The Pac 12 schools have a quarters system that keeps them in school later in June than most schools on a semester system, meaning players are required to stay later before joining their NFL teams. That often conflicts with OTAs and minicamps and that lack of time at Winter Park has Yankey trying to play catch-up – something that is easier said than done.
“It definitely wasn’t an ideal situation missing all that time, especially with the rest of the guys getting up to speed during that time,” Yankey said. “As far as the playbook goes, I’m feeling good about that. Now it’s just a matter of making sure I get our here every day and get better.”
There is a significant learning curve for most rookies, but Yankey has had to get up to speed on two levels – the physical level of getting into playing shape and the mental level of absorbing the playbook and learning his assignments for given plays. He believes improvement is needed in both areas and that they are essentially the same in terms of mastering his craft at the NFL level.
“It’s pretty much equal between the two of them,” Yankey said. “There is a huge mental aspect to the NFL game and that requires doing a lot of studying of film and the playbook. The physical end of it is just as important because the guys you’re facing here were the all-stars of the college game and a lot of them are the best in the NFL. You don’t get any breaks here. It’s a challenge both from the mental and physical side, but I think I’m doing pretty well in catching up on both of those parts of the game.”
Yankey may not be rushed onto the field because of the current continuity on the Vikings front line. He understands his role is to get himself ready to play at a high level as quickly as possible, but realizes that it’s going to be difficult to crack the starting lineup because of the experience starting guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco have and the cohesiveness that the familiarity of the offensive line brings to those who are on the top line of the depth chart.
“You take a look at those guys on the line and they’re all veterans that have been here for a while and have a ton of experience,” Yankey said. “They’re all used to working together and it shows on the field. It’s going to be tough to crack that lineup because the guys you’re going up against have been here for quite some time and they’ve worked together so long they know what the other guys are doing before they do it.”
Yankey is hoping that he can show enough in training camp and the preseason to get in the conversation of competing for a starting job. However, he is keeping his goals realistic and isn’t getting ahead of himself.
As he sees it, his goals at this point are in baby-step form. He’s looking for incremental improvement and is looking at his progression with the team with blinders on – take care of what’s in front of you and move on to the next step when the time comes.
“I haven’t really set any goals for myself in terms of being a starter because that won’t be my decision to make,” Yankey said. “All I’m focusing on is doing my best when I get my opportunities, make the most of it and let the coaches sort the rest of it out. I’m just trying to take one thing at time, get better at it and move on to the next thing and get better at that. That’s my goal and my focus for right now.”
FRIDAY A.M. NOTES
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.