The Vikings opened up their Friday mid-day practice to the media, and it showed a difference in philosophy between former head coach Mike Tice and new head coach Brad Childress. Tice would encourage all veterans and rookies to attend all of the Vikings' offseason organized team activities (OTAs) in May and June (remember the calling out of safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Brian Williams when they didn't attend last year?).
Under Childress, however, six of the 14 organized team activities following minicamp have been completed, with only rookies and select veterans in attendance on Friday.
The idea was to get those least familiar with the system and being an NFL player more repetition and closer coaching.
That made the biggest and most noticeable difference for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The second-round draft pick, who has already switched jersey numbers from 2 to 7 since minicamp three weeks ago, was the only player at his position in attendance – and that was by design.
"When you're the only guy on the line, you don't get to look around and say, ‘Come on up here and take a turn,'" Childress said. "When you get every turn, generally you're going to improve, and that was kind of one of our thoughts in terms of just having him take every rep."
Jackson agreed that getting all the reps in Friday's practice, which lasted about 75 minutes, was helpful. In the Vikings' mandatory three-day minicamp in the middle of May, Jackson had veterans like Brad Johnson, Mike McMahon and J.T. O'Sullivan to learn from. But that also meant Jackson was probably only getting about one in four snaps as the quarterbacks rotated through with the rest of the first-, second- and third-team offense.
"It's been a good deal being here the whole time, through minicamp and the OTAs," Jackson said. "(The other veterans) come in Monday. It's been good taking the reps, but I'm looking forward to them taking the reps so I can learn a lot. Just by them taking the reps, I can learn like that too by watching Brad, J.T. and Mike. I learn by that too and listening to them in meetings and out on the field.
"I think Coach did a great job with the way he structured it. Just by me being more comfortable with my teammates and them being more comfortable with me and my coaches."
While receivers like Koren Robinson, Troy Williamson, Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson weren't running the routes as part of the large group of veterans not in attendance, Jackson still had the opportunity to take every snap and increase his knowledge – and feel – of the Vikings' new West Coast offense.
In general, Childress has been trying to teach the rookies the commitment it takes to be a professional over the last two weeks and six organized practice and meeting days.
"We tried to teach them our tempo, our system, kind of how we do business. They are doing a good job with all of those things," Childress said. "They should be able to compete more favorably than that first mini-camp when the veterans show back up here on Monday."
As a first-round draft pick, Chad Greenway was another player under the spotlight as he goes through his first couple of months as a professional. His progress was displayed on one play when he broke on a ball thrown by Jackson and came away with the interception.
"He's playing faster," Childress said of Greenway. "The more these guys are familiar with their assignments, the faster they will play, and that's what we're trying to emphasize."