Vikings preparing to start offseason program

With a new head coach, the Vikings can start their offseason conditioning program early and are allowed an additional minicamp. Both of those are nice advantages for a new coaching staff.

The story on the NFL's official website stated Thursday night that the schedule had been set for the "voluntary" workout programs.

The official rules on participation are laid out in negotiated jargon that define when the offseason workouts can and will be conducted. The program has three distinct phases – when teams can start their offseason program, when organized team activities will be conducted and when they will have a mandatory (non-voluntary) minicamp.

For the Vikings, those dates are as follows: the first date for the offseason program is Monday, the dates for OTAs will be May 28-30, June 3-5 and June 9-12, with the mandatory minicamp being held June 17-19. The rookie minicamp is May 16-18.

Thanks to having a new head coach, the Vikings and six other teams will start their offseason program two weeks earlier than those teams who have the same coaching staff that completed the 2013 season. In addition, those teams with new head coaches have the ability to have a voluntary minicamp, which, in the case of the Vikings, will be held April 29-May 1.

In a league that is a stickler for not allowing one member club to have a competitive advantage over the others, the workout, OTA and minicamp schedule is the one area where a team with a new coaching staff is given a distinct advantage. Green Bay and Chicago, for example, can't start their offseason workout program until April 22 – two weeks after the Vikings (and Lions), both of whom hired new head coaches after their season was completed. The Vikings and Lions will also have the chance to have the three-day voluntary minicamp that the Packers and Bears won't be allowed.

The interesting part of the offseason program is the word "voluntary." It would seem to be anything but voluntary despite language that clearly states otherwise. Last year, for example, the only players that were missing from the voluntary aspect of the offseason program were players coming off of injuries that required surgery and Jared Allen, who made it clear to the organization when he signed that he would be doing his own offseason workout program in Arizona.

As the Vikings assemble their new-look coaching staff and roster of players, the advantage of being able to start their conditioning program two weeks early and have an additional minicamp will give the coaching staff additional opportunities to get a look at the players they inherited when they took their new coaching posts. Position coaches and coordinators can't start coaching them on the field next week, but new head coach Mike Zimmer said having a minicamp before the draft will help refine the Vikings' needs before the draft.

As such, players will be looking to make a positive impression on the coaching staff, which will likely make the "voluntary" offseason conditioning program highly attended. Those who want to assure they have jobs in 2014 should be in attendance, making the percentage of players taking part in the 12-week offseason program virtually unanimous.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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