MANKATO -- Who says there's no pressure on the Vikings to win this season?
Coach Leslie Frazier made it a mere eight minutes into his first press conference of training camp before being confronted with the "P" word ... as in playoffs ... for a team that went 3-13 and is riding an 11-game losing streak within its division.
Asked if it's realistic for him to project a goal of making the playoffs when he talks to the team on the eve of Friday's first day of training camp, Frazier didn't back away (or say, Playoffs!?) . He stood behind the players -- including quarterback Christian Ponder -- who said this offseason that making the playoffs is a realistic goal. (Then again, what are they going to say when asked if they think they can make the playoffs?)
"In the NFL today, I don't know that you want to count yourself out of any situation," Frazier said after checking in at Gage Hall on the campus of Minnesota State University this morning. "This is a very fluid league in the way things are. I mean the teams that are sometimes favorites don't always end up being the favorite at the end of the year. Or the teams that are counted out are sometimes the teams that flip the script a little bit or end up in places that most people didn't expect at the beginning of the season.
"That's not to say that's going to be us. Our goal is to come down here to Mankato and try to continue to improve across the board. If we make the necessary improvements and come together as a team, we feel our chances are as good as anybody's."
Some other highlights from the reporting day ...
- Receiver Jerome Simpson, projected to be the team's No. 1 receiver and much-needed deep threat that's been sorely lacking the past two seasons, will be heavily involved in the offense early on in camp despite the fact he must serve a three-game league-imposed suspension to start the regular season. "Early on, we're going to keep him in and let him take reps," Frazier said. "But at some point we're going to have to pare it back. We aren't going to have to have him in those first three games. So we're going to have to start getting ready the guys who are going to play in those three games. But early on, we want to make sure he has a good grasp of our offense and what we want to do."
- So who will be the guy who steps in for Simpson for those first three games? Good question, Frazier said. "I don't know if there's any one guy that we can point to right now," Frazier said. "There's going to be competition. There would be competition even if we knew Jerome was going to play in that first game. Devin Aromashodu will have a chance, [Greg] Childs will have a chance. Brian [Walters] will have a chance. There will be a number of guys competing for that spot for when we open the season against Jacksonville. But I can't say today that there's one guy that we're counting on to get it done."
- Simpson said there can be an advantage to missing the first three games of the season. (Again, what is he supposed to say?) "I'll be fresh coming back after those first three games," he said. "Some of the guys, they'll be banged up and have injuries, so I can use that to my advantage."
- Rookie kicker Blair Walsh has yet to prove his confidence on the field. But he's nailing it when it comes to answering pesky reporters who want to nag him about replacing a steady longtime NFL veteran (Ryan Longwell) a year after missing 14 of 35 field goal attempts at the University of Georgia. "[Longwell] was a big part of the organization and I wish him the best in the future. But I'm here to work and get better each and every day ... and move on." Yeah, but what about the nerves? "I can't think of it that way. I just have to think about having fun out there and doing what I've been doing since my freshman year in high school." Yeah, but what about all the pesky reporters and possibly teammates who will be judging your every move? "It's not that big a deal," Walsh said. "You're an NFL player and if people want to look at you and see how you're doing, that's fine with me. That's part of the job description. I'm looking forward to it." Yeah, but what's the biggest adjustment for you? "Getting used to questions from you guys," said Walsh, calmly and with a smile.
- Unlike past Vikings coaches, Frazier doesn't require players to pass a conditioning run before being able to practice. Frazier said every player but running back Adrian Peterson has been cleared medically to participate in practice. Frazier said he was going to talk to Peterson later today about the team's plans for him at the start of camp. It's expected that Peterson will begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list as he continues to come back from a left knee reconstruction. Peterson said he'll push to get on the field as soon as possible and will be working hard whether he's in uniform or off to the side working out with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. "To be honest, I'm full-go," Peterson said. "I'm doing pretty much everything. I'm cutting, running, jumping. It's kind of different when you put pads on and you got guys diving at your legs and you're making second cuts based off of instincts of the game. That aspect I really haven't had a lot of to practice with. That's what I really want, to get a feel of to be out there and to get involved in that."
- Friday's schedule includes a walk-through from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and a practice without pads from 2:45-5 p.m.