Practice Gets Too Intense For Comfort

Head coach Mike Tice was forced to have the players take their helmets off to dial down a developmental camp practice that started out with full intensity indoors.

An overnight thunderstorm soaked the outdoor practice fields at the Vikings' Winter Park facility, and a sporadic power outage left some of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area without power early Wednesday morning.

The Vikings didn't get power back until about 8:45 a.m., two hours before the start of their developmental camp practice.

Once practice started, the players at Winter Park provided their own power and spark during their Wednesday workout in their indoor practice facility. After a number of plays that appeared to have a propensity for injury on the harder turf, head coach Mike Tice had the players take off their helmets to encourage everyone to be more cautious with their offseason contact.

"Mike had to temper it down a bit. The guys were going pretty hard," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "We had to slow it down a little bit. They're working real hard. We just have to be real careful. We don't want to get anyone hurt unnecessarily out here. So we just had to back up a bit. I thought it was a great move by Mike to (have the players take their helmets off) because we have some guys that are very competitive. No one wants to lose. That's a good thing for us."

One of the scariest moments was when wide receiver Nate Burleson showcased his leaping ability by going high for a pass. When he and the defensive back made contact in the air, both went down hard on the artificial turf – with Burleson landing awkwardly on his upper back. A chorus of sighs went down the sidelines, but after a few seconds on the ground, Burleson got up and slowly jogged back to the huddle.

One of the reasons for the increased intensity is that defenders are around the ball more than they have been in the past. Receivers are having to work harder for receptions, even those passes thrown where they should be.

"Even in developmental camp, guys are getting a lot of hands on the ball, guys are breaking on the ball or we're close," Cottrell said. "Even when they complete, the pass, it's very seldom that they've had someone wide open from a blown coverage. That's going to happen, but that's going to happen with some of the younger guys.

"With the first team, Coach (Chuck) Knox and I were talking about that the other day. We're not giving up just wide-open plays and guys just run up the field uncovered. So we're getting close. Our defense with our linebackers and secondary is vastly improved. I think it's a combination of guys knowing the system and they're familiar with each other. They're familiar with what we anticipate from them. Everything is much quicker. Last year they were thinking about what they were supposed to do. There was too much thinking going on, especially at this time. Now they're just going, flying around. So that's a good thing. That's the first time we've had that for a while because we have the same system in place two years in a row."

Before Cottrell, the Vikings had George O'Leary as their defensive coordinator in 2003, Willie Shaw in 2002, and Emmitt Thomas in 2000 and 2001.

NOTES

  • One of the biggest adjustments to practicing indoors is that many punts hit the ceiling. Darren Bennett had one of the first punts of practice stick between the roof and an electrical conduit, which caused a nearby light to burn out. The ball will likely remain wedged until the light bulbs get changed.

  • NFL Europe players Travis Dorsch and Brandon Newton were practicing with the team Wednesday. Dorsch had one punt blocked early in practice.

  • Wide receiver Troy Williamson and running back Moe Williams were both absent from practice. Cornerback Brian Williams and safety Corey Chavous continued their holdouts from the voluntary camp.

  • Travis Taylor had the catch of the day, a reception in which he out-jumped safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Antoine Winfield for the ball and didn't allow them to strip it by bringing it down too early.

  • Running back Ciatrick Fason put a lightning-quick move on Quincy Stewart that left the linebacker reaching for air. Fason also worked as a kickoff returner.

  • Quarterback Brad Johnson's hard counts continue to draw defenders offsides … and offensive linemen continue to get false starts on his hard cadences as well.

  • Cornerback Fred Smoot ended practice with an interception of Daunte Culpepper.


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