Ben Leber was back on the football field Thursday but he wasn't the one wearing pads.
Instead, the linebacker was providing instruction as his four-day camp got underway at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Leber also spent some of his time Thursday on the conference call that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith held in order to brief players on where things stand in the ongoing lockout.
There has been hope of late that the lockout could come to an end in July and that the NFL's regular-season will be able to start on time.
Asked about the briefing, Leber said: “The only thing I’ll say about the call was it was nothing enlightening. It was pretty vague and rightfully so. We’ve had some issues I think with guys not being totally confidential after those phone calls so it was pretty vague. [Smith] did sound a little bit more optimistic than he has in the past, but very cautiously optimistic. I think that things are moving in the right direction. It sounds like there are a lot of things that have been talked about, nothing totally agreed upon, but I think they are making progress.”
Leber, who has spent the past five seasons with the Vikings but will be an unrestricted free agent when the lockout does end, served as an assistant player representative for Minnesota and thus has a very good working knowledge of the situation. He also has a prediction about how this might unfold.
“My gut tells me, and this is my own opinion, that it will be an abbreviated training camp," he said. "We might get in three preseason games. I’m going to guess we’ll get in two preseason games. Get our normal couple of days off before the season starts and I think the season begins the way it should be [on Sept. 8] and is normal.”
Leber also said that although he might not return to the Vikings, he is doing his best to keep potentially former teammates in the loop whenever they have questions.
“I still try to maintain a leadership role with the Vikings, even though I’m technically not employed by them anymore," he said. "But nonetheless guys still have my e-mail and I have those guys [e-mail]. I’ve been in contact with them, not really recently because everything has been pretty stagnant, but definitely that March, April period when things were hot and heavy and there were a lot of questions. For sure. Steve [Hutchinson, who is the Vikings player rep] and I we had different e-mails [for teammates]. We would get together and kind of cross over and send a couple e-mails to some guys and let them stay informed.”
Getting in some work
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe confirmed in a text message that he spent the past three days working out with quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Joe Webb at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Ponder and Webb have been working at the camp for a few weeks and were joined by about seven teammates in late May and early June. Shiancoe was not at those workouts.