Minnesota Vikings Complete Training Camp and Preseason Guide
The excitement continues to build for the upcoming Minnesota Vikings season. As July slips into the dog days of summer, football is once again taking center stage in the Minnesota sports landscape.
The Vikings are less than a week from the opening of training camp. With the NFL maximum of 90 players on their roster, head coach Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff have a big job ahead of them doing the best they can to improve the roster.
The Vikings desperately need to improve over their 3-13 finish from last season. With a new stadium on the horizon, another basement finish in the NFC North will not be acceptable.
The following slideshow takes a look at the questions facing the Vikings as camp opens and assesses the roster, identifying the players to watch and those who on the bubble of making the team.
It concludes with a look at the preseason schedule, and an all-too-early prediction of the final 53-man roster.
Game-by-Game Preseason Analysis and Predictions
Finally, the preseason is over and we can start looking forward to some actual football.
While you can never put too much emphasis on the exhibition games, there are still some concern for the Vikings as they head into the season opener against Jacksonville. The defense, even though we mainly saw backups, with Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook barely playing, was extremely porous—especially against the run.
My success at predicting the results of regular season games has not been very good. With the playoffs, and a whole season of stats to pour over, my ability to predict gets even worse.
So, putting my questionable prescience to the test in the preseason yielded an uncommon result—I finished 3-1 in picking the winner.
Preseason Game 1: August 10th at San Francisco.
Heading into 2011, it had been eight seasons since the 49ers had won more than eight games. The best record they could manage was 8-8 in 2009. The eight seasons without a winning record doubles the previous streak in franchise history that goes back to 1946.
When I think back to those teams, I also remember the offense led by quarterback Joe Montana, wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig. But the championship teams also came with an impressive defense.
Last season, the 49er defense was led by linebackers Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, both named First-Team All-Pro; Pro Bowlers safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers, each with six interceptions; and defensive end Aldon Smith, who had 14 sacks. This translated into the second stingiest defense in scoring.
Even though the starters in this game will see very limited action, the first quarter should provide an idea if the Vikings have improved. Left tackle Matt Kalil will get an early test against the 49ers' defense.
On offense, don't expect to see Adrian Peterson is this game. After starting quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Alex Smith take a seat, the advantage will go to the Vikings. The Vikings' backup quarterbacks, Joe Webb and Sage Rosenfels, should outperform Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson or Scott Tolzien.
It will be interesting to see what happen when Jared Allen is on the field. The sack leader from last season against Alex Smith, who led the league last year, being sacked 44 times.
This one will come down to a battle of potential practice squad players in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Minnesota 16, San Francisco 20
Final Score: Minnesota 6, San Francisco 17
No Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison and Antoine Winfield on defense, and no Percy Harvin on offense. San Francisco was able to run at will against the Vikings defense.
The 49ers finished with 260 yards on 42 attempts, a 6.19 average. The big blow was a 78-yard scramble for backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick for touchdown.
Preseason Game 2: August 17th, Buffalo Bills at the Metrodome.
Things will start getting a little more serious in this game. The starters will go at least into the second quarter, and the most of the roster should be taking shape.
The Bills' franchise is struggling. It's been 13 seasons since they last won more than 10 games in a season and were in the playoffs. They opened the 2011 season 3-0, upsetting the Patriots for their third win. At the end of Week 8 they were 5-2, and the p-word was being used. Then Buffalo remembered who they were, and reality set in as they lost seven consecutive games and closed the season at 1-8, finishing with a disappointing 6-10 record.
Last season, the Bills' defense was almost as bad as the Vikings', finishing 30th in the league in scoring. They allowed an average of 27.1 points per game; the Vikings were 31st, yielding 28.1 points.
The offense was led by running back Fred Jackson, with 934 yards and six touchdowns, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who had 76 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.
In the first seven games of 2011, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 14 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. But as things unraveled, he finished with 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
This will be a good game to see if the Vikings' defensive backfield has improved. If the front four can put some pressure on Fitzpatrick, there will be some balls available.
Depending on how Peterson has progressed through training camp, head coach Leslie Frazier may give him his first taste of live action. It will only be a test, at most two or three carries.
Look for the Vikings' passing offense to open it up a little and really test drive the capabilities of wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
It will be a test that will hopefully answer three questions:
Can the line provide more protection?
Has Ponder improved at going through his progressions?
Is Simpson the downfield threat the Vikings were hoping for when they signed him?
Another interesting matchup will be when the backup quarterbacks come into the game. Both Brad Smith and Joe Webb bring multiple threats when the ball is in their hands.
Prediction: Buffalo 13, Minnesota 30
Final Score: Buffalo 14, Vikings 36
Christian Ponder completed 10-of-13 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, looking like he has raised his game, widening the gap between him and the other quarterbacks on the roster. Rookie linebacker Audie Cole returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Preseason Game 3: August 24th, San Diego at the Metrodome.
A game that is supposed to be the final tuneup for the starters, the Chargers came into the Metrodome without 18 of the players on their roster. While some were injuries, head coach Norv Turner decided to rest his main players.
A move that should have played into the Vikings favor, did not.
The Vikings were flat and emotionless. Back up quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Jarrett Lee were just good enough to lead San Diego to four field goals.
