The Vikings started their mandatory full-team practices on Friday with an afternoon session, had the only two-a-day on Saturday and return to the field Sunday morning for the final session.
"You're excited the first time you come out here and it will slow down a little bit (Saturday) and Sunday everybody will be on a plane out of here. That's just the reality of it. I think the biggest deal is that everybody is here, everybody is excited," receiver Bobby Wade said. "You see the work, you see the competition, you see the tempo and that's really what you want. Not only that, but just the condition that the guys are in."
Even All-Pro veterans don't feel like much on the first day of camp, defensive end Jared Allen said on Friday.
"It's Day 1. If you looked at me right now on film you would think I was a garbage rookie," he said. "Each year is the same. It starts on Day 1. Day 1: I'll go in and get yelled at for doing something wrong and then we'll come out (the next day) and make it look all good."
"That's what part of this weekend is about, just getting back into the swing of things," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "It's been a while since they've had this type of environment to be a part of, running around and chasing the football and doing all the things they're good at. It's takes a little while to get back into the swing of things."
The Vikings were missing only one veteran this weekend, cornerback Antoine Winfield. Head coach Brad Childress said Winfield was attending the funeral of a good friend's mother, but Winfield is also in the final year of his contract and talks reportedly broke down a couple weeks ago.
But not all veterans in attendance were able to participate fully. Cornerback Charles Gordon, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the ninth game of the 2008 season is still recovering and didn't participate at all. Offensive linemen Artis Hicks (triceps surgery) and Anthony Herrera (shoulder surgery) were limited.
"(Herrera) and Artis Hicks are out here moving around, but there still is a protocol we really don't want to breach. They're doing more coaching. I'm kind of checking their coaching skills out here as they go and listening if they're giving truthful and relevant information to the guys they're coaching," head coach Brad Childress said.
Defensive end Kenechi Udeze, making his comeback from chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant following a leukemia diagnosis in February 2008, sat out the majority of Saturday's second practice, likely as a precautionary/stamina measure.
Allen, who suffered shoulder and knee injuries last year but didn't miss a game, said he is doing better.
"I'm healing up pretty good. I've just been working out, trying to stay in shape. Took an extra month to heal up, but doing good. I didn't forget about all those people who hurt me either, so it's on," he joked. "It's on this year."
The addition of Percy Harvin continues an upgrade in offensive skill-position talent that has been taking place over the last couple years, with free-agent signings like Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe and the 2007 drafting of Adrian Peterson.
"I think (the offense) is a lot better at all areas," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Our offensive line has been upgraded. Probably our biggest jump is our skill positions. Whether it is our three-deep at running back, or now you are talking about six, or seven receivers that have viable chances for you. Our tight ends are strong. So I think the depth is much improved."
Harvin is another big upgrade in the speed of the offense, and if Sidney Rice can return to full health, whichever player is at quarterback should have a dangerous set of weapons with which to work.
Adrian Peterson, the league's leading rusher last year with 1,760 yards, is still the most dangerous weapon. The issue of Peterson's weight once again surfaced this weekend. Peterson said earlier in the year that he would like to add 10 to 12 pounds. Brad Childress indicated that might be a little aggressive and so far Peterson hasn't gained a pound. In fact, he is a pound or two lighter than his listed weight from last year – 218 pounds.
But, he says, his body has changed this offseason.
"I got my body fat down and I put on six pounds of muscle so that was good improvement. Whatever I can stack on top of that from this time to training camp, that's what I'll try to do," he said. "Right now I'm probably around 216, in that area. A lot leaner."
UNDOING THE WEDGE
Most fans probably won't notice a difference to the schemes and formations the Vikings' special teams use this year, but the return units are being forced to modify their ways after the NFL implemented a new rule this year that prohibits teams from use a three-man wedge during kick and punt returns.
The Vikings used a three-man wedge last year under former coordinator Paul Ferraro. New special teams coordinator Brian Murphy, an assistant last year, will be forced to make changes under the new rule.
"It's more a tweak of your system versus and overhaul to your system," Murphy said. "It was player safety. It's my understanding that they felt if you had a two-man wedge there was a better chance of a guy running around a wedge and not having to go in between two giants. That's what it was. It was three offensive linemen running right into a safety or corner and they felt like if they remove one of those guys it gives your corner a chance to run around a block rather than put himself in harm's way and go into the wedge."
The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys may face the biggest change, as Murphy said those two teams used four-man wedges in front of their returners.