Friday, August 12, 2011
Behind the scenes at Vikings training camp
By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill embedded herself recently at the Minnesota Vikings' training camp, trying to understand the value of an off-site camp in the NFL's post-lockout chaos. Here's an excerpt of what she found after speaking with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier:
One of the first things a new coach likes to do in the offseason is to set his own tone during workouts. But Frazier doesn't dwell upon the fact that the lockout prevented him from doing that. No, that was covered, at least in part, in those final weeks of 2010, when a beaten-down team kept fighting.
He wants the rest of the league to know that the Vikings are a well-disciplined team that is smart, physical and mentally tough. He knows this team will be prepared.
He put together plans for two training camps, one in Winter Park if the lockout dragged on until the end of July and the other for Mankato. Frazier really wanted his team in Mankato. It's where the Vikings have camped for more than four decades, and it's far enough away from the distractions of the big city but close enough to call home. In Mankato, beefy linemen pedal around on bicycles, high-fiving fans as they ride off to the dorms. And numbers on a roster become friends.
The Vikings pushed the deadline for the Mankato decision back while the collective bargaining agreement was being hammered out, and a town waited and sweated out the final days of the lockout right along with them. When the labor deal was finally reached, mattresses, bottled water and gear were rushed onto campus to prepare for the team's arrival.
"Being down here has solidified in my mind that we did the right thing by being patient and waiting," Frazier says. "It's good for our players to be in that dorm together, having curfew, sitting in the cafeteria together. For us to be away, to develop that bonding, I think that's necessary. Chemistry is so important to winning a championship.
"I thought if we could get to our fans and get to Mankato, that was going to be the best thing for our team."
Find Merrill's full account here.