MANKATO -- Donovan McNabb and 16 of his teammates became eligible to practice at 3:55 p.m. Thursday when vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman hung up his cell phone and gave them the high sign.
The NFL's new labor agreement had been ratified and players who were signed or re-signed as free agents or restructured their contracts (Bernard Berrian and McNabb) became eligible to start practicing. But it turns out McNabb and that group had gotten a bit of a head start on matters by heading out to a high school field in Mankato in recent days.
"We kind of found a place, a field we could work around here," McNabb said. "I think it was something that really is going to pay off. This is my first time with these guys. I'm unfamiliar with how they run routes and the speed and things of that nature so the guys who weren't able to participate in the early practices, we spent some time together, we were able to bound and now it's time for me to work with the rest of the guys and the offensive linemen so we can be on the same page."
It was clear in watching the first full-pads practice on Thursday that there is plenty of work to be done by the Vikings offense. That's not a surprise since they are learning coordinator Bill Musgrave's system and also shaking off the rust caused by the lockout.
Frazier could not supervise the workouts held at the high school, but he was happy to hear about them.
"No doubt about it," he said. "With the number of days that they had to sit and wait you would hope that they’d find a way to do something together. The fact that Donovan took the lead in getting that set up is a good sign for us. They were able to throw the ball around, move around a little bit, although they couldn’t do anything with us. So it was good to see.”
Not a bad thing
McNabb was asked if the lockout helped him to rest up this offseason, but he said he used the time for something else, too.
“The lockout gave me an opportunity to really focus in on last year," he said. "To get back to my style of play, honing my skills. Getting back to the fundamentals. That gave me an opportunity to spend more time on that and working with my trainer so I could get my legs back to where they needed to be, my movements and things of that nature. I felt like I didn’t have that.
"Just watching film of games last year that I played in, the mistakes that I made, my footwork. Things of that nature. That gave me an opportunity in the lockout to do that. Not just me, I’m sure a lot of guys across the league would say the same thing. It wasn’t a vacation time. It was good training. We’re just kind of getting back to the fundamentals and focusing in on the time when we could get back on the field.”
Sorry to see him go
McNabb's media session on Thursday was the first since left tackle Bryant McKinnie was released this week. McNabb made it clear he realized the significance of the move.
"Well, as a quarterback you don't want to hear about anything like that," he said. "Big Mac was a guy who had a lot of success here. He's one of the best tackles in the game and a friend of mine. His mom is very close to my mom and I was looking forward to playing with him here. But now we're kind of bringing in guys, and the guys that are playing that position, you have to have a lot of confidence in those guys that they can fill the hole.
"That's a big-time hole to fill – you're talking about a guy who's been to the Pro Bowl a couple of years and had a lot of success there. I just want to provide the confidence in all those guys and I want them to be confident in me back behind the center that I'll be able to execute the plays and get us in the right formation and things of that nature so we can be very successful converting first downs and scoring touchdowns."
McNabb had to be a little nervous, too, after new left tackle Charlie Johnson had some big-time struggles in his first practice going against Jared Allen. The Vikings clearly are hoping Johnson's issues were caused by him being rusty and trying to learn a new system in his first practice.
If Johnson is unable to do the job, the Vikings could try to move Phil Loadholt from right to left tackle, but Frazier does not want to do that.
“We think [Phil] is going to be an outstanding right tackle in our league and we feel like we’re pretty solid at that position," Frazier said. "We don’t want to weaken that position, so that’s not in the plans as we speak.”
- NFL referee Jeff Triplette and members of his crew are in Mankato for a couple of days to observe practices -- they throw flags and there were plenty of them Thursday -- and also meet with coaches and players about new rules.
- Wide receiver Bernard Berrian's restructured contract will expire after this season. Berrian had indicated it would be after the 2012 season but that was not correct.
- Cornerback Cedric Griffin (ACL) was expected to be held out of team and 7-on-7 drills early in camp but he has done plenty of first-team work the past couple of days. "He hasn’t had any setbacks of yet and talking with [head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman as we were walking off the field everything went fine today so so far, so good," Frazier said.