For Vikings, focus is on focus

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 9:10 AM

A refreshing lack of distractions helped the first day of preparing for a turnaround season.

MANKATO - As the Vikings' first training camp walkthrough began Friday at Minnesota State Mankato, General Manager Rick Spielman stood off to the side, turning away from the practice field briefly to take a call on his cell phone.

NFL sources have confirmed that it was not legendary quarterback Brett Favre on the other line. So that potential soap opera won't be an issue this summer. Which is nice.

And yes, we're kidding. But with the first day of Vikings practice in the books, perhaps the biggest news so far is that there isn't much major news to share.

With the exception of Adrian Peterson officially being tagged as "Physically Unable to Perform" -- as expected -- and Percy Harvin confirming that, indeed, his spirits are in a good place, Friday was a quiet day in Mankato.

And that's exactly how coach Leslie Frazier hopes to keep it.

If the Vikings are to make significant strides in 2012, they will have little margin for error and no time for distractions. Which is why Frazier felt so ecstatic Thursday when Matt Kalil's contract was finalized, allowing the rookie left tackle to report to camp on time. Another potential headache had been avoided.

"Once that was done, there was a loud shout from me," Frazier said Friday. "We needed everyone in that room [Thursday] night to hear the message that we wanted to get across to the team as opposed to getting it secondhand."

At the first camp meeting, Frazier commanded his players to avoid potential off-the-field incidents that could embarrass the franchise. Six Vikings (Rhett Bomar, Tyrell Johnson, Chris Cook, Caleb King, Jerome Felton and Adrian Peterson) have been arrested since training camp convened in 2011.

"I did get into conduct maybe a little bit more that I might have a year ago, maybe," Frazier said. "But for myriad reasons, that's the right thing to do."

Still, the Vikings coach also encouraged players to establish internal expectations with blinders on to what's being projected on the outside. At present, it's nearly impossible to find a single expert who has the Vikings anywhere near the playoff picture.

Frazier couldn't care less.

"One of the things I told our team is you really can't get caught up in what people are writing or saying or blogging," he said. "In our minds what's most important is what the people in [our] room believe. ... If you don't believe we have a chance to compete in our division, or win our division, why are we even showing up in Mankato? Why are we even going through the drills that we have to go through?"

For a team that lost 13 times a year ago, quickly went into rebuilding mode and now has 40 players on the roster who had no affiliation with last year's team, the climb is steep. The hope is to use these three weeks to build chemistry and momentum.

"We're going to learn who's mentally tough enough to make it," defensive end Jared Allen said. "That's really what training camp is about. It's to weed out the guys who aren't going to be able to make it 16 weeks. You learn a lot about guys -- who's dependable, people's work ethic. And who's going to fit amongst the core. We still have a decent core on this team."

Allen is right on that and also right to acknowledge that his window of opportunity to chase a Super Bowl is closing.

So in order to move back toward respectability, the Vikings' leaders understand they cannot have their energy or attention diverted to side dramas.

That message has certainly been made clear to Harvin, the lightning rod for the only potential camp controversy to date.

Yet after publicly expressing his unhappiness at minicamp last month, Harvin left Friday's walkthrough with a huge smile, insisting once again he is merry and focused.

"I'm ready to get out there, start sweating and get this thing moving," Harvin said.

That fizzle you might have heard? That was a potential fire of controversy being reduced to a minimal crackle. And that's a soundtrack the mild-mannered Frazier enjoys.

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