NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - INSIDE SLANT
Phase three of the Minnesota Vikings' offseason schedule began this week with Leslie Frazier playing the role of one very happy head coach.
"Because it's been outstanding to come to phase three of the offseason program with 99 percent of our players here participating," said Frazier, who oversaw a seven-win improvement a year ago as the Vikings surprised the league by going 10-6 en route to the playoffs.
"There's a lot to be said for that. We're so appreciative because this is voluntary. And to have this type of participation really is amazing. In today's NFL, with so many restrictions when it comes to training, if you don't get this kind of participation in the offseason, it can hurt you. I think this gives us a very good chance, not only of being a playoff team next season but to have a chance to go even further."
The only player not at Winter Park for the start of OTAs is defensive end Jared Allen. He's in the final year of his contract, but he's not trying to send any message. He simply doesn't believe in OTAs, choosing to do all of his voluntary offseason training at home in Arizona. He'll be in town next month for the mandatory minicamp.
One player who is here is reigning league MVP Adrian Peterson, who last year came within eight yards of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament the previous December. Peterson, who had hernia surgery earlier this offseason, is back to 100 percent and participated in Wednesday's non-padded workout.
Asked why he volunteered to show up, Peterson said, "Team chemistry. It's important to show these younger guys how we do it. Hopefully, they can pick up from it."
Frazier appreciates the help from the face of the franchise.
"He's the Most Valuable Player in our league," Frazier said. "And the fact that he's here really kind of helps the rest of our players understand the importance of this portion of the offseason."
Receiver Greg Jennings, the former Packer signed to fill the void created when the Vikings traded disgruntled receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle, is here, but didn't practice Wednesday. He sprained an ankle on Tuesday, but is expected to be fine long before training camp begins.
Two players making significant position changes are testing out their new gigs this week. Former weak-side linebacker Erin Henderson moves to the middle, where he's the leading candidate to replace Jasper Brinkley, who left via free agency for Arizona. And former No. 2 quarterback Joe Webb, who lost his passing job when Matt Cassel was signed in free agency, moved to receiver.
Henderson, who too often found himself out of position at weak-side linebacker, is a risky proposition as a three-down middle linebacker. But he's the best option the team has right now considering it didn't draft a linebacker until the fourth round this year.
Asked if any of the options behind Henderson will get any time with the first unit, Frazier said, "Erin is our starting middle linebacker until one of those others shows they deserve a look."
The Vikings now have nine linebackers on the roster after signing former Titan and Texan Stanford Keglar on Wednesday. Keglar, who has been out of the NFL since 2010, played three games with the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives a year ago. He's an outside linebacker forced to wear No. 60 because of the overload of linebackers in town.
Webb, meanwhile, showed on Wednesday that his hands are good enough to play receiver. His size (6-4, 220) also makes him a big target. And, obviously, as a former quarterback, he knows the offense so well, he's helping other receivers get lined up correctly.
"The biggest thing with Joe is how quickly he grasps the route running as a receiver," Frazier said.
Webb, a quarterback at UAB, joined the Vikings as a receiver when they selected him in the sixth round in 2010. But then-coach Brad Childress quickly switched him back to quarterback, after taking one look at his strong arm in that year's rookie minicamp.
If the switch back to receiver is bothering Webb, he's doing a great job of hiding it. He's working hard and appears to be as upbeat as ever.
The fact Webb is doing all of that while participating in a voluntary May OTA is just another reason Frazier is one happy coach right now.
NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - NOTES, QUOTES
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is on record as setting a goal of 2,500 yards rushing for this season. For the record, that's for the NFL record. It is 395 yards more than Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL mark and 403 more than Peterson amassed in 2012.
The Vikings' coaching staff, meanwhile, is on record for wanting to improve one of the worst passing attacks in the league. So the coaches are preaching balance and strengthening the passing game.
"Does that scare me?" said Peterson when asked about the emphasis on being able to pass more this season. "Not at all. I've been around. This is my seventh year. I feel I'll get a couple of carries. I don't think I'll miss out."
--Middle linebacker Erin Henderson was among those current and former NFL players who participated in "The NFL Sports Journalism and Communications Boot Camp" at Bowling Green State University in Ohio last week.
"It's not as easy as it looks," Henderson said. "It's long days. We hit it pretty hard, so you knew you were in a boot camp."
As part of the program, Henderson and the "journalists" conducted mock interviews with Bowling Green football coach Dave Clawson and Toledo Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli. They wrote a news story off their interview with Napoli and covered the Mud Hens' home game. They had two hours to write a column on one of five topics they had to choose from. Then they had to condense the column into a two-minute opinion piece for radio.
Asked about interviewing Clawson, Henderson said, "We prepared the questions the night before. I started out asking him about spring ball and recruiting and what a player could expect from him as a head coach.
"Then I snuck in a question about a possible quarterback controversy because they got more than one out here who has a chance. I asked him, point blank, who the starting quarterback is going to be. He kind of chuckled and ignored me."
And now he knows how the other half lives.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I do not want to use it. But I keep it around. -- RB Adrian Peterson, referring to his EpiPen, which helped save his life after an allergic reaction to jambalaya at training camp last summer. Peterson now has an endorsement contract with EpiPen.
NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYERS: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (1)
--WR Devin Aromashodu won't be brought back. The Vikings have invested two seasons in a player they thought could stretch the field. But the bottom line is he can't finish plays. Time to move on.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--LB Gerald Hodges (4/120): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--P Jeff Locke (5/155): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Jeff Baca (6/196): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Michael Mauti (7/213): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Travis Bond (7/214): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Everett Dawkins (7/229): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Joe Berger: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--FB Jerome Felton: UFA; $7.5M/3 yrs.
--LB Erin Henderson: UFA; $4M/2 yrs.
--CB A.J. Jefferson: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--T/G Troy Kropog: ERFA; terms unknown.
--T Phil Loadholt: UFA; $25M/4 yrs, $7M SB.
--LB Marvin Mitchell: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Jamarca Sanford: UFA; $5M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB/$500,000 RB.
--S Andrew Sendejo: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB/PR Marcus Sherels: ERFA; terms unknown.
--WR Jerome Simpson: UFA; $2.1M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.
--QB Matt Cassel: FA Chiefs; $3.7M/1 yr, $4M option for 2014.
--DE Lawrence Jackson: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
--WR Greg Jennings: UFA Packers; $45M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$17.8M guaranteed.
--CB Jacob Lacey: UFA Lions; terms unknown.
--G Seth Olsen: Not tendered as RFA by Colts; terms unknown.
--LB Jasper Brinkley: UFA Cardinals; $3.5M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--WR Percy Harvin (traded Seahawks).
--WR Michael Jenkins (released).
--P Chris Kluwe (released).
--G Geoff Schwartz: UFA Chiefs; $630,000/1 yr.
--CB Antoine Winfield (released).