Named interim head coach 10 games into the 2010 season after the firing of Brad Childress – the interim tag would be removed in January 2011 – Frazier and his coaching staff didn't have the opportunity to mesh together because of the lockout. They could do a ton of film study and talent evaluation, but, without players to have organized team activities and minicamps, it was all theory with the chance to put their plans into practice until the lockout ended days before the start of training camp.
This time around, Frazier said the offseason program hasn't just been beneficial for the many young players on the 2012 Vikings, but also for him and his coaching staff, which has been working almost non-stop since the end of the 2011 season.
"Going back from the Senior Bowl, having a chance to work there and then coming back to the offseason program, it's been great for our staff, just to get a chance to get to know each other a little bit better in a different environment, where you're not preparing for Week 1 of the season," Frazier said. "It just helps us to be able to plan, work together and then have a chance to work with our players brings it all together. I can't underestimate the importance of a first-time staff having a chance to work together, especially when you don't know very much about your players other than what you've seen on tape. It's been great for us as a staff."
Overseeing his first full-team mandatory minicamp of his head coaching career, Frazier was asked his thoughts about several of the team's key veterans – from a dissatisfied Percy Harvin, to a concerned Chad Greenway to a returning Jared Allen to a promising Phil Loadholt. Here are some of the things Frazier had to say about the veterans that will be so critical to the advancement of one the league's youngest teams.
"We've talked about some different scenarios and going through some what ifs," Frazier said. "But so far, he's on pace with everything that the doctors have asked him to do. In talking with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman, even yesterday in his examination, they were pleased with some of the things they saw. We're optimistic that things are still on course for him to play in the home opener. What we do in training camp? We'll wait and see when we get to that point, but we have talked about different options."
"He had mentioned to me last Friday that, unless some emergency came up, he would be here," Frazier said. "When I didn't hear from him last night, I had a sense he would make it."
"When I came in my office yesterday afternoon, I gave him a big hug," Frazier said. "It's exciting to see him around his teammates and participating. He's a guy with a lot of energy. He's a leader on our team and I'm glad to have him back in the building."
Frazier added that Allen keeps his body in excellent shape and, while not at Winter Park for most of the offseason, his training regimen is top-notch. He surely would have preferred to have Allen in-house, but players can't be forced into attending the OTAs and Allen has never been a conditioning problem.
"These are voluntary sessions," Frazier said. "You can't get around that. Guys have the option to attend those OTAs or not attend them. The fact that he's at the mandatory minicamp, that's a positive for our team and having him around is a big plus. We bank on the fact that he's here."
"I like the approach he's taken, his attitude, the way he's working, the way he's interacting with his teammates," Frazier added. "So far so good."
"The good thing about both Kyle and John is that they have a history," Frazier said. "They kind of knew each other from their days at Notre Dame. Even when we drafted Kyle, we talked a little bit about John. There's a relationship that was already there and now that's really growing. We like for those guys to be an outstanding pair and we fully expect that. But the fact that there was a foundation before we even signed John kind of helps us."
"It's big," Frazier said. "His leadership is a big deal for us, obviously, with the new faces we have (in the secondary). He's an extremely talented guy and so well-respected by not only other players around the league, but the players on our team. To have him around, participate and really be a coach on the field is a big deal for us."
"Phil and I talked when we began Phase One of the offensive program about just the point – the consistency in his game," Frazier said. "That's what he wants. That's what we want to see – more consistency in his play. We need him to really be an anchor for us on the offensive line and take more of a leadership role for us at this point in his career. We think he can, but he has to play at a consistent high level throughout the year. If that's the case, our offensive line will (show) dramatic improvement. But we really need him to take the reigns for us from a consistency standpoint along with leadership."
There is no question that the Vikings have a lot of work to do and numerous tough decisions that will need to be made over the next three months leading up to the regular-season opener against Jacksonville. Frazier said he likes where the team is at right now and believes that progress has already been made, but added that it's still early in the process – as players and coaches – and that the impressions being made, while valuable, won't be the be-all and end-all. That won't come until the hitting starts for real in training camp.
"Until we get the pads on Mankato, you have to be careful about passing judgment," Frazier said. "We're trying to do some things to get a feel for where they are mentally and how they work. That helps us as we prepare for Mankato."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.