Normally, the Vikings' minicamps and organized team activities would be winding down at this time of year, but in 2011 there is very little that is normal about the NFL operations.
Players have been locked out of team facilities by the owners. Free agency hasn't taken place yet and won't until a solution to the current labor impasse is reached. And coaches can't have contact with players or their agents.
The NFL's labor mess is putting training camps across the NFL in jeopardy, and the Vikings continue to talk about contingency plans internally without a drop-dead date for holding it in Mankato being announced publicly.
"We're still discussing that as an organization and we're just going through the whole process, just trying to determine what would be that date if it does get to that point," head coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday at the Vikings Children's Fund charity golf tournament. "We're talking about the Mankato portion and whether we're going to be able to get down there or not. We're still discussing that right now."
The Vikings have held training camp in Mankato for more than 40 years, but the longer the lockout drags on, the less likely they will make the trip 65 miles southwest of their Eden Prairie home base. Minnesota State-Mankato starts classes on Aug. 23 and the residence halls open on Aug. 19. The Vikings didn't return to Mankato after their preseason opener last year – it is Aug. 13 this year – meaning they are likely in for approximately two weeks of training camp from the end of July to Aug. 11 or skipping the Mankato trip altogether if NFL activities don't resume in the next month.
In that case, the Vikings would likely hold their preseason preparations at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, just as they do when they return from Mankato in previous years.
"You adjust. There are other teams in our league that don't have training camps away from their facilities, so it would be kind of the way the league is going," Frazier said. "There are more teams, it seems, that are going in the direction of holding camps at their facilities. It wouldn't be something out of the norm, so we would adjust."
Last year, 13 teams held training camp at their team headquarters, a growing trend in the NFL that may be forced on teams this year if the lockout continues. The majority of teams that weren't at their practice facilities for training camps were at colleges and universities, where dorms normally house players and would be needed for students in mid to late August.
Although the Vikings' add lockers at their Winter Park facility to accommodate the bigger preseason roster, Frazier said the team would still carry the maximum 80 players allowed in the preseason if it were forced to conduct a full training camp in Eden Prairie.
"We'd still go to that max. That wouldn't change, whether we were at Mankato or we were at Winter Park," he said.
On Wednesday, representatives for the NFL and its players continued a non-mediated bargaining session, which is viewed as a positive sign.
"You're a little more optimistic and cautiously optimistic that hopefully something will be resolved. But you just kind of wait and see. There have been talks before, but we're just kind of in a holding pattern, just being optimistic," Frazier said.
"I think it's important to be talking. It's hard to get a deal done if the sides aren't talking, so that's encouraging."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings continue training camp contingencies
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