In the weakest division in the AFC, the Chargers finished tied for first with an 8-8 record. This is a team that is led by its offense, and the offense is led by quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Chargers lost Vincent Jackson to free agency when he signed with the Buccaneers, and they will have someone to step up and produce the 1,1106 yards and nine touchdowns Jackson had last year.
The last time the Chargers came to Minnesota was in 2007. It was Peterson's rookie season, and he set the NFL single-game rushing record by amassing 296 yards on 30 carries. Peterson, who won't play in the preseason was in pads and participated in the pre-game warm ups.
In a Week 1 matchup in 2011, the Vikings surrendered a 17-7 halftime lead and lost 24-17. For the game, Vikings starting quarterback Donovan McNabb finished 7-of-15 for only 39 yards.
Look for Ponder to do considerably better.
Prediction: Chargers 35, Vikings 24
Final: Charges 12, Vikings 10
Preseason Game 4: August 30th at Houston
This game means absolutely nothing, unless you're one of the players that falls between 53, the final roster cutoff, and 80, the roster limit on August 28th. This game may decide who lands on the practice squad and who is released.
No Week 1 starters were even play in the game.
Houston is coming off their first 10-win season and first playoff appearance and win in 2011.
The Texans were able to run the ball extremely effectively with Justin Forsett running for 114 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, including a 52-yard run on the second play from scrimmage.
Houston rookie, DeVier Posey scored a touchdown on an 80-yard punt return.
For the Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels continued to look like he will be Christian Ponder's backup as Joe Webb struggled. Rosenfels connected on a 58-yard touchdown pass with Devin Aromashodu with 1:08 left in the first half.
McCleod Bethel-Thompson made a pretty case to be the team's third-string quarterback with another strong outing. He finished 15-of-29 for 193 yards with a touchdown an an interception.
Prediction: Vikings 17, Texans 13
Final: Vikings 24, Texans 28
The Vikings' Biggest Question Marks Heading into Camp
As the Vikings head into the 2012 season, here are some of the questions that need to be answered before the home opener against Jacksonville on September 9th.
When will Adrian Peterson be ready to go?
Leslie Frazier and the Vikings intend to take it slow with Peterson, protecting the investment they have in one of the premier players in the NFL. At the same time, Peterson is pushing to return as quickly as possible, not wanting to miss a game. It will be interesting to see which side yields.
Who will emerge as the Vikings No. 1 receiver?
There's no question that Percy Harvin is the most explosive offensive player on the team, but he is not a prototypical outside receiver. The free-agent signing of Jerome Simpson looks like a great move by the Vikings, but with a three-game suspension at the start of the season, the Vikings will need to find someone to step up.
Will two rookies start at safety when the season opens?
With the selection of Harrison Smith in the first round, it's almost a guarantee he will start at one of the safety positions. One of the candidates to play alongside him is his college teammate at Notre Dame, Robert Blanton.
Have the Vikings done enough to improve the cornerback position?
The team lost both Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook last season, exposing a lack of depth at cornerback. Things got so bad, they started a player who had not played for two months after being cut in Week 1.
How much will second-year quarterback Christian Ponder improve this season?
Due to the labor issue last season, all of the offseason OTAs were wiped out. The first time Ponder got to work with his teammates and coaches in his rookie season was at the start of training camp. Ponder needs to deliver a step-change improvement to turn around his 2-8 record from last season.
Is Jasper Brinkley truly ready to replace E.J. Henderson at middle linebacker?
Brinkley is penciled in to start at middle linebacker. He replaces the nine-year veteran, Henderson, who finished second on the team last year with 78 tackles. Brinkley missed all of last season after injuring his hip last August.
Perhaps the biggest question is what will be Harvin's attitude this training camp?
The latest indication, reported by Tom Pelissero, is that Harvin will be at training camp on time, but does not intend to play beyond 2012 without a new contract. It's easy to understand his frustration. He led the Vikings in total yards from scrimmage, and according to spotrac.com, Harvin's base salary of $915,000 is 17th on the team.
Players on the Bubble
There are 90 players heading into the Minnesota Vikings training camp next week, and only 53 jobs available—61, if you count the eight practice-squad slots up for grabs as well.
There are plenty of players who are a lock to make the active roster, and there are some who are only here to be used as practice fodder.
Then there are those players somewhere in the middle. This group is typically referred to as "being on the bubble." Depending on the circumstances, they could find themselves falling either way on the day the rosters are finalized.
Here are a look at some of the players on the bubble to making the active roster:
Emmanuel Arceneaux, WR
Played two seasons in the CFL for the BC Lions after going undrafted in 2009. He signed a three-year deal with the Vikings in 2011 and ended up on the practice squad. He was activated late in the season and finished with one catch. He will have to beat out the two rookies from Arkansas to make the team.
Devin Aromashodu, WR
Last season Aromashodu finished with a career-high 26 catches for 468 yards. His 18.0 yards per catch was the highest of any receiver with more than two catches. He will need to show some improvement, as he caught a league low 33.3 percent of the passes targeted to him.
Brandon Burton, CB
The Vikings' fifth-round draft pick from 2011 was active for 10 games last season. At one point the Vikings' defensive backfield was so depleted, Burton was pressed into the starting lineup. With the return of Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook, along with free agents Chris Carr and Zack Bowman, Burton could be competing with Josh Robinson to make the roster.
Stephen Burton, WR
The Vikings' seventh-round draft pick from 2011 will be battling with Aromashodu and Arceneaux for a spot on the roster. Last season he was active for four games and finished with just two catches for 38 yards.
