MANKATO - The Vikings returned to the practice field Monday for the first time since the NFL lockout ended and began to shake off the rust from a lost offseason. It quickly became apparent that is going to be an ongoing process.
Coach Leslie Frazier compared the one-hour, 35-minute first day of training camp to what would ordinarily occur during a springtime session at Winter Park.
"It's similar to an OTA practice," Frazier said. "In fact, that's how it was described to us when we looked at what we could and couldn't do in this first day of practice, along with day two and day three. It's similar to the way an OTA practice would be run. Of course, Day 4 we get the pads on, which you wouldn't be able to do in OTAs. So that's about as close to similarity as you could use."
The NFL had guidelines about what teams are able to do as they ease back into things with rosters that are allowed to be at 90 players instead of the usual 80. Frazier's first training camp practice as a head coach ran at a crisp pace, but that didn't mean things were sharp.
Players were in helmets, shorts and no shoulder pads as they went through individual drills before the offense and defense worked on separate fields. The practice ended with a special-teams segment.
"I had a few guys come up and tell me that working against teammates is not the same as working 1-on-1 or by yourself," Frazier said. "It's a totally different deal when you've got a coach demanding a certain tempo and a certain pace as opposed to when you're doing it alone or with teammates away from the facility. So just a different deal. It's good for us. We're just happy. We were ready to get together as a team."
Said defensive end Jared Allen: "I thought it was great because we didn't really have a chance to be sloppy. We weren't in any team situations. It was more just kind of going through things individually to see where everyone was at."
For the offense, much of Monday focused on the installation of a system that is being introduced by new coordinator Bill Musgrave. Quarterback Christian Ponder and some others received playbooks during the brief time the lockout was lifted in April, but this is their first chance to run through the plays and quickly react to the new terminology.
The intensity should pick up Tuesday when Frazier plans to mix in some team, or competitive, drills as well as 7-on-7 work. There was none of that Monday.
"Today was more technique, more fundamentals, just bringing them along and just seeing where they were physically," he said.
That was at least true for the guys who could be on the field. There were about 15 veterans forced to sit out, including quarterback Donovan McNabb, because they have to wait until Thursday or when the collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
That list includes guys who were signed as free agents or restricted free agents or had their contracts restructured.
Nonetheless, Frazier was just happy to be back on the field.
"I do feel that it's our team and it's a team that myself and the rest of the coaches will be able to put our stamp on," he said. "Just the way the guys have responded here at the very start has been so positive just gives me the impression that we've moved on past 2010 and we have opened up a new era."