Could the free agents jell with the existing players? Could the draft picks fit in, and, if so, where? Could the few new coaches find what they were looking for?
After originally scheduling the maximum allowable 14 days of organized offseason practices, head coach Mike Tice decided he had seen enough after 13 days.
"(Wednesday) is going to be a light day with the Vikings Golf Tournament. I decided based on the intensity of the three weeks, the amount of things the coaches were able to install, the situations we looked at, I felt that 13 days were enough," Tice said. "I don't know that sometimes you meet to meet and you practice to practice, and sometimes it becomes counter-productive. We were able to get out of this three weeks work with tremendous concentration, intensity, chemistry-building and very few injuries."
The coaching staff got extended looks at defensive tackle Pat Williams, middle linebacker Sam Cowart, strongside linebacker Napoleon Harris, cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper – all free agents added to the defense that are holding down starting roles. The coaches were also able to see that first-round pick Erasmus James could be a situational starter right away and potentially a full-time starter later in the year.
The one thing the Vikings were missing on defense during this past month was safety Corey Chavous and nickel back Brian Williams, each staying away from the voluntary workouts because of either their dissatisfaction with their role or their contract situation.
The Vikings expect them to be at training camp, but Tice wishes they would have participated in developmental camp. He also has been steadfast in his understanding that they weren't at these spring practices because of business reasons.
"I wish they would have been here for the chemistry part of it and they weren't. I believe most of the older guys understand their position," Tice said. "It has nothing to do with the players on the team or the coaches, it's a business thing. We move forward and we work and develop the guys we have."
A short time later, Tice added: "They'll both be in training camp with their heads on straight and that's all I asked them to do, come to training camp with your head on straight and ready to help us win a championship. Both guaranteed me they would do that. I'm not going to get involved with their business."
On offense, the coaches got an idea of the speed and inconsistency of first-round wide receiver Troy Williamson.
"He continues to make some good catches. He continues to get better in his route running," Tice said. "(He) dropped some balls wide open every once in a while, but that's youngness, a guy looking to run with the ball before he has it. We'll get that fixed. He's shown he can make the tough catches. He certainly can make the ones that he's dropping when he's wide open. We'll get that cleaned up."
They also had an opportunity to see that second-round pick Marcus Johnson can be a starter if needed on the offensive line but may end up being a versatile swing man between the guard and tackle positions. In addition, they saw the return to the practice field of key run-blocking cogs Jim Kleinsasser and Mike Rosenthal, who missed a combined 29 games last year with injuries.
With the official one-year suspension of running back Onterrio Smith, the coaches were able to give the green light to Michael Bennett as the front-runner to win the feature job and see more repetitions out of fourth-rounder Ciatrick Fason. Finally on offense, they were able to re-affirm the importance of Brad Johnson as a veteran backup quarterback.
Tice cut the team's camp regimen down by one day, but much was accomplished in the 13 days the team assembled.
GOOD-BYE TO RED
Zygi Wilf's ownership of the Vikings became official Tuesday, and while Tice predicted good things ahead for the Wilf ownership and the Vikings, the coach also expressed appreciation for former owner Red McCombs and the opportunity he gave to Tice.
"I talked to Red yesterday, and obviously I appreciate the support Red has given me and my family, the opportunity to be one of 32 (NFL head coaches) in the world," Tice said. "I wish we could have won a championship for him, a division title. Those things are coming. As far as the new energy that the new group is bringing in, I think that's going to be exciting too. A couple East Coast guys, I never shun having another East Coast guy in the building. So I'm excited about that. I think it's a good time for the Minnesota Vikings right now."
Tice is scheduled to meet the new owners of the team this week. He plans on meeting lead owner Zygi Wilf on Thursday and Mark Wilf on Wednesday. Tice has talked to Zygi twice previously, he said.
The Vikings were officially given roster exemptions for the following NFL Europe participants: Tight end T.J. Cottrell, wide receiver Aaron Hosack, center Shawn Lynch and defensive tackle Matt Mitrione.
Mitrione and Lynch were signed on Monday.
Following Tuesday's workout, the team released linebackers Sarth Benoit and Ira Cooper, along with quarterback Jason Fife and safety Brandon Pinderhughes. Fife had just rejoined the team Tuesday after completing his season in NFL Europe.
PLAYERS TO COACHES
Former Vikings recently completed coaching stints in NFL Europe. Former safety Antonio Banks (1998-2000 with the Vikings) was a defensive assistant with the Amsterdam Admirals.
Former cornerback Cris Dishman (2000) was a defensive assistant/defensive backs coach for the Berlin Thunder.
Former wide receiver Mike Jones (1983-85) was the head coach of the Franfurt Galaxy, his second year at the helm.
Former safety Ken Stills (1990) was the defensive backs coach and special teams coach of the Galaxy.
Lastly, former defensive tackle Ken Clarke (1989-91) was the defensive line coach for the Rhein Fire.