Changes Coming At Camp

With all the changes in the Vikings coaching staff and personnel, it should comes as no surprise that the Vikings training camp in Mankato will undergo some major changes as well as the team prepares for the 2006 season.

Change is inevitable in the NFL and few teams have seen as much turnover in coaches, staff and players than the Vikings have since we last saw them in a season-ending win over the Bears.

As the days count down to the opening of training camp, there are several changes that will be part of this year's camp.

The first change is when players are required to show up for camp. In the past, all players were told to arrive at the same time. This year, that has been staggered, with rookies and selected veterans arrving July 27 and the remaining veterans expected in camp July 30.

Another change is how many of the practices will be open to the fans. In the past, the Vikings had all practices open to the public. This year, there will be eight of the 35 practices sessions closed to the public, including the first four days of camp. The public is welcome to practices starting Aug. 1.

The official start to training camp in Mankato will kick off July 29 with a block party in the downtown area.

Looking for an autograph? That's going to change too. Instead of fans clamoring players after practices for autographs in a roped-off area heading toward the locker room, one position will be designated for players to signed autographs in a tented area. The first day of such signings will include the offensive line, followed the next day by the defensive line, etc.

Other features of the new-look training camp will include a night practice with the Chiefs that will have a $10 ticket charge in conjunction with Alumni Night Aug. 4. Aug. 10 will see a free youth clinic and Aug. 12 will see a cheerleader clinic.

Vikings Village will remain open throughout camp -- and interactive area for fans to play games, get refreshments and purchase Vikings merchandise.

WEDNESDAY NOTES
* The Vikings announced Tuesday that they have reached a three-year deal to keep training camp in Mankato through 2009.
* Former Viking Onterrio Smith, released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL, has yet to find any interest from NFL teams. Smith still hasn't had his NFL suspension lifted.
* FSN North and the Vikings are gearing up for the 12th Annual Minnesota Vikings Ride for Life Motorcycle Rally, Saturday, July 22. Registration is at 9:30 a.m. and the ride departs at 11:30 a.m. Particpants will join Vikings alumni and cheerleaders as they lead the way on a 75-mile motorcycle ride from Champp's in Maplewood to Hinckley's Grand Amphitheater to benefit the Viking Children's Fund. Live music, food and beverages will be in Hinckley. Participants will have the chance to win over $25,000 in prizes. To register, call 952.828.6577or visit the EVENTS page on vikings.com for more information.

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