With the Minnesota Vikings' training camp in full swing, this is by far the best time of the year. All of the promise from a very successful offseason lies ahead for a team that surprised plenty of people last year by winning 10 games and making a trip to the playoffs.
Here are some of the sights from the first full weekend of the Vikings' training camp in Mankato, Minnesota.
The Minnesota Vikings start training camp in a helmet-only drill on Friday, the first full day of training camp. Over the next two weeks, the 90 players on the Vikings' roster will be practicing against each other twice a day as they compete to make the team.
NFL rosters must must be reduced to 75 on Tuesday, August 27 with the final 53-man roster set by Saturday, August 31.
Every year during training camp, fans line up for a chance to get the autograph of their favorite players.
Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Greenway takes time to sign a few autographs after practice on Saturday.
Greenway has been the Vikings' leading tackler every season since 2008. The two-time Pro Bowler is the only linebacker set to play the same position as last season, as Erin Henderson is moving to middle linebacker and Desmond Bishop will play the weak side.
Second-year safety Harrison Smith signs a few autographs on Friday for Vikings fans. As a rookie last season, Smith started all 16 games on defense. He finished second on the team behind Chad Greenway with 104 tackles.
Smith also led the team with three interceptions, returning two of them for a touchdown. He has been a stabilizing force in the Vikings' defensive secondary. His presence also helped Jamarca Sanford have a strong year playing the other safety position.
Even though head coach Leslie Frazier has repeatedly indicated there is no quarterback competition, plenty of fans will be keeping an eye on backup quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Vikings signed the eight-year veteran to a two-year contract worth $7.4 million. Cassel will actually make $350,000 more than starter Christian Ponder in 2013.
As long as Frazier sticks to his guns, there will not be any controversy—that is, until Cassel gets his first shot to take over a game from Ponder.
New wide receiver Greg Jennings shares a laugh with MVP Adrian Peterson as the players get ready for practice.
This year, Peterson will fully participate in training camp, instead of working individually with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. With a completely healthy Peterson in camp, the Vikings are already ahead of last year's pace.
Adrian Peterson is always one of the most popular Vikings at training camp.
The Vikings have created a special procedure for fans seeking Peterson's autograph. The following comes from Vikings.com:
Because of the overwhelming demand for autographs of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will implement a ticket system for the running backs session. The first 2,000 fans through the gates of Verizon Vikings Training Camp on that respective date will receive a scratch-off ticket. 150 of these tickets will be marked with Adrian’s name. Only fans with one of these 150 tickets will be allowed to enter the line for Adrian’s autograph. All other fans will still have the opportunity to go through the lines of the additional players that day.
In other words, those without the special scratch-off can seek Toby Gerhart's autograph. Running backs will be made available, including Peterson, following the morning practice on August 7.
Entering his fourth NFL season, wide receiver Joe Webb is on the bubble to make the team as he attempts to switch positions.
Webb will get a look at returning kicks and punts during training camp and the preseason. In his career, he has been a more effective runner than passer. Webb has averaged 6.7 yards per run and only 5.6 yards per pass.
Like last season, the Minnesota Vikings traded their way back into the first round to get an extra pick. They used that pick to select Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th pick in the draft. Big things are expected from the 6'3", 205-pound rookie.
In his only season at Tennessee, Patterson led the Volunteers in all-purpose yards with 1,858 and with 10 touchdowns.
It will be very interesting to see where he winds up on the first depth chart head coach Leslie Frazier makes public. No matter where he starts on the depth chart, look for him to see plenty of action in the Vikings' offense.
Cordarrelle Patterson makes a catch during the Vikings' first day of training camp in Mankato.
Even though it is very early in camp, according to Jim Souhan of the StarTribune.com, Patterson has stood out more than any of the wide receivers. Wearing Randy Moss' old jersey, the expectations are high for the Vikings' first-round draft pick.
New wide receiver Greg Jennings speaks with the media following the morning practice on Friday.
He comes to Minnesota with 425 career receptions for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. From 2008 to 2010 Jennings had three straight 1,000-yard seasons, averaging 1,223 receiving yards per season.
On Friday, running back Adrian Peterson wore a helmet cam during practice. Jake Silver, a member of B/R's Social Media staff, posted the video on Sunday.
It really gives a different perspective on what happens in practice. Of course Peterson and his teammates had fun with the camera.
Last year, Jared Allen played most of the season with a torn labrum, and he still led the Vikings with 12 sacks on the season.
After having surgery to repair his shoulder, Allen is completely healthy and ready to play. He has been an extremely durable player in his career, starting every game since joining the Vikings in 2008 and missing only three games over his nine NFL seasons.
He enters the 2013 season in the last year of his contract. There have not been any discussions between Allen and the Vikings about a contract extension.
The way the Vikings have been shedding veterans the last few years,, it's very likely this will be his last season in Minnesota.
Head coach Leslie Frazier opens his third training camp with the Vikings. After taking over for Brad Childress in Week 12 of the 2010 season, Frazier has a 16-22 record.
This offseason, the Vikings exercised an option in Frazier's contract that extends the deal through 2014. After leading to the Vikings to the playoffs with a seven-game turnaround over 2011, the expectations will be high for Frazier and Vikings this season.
Anything short of another playoff appearance may be considered a failure.
Here's the Vikings' top draft pick, Sharrif Floyd (95), taken with the 23rd pick in the draft. The defensive tackle from Florida is penciled in to back up Kevin Williams as training camp gets underway.
Don't be surprised if something changes and both Floyd and Williams wind up starting. That means last year's first-year starter at nose tackle, Letroy Guion, could find himself coming off the bench.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave speaks with third-year quarterback Christian Ponder during the opening day of training camp.
This is a big season for Ponder, who led the Vikings to a 10-6 record, despite struggling at times last year. In his first two seasons, Ponder has a 12-14 record as a starter. He has thrown 31 touchdowns and 25 interceptions with a mediocre passer rating of 77.1.
With a few more weapons around him, Ponder needs to demonstrate he has what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.