Camp Season Renews Next Week

In the ebb and flow of the NFL offseason, there are down times and times of heavy roster movement. The Vikings are entering one of those times in the beginning of June, but first they have some more evaluation to do.

Is the Vikings roster set? That seems to be the prevalent question at this time of year, but even the Vikings don't completely know the answer to that question. They will, however, make significant progress toward an answer in the coming weeks.

June 1 is an important date in the NFL. Veterans who carry more salary than production are often released on or shortly after this date so teams can spread the damage to the salary cap over two years instead of one. The Vikings were in that position the last two years. Now, however, they are on the other side -- with about $13 million remaining under the NFL-imposed salary cap of $75.1 million.

But before the Vikings start considering one or more free agents that might help their chances to win the NFC North title, they have a number of spring camps to complete -- or at least one more before June 1.

Mike Tice finished up his team's official minicamp two weeks ago, but he still has three developmental camps remaining in the next month before the players take their final break preceding training camp.

First, the team starts out with a three-day camp May 28-30, the last one before that important June 1 date. Then comes a four-day look at those signed players from June 2-5, which could be the first look at a quick free-agent addition to the fold. Finally, the veterans wrap up the development camp schedule with practices on June 9-12.

All of those camps are voluntary, but the Vikings have been enjoying a tremendous turnout in the their voluntary workouts this offseason, so we expect to see most of the veterans in attendance. Developmental camps are closed to the public, but VU will be there with progress reports and follow-up features.

What isn't closed to the public is training camp, which starts with players reporting to Minnesota State University, Mankato on July 25. That schedule was released this week.

The highlights of that start less than a week into the schedule. On July 30-31, the Vikings travel to River Falls, Wis., to practice against the Kansas City Chiefs. On Aug. 2, from 11 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. they will put on an intrasquad scrimmage in Mankato. They will also put on two passing scrimmages, with autograph sessions following -- from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 5 and Aug. 12. The final training camp practice is Aug. 14, from 10:30 to 12:20 p.m. before the team heads back north to Winter Park in Eden Prairie.

A complete training camp schedule is available under the " Spotlight" section at the bottom of the front page.

With the probability high that the Vikings will have new starters at seven defensive positions compared to this time last year, practices are important for players to get used to each other's tendencies. They have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with each other over the next three weeks, then again starting in late July.

After that, the real drive for the division begins.

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