Mark Asper sat in front of one of the few lockers without a nameplate Monday. Turns out, that was fitting since Asper admitted he has no idea the names of most of his new teammates.
Welcome to the reality of the NFL after a weekend flurry of roster moves that had the Vikings releasing almost two dozen players, putting another on injured reserve, trading for one and claiming one off waivers. Asper fit into that last category, but exactly how he will fit with the Minnesota Vikings remains to be seen after spending the offseason preparing to be part of the Buffalo Bills.
The best plans, however, in the NFL can be scuttled in an instant and Asper recounted a crazy period in his life that had him contemplating the possibility of playing for any one of several different NFL teams.
"It was a whirlwind, that's for sure," Asper said at the start of a long explanation of what he did over his Labor Day weekend.
It started Friday when he found out he had been waived by the Buffalo Bills and told he was going to be brought back on their practice squad. That's standard procedure at this time of year for a promising rookie, but that was just the start of it. His agent Bill Heck called and said other teams were interested in him as a practice squad player, as well, and he would have to make a decision after he cleared waivers.
That never happened. The Vikings, with the third claiming spot on the waiver wire, grabbed the right to Asper and set in a motion a multi-tasking week.
"(Saturday) morning I got a phone call and (Heck) said, ‘Hey, the Vikings picked you up with their waiver, so go pack your bags,'" he said. "I threw everything in a bag and I got a phone call from the Vikings a couple of minutes later and they said, ‘Hey, can you catch a 7:20 flight (Saturday night)?' I said, ‘Sure.' This is Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoon I'm packing up, putting everything I need in a bag, trying to figure out with my wife and kids."
Needing to pack what he could and move from Buffalo, N.Y. to the Twin Cities in a matter of hours, Asper left it up to his wife to pick up the rest of their life and move it west. With family in Ohio, she will make a stop there with their kids during their drive and eventually work her way to Minnesota this week.
As Asper tells the story of his life-changing roster claim, he understandably has to pause several times to think about which event happened on what day, despite it all taking place in the previous 48 hours. He might be one of the few players that can match the hectic pace of work the Vikings' scouting staff put in over the weekend – an all-nighter Friday night and into Saturday.
Asper showed up at the Vikings' Winter Park training facility Sunday, got his NFL-mandated physical, took a tour and started the process of learning the Vikings' blocking assignments and techniques with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.
"Then they said, ‘OK, go cram. Try to retain as much of these as you can. We'll get with you tomorrow,'" Asper said. "(Monday) I had another cram session with the assistant offensive line coach and then out there at practice, they just walked me through a couple things. The play would be going on and they would ask me, ‘What's this? What are you supposed to do?' The rest of (Monday) and then (Tuesday) is a day off, but I'm going to come in and get up to speed."
Asper said there are only so many ways teams choose to run their blocking schemes, so the biggest issue for him is knowing his assignment and becoming familiar with how that works in conjunction with any other blockers in the area or who he is supposed to target at the next level of the defense.
"It's just deciding who you are going to go to and how you're are going to get there," he said. "The terminology is what is unique to an offensive line. It's more important than any other position, I think, because you have to work with five other guys at the same time and your communication and your verbiage is all you have to work with each other."
For now, he has a helper in Geoff Schwartz, who, like Asper, played at the University of Oregon and tried to translate some of concepts back to their days as a Duck to help with Asper's rushed transition.
For now, Asper is listed as a tackle but is starting out working mostly at guard and center.
"We think he gives us some flexibility at the guard and center position. We saw some things on tape that we made us believe he would be an upgrade and give us some competition, along with some depth along the offensive line," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We'll see if that turns out to be true."
With DeMarcus Love sent to injured reserve because of a pectoral injury that will require surgery and Schwartz coming off sports hernia surgery, Asper may need to get up to speed quickly.
"My goal is to be sound on paper through this week, and then be able to start really mixing it up because nothing can prepare you like actual play," Asper said. "Then, nothing can prepare you for actual game speed except game speed. My plan is to be as sound as I can on paper before I need to be and then starting working in as much as they'll let me."
What started out an anxious and hectic weekend will turn out to be one heck of a week by the time it is finished so you'll have to forgive Asper if still doesn't know the name of his new teammates by then.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Lineman Asper making a hurried transition
Viking Update Top Stories
Cutler returns, praising Vikings defenseBears QB Jay Cutler is returning to action and expects some rust, but he has immense respect for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:43 PM
VIDEO: Bradford breaks down offensive issuesWhile Sam Bradford has generally had an impressive start to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, that didn't translate last week. He discusses the offensive struggles against the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:33 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer blasts report, talks BearsMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer defends his character after an erroneous report that was later corrected went viral, but Zimmer settled in to talk Bears mostly on Thursday.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:39 PM
Vikings look to turn the pageComing off their first loss of the season, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to shake the label of being soft and get back to their winning ways at Soldier Field Monday, a place…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:28 PM