Rand: Familiar scene plays out in Mankato to start Vikings camp

  • Updated: July 24, 2014 - 10:32 PM
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Matt Kalil, in a ritual repeated every year, signed autographs for fans as players reported for camp in Mankato.

Photo: Jerry Holt • jgholt@startribune.com,

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Groundhog Day, in the literal sense, is Feb. 2. We wait for the animal to see (or not see) its shadow, and that’s allegedly how we know when winter will end.

Groundhog Day, in the figurative sense — thanks to the popular Bill Murray movie from 1993 — arrives every year in late July in Mankato. Fans line up seeking autographs. Players arrive in shiny cars, lug a bunch of creature comforts into their dorm rooms and then ride around on bicycles. This is how we know it is the start of Vikings training camp.

The familiar scene played out Thursday, albeit with some interesting juxtaposition mixed in.

Hundreds of fans stood behind a chained off area, pleading with Teddy Bridgewater, Cordarrelle Patterson and pretty much any recognizable face within earshot to give them a signature, or at least a fist bump.

Half the length of a football field away, the Vikings made a calculated (and smart) public relations decision by having as many key participants as possible address the investigation in which former punter Chris Kluwe and current special teams coach Mike Priefer are the central figures.

As long snapper Cullen Loeffler gave thoughtful answers to serious questions, a nearby Vikings fan loudly played the team’s signature gjallarhorn sound. Those two notes … plus conversations with fans in Mankato … plus all the e-mails and many of the tweets I’ve received … remind me that so many of these fans don’t care one bit about off-field news, and they particularly don’t care about Kluwe news.

Not saying that’s right or wrong, just saying it’s true. The fan with the customized “The Captain” jersey wanted to see new cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. The woman in the fuzzy purple boots? Well, she’s just a bigger fan than most of us could hope to be. So the ritual continued, not impacted at all by the potential distraction of the investigation. When it was over at 2 p.m., fans and media cleared out of the dorm area.

On the way to the media building, I spotted Christian Ponder — not seen during any of the media availability time — riding his bike. We’ll give him a free pass, since he’s a new dad to a baby girl (Bowden Sainte-Claire Ponder, if you hadn’t heard).

The recently married Adrian Peterson rode behind three offensive linemen, including Charlie Johnson in his amusing, “Yeah, no. Don’t put me down for cardio” T-shirt.

They were on their way to a 3 p.m. conditioning test, and then the real fun begins Friday.

Michael Rand

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2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
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Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
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Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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