Many of the Vikings' veterans maintain they weren't completely surprised by the success of the team in 2012, despite most outside observers picking the Vikings to finish last in the division with about five or six wins.
Some said they figured they would have a chance at a winning record when they saw how the new pieces were performing in training camp, but no matter the timing of the buy-in, there was a definite sense of improvement after the Vikings turned a 3-13 record in 2011 into a 10-6 record in 2012.
"Big improvement from last year, but we're not satisfied with just getting the playoffs," 10-year veteran Kevin Williams said. "We wanted to stay in longer and try to make it to (the Super Bowl in) New Orleans. But it's a step and we've got to keep improving."
Williams said he first started believing a winning year was possible at the beginning of the season when he saw how the young additions played.
For receiver Michael Jenkins, the faith grew a little sooner.
"Inside the locker room we believed. We knew in training camp we had a good team," he said. "Everybody outside may not have believed that, but we felt if we played our style of football – as coach (Leslie) Frazier always talks about smart, disciplined, tough football – we could continue in this league and the guys bought into it and we were able to make a great season out of it."
Now the question is whether the Vikings' budding success can carry over and continue in 2013. Some players won't be with the team and new players will be added through free agency and the draft, but it appears that the building blocks are in place.
"What you did during the season, as far as whatever individuals do to get themselves ready, you take all that stuff and you keep that in mind going into next year because obviously it worked," guard Charlie Johnson said. "Going from three wins to 10 wins, that's a big change. You don't see that very often. So just whatever we did schematically or individually, just work on those things and build on them."
The seven-win improvement was the most in the history of the franchise from one season to the next. But if they are going to improve again in 2013, Jared Allen said it will be depend on the work ethic of the players, and he believes that is what got the Vikings to their winning season in 2012.
"You have to assume that if guys are going to work that way as rookies, that's kind of their M.O., you know what I mean? You saw a lot of self-motivated individuals," Allen said. "I'm a firm believer that if you're not self-motivated to be the best at your craft, you're never going to be. Money can't motivate you, fame can't motivate you, you have to legitimately like football and want to be the best. You saw that in this locker room, so that's what's encouraging."
Allen's wish is that the Vikings become a staple in the playoffs on annual basis. He said there are always missing pieces from one year to the next, but he's leaving that up to general manager Rick Spielman and the scouting and coaching staffs to figure out.
The Vikings had 16 players on the roster in 2012 that were drafted in 2011 and 2012. They have eight draft picks to their credit for April – one in each of the first three rounds, two in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the seventh.
"Rick's done a great job with his vision, building a young roster with guys who are hungry and want to work hard, and having good veteran leadership," center John Sullivan said. "I think we're a team on the upswing. … We made huge strides, and as long as we go about our business the right way this offseason, rest up right now while it's time to do that, get healthy, come back ready to work once the offseason program starts, we're definitely a team that's on the upswing."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Veterans say Vikings ‘a team on the upswing'
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