Dozens finish up critical three-day stretch

While the first-round picks had their interviews heard and viewed my many, dozens of relative unknown players were striving to keep their NFL hopes alive.

The majority of the players that gathered this weekend for the Vikings rookie minicamp aren't going to realize their NFL football dreams. For every Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater that took their first steps toward a promising NFL career, there are a handful of players who won't have names on the backs of their jerseys that are chasing down a dream.

These are the guys who are desperately looking for a chance to catch the eye of someone in a position of power. It's a rite of passage for NFL players. This weekend is an example of that process, as 24 of the league's 32 teams conducted similar rookie minicamps around the country.

Games aren't won or lost in May, but some of what will happen in the 2014 season can be traced back to events like this weekend's rookie minicamp.

When the final rosters get set Labor Day weekend, there may be 10 or fewer of those players that took part in the rookie minicamp. The vast majority of them will be cut loose at some point. But, for now, they are chasing down an elusive NFL dream that will be a long shot.

That's not to say that players can't make the jump from being an undrafted "camp body" to being a key contributor. Hall of Famer John Randle was a longshot to make the Vikings when he was signed as an undrafted free agent. At first, he needed to get a break – to have the right people impressed with what he could bring to the roster. He was too short by NFL standards. He was viewed as being too undersized to be an effective NFL defensive tackle. Randle proved all those skeptics wrong and a journey that started with his name taped on his helmet so coaches could identify him ended with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For the 50 or so players that took part in this weekend's minicamp, most realize that their dream of playing NFL football is hanging by a thread, but they're getting their opportunity. The NFL is a game of opportunity and making the most of it when that opportunity arises. They may be unfamiliar names to Vikings fans (and, in some cases, even the coaching staff), but they're in the game for the short-term and getting their chance to showcase themselves to the brass of an NFL team.

As the official start of summer kicks off next weekend with the Memorial Day holiday, Winter Park will remain an area where dreams will be made and broken. Some will be informed this week that they won't be back. Others will pass a critical hurdle in trying to make the lasting impression that keeps them on the roster and fighting for a spot that may or may not materialize.

Games won't be won or lost over the next couple of months leading up to training camp. But, to many, this weekend was as important as any three days in their football careers.

The rookie minicamp may not be important to the casual fans, but for those on the bubble of being given the opportunity to spend the summer making their case to make the Vikings roster, these may have been the most critical three days of their football careers.


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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