Technology helps rooks make up for lost time

Three of the Vikings' top five draft choices will have to miss practice for school over the next month, putting them further behind in picking up the new schemes and terminology, but some of the newer technology is helping them overcome that.

Technology is changing the way the Minnesota Vikings are teaching their young players, even when they aren't able to be at Winter Park because of rules in the collective bargaining agreement.

Even before the new CBA was signed in 2011, players that were on a quarter system in college and therefore went longer into the spring or even the summer, haven't been allowed to participate in anything but the rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp when their school is in session.

The 10 organized team activities were off-limits for any rookie that hadn't yet graduated and whose school is still in session. In the Vikings' case, that means first-round pick Anthony Barr (UCLA), third-round selection Scott Crichton (Oregon State) and fifth-rounder David Yankey (Stanford) are all required to pack up after this weekend's rookie minicamp and not be directly involved with the Vikings' practices between the end of rookie minicamp on Sunday and the end of their school's session, with the exception of minicamp, which is June 17-19.

"Yeah, it kind of sucks. I got to go back on Sunday for about a month," said Barr, the team's first pick and a likely opening-day starter. "So hopefully I can learn and hopefully they'll continue to send me stuff, send me film. It's going to be more mental than physical really. So when I get to camp I can get my feet on the ground and just roll."

There are ways for Barr and the others learn even if they aren't able to attend the optional OTAs between May 28 and June 12. Thanks to technology, they will have the ability to communicate via Skype with their position coaches and have the playbook updated on their team-issued iPads.

"It's a huge disadvantage. Everyone else is learning, but at the same time I still get the plays they have to do, the clips of the practices on my iPad," Crichton said. "That kind of helps, but the whole one-on-one thing with my coach, the vets coming in too, that's a big disadvantage I'm missing out on.

"I can Skype my coach. That's about it. Skype my coach when he's not with these guys, and he's with these guys all the time. It'll be hard, but I've got to push through it."

Those players will also miss out on the $175 per day afforded to players during OTAs.

Head coach Mike Zimmer is all about players earning their spot on the roster and depth chart. It will be more difficult for the players whose schools are on the quarter system to make a big impression before training camp.

"They'll start at the bottom. It doesn't mean they'll end there at the bottom. You've got to line them up somewhere, so they'll start down there and we'll go from there," Zimmer said. "You (reporters) are more worried about the depth chart than I am. I worry about it when we get to September."

Barr said his position coach, Adam Zimmer, Mike's son, likely will fly out to California a time or two in the next month to help the first-round pick make up for lost time on the field.

The Zimmers will have to wait and see how much the missed time affects Barr, who has only played linebacker for two years at UCLA after playing in the offensive backfield.

"You know it's hard for me to judge how far it's going to set him back. He was pretty good out there this morning, with the reads and the alignments and all the different things," Mike Zimmer said. "We'll have a plan for when he leaves. That's one of the things we talked about with these three guys with the coaches: Alright, here's how we're going to handle this and we'll move forward from there since they're not going to be here for these OTAs.

"So we'll get him the weight program, make sure they get right with the strength coach that knows what we want done. We're going to go out and see these guys. Can't work them on the field, but we can go out and see them and spend a little time with them. Coaches will go out there and spend time with them, watch tape with them, talk to them about those types of things. We'll give them a list of things that we think they need after this weekend, what we think they need to improve on in order to catch up to the other guys."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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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