Vikings players are like the rest of us as we, the human race, wander into (cue scary, dramatic music) ... The Summer Without Football!!
Oh, sure, players still are bigger, faster, stronger. But when it comes to predicting the outcome of the ongoing lockout, they're equally clueless.
"Me? I'm just sittin' here in Little Rock, Arkansas, waiting for them to figure this whole thing out," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We still got time before it starts to feel different than any other offseason to me."
Time is ticking, though. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing on the NFL's appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision to lift the lockout Friday. A decision by the 8th Circuit isn't expected until later this month. Whether these proceedings sink, save or shorten the 2011 season is anybody's guess.
"I just follow it like the fans do," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Like the fans, I'm thinking that eventually the two sides will see things one way, the same way. The players want to play, but we're locked out. You have to believe at some point everyone will wake up and realize we have the best game in all of sports."
Players and coaches aren't allowed to have contact, so when Vikings coach Leslie Frazier appeared at a team function to build an elementary school playground Friday -- something in which players have always participated -- no players were there.
Where are they? As the attorneys for both sides prepared for the next legal battle, here are what some Vikings players are doing as they embark on The Summer Without Football!!
Six in the Cities
Adrian Peterson, the face of the Vikings franchise, has been training with Vince Young in Texas. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder led a small group of teammates to Bradenton, Fla., to study the Vikings playbook under the direction of St. Paul native Chris Weinke. Meanwhile, six members of last year's Vikings team -- four of them starters -- meet regularly right here in the Twin Cities.
Four days a week, Jim Kleinsasser, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and Heath Farwell lift weights and run on treadmills together at a local Life Time Fitness. Twice a week, they turn to a trainer they have hired to push them through a variety of intensive drills at Edina High School's track.
"We have a trainer that Ben and Chad have used before," Farwell said. "We get a lot of good work in. Not just straight-ahead running. A lot of balance work. Ropes and ladders. We even run the bleachers at Edina High School. I haven't run the bleachers since high school."
Some players around the league have organized and directed quasi practices that have drawn 30 to 45 teammates on a regular basis. In New Orleans, for example, Drew Brees has been leading about 40 players through drills. In Atlanta, Matt Ryan has been leading about 30 players in 7-on-7 drills since early May.
The Vikings haven't had a player organize a group practice with nearly that many players.
"I think everybody has their small groups, which I think works out good that way," Farwell said. "You get special attention with the trainer you're working with. We're doing a lot of the same stuff we'd be doing at Winter Park. We're not missing anything other than a couple minicamps and three weeks or whatever it is of OTAs."
Rehabbing in Little Rock
Williams was holding a fussy youngster when he answered the phone at his home in Little Rock. The five-time first-team All-Pro said he is simply enjoying time with the family while doing some routine upkeep on an NFL body that turns 31 on Aug. 16.
"I had my knee 'scoped this offseason," Williams said. "So I'm just making sure I get my rehab in every day. Nothing special."
Like a lot of his teammates, Williams has followed the second career of Vikings free agent Ray Edwards, who won his boxing debut last month.
"Ray did pretty good," Williams said of Edwards' four-round decision.
Might we see a Williams-Edwards bout if the lockout drags on?
"Nah," Williams said. "I don't want anyone punching me. And I'll be going into my ninth season. I need all the rest I can get."
Giving back in California
The folks at Norco (Calif.) High School are excited about their new weight room and the two state-of-the-art treadmills that sit in one corner.
The treadmills are officially called the Tred X 30-30 model. Unofficially, they're called "Toby's Treadmills" in honor of Norco grad and Vikings running back Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart became a Heisman Trophy candidate and second-round NFL draft pick while training on the high-speed treadmills. Now, he's started a small business that uses the two treadmills in the Norco weight room to train athletes from 9 years old to the professional ranks.
"This treadmill can go up to 30 degrees incline and 30 miles per hour," Gerhart said. "It's all overspeed training, intense training. It first came out when I was in eighth grade. Kleinsasser was on the cover of the company's magazine way back when."
Quiet life in Scottsdale
By Jared Allen standards, even Jared Allen admits he's been "pretty boring" during the lockout.
"I guess I got different priorities now," said Allen, who's nearing his one-year wedding anniversary while expecting the arrival of his first child, a daughter, in November.
Allen took his annual bear-hunting trip to northern Idaho. He spends his mornings staying in shape through mountain biking, weightlifting and training in mixed martial arts.
With football in idle mode, Allen's main passion is his foundation: Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors.
"We build and remodel homes to make them handicap-accessible for wounded war veterans," Allen said. "We just did a house in Minnesota, and now we're working on doing a house here in Scottsdale. We got the big golf fundraiser coming up June 18, so it's a busy time raising money."
Allen joked (we think) about how he would like to make his MMA fight debut if he weren't under contract to the Vikings.
"I wouldn't mind having just one MMA fight after training at it for so long," Allen said. "But I don't think my wife would appreciate that. So I'll just treat this like an extended vacation until they finally decide to settle this thing and let us go back to work."