Audie Cole, LB
It may work in Cole's favor that the Vikings are extremely thin at linebacker. The best shot for the Vikings' seventh-round draft pick will be to earn a spot on special teams. This will give him the chance to develop as a backup at linebacker.
Chris DeGeare, OL
In his rookie season of 2010, DeGeare started five games in place of an injured Anthony Herrera at right guard. After suffering a concussion in the third preseason game against the Cowboys, he never played again last season. With Charlie Johnson and Geoff Schwartz the front runners to open the season at guard, he will be battling with Joe Berger, Brandon Fusco and Demarcus Love to make the team.
Ryan D'Imperio, FB
The converted linebacker taken in the seventh round of the 2010 finally saw some action last year. D'Imperio was activated for 12 games and is credited with making one start. With the departure of Jim Kleinsasser, he should be the lead candidate for the fullback/blocking back role.
Rhett Ellison, FB/TE
When the Vikings selected Ellison in the fourth round, it surprised many people, including Ellison. He will have a chance to battle with D'Imperio for the role vacated by Kleinsasser.
Jerome Felton, FB
A fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2008, Felton was released in training camp after three seasons in Detroit. He opened the season with Carolina. After nine games he was released by Carolina and claimed off waivers by the Colts three days later.
The Vikings signed him as a free agent in March. In his four years, he has 42 rushes for 136 yards, and 34 catches for 280 yards. He will have to beat out both D'Imperio and Ellison to make the team.
Eric Frampton, S
During his rookie season, he was with three different teams. A fifth-round pick of the Raiders in 2007, he was released before the season. The Lions claimed him a day later. After five games with Detroit, he was waived and claimed by the Vikings.
In his four-plus seasons in Minnesota he has established himself as a special teams player. His job could be in jeopardy if the Vikings want to use special teams to develop some younger players—just like they did with Heath Farwell. The difference is Farwell was a Pro-Bowl selection for his special teams play.
Trevor Guyton, DE
The best chance for the Vikings' seventh-round selection this to make the team will be on special teams. Defensive end is the deepest position on the team with Jared Allen and Brian Robison entrenched as the starters and Everson Griffen as the backup.
DeMarcus Love, OL
The Vikings' sixth-round draft pick in 2011, Love was inactive for all 16 games. If he plans to make the roster, he will be battling with DeGeare.
Mistral Raymond, S
Raymond, another Vikings' sixth-round selection in 2011, made five starts last season. In the battle to start at safety, Raymond's experience, brief as it is, should give him an edge.
D'Aundre Reed, DE
Reed made only eight career starts during his college career and was inactive all of last season. His battle to make the Vikings will be difficult.
Allen Reisner, TE
The undrafted tight end out Iowa was activated for five games late in the season. He finished with receptions for five yards. He will most likely end up once again on the practice squad.
Marcus Sherels, CB
The undrafted cornerback from Minnesota in 2010 did enough to crack the active roster last season. The primary punt returner, Sherels also returned 16 kickoffs for a 27.8-yard average. Because of the injuries at cornerback, he made three starts on defense. He makes the team unless the Vikings give the punt return job to Jarius Wright.
Jamarca Sanford, S
Selected by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, Sanford was promoted to the starting safety position after playing special teams his first two seasons. The plan is to move him back to special teams. There is no guarantee he makes the team.
Blair Walsh, K
I know what you're thinking. How can the only kicker on the roster be on the bubble? The life of an NFL kicker is a precarious at best. All it takes is one missed game-winning field goal and you're on the street. There are plenty of kickers waiting to get a call—Ryan Longwell is still out there. Walsh was not spectacular at Georgia, converting only 73.8 percent of his attempts.
Players to Watch
As the highest draft pick taken by the Vikings since they selected Chris Doleman with the fourth pick in 1985, plenty of eyes will be focused on the Vikings' first-round draft choice, Matt Kalil.
Kalil is slated to start at left tackle with the hopes of protecting Christian Ponder's backside for the next decade.
The Vikings' other first round pick is Harrison Smith. The Vikings moved back into the first round of the draft to select the Notre Dame safety. The expectation is for Smith to make an immediate impact on the worst secondary in the NFL last season.
Here are some other players worth watching during training camp and preseason:
Devin Aromashodu, WR
As stated on the previous slide, Aromashodu is on the bubble to make the roster. He has huge upside with an 18-yard average per catch, but the downside is that heonly caught a third of the balls thrown his way.
Robert Blanton, S
The rookie from Notre Dame has an outside chance at starting along side his college teammate. A cornerback in college, he will need to be a quick study at a new position.
Jasper Brinkley, MLB
Brinkley is getting the nod to replace E.J. Henderson at middle linebacker. The problem is he did not play at all last season after requiring hip surgery. He did start the final four games of his rookie season in 2009.
John Carlson, TE
The Vikings paid $25 million over five years for another player that missed the entire 2011 season. It will be interesting to see which former Notre Dame tight end has a bigger year for the Vikings, Carlson or Kyle Rudolph.
Chris Cook, CB
This will be Cook's third year in the NFL. Injuries and off-the-field issues have limited his play to only six games in each of his two seasons. The Vikings' second-round pick in 2010 needs to step up and prove he can play in the NFL for an entire season.
