MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings re-convene for the start of their mandatory mini-camp on Tuesday, they'll have their roster together at last. That means the three draft picks they've so far only been able to work with on a remote basis -- first-rounder Anthony Barr, third-rounder Scott Crichton and fifth-rounder David Yankey -- will finally be at the team facility, ready to jump in with a group that's been going through organized team activities without them for the last three weeks.
Barr, Crichton and Yankey were on the quarters system at UCLA, Oregon State and Stanford, respectively, meaning they didn't finish school until last week. The Vikings were only able to communicate with them over the phone and in a handful of on-campus visits (where they weren't allowed to coach the players on the field), and while they tried to get as innovative as they could, they weren't going to be able to be anywhere near as productive with the three players as if they'd been allowed to spend the five weeks since the NFL draft in Minnesota.
Now, the Vikings should have complete access to the three rookies. Yankey took a red-eye flight to the Twin Cities after finishing his finals last Tuesday, arriving in time to participate in the Vikings' last two OTAs last week. Barr was scheduled to take his last final on Friday, graduate the same day and fly to Minnesota on Saturday. But now that those two players and Crichton are full-time professionals, coach Mike Zimmer said, the Vikings will have to check their desire to get them working too quickly.
"We're going to try to kind of ease those guys into it a little bit, so we don't confuse them," Zimmer said at the Vikings' charity golf tournament last Thursday.
Yankey's experience in a pro-style offense at Stanford should help him make the transition to the NFL, and while he figures to be behind Charlie Johnson at left guard for now, he might push the veteran for that spot eventually. Crichton will be part of the Vikings' defensive line rotation, and will probably line up at both defensive end and tackle; he'd had some experience in college rushing from the inside, and could find a niche there in the Vikings' nickel defense if the team looks to keep Everson Griffen outside on third downs.
Most of the attention, though, will be on Barr, who'll be trying to win the strong-side linebacker job after the Vikings took him ninth overall. The Vikings have big plans for him in their defense, and how quickly they can expand his role will depend on how much they can throw at him next week and in training camp. Barr said earlier this month he thought his remote work with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer had gone about as well as it could, adding, "I'm not behind at all."
There's bound to be an adjustment period once he gets on the field, but Barr's relative inexperience at the position hasn't seemed to worry the running back-turned-linebacker or his new coach. "I know that’s a big thing with everybody -- he’s only played two years [at linebacker]," Zimmer said last month. "The things he’s done defensively, he’s done pretty well."
Now the Vikings will get three days to work with Barr in their full defense before the start of training camp. There's bound to be some eagerness to turn him loose, as well as Crichton and Yankey, but Zimmer is preaching patience for now.
"In college football -- and I’m not trying to knock them -- but there’s one quarterback, two quarterbacks a year that are really good and here you’re playing against really good ones," Zimmer said last month. "Same with receivers and offensive lineman – now you’re playing a bunch of elite. It’s like when they play in the all-star games.So I think the big thing is the competition level raises quite a bit, the speed of the game and then having to learn terminology and how fast they can catch on."