What to learn at Vikings OTAs

The Vikings' organized team activities don't provide the final answer to questions about the depth chart and rehabilitations, but it's a start to forming opinions on those questions. With media access Wednesday, there are several storylines to follow as offseason practices kick into gear.

The Vikings have kicked off four weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) this week, but what are these all about?

The offseason training program started in late March this year and featured mostly lifting weights and cardiovascular exercises for the players. The OTAs that started Tuesday give the coaches the ability to put players through a practice routine. The next month will be about slowly installing plays and concepts, sharpening techniques and eventually lead up to the full-team minicamp on June 11-13.

The difference between OTAs and minicamp is that OTAs are voluntary (although most of the players, especially the younger ones, participate) while minicamp is mandatory and allows for more pads.

So what is there to learn at Wednesday's practice, the first one of the season with access for the media? Plenty, actually.

Injury detail – Although coach Brad Childress isn't known to open the medical books and give out detailed injury information during the season, he isn't required to update injuries at all during the offseason.

However, it will be interesting to see which veterans are attending the OTAs today. The guess here is that many of the injured ones from last year won't be participating, and it will probably be hard to tell if that's because of their injuries or because a guy like Antoine Winfield has shown the desire to stay away from voluntary workouts and doesn't benefit as much as a third-year veteran by rehashing the basics in May.

On the other hand, if a player like E.J. Henderson is able to run on the sidelines during practice, that at least shows some hope to the fans (via the media watching) that he's making progress toward his goal being ready by training camp. Henderson broke his leg last year and said he wanted to be running by May. It's May and it will interesting to see if he's on display running.

A player like Cedric Griffin, with a torn ACL in overtime of the NFC Championship Game, isn't likely to be ready for any sort of public display of acceleration, so his absence would hardly be an indictment on his progress. That said, we do know that Griffin was already lifting weights last month and walking between stations without any noticeable limp.

Suspension detail – Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are expected to have their case against the NFL fighting their four-game suspensions take another step this week. More than likely, that will result in another appeal, but they will be able to attend to attend the OTAs, minicamp and training camp if they choose. Most likely, being Pro Bowl veterans with eight (Kevin) and 14 (Pat) years of experience, they won't be at OTAs but will attend June's minicamp.

Linebacker Erin Henderson, who finished the season on the reserve-suspended list for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, is taking part in OTAs and looking to gain back his roster spot in a more crowded linebacker corps.

Miss because they can – Brett Favre at OTAs? Yeah, right. Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, R.J. Archer and Joe Webb will be the only quarterbacks getting extra work with teammates this week, but we hope to learn more about Favre's potential for ankle surgery from head coach Brad Childress.

Defensive end Ray Edwards has said he won't be attending OTAs because he's upset about the league's unsettled labor situation that likely will leave him earning much less than he would have under the old rules of free agency. Instead of having teams openly competing for his services, he was a restricted free agent, received a first-round tender worth $2.521 million and is expected to avoid signing that tender until June 15. Since he's not technically under contract, he won't be participating until he signs his tender.

Miss because he has to – Running back Toby Gerhart can't attend the OTA sessions, per NFL rules, because of Stanford's late class schedule this spring. That leaves the question of which running back will get the most reps behind Adrian Peterson. The likely answer: Albert Young, but we might get a bead on that.

Look at the new blood – The access to the practice isn't expected to be long, so formulating solid opinions on the new talents might have to wait. However, there is an interest in seeing where some of the new players are fitting in. Is fifth-round draft pick Chris DeGeare being used more at tackle or guard? Is sixth-rounder Joe Webb getting more reps at quarterback than receiver? How does he look as a wide receiver if lined up there? In Edwards' absence, how are the remaining reps being divvied at defensive end? In Griffin's absence, is it Chris Cook, Lito Sheppard or "other" getting most of the first-team reps at right cornerback (or left cornerback if Winfield isn't attending)?

Final answers to most of these questions aren't delivered in May during OTAs, but it's the start of formulating some opinions for the 2010 season, and that's exactly what will be happening between now and the middle of June.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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