Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was camped in the stands enjoying a leisurely view of his team Friday afternoon and talking about bringing fans closer to the team. See what the owner/fan had to say, along with more than a dozen observations from Friday afternoon's practice.
Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf wants the fans to be more involved with his team. The conclusion of today's afternoon practice helped with that objective.
Following intense 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills in sun-drenched Blakeslee Stadium, each Vikings player tossed an autographed football into the stands after being introduced by safety/in-house team spokesman Darren Sharper
, much to the enjoyment of the few hundred fans in attendance.
"Our goal is to make the game-day experience and even out here in the preseason something that everyone can get more involved with and be part of the team," Wilf said. "Fans want to be part of the team, and we're trying to bring them and the team back together again."
According to Wilf, that effort will become apparent for regular-season home games.
"We're attempting this year to provide around the Metrodome a tailgating experience to bring back what we had in the old days here," he said. "We're hoping to achieve those results."
As for the upcoming campaign, Wilf said he's "absolutely" more excited about this year's Vikings than the 2006 club, thanks to many new players and a highly-regarded rookie class.
"Each year is a building year, and each year we grow better," he said. "I think we are embarking on our goal of trying to win championships and we're going to get there."
Wilf said the absence of top picks Adrian Peterson
and Sidney Rice
hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the start of camp.
"I'm sure that they'll be here and eager to get some practice under their belt," he noted.
Asked why he was in shorts and a T-shirt rather than one of his dapper suits, Wilf just smiled and said, "It's summer camp for me too!"
Friday afternoon practice observations:
The offense and defense switched jersey colors for the afternoon session. The offense wore purple jerseys and the defense was in white, likely in an attempt to evenly distribute the heat between the two units throughout two-a-day practices. Center Matt Birk, who had the "pleasure" of wearing the heat-retaining purple jersey during the obviously warmer afternoon practice, said the hotter the better.
Head coach Brad Childress was very active in individual passing drills. In an animated fashion, he told rookie quarterback Tyler Thigpen and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to "command the football." The exchange occurred after Thigpen and Shiancoe failed to connect on a short pass.
Chris Kluwe lacked consistency in punting drills. At one point, the third-year pro shanked a punt that was caught by a fan halfway up the bleachers in Blakeslee Stadium.
Bobby Wade and seventh-round pick Chandler Williams were the two primary punt returners. Williams twice dropped end-over-end punts.
During seven-on-seven drills:
Rookie free agent John Kerr intercepted a Thigpen pass that bounced off tight end Richard Owens.
Owens later dropped a catchable ball in the middle of the field and a while after that made an athletic leaping grab in traffic.
Wide receiver Martin Nance got his head snapped back after being smacked by three defenders. Nance, who failed to come up with a juggling catch on the play, didn't seem fazed by the collision.
Thigpen hit wideout Jason Carter with a nifty 25-yard completion.
During 11-on-11 drills:
Dontarrious Thomas replaced Ben Leber at strong-side linebacker with the first team. Leber was seen on the sideline with a wrap around his right thigh.
Quarterback Brooks Bollinger looked very comfortable running the second-team offense. He hooked up three times with wide receiver Martin Nance, including a middle-of-the-field connection where Nance had to use all of his 6-foot-3 frame to snare the ball.
Bollinger connected with free agent pickup Cortez Hankton on a crossing route that could have gone for a touchdown in a game situation. Bollinger also did his best Tarvaris Jackson impersonation with a 20-yard scramble on another play.
Like the morning practice, Troy Williamson had his ups and downs. Williamson had a deep pass go through his hands but then came back to grab some balls in traffic, including a juggling reception.
Jackson and tight end Jim Kleinsasser hooked up on a few short passes. Kleinsasser twice made impressive lunging receptions.
Jackson and center Matt Birk fumbled the exchange on two consecutive plays.
In general, the pass protection seemed better for the afternoon session than this morning.
Rookie cornerback Marcus McCauley made his presence felt with a big hit on fellow rookie Aundrae Allison.
Saturday will again feature two practices: 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.