Solomon Elimimian, LB
I am very much excited to see what Elimimian can do. A two-year starter for the BC Lions of the CFL, he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010. Last season he was named the league's hardest hitter in a player poll. Elimimian will most likely make the roster on special teams, but he could push to be the top backup at linebacker.
Percy Harvin, WR
Harvin was not only the Vikings' best receiver last season, but he also lead the team in total yards from scrimmage. He then bolts from mini camp, demands a trade and then tweets he cannot figure out what all the fuss is about. He also had minor shoulder surgery, which should not be an issue. It will be interesting to see how he does this preseason.
Everson Griffen, DE/LB
The Vikings really like Griffen. The problem is they don't know where to play him. He's listed on the roster as a defensive end, but with Jared Allen and Brian Robison set to be the starters, that doesn't give him much playing time. The latest news from 1500ESPN Twin Cities is that he will report to camp as a linebacker.
Charlie Johnson, OG
I grave the Vikings' offensive line a D+ grade. They allowed an average of three sacks per game. Johnson will be moving from left tackle to left guard, a position he played all 16 games at for the Colts in 2008.
Adrian Peterson, RB
We've all seen a video of Peterson's rehab workouts. Peterson is intent on being ready for the Vikings' season opener on September 9th. At the same time Leslie Frazier has indicated that they will take their time working Peterson back into the lineup. Barring no setbacks in training camp, I'm betting Peterson is back within the first four games.
Christian Ponder, QB
Ponder heads into training camp having completed a full offseason of OTAs. He also has the experience of a rookie season under his belt. With no quarterback controversy, Ponder needs to take the next step and prove he can be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL.
Jerome Simpson, WR
Because of his arrest and violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy, the Vikings were able to sign Simpson to a very reasonable contract for $2 million in 2012. He will miss the first three games serving a suspension but is expected to be the Vikings' top outside receiver when he returns.
Nick Taylor, DB
I'm really hoping to see what the Vikings saw. After all, they signed a former college point guard to the team.
Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, WR
It's going to be fun to see which one of these rookies from Arkansas will make the most of their opportunity to crack the Vikings' receiving corp. Childs could be a candidate to replace Simpson for the first three games, and Wright was working in Harvin's spot during mini camp.
The Best Depth Chart Battles for the Vikings
The most competition on the Vikings' roster outside of special teams is going to take place in the Vikings' defensive backfield and at wide receiver.
Last season, the Vikings were last in the NFL, allowing 34 touchdowns passes. They also allowed the highest quarterback passer rating in the NFL at 107.6.
If that wasn't enough, they set the dubious record of going nine consecutive games without an interception. Sure, they had to face Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler twice each season, but bad is bad.
The Battle at Safety
Last year, the Vikings opened the season with Jamarca Sanford and Husain Abdullah at safety.
After suffering four concussions the past two years, Abdullah was considering retiring. The Vikings did not re-sign the four-year veteran, who remains a free agent and is now looking to return to football.
The indication, according to a report from rotoworld.com, is that Sanford, after only one season as a starter, will be demoted, playing on special teams.
That leaves Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond and rookies Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton to battle it out on the depth chart.
The Vikings made a deal that gave them the 29th pick in the first round. With the selection, they drafted Smith out of the University of Notre Dame with the expectation he will be a starter.
Frampton has been no more than a backup and special teams player in the four-and-a-half seasons he has been in Minnesota. Don't look for that to change.
That means the biggest battle could be between Raymond, the Vikings' sixth-round draft pick from 2011, and Blanton, the Vikings' fifth-round pick this year.
The Battle at Cornerback
The Vikings welcome back Chris Cook, who was acquitted of domestic abuse charges, and Antoine Winfield, who suffered a broken collarbone.
In the offseason, the team added seven defensive backs through free agency and the draft to add some depth to the weakest position in 2011.
Gone are Cedric Griffin, now in Washington; Asher Allen, who decided to retire; and Benny Sapp, whom the Vikings did not offer a contract.
Look for Cook and Winfield to be the starters, with Winfield moving inside when the defense goes with nickle coverage.
The battle for the third cornerback position will be between veteran free-agent signees Chris Carr and Zack Bowman.
If the Vikings go with five cornerbacks, that leaves Marcus Sherels and Josh Robinson to battle it out for the last spot.
The Vikings are in desperate need for a No. 1 receiver, someone that can line up on the outside and stretch the field. This has been lacking since Sidney Rice led the Vikings with 83 receptions and 1,312 yards in 2009.
The Vikings currently have 12 wide receivers on the roster for at most six spots.
Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins are all locks to make the roster.
The battle will come down to Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, the two Arkansas receivers drafted in the fourth round; Devin Aromashodu; Stephen Burton; and Emmanuel Arceneaux for the final two or three spots.
The losers in this battle will most likely end up on the practice squad.
The only interesting battle here will be who winds up as the backup. The starters are set with Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson. After these three, the only linebacker with any experience is Marvin Mitchell, who spent last season in Miami making one start.
That leaves two open spots.
At this point the candidates are seventh-round draft pick Audie Cole, former CFL player Solomon Elimimian and special teams player Larry Dean, an undrafted free agent in 2011 from Valdosta State.
It's possible that once the Vikings see how thin they are at linebacker, they will attempt to re-sign E.J. Henderson.
