There have been a lot of differences between the training camp Vikings players endured in the first season of Brad Childress' run as the head coach of the Vikings and what we're seeing this year. The only question now is whether the kinder, gentler Camp Childress will pay off with wins during the regular season.
In his first year with the Vikings, training camp was similar to Bataan Death March. For 12 straight days, the Vikings played in full pads and beat each other up. That season, the team came out strong, winning four of its first six games, but followed that up by losing eight of its final 10 games. Last year, the Vikings dug themselves a huge hole before rattling off five straight wins to get back in the playoff hunt. In both instances, the team wilted down the stretch.
This year, the Vikings have played in full pads in just four of their practices and many of the practice sessions have ended early. Is this a new Chilly? Perhaps. Childress created a council of veteran players to discuss problems and air grievances to Childress and the front office. Apparently one of those contentions was that Childress pushed the team too hard.
When he first arrived, it made sense for him to give the players some "tough love." Mike Tice was fired because he gave the appearance of being too close to the players and not in charge. Childress was going to be a no-nonsense type coach who would demand accountability. He worked the players hard in training camp to set that tone. He also needed to get to know his personnel, root out those players who didn't fit with his offensive of defensive scheme and he had to institute a West Coast Offense and a Tampa-2 defense to a team that had played neither. It wasn't easy, but they did it.
Another factor could be that there are a lot of veteran players on this team. The Vikings have a slew of players 30 or older – Matt Birk, Gus Frerotte, Maurice Hicks, Steve Hutchinson, Jim Kleinsasser, Ryan Longwell, Darren Sharper, Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield -- and 32 players on the roster that are entering their fifth year or more in the NFL. It is a veteran team that needs to be worked at its own pace, not putting them through a meat-grinder.
Another contributing factor could be the elimination of NFL Europe. The Vikings typically had six or seven more players on the practice field due to exemptions they received from sending players overseas. With that league folded, the Vikings have a strict 80-player limit. It is very possible that Childress has eased up on practice because he doesn't have the bodies to adequate pound each other on a daily basis.
For whatever the reason, there are only three days left of training camp and this has been the most laid back camp by far during Childress' era as head coach. Will it result in post-season success? That's the million-dollar question that we'll have to wait for to get an answer.
Will Easier Camp Pay Future Dividends?
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