As the Vikings move into the final week of their organized team activities, they were pleased with an experiment triggered by some new assistants.
The change in rules for training camp and OTAs with the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 has forced coaches to adapt their schedule. Training camp practices were essentially limited to one full practice per day and OTAs were downsized from 14 to 10 sessions.
Those changes had head coach Leslie Frazier searching for a way to maximize the time he had with his players before training camp and install more of the offense. He turned to a couple of new assistant coaches with college coaching experience, Klint Kubiak and Jeff Howard, for advice on how they maximized practice under the college restrictions. Their suggestion: Essentially have two huddles at the ready.
Last week the Vikings gave it try, with the second-team offense ready to go with a play as soon as the first-team offense was done running on of theirs. Both offenses start near midfield but go in opposite directions against the first- and second-team defenses.
"I've been thinking about it for a while and this two-hour rule really kind of cramps your style a little bit when you're talking about practice and what you're trying to get accomplished," Frazier said.
The change must have weighed heavily on his mind, as he said he "tossed and turned" in between the first week of OTAs and the second while he contemplated the change.
Between his new assistants and a friend on another coaching staff, Frazier came to the conclusion it was the right thing to do.
"I said, ‘How did you guys practice under this two-hour rule?' I think they had like 20 hours per week where they can get work in. They explained what they did at Texas A&M and Jeff was at Texas Tech. I listened and I wanted to try it," Frazier said.
The initial reaction was positive by the Vikings' coaches, according to Frazier.
"I think it's something we'll incorporate for the remaining OTA's. We don't do it the entire practice, but certain drills we'll do it within," he said. "It has definitely helped us to be able to get a better evaluation of our players and get some reps done as well."
It appeared that players noticed the difference as well, needing a chance to catch their breath after one of the full-team sessions last week.
"It's a little more than 50 percent more (reps) so it's well worth doing," Frazier said. "I could see more and more teams going to something like this. It definitely has benefits."
The Vikings have four more OTAs this week, starting Monday, and then wrap up their spring practice schedule with the mandatory three-day minicamp next week.
WEBB'S RETURNS LIKELY LIMITED
Although quarterback-turned-receiver Joe Webb took some turns returning punts, if he gets a chance to be used as a return man during the preseason it will most likely be limited to kickoff returns.
"Not thinking that way," Frazier said when asked about Webb as a punt returner. "We're thinking more wide receiver, potentially kickoff return guy, but not so much punt return. We do have him fielding punts because it's going to help him with catching the ball, but we're not looking at him as a punt returner."
STILL WAITING ON FIRST-ROUNDERS
The Vikings have signed six of their draft choices, but all three of their first-rounders remain unsigned. That shouldn't cause much panic, as the timeline on negotiations for most of their draft picks used to start in earnest after July 4, but the new CBA has made it easier to signed drafted rookies.
Still, the Vikings are hardly alone. Only six of the 32 first-round picks around the NFL have been signed so far – all of them in the top 20 picks. The Vikings selected Sharrif Floyd 23rd overall, Xavier Rhodes 25th and Cordarrelle Patterson 29th.
Only one of the six first-rounders that is signed – DE Ezekial Ansah – was drafted in the top 10 (fifth overall by the Detroit Lions).
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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