Veterans get chance to make first impression

Vikings veterans can report to Winter Park today to start the offseason program. They get an early start on that because of the Vikings having a new coaching staff, one that the veterans will be trying to impress early in the offseason process.

The Vikings are going to join six other teams in the one advantage that the NFL provides for teams that fire their head coaches at the end of a season and bring in someone new – a two-week jump into the offseason workout program.

The rest of the NFL won't open their doors to players to work out on their own until April 21. But, along with six others teams, the doors to Winter Park open today – giving the new Vikings coaching staff a chance to get to familiarize themselves with their new players, even if they can't be coaching them on the field yet. The first two weeks of the program is mostly about strength and conditioning, with on-field coaching allowed in two weeks.

It can be argued that a two-week advantage in April isn't overly significant, but with the draft on the horizon, to make room for those players, somebody who is already under contract is likely going to have to go. Those players get a leg up on making an impression on the coaching staff. The new guys won't be coming for another month. This is the veterans' time to shine.

Besides the mandatory minicamp in June, the players who are under contract have the option whether or not to attend the offseason workouts or not. Not everybody does and some of those who do are there because an inner feeling of obligation or missing the environment. For a lot of others, especially those who don't see many (if any) fans wearing their jerseys, the extra couple of weeks those players have to make a first impression on Mike Zimmer, coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards and the new position coaches could be career-saving.

Many of them have some stature built up within the organization. They are players on the roster because they got a strong endorsement from Leslie Frazier, Bill Musgrave, Alan Williams or a position coach that is no longer with the team. It's often those recommendations that make or break a player on the bubble. When it comes down to the "tough cuts" – the handful of jobs that are being essentially evenly contested, it's often the word of the coaches overseeing those positions that help make the final decision.

As the old story goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. There are a lot of Vikings players that will start filtering into Winter Park today looking to make that impression on the new coaching staff. No job will be won or lost today, but the foundation for whether those players stay or go might be determined very early on – if they make a positive or a negative impression on the new staff.

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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