With just a week left before the Vikings report to training camp in Mankato, general manager Rick Spielman is overflowing with excitement, confident he’s gathered a lot of nice pieces to put together an impressive puzzle for 2012. In a one-on-one interview this morning, Spielman talked at length about his admiration of the rookie class; about the growth second-year quarterback Christian Ponder made during OTAs and mini-camps; about the energy the coaching staff is investing in developing a young roster; and about the patience that’s needed on the inside and outside to measure the team’s progress incrementally.
As the opening of camp nears, we’ll continue to offer you more of Spielman’s thoughts on the upcoming season and the team he’s assembling. In the meantime, here are three newsworthy nuggets worth sharing.
The nugget: Spielman is not worried in the least about the ongoing contract negotiations with rookies Matt Kalil and Josh Robinson.
The translation: Of the 10 players the Vikings drafted in April, Kalil and Robinson are the last two unsigned. But Spielman expressed confidence that deals with both players will be finalized before the Vikings’ first training camp practice next week. At present, the deals for both Kalil and Robinson are snagged on a market staring contest with agents and teams waiting to see what other agents and teams are doing with their players. So much of this is about technicalities in contract language and reasonable raise rates, fine-print details that the masses should waste little time stressing over. So Vikings fans should resist the urge to hyperventilate with worries that two of their talented rookies won’t be participating at the start of camp.
The chance of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl this season is far greater than the chances that Kalil or Robinson will have any sort of significant contract holdout. Or even much of a holdup next week.
For perspective, of the top 10 players drafted this year – Kalil was taken at No. 4 – only Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and Bills defensive back Stephon Gilmore have signed. It’s believed Griffin’s deal, finalized Tuesday, should help speed up negotiations for the other high first-rounders.
Another significant logjam exists with early third-round picks. Of the top 10 players taken in Round 3 – Robinson went third in that round – only Bills receiver T.J. Graham and Chargers safety Brandon Taylor have inked deals so far.
Spielman speaks: “We anticipate all of our guys being down in Mankato and ready to go by training camp. We’re very confident about that … The financial end of things is pretty clear cut. Most of this is about the language in the contracts. And that will fall into place here [soon]. With that top of the third round, we see that there’s a bunch of guys who haven’t been signed yet. Out of all the areas through the draft, the top part of the first round and the top part of the third round seem to be the two spots with some sticking points. Every guy has different issues. A lot of times it’s agents wanting to see what the market comes in at. For whatever reason, it’s the top of the third round this year that’s held up. It varies from year to year. The top of that first round is more the language in the contract and that side of things. We have our business principles and the agents are trying to fight for their business principles. That’s the hang up.”
The nugget: It’s very possible Adrian Peterson will begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
The translation: While Spielman wouldn’t say so directly, the easiest decision with Peterson will be to put him on the Camp PUP list next week, a designation that has to be made before camp starts but can be removed at any time. From a front office standpoint, the biggest advantage of stamping Peterson with a “PUP” tag when he gets to Mankato wouldn’t come until August 27. At the first cut on that date, when the Vikings’ roster goes from 90 players to 75, if Peterson is still on the Camp PUP list, the Vikings would be able to use the extra roster spot. That’s a minor plus to be certain but still an option the Vikings would be wise to keep open.
In the big picture, Peterson’s health designation heading into training camp won’t be all that significant. The much more important issue will be how the star running back continues to progress in the five-and-a-half weeks between the opening of camp and the Monday of Week 1. Peterson, who needs to strengthen his left leg and get back into the flow of cutting on instinct on his surgically repaired knee, will likely lobby hard to get back into camp action as soon as possible. But next week, the Vikings’ medical team will carefully evaluate the situation. And there’s a distinct possibility Peterson would spend the opening stages of training camp with that “PUP” designation, continuing his knee rehab on the side until it’s deemed safe to add him back into the mix.
Spielman says: “Before we put Adrian back out there, we’ll make sure he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go – whether that’s the first day of training camp or a little later on. We’ll listen to what our doctors and trainers tell us.”
The nugget: Percy Harvin’s surprising June mood swing is being brushed under the rug with Spielman refusing to shed any light on the issue.
The translation: Inevitably, Harvin will attract a ton of spotlight in the early stages of training camp as the media tries to measure his disposition on a daily if not hourly basis. Has the unhappiness that rankled Harvin at mini-camp gone away? Was his request to be traded last month just a small outburst that isn’t to be taken seriously? Was that a calculated threat to pressure the Vikings into making him happy? Does Harvin’s disgruntlement have a chance to resurface and cause much greater problems?
Whatever transpired behind closed doors at Winter Park last month is being kept secret.
Here’s our exchange with Spielman from this morning …