The 2009 and 2010 versions largely centered around one guy who never showed his face – some guy named Brett Favre (last named pronounced "Farve"). Last year was marked by the hasty conclusion (and confusion) of the league lockout, the release of Bryant McKinnie and the arrival of "new savior" Donovan McNabb (history changed that designation quite quickly).
With the exception of a couple injuries to new players, this year's Vikings training camp has been quiet. There are parking spaces for satellite trucks that are largely going unused. The national media are showing up occasionally, but it seems they're more doing the on-the-road equivalent to a training camp pub crawl – come in, do your business and move on to the next one.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't have it any other way. He's basking in the glory of the Vikings being largely ignored and, for the most part, keeping their names out of the national headlines. Several other camps have been making news for all the wrong reasons – holdouts, in-fighting, competition for starting spots bringing out the worst in players.
In Mankato, things were ominously quiet over the first two weeks. The Vikings are showing up for work in the morning, getting back to their rooms by curfew and generally keeping in line. The worst that has happened is a shoving match Wednesday, and Frazier seemed ready and willing to let it happen. Besides that, it's business as usual – which, for a team like the recent editions of the Vikings, has been unusual to say the least.
"I sleep a whole lot better at night – no question about it," Frazier said. "You want guys to be focusing on football and the team and the message that you're delivering in that first meeting. You have some of those outside distractions and it takes away from that focus. Part of what we do requires great focus and great determination and, if you don't have that, it shows up on the field. We've had our share of distractions, as you know, so it's refreshing that, at this point, we can concentrate on what's important and that's getting ready to play football."
The focus of the offense, in a stroke of irony, is on a player who isn't on the field taking part in practice – running back Adrian Peterson. Many of the questions Frazier has fielded during his press conferences during the first two weeks of camp have centered around Peterson. Will he play? When will we he play? Is he pressuring you to let him play?
But, without Peterson, the rest of the Vikings offense has been moving forward. They're still practicing. They're preparing, not only for the 49ers tomorrow, but the 49ers in Week 3 of the regular season – when it can be assumed the game plan and the playing time will be much different than what is shown tomorrow night.
Even without Peterson, the Vikings plan to continue to run an offense that is run-first and pass-second – although it will be subject to change.
"We still want to really center around what we can do running the football and our offensive line seems to be coming together," Frazier said. "These games that we'll have in the preseason will give us a good indication of how we are going to be able to achieve our goals of being able to be a team that can really run the football and get people in eight-man fronts. With the weapons that we think we are surrounding Christian (Ponder) with, (we hope to) be able to expose people because of that. We have a plan for what we want. Now we have to see it come to fruition by how we can come together as an offensive line. That's going to be a big deal for us. We think we have some capable backs, but we want to jell up front because that will determine if we will be able to do the things that we set out to do."
While the Vikings offense will be missing its front teeth with Peterson sidelined, it would appear the Vikings continue to whistle while they work, and, in a strange way, may find a way to come together without their star performer and become more well-rounded on their own while they wait for the franchise player to return and bring normalcy back to the Vikings offense.
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.