We've learned quite a bit about the Vikings and head coach Brad Childress from this year's camp. With a seasoned group of players that are primarily veterans, this year's camp was far less strenuous, at least physically, than the first incarnation of Camp Childress, where the players were worn down and exhausted by 12 straight days of full-pad practices.
The camp wasn't without its share of casualties. Special teamer and projected top backup at all three linebacker positions Heath Farwell was lost for the season. So was backup DE Jayme Mitchell and OL Mike Jones. We also got word that Madieu Williams is likely to miss the first couple games of the regular season with a neck injury.
But, by and large, the Vikings have come out of the training camp healthy and ready to make their run for the NFC North title – a prize the Vikings haven't won since 2000. Granted, they've had a slew of second-place finishes in the years since, but as they say in the Olympics, there's pride in the silver, but much more in the gold. Every team's set of goals don't start with the Super Bowl. The goal typically is to first win your division. That is what guarantees you at least one home playoff game to help propel you into the next round. With the Packers without Brett Favre and having Aaron Rodgers going through the same type of growing pains Tarvaris Jackson did last year, the division title is within reach. If the Vikings do win the North, they will likely point back to the genesis of everything coming together to the work they did in training camp.
For almost three weeks, the Vikings have toiled on the practice fields at Mankato. After the afternoon practice today, it will all be over and the team will return to the Twin Cities for another fall. Training camp isn't always fun, but it's a necessary evil to get players in shape and determine who stays and who goes from the roster. It isn't the summer camp many of us remember as kids. It's been a serious business, especially for those who aren't sure whether they're going to be on the roster when the Vikings open the 2008 regular season in Green Bay.
We'll find out a lot about this team as the regular season wears on, but they've past their first hurdle. After today, they can say that they've survived another training and, thankfully, it's over.