Adjustments Part of Training Camp Goals

Individually, the coaches and players will have a multitude of goals for their 2006 training camp. But combining the players to form an offense and a defense with new schemes on both sides of the ball means that many of those players will be adjusting to a system that is foreign to them.

  • Adjust to the West Coast offense: New coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spent the spring installing their system during minicamps and Organized Team Activities.

    The key now will be seeing how much players retained — not to mention spent time studying their playbooks — during the time off. The Vikings have long relied on a vertical offensive scheme and holdovers will have to get used to the new verbiage and short passing game of the West Coast.

    It will help that quarterback Brad Johnson ran a version of this offense during his time with Tampa Bay. Receiver Koren Robinson and left guard Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings' marquee free-agent signing of the offseason, also are familiar with the basic concept from their time in Seattle.

    The offensive players will have company when it comes to learning on the job because ...

  • The defense must pick up the Cover-2: Actually, the system new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin has been teaching his players is called the Tampa-2.

    The high-energy Tomlin had served as the Buccaneers defensive backs coach under Monte Kiffin; he has been entrusted with introducing the Tampa Bay system despite being all of 34 years old.

    Tomlin, much like Bevell, has promised to go back to the drawing board as far as the learning process when training camp opens. In reality it will be key for players to have picked up many of the fundamentals.

    Veteran cornerback Fred Smoot, coming off a disappointing season, has added about 15 pounds to his 5-foot-11 frame in hopes of staying away from injury and providing the physical presence the members of the secondary will need in the Tampa-2. Free agent Tank Williams will join Darren Sharper at the safety spots. The Vikings signed Williams away from Tennessee in large part because of his ability to put big hits on opponents.

    Tomlin will need to make sure the defensive line can apply the necessary pressure during the Vikings' time at training camp in Mankato, Minn. In the interior, Kevin Williams must rebound from a subpar season to find his Pro Bowl form of 2004; nose tackle Pat Williams deserved a Pro Bowl berth in 2005, but how the big man fits into the Tampa-2 will be worth watching.

  • A middle linebacker must emerge: Tomlin was confident, bordering on cocky, about the fact the Vikings would be fine at this spot as minicamp ended. But August will provide the true test.

    Napoleon Harris, E.J. Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas all saw time in the middle during the various spring workouts.

    Henderson was solid last season as the starter on the weak side after struggling with many of the responsibilities of playing middle linebacker in 2004. His move back to the middle likely would mean the Vikings are confident first-round pick Chad Greenway can step in as the starter on the weak side.

    Free-agent pickup Ben Leber will be the starter on the strong side, assuming a foot injury that bothered him last season with San Diego doesn't cause any problems.

    If the Vikings don't feel comfortable moving Henderson, the job appears to be up for grabs among Harris and Thomas, who were both backups last season.

    Harris, obtained from Oakland in the Randy Moss trade, was a major disappointment and went from starting to rarely playing under former coach Mike Tice. Thomas was used in some passing situations but gave the past coaching staff little reason to think he could move into a starting spot, much less one playing the middle.


    CAMP CALENDAR: Rookies and selected veterans will report on July 27; the remainder of the veterans will report July 30; training camp officially will open Aug. 1. Training camp will break from Mankato, Minn., on Aug. 18. There will be an evening practice against the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 4.

    NOTES

  • The Vikings announced they have signed a three-year contract to continue training camp in Mankato, Minn. The deal will provide the team with options to opt out after each season. The Vikings once again will be responsible for all training camp expenses. That was not the case the past two years when the Mankato Training Camp LLC ran things. That group ceased operations last winter because of low revenues.

  • The Vikings are one of four teams that will stagger their reporting dates for training camp.

  • First-round LB Chad Greenway, the 17th pick in the April draft, likely will need to be in camp on time if he has any hope of winning a staring job. Negotiations with Greenway could begin by referencing the contract Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack received as the 17th pick in 2005. The Vikings are hoping history won't repeat itself when it comes to those negotiations. Pollack held out for 19 days last summer before agreeing to a five-year contract that is worth between $10 and $13 million and includes $7.65 million guaranteed.

  • A Hennepin County (Minn.) District Judge sentenced Willie Offord to perform 32 hours of community service after the Vikings safety pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coaches always want guys in, and it's important to get them in. But one thing Brad (Childress) will support is us doing good contracts. He believes in that. Getting the right business terms. The only reason a guy won't be in on time is if, in the professional opinion of Dave Blando (the Vikings' director of football administration) and myself, it's not a good deal for the club. Coach has our back on that." — Rob Brzezinski, the Vikings' vice president of football operations, on getting draft picks signed.


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