Minnesota Vikings Training Camp and Preseason Schedule
The full training camp schedule can be found at the Vikings.com. Refer to this schedule for any last second changes due to weather or other conditions.
For those interested in getting players' autographs, the Vikings have a defined autograph procedure established for training camp.
Thursday, July 26th: Players report to Minnesota State University-Mankato. No practice, no autographs.
Friday, July 27th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-thru. 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Helmets
Saturday, July 28th: 10:30 - 11:20 am, Walk-thru. 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Helmets
Sunday, July 29th: Camp closed
Monday, July 30th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, July 31st: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Wednesday, August 1st: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Thursday, August 2nd: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Friday, August 3rd: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Saturday, August 4th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 7:00 -9:00 pm, Full pads
Sunday, August 5th: Camp closed
Monday, August 6th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, August 7th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Wednesday, August 8th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Thursday, August 9th: Camp closed
Friday, August 10th: 8:00 pm, Preseason Game 1: @ San Francisco
Saturday, August 11th: Camp closed
Sunday, August 12th: 10:55 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, TBD
Monday, August 13th: 10:30 -11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, August 14th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads
Wednesday, August 15th: 10:30 - 11:30 am, Walk-through, 2:45 - 5:30 pm, Full pads - End of camp.
Friday, August 17th: 7:00 pm, Preseason Game 2: Buffalo Bills
Friday, August 24th: 7:00 pm, Preseason Game 3: San Diego Chargers
Tuesday, August 28th: Rosters must be cut down to 80 players.
Thursday, August 30th: 6:00 pm, Preseason Game 4: @ Houston
Sunday, September 2nd: Rosters must be cut down to 53 players.
Minnesota Vikings Training Camp Info
For the first five seasons of the franchise, the Minnesota Vikings held their summer training camp at Bemidji State University in Northern Minnesota. In 1966, they moved camp to Mankato, approximately 85 miles from the Twin Cities.
Training camp is held on the campus of Minnesota State University-Mankato. The mascot of Minnesota State-Mankato are the Mavericks, whose colors just happen to be purple and gold.
There is no admission to attend the open practices for the Vikings, but the university charges $7 for parking in the university lots.
Players report to training camp on Thursday, July 26th, with the first practice on Saturday, July 28th, and concludes on Wednesday August 15th.
The Vikings have two special days during camp. The first is Family Football Day on Saturday, August 4th. The second practice will be held in the evening on Blakeslee Stadium, kicked off with a performance by the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders.
The second is Fan Appreciation Day on Tuesday, August 14th, the day before training camp ends.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the most noted event to occur during training camp came on Tuesday, July 31st, 2001.
As the Vikings were conducting one-on-one drills in fulls pads, with the heat index approaching 110 degrees, right tackle Korey Stringer collapsed during the afternoon practice. He was rushed to the hospital where his body temperature was measured at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. He would die early the following morning from complications of hear stroke as his organs shut down.
The event caused the NFL to look at the conditions of all training camps and implement changes to protect players during their workouts over the hottest time of the year.
Full Minnesota Vikings Camp Roster
The Minnesota Vikings will open training camp with the NFL-maximum of 90 players.
They are addressing some of their most pressing needs by throwing as many bodies in the mix as possible. There are 12 wide receivers, 11 cornerbacks and six safeties battling for one of the final 53 spots on the active roster, or eight on the practice squad.
Interestingly enough, there is only one kicker on the roster—sixth-round draft pick Blair Walsh.
The full roster via the Minnesota Vikings official website:
|60||Saulsberry, Quentin||C||6'2"||300||23||0||Mississippi State|
|65||Sullivan, John||C||6'4"||301||26||5||Notre Dame|
|25||Carr, Chris||CB||5'10"||182||29||8||Boise State|
|31||Felder, Bobby||CB||6'1''||200||21||0||Nicholls State|
|21||Robinson, Josh||CB||5'10''||199||21||0||Central Florida|
|26||Winfield, Antoine||CB||5'9''||180||35||14||Ohio State|
|29||Jones, Reggie||DB||6'0''||193||26||1||Portland State|
|39||Taylor, Nicholas||DB||5'9''||165||24||0||Florida International|
|69||Allen, Jared||DE||6'6''||270||30||9||Idaho State|
|94||Charleston, Jeff||DE||6'4''||265||29||6||Idaho State|
|64||Latimore, Eric||DE||6'6''||277||25||0||Penn State|
|62||Baker, Chase||DT||6'1''||298||24||0||Boise State|
|90||Evans, Fred||DT||6'4''||305||28||6||Texas State|
|98||Guion, Letroy||DT||6'4''||303||25||5||Florida State|
|60||Powell, Tydreke||DT||6'3''||310||24||0||North Carolina|
|93||Williams, Kevin||DT||6'5''||311||31||10||Oklahoma State|
|72||DeGeare, Chris||G||6'4''||325||25||2||Wake Forest|
|54||Brinkley, Jasper||LB||6'1''||252||27||3||South Carolina|
