Childress finding time for fun, leeway

Brad Childress is lightening up around his players and its showing. He's quicker to crack a joke and give as much as he gets. But he's also learned to manage the energy of his long-term veterans, all in an attempt to get the most of them when it counts the most.

Fans may still see Brad Childress as the stale, mustache-toting coach that arrived four years ago and didn't show much of his personality in front of the cameras.

Most of the time, that's still the man the public see, but Childress' players see a much different man and different attitude roaming the halls of Winter Park. The 2010 version has a clean-up locker room, more trust in his players and a dry sense of humor that some of the players even laugh at once in awhile.

"You are charged with one thing when you come in, in terms of taking a measure of everything," Childress said. "I think I probably know who I can trust and what I can get out of them. Trust goes both ways, just like the phone rings in both directions."

When Childress arrived, he put his foot down hard in a follow-up to the more open ways of the Mike Tice era. Players became tense and guarded with stricter rules, higher expectations and a clamped-down attitude in an effort to change the perception of the franchise and the results on the field.

Now, Childress knows which players he can trust, which ones he can tease and which ones can be given a little more slack.

Nowhere is the change more apparent than in viewing the attendance at the team's voluntary organized team activities and their offseason schedule. In Childress' first years, players young and old were expected to attend while learning a new offense and defense. If Matt Birk stayed away or Antoine Winfield skipped out in a contract protest, it was news.

These days, experienced players are missing on a regular basis or allowed to simply rehab following surgeries rather than going through the basics of the offense for a third or fourth straight year.

"Way better, trust me, when he first got here to now," Bryant McKinnie said when asked if Childress is more understanding now. "A lot more understanding of the players and what the players need and actually kind of takes into consideration how we feel. When he first got here, boy, I tell, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.' But now it's a lot better."

At Wednesday's practice eight veteran starters came out to stretch with the team and then went back into the Winter Park facility to either rehab an injury or lift weights. No practice time was required of most of the starters, and even Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, former first-round picks in 2007 and 2009 respectively, weren't at practice.

Childress said he would prefer those younger players attend the voluntary practices, but he is confident they are keeping in shape in Houston and Florida, respectively.

As the Childress era has extended in Minnesota, so has the time gotten later when he starts the team's offseason conditioning program. That has gotten weeks later progressively each of the past two years, partly because the Vikings were in the playoffs and partly because he understands that the veterans need recuperative time away.

"They ought to trust the fact that I'm not going to saw them into pulp but I'm going to get what I need to have to be good. They are going to trust the fact that they can let it go and know when to come off the accelerator," he said.

He has long since turned from his taskmaster image of 2006 to a coach that doesn't hesitate to needle a veteran that he knows can take it. He didn't miss that opportunity on Tuesday when the team visited the National Guard base.

"Yesterday with the Lieutenant Colonel greeting us and talking to us at the end of the day, I had some things to say about Pat Williams, who had invited all of them to practice in some point in time," Childress said, "And I said, ‘Since Pat doesn't do a damn thing anyway (at practice) he can go ahead and show them around.' It's usually self-deprecating to me or to my players, but usually with merit somewhere along the line."

Apparently, Childress took the advice of the veterans.

"When he first got here, I was like, ‘You need to get a sense of humor,'" McKinnie said. "He lightened up and he's gotten way better. Way better."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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