After a mandated off-day, due in part to the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Vikings were back on the field to continue to work. According to head coach Leslie Frazier, the team was just as excited to be taking to the practice field at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
“Everybody came back and seemed to really be ready to get it going,” said Frazier. “This is going to be our first day of full pads and we’re all excited about that. Get a chance to play football the way it’s played on Sundays so that will be a good challenge for our players and give us a better chance to evaluate our players as well. We’re all excited about that and we’ll get a chance to go through a red zone period today, we’ll hit some third down situations, both are critical areas we want to improve on in this 2013 season so we have a lot of work to hopefully get accomplished today.”
In addition to working in critical scoring situations, the Vikings are undergoing a transition of sorts on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Whether getting reps for backup-QB Matt Cassel, teaching former-QB Joe Webb to catch passes, or training one of the many talented rookies brought in through the draft process, the Vikings will be trying to build on their 2012 campaign.
“We’re going to have some live contact between our defensive line and offensive line but we won’t take the backs or the receivers to the ground today. We’re going to have some live periods tomorrow so we’re going to get after it a little bit tomorrow but today will be more of a thud tempo where we’re hitting the backs but not taking them to the ground or the receivers.”
Fans may be slightly hesitant to hear about contact, especially with the number of key injuries and surgeries scattered throughout the depth chart. However, the calendar pages will soon read August—and with it—the preparation for pre-season activities to begin. As the NFL (slowly) approaches, teams must begin working to condition their athletes for game day activities, a sentiment shared by the Vikings’ head coach.
“You want to see how guys respond,” Frazier mentioned. “If they are willing to tackle, how good of a tackler they are and at the same time, if you are an offensive guy, we want to see if they can break some tackles, make people miss and find out a little bit of what they can and cannot do and hopefully just keep getting better at some of those things were we may be deficient at in that first time when we’re live.”
The team is currently experimenting with a new offensive wrinkle featuring a two tight-end set with Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson. With the departure of Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, the receiving corps currently lacks a definitive playmaker. Not to say that rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, or the oft-injured Greg Jennings cannot produce, but a tandem of Rudolph and Carlson would allow Christian Ponder to stretch the field in the passing game, while also clearing space for Peterson out of the backfield.
While Frazier and company will continue to look to balance their veteran and rookie players, the bulk of the success will rest on the decision-making by Ponder and the legs of last season’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson.
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