|57||Cole, Audie||LB||6'5''||239||23||0||North Carolina St.|
|51||Dean, Larry||LB||6'0''||226||23||2||Valdosta State|
|61||Berger, Joe||OL||6'5''||315||30||7||Michigan Tech|
|63||Fusco, Brandon||OL||6'4''||306||22||2||Slippery Rock|
|59||McKenzie, Tyrone||OLB||6'2''||245||26||2||South Florida|
|74||Johnson, Charlie||OT||6'4''||305||28||7||Oklahoma State|
|4||Bethel-Thompson, McLeod||QB||6'4''||230||24||0||Sacramento State|
|7||Ponder, Christian||QB||6'2''||229||24||2||Florida State|
|18||Rosenfels, Sage||QB||6'4''||222||34||12||Iowa State|
|36||Blanton, Robert||S||6'1''||200||22||0||Notre Dame|
|37||Frampton, Eric||S||5'11''||205||28||6||Washington State|
|41||Raymond, Mistral||S||6'1''||202||23||2||South Florida|
|22||Smith, Harrison||S||6'2''||214||23||0||Notre Dame|
|79||Brown, Patrick||T||6'5''||310||25||3||Central Florida|
|89||Carlson, John||TE||6'5''||251||28||4||Notre Dame|
|82||Rudolph, Kyle||TE||6'6''||259||22||2||Notre Dame|
|86||Shuler, Mickey||TE||6'4''||251||25||2||Penn State|
|16||Arceneaux, Emmanuel||WR||6'2''||211||24||2||Alcorn State|
|11||Burton, Stephen||WR||6'1''||221||22||2||West Texas A&M|
|84||Jenkins, Michael||WR||6'4''||214||30||9||Ohio State|
|2||Jorden, Kamar||WR||6'1''||203||23||0||Bowling Green|
|87||Love, A.J.||WR||6'2''||205||24||0||South Florida|
|81||Simpson, Jerome||WR||6'2''||190||26||5||Coastal Carolina|
|15||Taylor, Kerry||WR||6'0''||197||23||1||Arizona State|
The Minnesota Vikings 2012 Rookie Class
The Vikings head into training camp with 24 of 36 draft picks since 2007 on their roster.
Over the last three years they still have 20 of 23 players with the team. Expect that trend to continue with the rookie class of 2012. While not all of the players will start their rookie season, more than half will make the roster, and with seven slots on the practice squad, there's no reason all 10 don't stick with the team.
In an interesting move, the Vikings drafted three sets of teammates with their 10 draft picks. Each set players came from the same side of the ball, two each from USC, Notre Dame and Arkansas.
Here's a look at the Vikings' rookies for 2012:
Round 1, 4th pick: Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, Southern California
According to Walterfootball.com, the Vikings drafted the best non-quarterback in the draft. Kalil is coming into camp as the starter at left tackle. The only reason he is not the starter when camp breaks is if he suffers an injury.
Round 1, 29th pick: Harrison Smith, safety, Notre Dame
The Vikings traded their second-round pick and a fourth-round pick to the Ravens in order to move back into the first round. With the Raven's 29th pick, the Vikings drafted the Notre Dame safety. Like Kalil, Smith will be a starter in the Vikings defensive backfield.
Round 3, 3rd pick: Josh Robinson, cornerback, Central Florida
The Vikings added some depth needed at cornerback when they drafted Robinson. As a freshman, Robinson led Central Florida with six interceptions. In each of his three seasons, he scored a defensive touchdown, two on interceptions and one on a fumble recovery. He will make the team, mostly seeing action on special teams and as a backup.
Round 4, 23rd pick: Jarius Wright, wide receiver, Arkansas
As a senior, Wright led the Razorbacks with 66 receptions, 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished his collegiate career with 168 catches for 2,934 yards and 24 touchdowns. He will see some action this season, mostly backing up Percy Harvin. There is a good chance he will be returning kicks for the Vikings, allowing Harvin to play more on first downs.
Round 4, 33rd pick: Rhett Ellison, fullback/tight end, Southern California
As mentioned before, this pick surprised a lot of people. Walterfootball.com had him ranked 22nd among tight ends and not even projected to be drafted. Like the retired Jim Kleinsasser, the Vikings are hoping they found a player that can make an immediate impact, with a career as long as the 13 years Kleinsasser played.
Round 4, 39th pick: Greg Childs, wide receiver, Arkansas
After leading the Razorbacks his sophomore season with 48 receptions for 894 yards and seven touchdowns, he was being projected as a first-round draft choice. A knee injury suffered during his junior season derailed his career, making him available to the Vikings in the fourth round.
There's still a question about his health, especially after missing some of the team's minicamp with a calf strain. Here's hoping that Childs, who declared himself the "steal of the draft" has a longer career than Onterrio Smith, the running back from Oregon who made the same declaration and lasted only two seasons.
Round 5, 4th pick: Robert Blanton, cornerback, Notre Dame
Blanton will push Mistral Raymond to start along side his college teammate, Smith. However, I don't see the Vikings comfortable starting two rookies. Blanton will make the team and see plenty of action as a backup.
Round 6, 5th pick: Blair Walsh, kicker, Georgia
Walsh has a strong leg and should do a better job of putting the ball in the end zone. The problem is he made only 76 of 103 field goal attempts over his four years at Georgia. On the positive side, he did convert 184 of 185 PATs. If he struggles in the preseason, the Vikings will not hesitate to sign a veteran kicker.
Round 7, 3rd pick: Audie Cole, linebacker, North Carolina State
If the Vikings make no other additions at linebacker between now and the end of training camp, Cole makes the roster. His best chance of making the team will be as a special teams player. Most likely he lands on the practice squad.
