Vikings veterans are reserving judgment on what the 2013 season could bring.
The goals are the same as always, according to NFL MVP Adrian Peterson: Get to the playoffs by winning the division and then win the Super Bowl. That never changes, and if participation numbers in May and June mean anything for a team's success, the Vikings are off to a good start.
As the team prepares to resume organized team activities on Tuesday, it should bring the arrival of Jared Allen and that would mean 100 percent of the players have attended at least one of the voluntary offseason practices.
"I think it's a standard we're creating around here. We're doing a good job of coming to work, and we're here taking care of what we need to take care of," said linebacker Erin Henderson. "I think it speaks to the character of the guys and the people that we have around here that we want to show up and come to work on days where it's the offseason … and people may want to be elsewhere doing other things. But we're all still here putting the time in."
The Vikings have a few players limited by injuries and offseason rehabilitation from surgeries. Center John Sullivan attended the start of OTAs last week but isn't yet able to practice because of microfracture knee surgery after last season. He expects to be ready for training camp.
Veteran free-agent acquisition Greg Jennings suffered a minor setback with an ankle injury at the start of OTAs last Tuesday but expects to be back in action this week. Receiver Chris Summers, who spent last year on the practice squad, didn't practice much of last week because of a hamstring injury.
And it's uncertain how much, if any, Allen will be able to practice coming off of shoulder and knee surgeries in February, but the Pro Bowl defensive end will at least be attending practices after taking last week off to celebrate the third anniversary of his wedding.
"The guys who have been around for a long time, you can look at them and some guys might be kind of tired of it and going through the motions," Peterson said. "But our guys are still hungry and still trying to accomplish the ultimate goal. That's winning a championship. That's what it's all about."
That's part of the reason veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams attended, despite not being pleased about having to restructure his contract to lower his salary by $2.5 million this year and cut the final (2014) season out of his previous contract. He admitted he considered skipping voluntary OTAs, but …
"It's just a chance to get better. We've got a lot of young guys," Williams said. "If we're going to count on these young guys, they need some type of veteran leadership around, showing them the right ways to do things. I take it on myself to be a leader and, yeah, maybe me and the front office didn't agree on the contract situation, but I'm still here to do a job."
Peterson wasn't able to participate in last year's offseason practices as he recovered from surgery to repair his left anterior cruciate ligament. This year, despite surgery to repair a sport hernia he played through during the second half of last season, he is back on the practice field for May and June.
In his case, absence made the heart grow fond of, yes, even offseason practices.
"Just being able to be involved in OTAs and come out here and participate with the guys, just that competition level feels good. It feels a lot better than last year," Peterson said.
"Just the team chemistry. I come out here to be around Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil and all the new faces. Let these young guys see how we do it when we're in here working. Hopefully they pick up from it."
Head coach Leslie Frazier was excited about the high level of participation last week at the start of OTAs, and the arrival of Allen this week will make it 100 percent participation at one point or another for every player. How that translates in the win column remains to be seen, but it's a good start.
"It's early now. We've got a lot of new faces," Peterson said. "I feel like we have the pieces in place to be better than last year, so time will tell."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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