However, given the circumstances of the 2011 season, where rookies and undrafted free agents didn't join the team until after the lockout, the preseason games are going to carry a lot more weight in determining the final roster than perhaps they ever have.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said that, with the limited amount of time the coaching staff has had with its first-year players, their performance in the preseason games will carry more significance than it would in a normal year with OTAs and minicamps for the staff to determine a player's strengths and weaknesses.
"It has to," Frazier said of the impact of how players respond in games. "Not only were you limited in the offseason, but we've had limited exposure in this training camp with the way the practice structure is. It's only one time a day you can wear pads and, after that, you really can't do much else. The games will give you a good indication of where guys are and what they're capable of doing. I think all teams around the league have to rely a little bit more on the preseason and evaluating the younger guys than in years past."
The limited access to the young players may also change the standard practice of how much the first-teamers play in the preseason. Under typical circumstances, the starters play one or two series in the first game, a quarter or so in the second game, the entire first half and a series in the third quarter of the third game, and a series or two in the preseason finale. Frazier said that may change under the unique conditions facing teams this preseason.
"At certain positions, we may cut back just because we feel like we have a good handle on certain positions," Frazier said. "But with others, we may change the rotation because we need to get a little more exposure to some of the younger guys and the only way for us to do that and properly evaluate them is to let them get in games so we can see them. There may be certain veterans that play less than other veterans, depending on what position [they play], and we're just trying to evaluate those young guys."
Translation? Don't expect to see too much of guys like Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Percy Harvin in the preseason. Coaches know what they have in those players and sitting them could open a chance for a young unknown to shine.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Frazier said that veterans Jared Allen and Kevin Williams have been taking on a leadership role in camp and acting like team leaders in every respect of their games since returning from the lockout.
"If you observe both of them in this camp, the way they're practicing, the way they're leading, it's just exactly what you want from a coaching standpoint. They're great players. When great players practice the way they're practicing – so attentive to detail – you've got to believe that's going to translate into good football when we start playing for real. I'm excited to watch them play this season. There's a renewed attitude amongst the two of them and it's good for our team."
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
Wide receiver Stephen Burton stood out in Wednesday's practice, but not for the right reason. On a Hail Mary drill, Burton out-leaped defenders, but instead of trying to "high point" that pass and make the reception, he slapped the ball – sending it like a bullet shot through the hands of receivers and defenders alike. Asked what Burton was thinking, all Frazier could do was shake his head, give a little shrug and smile.
"You usually don't see that, so we'll definitely have something to coach off of the tape," Frazier said. "[He] probably [remembered] when he was in high school and being a [defensive back] saying, ‘Knock it down,' because that's exactly what we tell DBs to do."
Unfortunately, the Burton on the Vikings who is a defensive back is Brandon, not Stephen.
PRESS CONFERENCE NOTES
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.