Round 7, 12th pick: Trevor Guyton, defensive end, California
Guyton has the bad luck of playing the same position as Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. He's a long shot to make the team, unless he's the next coming of John Randle.
Look for eight of 10 draft picks make the team.
Minnesota Vikings 2012 Rookie Free Agents
The Vikings currently have 17 rookie free agents on their roster. They also have another 11 players on the roster that were never drafted by an NFL team. For these 29 players, the odds are long to making the final roster.
The Vikings have two players from their 2011 roster that made significant contributions as rookie free agents: cornerback and punt returner Marcus Sherel and Cullen Loeffler, a rookie free agent in 2004.
Here's a brief look at the 2012 rookie free agents on the Vikings roster:
Chase Baker, DT, Boise State
I have no reason why Baker is here. In four seasons at Boise State, he is credited with only 97 tackles. He did have 4.5 sacks his junior year.
Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA
In four seasons for the Bruins, he finished second on the team in rushing. His freshman year he was behind Kahlil Bell. The next three he backed up Johnathan Franklin. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his collegiate career. His best bet to make the team will be on the practice squad.
Bobby Felder, DB, Nicholls State
B/R Featured Columnist Scott Bischoff had the opportunity to interview Felder following his Pro Day. As a senior, the 6'1" cornerback intercepted five passes. He also played on special teams, blocking three kicks and was the Colonels' primary punt returner. He could be this year's version of Sherels.
Corey Gatewood, DB, Stanford
Gatewood was signed to fill the spot of Asher Allen after announcing his retirement from the team. He recorded one reception on offense and nine tackles and an interception on defense in 13 games last season for the Cardinal.
Tyler Holmes, OG, Tulsa
Holmes is a 6'5", 308 pound offensive guard from Ottawa, Ontario. He was drafted by Toronto of the CFL last year but opted to return to Tulsa for his senior year. He has the size, but there is a reason he went undrafted. Best bet, he ends up on the practice squad.
Anthony Jacobs, DE, Minnesota
At 6'1" and 293 pounds, Jacobs is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive end. Starting all 12 games for the Gophers, he finished with 26 tackles and one sack. It will be tough for him to survive the first round of cuts.
Kamar Jorden, WR, Bowling Green State
A junior college transfer to Bowling Green State, Jorden caught 174 passes for 2,198 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons with the Falcons. According to SI.com, pass-catching ability could land him a job as the fifth receiver on an NFL roster—it just won't be with the Vikings.
Eric Latimore, DE, Penn State
Recorded 18 tackles and three sacks last season for the Nittany Lions. Latimore has the size at 6'6" and 277 pounds. It will be difficult for Latimore to make the Vikings' roster.
A.J. Love, WR, South Florida
Missed his freshman year because of a broken thumb. He also missed his senior season in 2010 with a torn ACL and was awarded another year of eligibility. He played in 10 games last season, catching only nine passes for 122 yards and one touchdown. There's no way he makes the Vikings' active roster, and he is a long shot to land on the practice squad.
Tyler Nielsen, LB, Iowa
Last year the Vikings signed tight end Allen Reisner out of Iowa as a rookie free agent.This year they signed Nielson, a 6'3", 240-pound linebacker. Nielson started 20 games in his career. Because the Vikings are thin at linebacker, he will have a chance to prove what he can do. He will be competing with Audie Cole to make the team.
Ernest Owusu, DE, California
A teammate of the Vikings' seventh-round draft pick, Trevor Guyton, Owusu finished second on the team to Guyton with 4.5 sacks last season. If he makes the team, it will be at the expense of his college teammate. And the odds of that happening are not very good.
Corey Paredes, LB, Hawaii
A walk-on at Hawaii, Paredes was named captain his junior and senior seasons. As a junior, the 5'10'', 230-pound linebacker recorded 151 tackles and four sacks. He followed that up with 107 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a senior. Undersized as a linebacker, the only way he makes the roster will be as a special teams player.
Austin Pasztor, OG, Virginia
Pasztor, a four-year starter at Virginia, is 6'6'' and 304 pounds. According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, he did not allow a sack last season in 781 plays. With 12 offensive linemen on the roster, Pasztor will have to really impress to make the team.
Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina
B/R Featured Columnist Alen Dumonjic projected Powell as a late-round draft pick. Dumonjic indicates that the strength of the 6'3'', 325-pound defensive tackle is his quickness. With Letroy Guion, Fred Evans and Christian Ballard topping the depth chart, the only way he makes the team will be on the practice squad.
Quentin Saulsberry, OG, Mississippi State
Saulsberry is the only player in Bulldog history to play and start in every game of his career. According to WalterFootball.com, he was the eighth best center in the draft, projecting him to go in the fifth or sixth round. According to a report by B/R Productions, the upside on Saulsberry is that he can play any position on the offensive line.
Nick Taylor, DB, Florida International University
The head-scratcher move of the offseason has to be the signing of former FIU point guard Taylor. His only football experience came last season as part of a minor arena football league. His upside is his speed. He participated at FIU's Pro Day in March and was clocked with a 4.3 average time in the 40-yard-dash.
There's no way the 5'9'', 175-pounder makes the final roster, but if there is enough promise, he could wind up on the practice squad. The problem is there are only eight spot available on the practice squad.
Darrion Weems, OT, Oregon
Weems started all 14 games for the Ducks last season as a senior. As a junior, the 6'5'', 302-pound lineman made seven starts and played in 11 games. He has the size, but his best bet will be to make the team as a practice-squad player.
