Well, the suitcase is packed. The sunscreen is applied. It’s off to Mankato where Thursday afternoon, one-by-one, 90 Vikings players will report to training camp.
Yep, the 2012 season is upon us. And here at Access Vikings, Mark Craig and I plan to deliver comprehensive coverage all season. But to fully maximize our time at camp, we’ve decided to take a step back and give ourselves a pep talk before the action gets too chaotic.
With that in mind, here is our “Do’s and Don’ts” list for camp coverage.
Do: Keep a close eye on second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, whose development is most likely the biggest key to the Vikings’ turnaround efforts. Between now and Sept. 9, Ponder must show obvious signs that he is mastering the offense and developing chemistry with his receivers and tight ends.
Don’t: Breathlessly hyper-analyze every Ponder pass attempt in Mankato as if it is the last play of the Super Bowl. Yes, Ponder’s progress is important. But it does not need to be measured on a minute-by-minute basis. So consider this our promise that the interception Ponder is bound to throw to Chris Carr at some point during 7-on-7 action will not result in 22 Tweets and a tape being sent to Ron Jaworski for dissection. And those deep completions Ponder will likely have with new receiver Jerome Simpson? We promise not to frame those as if the Vikings have landed their own Stafford-to-Megatron connection. We’ll save the hyperbole for the regular season.
Do: Inform the masses on the details of relevant injuries. Adrian Peterson’s left knee, for example. Now that’s a big deal. Any health news on Peterson going forward will be considered big news. Rookie receiver Greg Childs? We’ll watch his progress, too. Childs is still making his way back from a patellar tendon injury that cut short his 2010 season at Arkansas and hindered him through 2011. Childs also suffered a calf strain at rookie mini-camp in May that lingered into OTAs. So tracking his health makes sense. Same goes for linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who will be the starter at middle linebacker unless his injury woes return. Brinkley was on injured reserve throughout 2011 after hip surgery and was bothered by a groin strain during OTAs and mini-camp.
Don’t: Treat minor injuries to minor players as if they will severely hinder the Vikings’ rebuilding efforts. If, for example, Terrell Resonno sprains an ankle on Aug. 2 and misses practice, we’ll make a quick note and move on without leading you to believe that Terrell Resonno’s early-August ankle ailment just killed the team’s playoff chances.
Do: Keep an eye on the coaches and their interaction with players.
Don’t: Pay attention if a coach is vehemently getting on a player. It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s that, technically, by rule, we’re not allowed to. This one comes right out of the Vikings’ training camp news release which states explicitly: “Media members are asked to respect the difference between a player being coached and a player being admonished. While the former is allowed to be reported, the latter is not.” Welcome to the gray area. (We may bend this rule a little bit. Keep that on the down low.)
Do: Be aware of body transformations. Take Toby Gerhart, for example. The Vikings asked Gerhart to add more lean muscle mass in the offseason with the 25-year-old running back returning for OTAs looking much bigger in his upper body. With the assumption that Gerhart will have to carry the load out of the backfield in the early season as Peterson rounds back into form, the Vikings are searching to find Gerhart an ideal playing weight and an ideal playing shape that allows him to be effective and take a pounding. So we’ll keep an eye on that.
Don’t: Take the bait of saying that every player used this offseason to get stronger, therefore coming to camp as a better player. In fact, Mark Craig has put a strict Star Tribune moratorium on using the phrase “added XX pounds of muscle to his XXX-pound frame.” So if you see that phrase in our copy at any point, e-mail immediately. We will administer fines.
Do: Take a pulse on the optimism that seems to be accompanying the Vikings’ rebuilding efforts. Throughout the offseason, there was significant positive energy percolating within the team, which is undoubtedly a good thing as the team throws the last shovel full of dirt on last season’s 3-13 grave. So it is certainly worth assessing what the energy and enthusiasm will do for the Vikings’ preseason. But …
Don’t: Listen to the inevitable claims from players that they have never been on a team this close, where guys get along on and off the field and hang out together as friends. That’s the tired and trite soliloquy used by every football team that had a disastrous season the year before. Last season’s shortcomings, they’ll contend, came because not enough guys were buying in or certain players were looking out for only themselves. But this season? This season is going to be different. Because the team, it will be argued, is just closer knit and has better chemistry. They go to the mall together and watch movies. Well, we’re putting in earplugs during those predictable sessions. And to do our part to not provoke such time-wasting exchanges, we promise to not ask a single player or coach, “Have you ever been on a team with this much enthusiasm?”
Do: Hydrate. A mild winter has been followed by a scorching summer. Training camp in Mankato will likely give us a handful of days in the 90s. So as reporters we must be aware of the heat and work on our stamina.
Don’t: Overstate the heat. Ninety-two degrees in August? You don’t say. Look, it’s summer. Summer days are hot. And so like the “added XX pounds of muscle” rule, we’re asking you to keep us in check from spending too much time in any story, blog entry or video from telling you how oppressive the heat is.