Knock on wood, folks. This is a story about the Vikings and an amazing absence of distractions, expectations, hyperbole, chaos, Love Boats and ESPN camera trucks stalking Winter Park.

"Last year was a little interesting," Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said in his best deadpan. "We had the Brett Favre will-he, won't-he thing, Coach [Brad] Childress getting fired, Randy Moss coming and going and all that stuff with him, the Metrodome collapsing, games getting delayed and moved ...

"You name it and it happened to us in 2010."

It's a new year. One with enough holes and question marks that even the Detroit Lions are getting more love nationally than the Vikings.

And yet everyone seems as calm, cool and collected about it as the team's unflappable and decaffeinated coach, Leslie Frazier.

"Leslie's influence on this team is big," defensive line coach Karl Dunbar said. "The kids can just relax, focus and work on getting better."

From an historical standpoint, as any Vikings fan will attest, it seems downright odd for a Vikings team to be this, well, normal. Again, knock on wood, if you must.

"It feels as normal as normal can be in the NFL," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "You have to take the bad with the good. With all the publicity and media attention we got the past two years with Brett comes all the chaos. Philly's going through it now because they got the so-called 'Dream Team.' They can have it."

A year ago this month, it was Allen, kicker Ryan Longwell and guard Steve Hutchinson who skipped a practice to travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to talk Favre into finally making a decision to return or not. When he did, it gave the Vikings all 22 returning starters from a team that came within seconds of advancing to the Super Bowl.

The rest, of course, is history. Painful Purple history.

"Look at all the teams picked to reach the Super Bowl every year," Allen said. "How many teams picked 'on paper' actually get there?"

Most prognosticators now have a hard time picking the Vikings to even climb out of the NFC North's basement. With a corp group of star players that includes Winfield, Allen, Hutchinson, Longwell, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Percy Harvin and Kevin Williams, the Vikings think they still have enough juice left to pull one of those typical worst-to-first NFL seasons.

There's also a belief in Frazier that extends from last season, when he led the Vikings to a 3-3 finish against steep odds as an interim coach. Before Frazier was promoted, the Vikings' Super Bowl season and head coach collapsed. After Frazier got the job, the stadium and Favre's 297-game streak of consecutive starts followed suit.

Greenway called this year "almost a sense of relief." Neither he nor Peterson have complained about going into the final year of their contracts without long-term extensions. And Frazier's release of overweight left tackle Bryant McKinnie on Day 2 of training camp was met with support in the locker room when it could have gone the other way under a different leader.

"This season is the way I like things," Harvin said. "I loved playing with Brett, but I don't like people talking about us, saying what we could do, what we should do. I like being under the radar. That's the kind of person I am. I don't like interviews or brag or boast."

Williams also is a quiet man who prefers playing loudly.

"If you look at the division we're in, nobody is talking about us," Williams said. "That's a good thing. We can go quietly about our work and then make a lot of noise when the season starts."