Minnesota Vikings 2012 Free Agency and Trade Additions
During the offseason, the Vikings did little more than dabble in the free-agent market. With the team smack dab in the middle of rebuilding, it made little sense to pursue superstars when the roster has so many holes to plug.
Here's a breakdown of 13 free agents that are on the roster heading into training camp.
Zack Bowman, CB
The Vikings signed Bowman to a reasonable one-year contract worth $615,000. A fifth-round draft pick of the Bears in 2008, he started 12 games in 2009 and led Chicago with six interceptions. In 2010, after getting burned in a Monday night against the Packers in Week 3, his play diminished significantly as he was removed from the starting lineup. Last season he only started one game.
Bowman will add experience to the defensive backfield. He will be battling for a backup role on defense.
John Carlson, TE
This move may have been the second most head-scratching signing by the Vikings. They signed the former Seattle tight end, who missed the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury, to a five-year $25 million contract.
A second-round pick from Notre Dame in 2008, Carlson has averaged 46 receptions, 506 yards and four touchdowns in his three seasons. With the Vikings using a lot of two-tight end sets, he will see plenty of playing time this year.
Chris Carr, CB
Carr, who started all 16 games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010, was limited to only one start and seven games last season. An undrafted free agent of the Raiders in 2005, the Vikings will be his fourth team in five seasons. Like Bowman, Carr brings experience as a backup at cornerback. He will compete to be the Vikings' nickle back on defense.
Jeff Charleston, DE
Another undrafted free agent, Charleston was signed by the Texans in 2006 but never saw any action. The last four seasons in New Orleans as a backup, he has seven sacks in 52 games. This is a deep position for the Vikings with Jared Allen and Brian Robison starting. Any chance Charleston gets he better make the most of it as I don't see him making the team.
Solomon Elimimian, LB
As I've written previously, this signing intrigues me. Elimimian spent the last two seasons playing for the BC Lions of the CFL. In 2010 he won the CFL's Most outstanding Rookie award, and in 2011 he was named the league's hardest hitter.
With the Vikings very thin at linebacker, he will be given shot to make the team as a backup. At the very least Elimimian will make an impact on coverage teams for the Vikings on their coverage units.
Jerome Felton, FB
Felton, a fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2008, played three years in Detroit. Released by Detroit last August, he opened the season with Carolina. After nine games he was released and claimed off waivers by the Colts. This signing was just to make sure the Vikings had a backup plan at fullback.
Lex Hilliard, RB
Attempting to fill the role of the departed Lorenzo Booker, Hilliard was drafted by the Dolphins in 2008. He has only 39 carries in three seasons for 130 yards.
Levi Horn, OT
Another player that went undrafted, Horn signed with the Bears in 2010 and has spent the last two seasons on their practice squad. He was activated for one game last season but did not see any action.
Marvin Mitchell, LB
A seventh-round selection of the Saints in 2007, Mitchell spent four seasons in New Orleans on their coverage units. Last season he signed with the Dolphins, making a start at linebacker. He heads into camp with the most experience of any player attempting to earn a backup role at linebacker.
Jerome Simpson, WR
This is the Vikings' biggest free-agent signing of the offseason. Simpson comes to the Vikings as the down-field threat the Vikings have been missing since Sidney Rice signed with Seattle. The Bengals second-round pick in 2008, Simpson saw his most extensive action in 2011. He finished with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns.
Geoff Schwartz, OG
A seventh-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2008, Schwartz missed all of last season because of a hip injury. He did start all 16 games in 2010. At 6'6'' and 331 pounds he has the dimensions to be an effective lineman.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB
Why? Last season he was the third-string quarterback for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL—enough said.
Bryan Walters, WR
Walters, another undrafted free agent in 2010, played in four games for the San Diego Chargers last year. He finished with three receptions for 27 yards and eight kickoff returns for 45 yards. There's no reason to expect him to last beyond the first round of cuts.
Projecting the Minnesota Vikings Final 53-Man Roster
So many things can factor into the Minnesota Vikings' final roster. Injuries, the level of play, the release of players from other roster can all have an impact.
Eschewing all of these, here's an early look at the depth chart for the final 53-man roster.
Note, italics indicate 2012 rookies.
Quarterbacks: No surprises here.
McLeod Bethel Thompson
Peterson shows enough during camp with no setbacks to make the opening day roster.
Carlson and Rudolph will both see plenty of action, making it difficult to determine who is the starter and who is the backup.
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt
Wide receivers: for the first three weeks.
When Jerome Simpson returns in Week 4, he will replace either Aromashodu or Burton.
DE: Jared Allen
DT: Kevin Williams
DT: Letroy Guion
DE: Brian Robison
OLB: Chad Greenway
MLB: Jasper Brinkley
OLB: Erin Henderson
Sherels makes it again as the primary punt returner. At least until Simpson returns.
Punter: Chris Kluwe
Kicker: Blair Walsh—will really depend on how he does kicking field goals. The Vikings may sign another kicker in camp if he struggles.
Long Snapper: Cullen Loeffler
The final roster contains eight of the 10 rookies. At least two open the season as starters with possibly a third and fourth breaking into the starting lineup.
The Vikings might go with an extra running back, at the expense of either Frampton or Sanford, as they ease Peterson back into action.