"It's new to me," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said with a smile after Tuesday's practice. "Being one of the older guys, I guess that's the perks. It felt kind of weird not being out there that first preseason game, not even a series. We got lathered up real good in warmups. Just getting the hold put on you was real different, but I'm not complaining. I'm glad."
As a former player, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier can appreciate the grind a full season can have on players. Easing them into the preseason is one way to try to minimize the strain at the end of the regular season and Frazier elected to have several of his best players stand on the sidelines for the entirety of the preseason opener. Joining Kevin Williams was fellow defensive lineman Jared Allen and cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin (who is recovering from a knee injury).
Winfield said Frazier's approach to the preseason is just one difference the Vikings are experiencing as they complete the transition from the Brad Childress era to Frazier's way of doing things.
"Coach is going to take care of the older players, the veterans," Winfield said. "This is the same system I've been in the last five years. I'm really not getting any new information. I know the things I need to care of."
Winfield brings up a good point – it was only defensive stars that were sidelined Saturday. All of the expected offensive starters, who are learning a new system under coordinator Bill Musgrave, got some playing time at the start of the game. That list included Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, who reportedly wasn't thrilled with being pulled after getting the game-opening carry.
However, Frazier believes in minimizing the injury risk with his top players, and that may be especially true as they ease back into the football routine after an offseason in which they couldn't work out at the team's Winter Park facility because of the rules of the NFL lockout.
"I just think the older you get, the more those things become more apparent," Williams said. "They want to see more of the young guys because we didn't get OTA [organized team activity] practices. It was a chance for those young guys to work in with the [first-team] group and just really see how they hold up."
Winfield, who had a rocky relationship with Childress from the start of the coach's tenure in Minnesota in 2006, respected Frazier's approach.
"Oh, yeah. Long overdue by now, but I appreciate it," Winfield said. "First preseason game. We've only been in camp two weeks. Still getting the legs up under me, but I feel great. I'm well-rested. I'm ready to go against Seattle."
Despite Fred Pagac taking over for Frazier as defensive coordinator, not much is changing in the Vikings' defensive approach. Pagac is expected to have a more aggressive attitude, but that isn't likely to be displayed too often in the preseason, anyway, and Winfield said there isn't much for him to learn in the preseason the way opposing offenses approach preseason games.
"Everything is vanilla. Offenses don't want to show anything. Defenses don't want to show anything. It's all about technique," Winfield said. "Once you get out there, you just want to work on your technique because we're not game-planning and we're not watching film on what receivers we're going against. Just go out there and try to play your technique the best you can."
That will likely start Saturday in Seattle, but even then the stars' exposure to the game will be limited.
TUESDAY PRACTICE OBSERVATIONS
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.