch it again.

That’s why it’s easy to believe that somehow, someway, Peterson will be ready for the Vikings season opener on September 9 at Mall of America Field, approximately nine months after surgery to repair two ligaments in his knee. Pictures like the one below this paragraph and several others in the photo gallery we posted from Tuesday’s practice also support the thought that Peterson will be ready for Week 1.

Also supporting that thought, though, is optimism from Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier.

“It’s not that far out anymore but we’ve talked about some scenarios and gone through some what-ifs,” Frazier said while meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “But so far, he’s on pace with everything the doctors have asked him to do. Just in talking with (head trainer) Eric Sugarman that even yesterday in his examination, they were really pleased with some of the things they saw. We’re optimistic that things are still on course for him to play in that home opener.”

There are many reasons to believe Peterson will be ready to go when the season begins. But it’s not a guarantee, either. The Vikings, while remaining optimistic about Peterson’s recovery, have also stressed that they’ll be cautious in ushering Peterson back to the field so as to ensure A) Peterson follows proper rehab protocol and B) the injury heals sufficiently before Peterson returns to action.

It’s too early to know what course of action the team will take once training camp rolls around. Peterson could begin camp on the active roster as he would in a normal year. Or he could be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. There may be other options as well.

Wisely, Frazier wouldn’t commit to a course of action on Tuesday.

“What we do in training camp, we’ll wait and see when we get to that point,” Frazier said. “We have talked about different options.”

However it shakes out, no one will be surprised once Peterson is back on the field creating more “Did you see that?!” moments.


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Mind Games: Jared Allen Focuses On Mindset To Remain In Top Form

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 19, 2012 – 12:53 pm

Every season has been a good season for Jared Allen. Since entering the NFL in 2004 with the Kansas City Chiefs, no player has more sacks than Allen’s 105.0. He had 9.0 sacks as a rookie, and his season-low total is 7.5 (2006), a number most pass rushers are lucky to have as a season-high.

Last year was Allen’s most productive, as he pursued and came excruciatingly close to breaking the NFL single-season sack record of 22.5, set by Michael Strahan in 2002. He tallied 22.0 sacks, giving him 62.0 sacks since joining the Vikings in 2008 and also providing for him more motivation to chase the record again in 2012.

While Allen’s physical ability is superior to the opponents who try to block him, it’s his mentality that Allen credits for his recent success on the field. A part of Allen’s mental approach to football is training during the offseason in Arizona, a strategy he honed during last offseason’s lockout and a strategy he’s duplicating this offseason.

“I’m just trying to keep that routine the same,” Allen said. “Trying to get all the extra work in with my trainers, you know heck I’m even going up to the altitude up in Tahoe. I’m thirty now, so I got to do whatever I can to keep up with these young guys!”

Allen’s training regimen keeps him away from the team’s voluntary work during the offseason program and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but based on Allen’s body of work over nine seasons it clearly works.

“I’ve got a great (training) team in Arizona,” Allen said when asked about not being at OTAs. “It’s kind of one of those things where if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Coach (Frazier) was great, he understood why. One thing, too, is my mindset last year was so good. I was in a great mental state, even though we weren’t winning. But things were just real positive and coming off of that 2010 season where there was just a bunch of negativity around here. That’s what I told coach, too, I’ve got my trainers, everything is focused in the right direction down here (in Arizona) and that’s where I’m trying to stay.”

Allen went on to acknowledge that the team relies on him for veteran leadership and that he takes that role seriously, particularly when the team is down in Mankato for training camp.

“The best way I can lead is by being the best player I can be on the field,” Allen explained, “and for me that’s having a full offseason with my trainers and coming back [with a fresh mind].”

As for this week’s minicamp, a three-day event that began on Tuesday and concludes Thursday, Allen said he was excited to be back around his teammates and focusing on football.

 “It’s good to be back in town and try to get that offseason rust off or whatever,” Allen said. “I approach minicamp with the same mentality every year. I’ve got certain things I’m trying to work on…my stance, get-off and then you’re working on your block reaction. It’s a way to break up the offseason and get a little football in, and then get back to getting your mind ready for training camp.

“I’m excited to be here for minicamp. Get three days here laughing and joking, and then gear up for training camp when it really counts.”


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