Sunday notebook: Camp changes

Most of Vikings training camp is the same this year, but there is one difference for autograph seekers.

Sure, Brett Favre is looking like he'll be more than visiting Mankato this summer, but the 30-something quarterback (OK, he's 39 and will turn 40 on Oct. 10 after he's done playing the Green Bay Packers for the first time in 2009) won't be the only difference Vikings fans will notice at this year's training camp.

There is a change in the way the team will be handling autographs for two of its most popular players – and probably Favre if they dare open him up to autograph seekers.

For those who didn't see the note in our training camp section, the team has adjusted the autograph procedures on the days that Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson, the team's two most popular players among fans, are scheduled to sign. In 2008, the team started having players sign autographs by position, rotating which position group would sign after the morning practice on designated days. That was an effort to relieve the congestion and frenzy between the practice fields and the locker room across the street as players left the fields.

After receiving high demand for autographs from Allen and Peterson when their position groups were scheduled to sign last year, the team decided this year to distribute scratch-off tickets to the first 2,000 fans through the gates on dates that the defensive linemen (Aug. 11) and running backs (Aug. 6) are scheduled to sign. Of those 2,000 tickets, 150 of them will have the player's name printed on them, allowing those fans to receive autographs from the team's two biggest stars.

COMMISH OF CLIMBING

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined Seattle Seahawks CEO Todd Leiweke in a fund-raising effort for the United Way last week. The two were part of a small group to climb to the summit of Mt. Ranier in Washington. The effort raised more than $300,000 for the United Way, but it wasn't easy for the 50-year Goodell.

"He was just unbelievable. You leave (base camp) at about 12:30 (a.m.) and at about 1:30 we hit our first crevasse," Leiweke said. "He saw it with the spotlight on his helmet and, you know, you're roped up, you're in crampons, the seriousness increases substantially in day two. Up to Camp Mir, you're not in crampons, you're not roped up, you're not wearing a helmet. You're hiking in the day. So there we were at 1:30 and we hit the first crevasse and it was unnerving to him. I think at that point in time he was thinking about stepping off the line and heading back. He decided to keep going. He sort of hit the wall emotionally, but pushed through it. Between 1:30 and 9, when we reached the summit, he hit the wall physically more than once, and to watch him fight through it, and fight through the pain and the inherent sickness, my respect for this guy was just great and now it's immense. We have a great commissioner."

Video from the climb can be seen on a local television web site right here.

ROSTER LOOK-SEE

The Vikings currently have 82 players on their roster, but three of those – WR Percy Harvin, OT Phil Loadholt and CB Asher Allen – are unsigned drafted picks. The offseason roster limit is 80, with exemptions for unsigned draft picks. With three picks left to sign, the team will have to release two players to sign all three draft picks, and they'd have to release another one if /when Brett Favre signs.

Speaking of signing draft picks, third-round cornerback Allen is the lowest pick of the Vikings that has not signed. Scout.com's Adam Caplan estimates that Allen will sign a four-year deal, $2.47 million deal with a signing bonus of roughly $722,000. The pick ahead of Allen, WR Ramses Barden, signed a four-year, $2.48 million deal with a signing bonus of $731,156 and the pick below Allen, WR Patrick Turner, signed a four-year, $2.46 million deal with a signing bonus of $714,000, Caplan points out.

The first practice of training camp is July 31, so the team still has almost three weeks to get Allen, Loadholt and Harvin signed.

ANOTHER QB COMPETITION

It used to be that Daunte Culpepper was the first-round quarterback that other players had to fend off to keep their starting job. That was in 1999, when the Vikings drafted Culpepper 11th overall but didn't have a pressing immediate need with Jeff George and Randall Cunningham in front of him.

Ten years later, Culpepper is trying to hold onto his starting spot with the Detroit Lions after they selected Matthew Stafford first overall.

"It's going to be competitive. We have some talent at that position," said first-year Lions coach Jim Schwartz during the team minicamp. "I think Daunte has put himself in a really good spot with his commitment to, No. 1, losing weight, and then the offseason program. He was a marquee player in the league a few years ago and then he had the knee injury and had a setback. He looks like he's well on his way to getting back there; he's put the rest of the league on notice that he's back. So we've got a lot of talent at that position. We have a first-round draft pick, a second-round draft pick and a former MVP candidate. I like the way that's stacking up."

Schwartz said that the best quarterback will start, and Culpepper was glad to hear that Stafford wouldn't be thrust into the starting role just because he was the first pick.

"I would hope that not just the quarterback, but every position, the best player is going to play. It's encouraging to know that," Culpepper said. "Any player that knows that and has that understanding they should just take advantage of it. I would hope that every player is competing to be the best that they can be."

But Culpepper obviously understands the sentiment of a team wanting to see what their latest big investment can do.

"I had no control over that," he said of the team drafting Stafford, "and since I've got to know him a little bit and we've been working I think he's a great worker and it is what it is. I understand that my job is to be the best player I can be and that's my focus right now, to be better than I've ever been. That's the approach I'm taking and I feel that this is the first time I've been 100 percent going into camp since 2004 (with the Vikings). So with that being said, I feel great. I'm going to continue to be the person I am, be the competitor I am and continue to get better and better. But I feel better than I did in 2004, so we'll see what happens."


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