"It feels great," Childress said after the first morning session on Friday. "Just like I told those coordinators that are used to hustling around when the horn blows to their position, it is always different when you are walking around and you're responsible for everything and not responsible for just running down with the quarterbacks or wide receivers. You're got to find your niche there."
Childress' coaching staff includes two first-time coordinators in Darrell Bevell (offense) and Mike Tomlin (defense). The Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator for the past seven seasons, Childress' initial focus will remain on that side of the ball as the Vikings make the switch to a version of the West Coast offense.
That leaves the 33-year-old Tomlin in charge of the switch to the Cover-2 scheme on defense. Tomlin learned the system, known as the Tampa-2, working as the defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tomlin's enthusiasm was one of the things that stood out in the first mini-camp. Constantly encouraging and prodding his players, defenders were encouraged to pick up any loose footballs and head for the end zone.
The biggest question mark for the defense coming out of the camp is at linebacker. With veteran Sam Cowart having departed for Houston, Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris both saw time with the first team at middle linebacker. Thomas was used in passing situations last season and Harris, obtained in the Randy Moss trade from Oakland, was a non-factor for much of the year.
The Vikings want to give both a chance because of their speed but it's arguable whether either one is ready to hold down a starting spot, much less playing in the middle.
Some had thought E.J. Henderson might get a chance in the middle, a spot he played in 2004 before being shifted outside last season, but he remained outside. Ben Leber, a free-agent pickup from San Diego, has moved into the other starting spot.
The Vikings will be relying on the draft to acquire more help at linebacker. Until then, Childress wants the opportunity to see what he has at linebacker and who can play where.
"Position flexibility is really important for guys to be able to play over the tight end, be able to play out in the air," he said. "Part of our evaluation process is not only looking at them on tape last year and not trying to have any preconceived notions, but it's also watching them practice, watching them learn and then watching them with your own eyes out here and coaching the stuff that is part of your system. We're having all of those guys be flexible."
"We are rolling a number of guys through there and we're asking them to be position flexible," he said. "We're asking guys to play tackle that normally play guard and see if they have an aptitude that way. We're rolling a number of guys through there. I wouldn't make too much of him being the starter."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Other than looking through a purple facemask, the transition was smooth." — New Viking and former longtime Packers kicker Ryan Longwell after his first mini-camp in Minnesota.