With Vikings training camp opening next weekend, General Manager Rick Spielman said he and his staff have done what they set out to do following the team’s loss to Philadelphia in January’s NFC Championship Game.
That loss, with the Super Bowl being held at U.S. Bank Stadium two weeks later, was easily the most difficult this Vikings front office and coaching staff has dealt with. But Spielman said he believes that loss will bring about an even better team this year.
“Every year, we assess where we’re at after the end of the season, and we get together with the coaches, the personnel, the scouting department and we come up and try to address areas of need for our football team from the personnel side and how we need to improve,” Spielman said. “I know the coaches do their end of it, what they’re going to tweak from an offense, defense and special teams standpoint.”
Yes, the Vikings’ 38-7 loss was surprising in how decisive it was, but ultimately Spielman said all the team can do as an organization is move on.
“I think when you go through some situations like that, you learn from them and you grow from them,” he said. “I know the year before, when we went 8-8 and had all those injuries and had some adversity that we had to go through, we grew from that.
“We had a successful season, but we didn’t reach our ultimate goal. I think learning from those situations at the end of the playoffs there should hopefully help us grow and continue to improve.”
The NFL Network showed both the Vikings’ playoff victory over the Saints and their loss to the Eagles this past week. Spielman was asked if it appeared to him that the Vikings gave the NFC Championship Game away.
“I didn’t watch it, I haven’t watched it since last year. But when you get into those type of games, especially in a championship game, those are the things you can’t do,” Spielman said. “Those cost you the game. As coach [Mike] Zimmer always preached, we have to be a tough, physical, smart football team and you can’t just go out there and beat yourself. When you have penalties, when you have turnovers, and especially playing against a great team like the Philadelphia Eagles were last year, in a very tough environment, you can’t make those types of mistakes.”
Super Bowl the only goal
Now the Vikings bring back the bulk of that team, along with quarterback Kirk Cousins and stellar interior defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Spielman broke down where those two are at heading into camp.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us when we get ready to go to training camp next week, but those guys fit the criteria that we want as a Minnesota Viking,” he said. “They’re hard workers. They have passion for the game. They’re talented football players. Usually our coaches have a lot of success when we get those type of guys.”
There seems to be just one major question mark for the team and that’s how the offensive line will shake out.
“I think with some of the young guys we added and some of the guys we drafted the previous year like Danny Isidora and guys like that taking a step forward, Rashod Hill got some experience, we’re excited about we have some young guys up front,” Spielman said. “Pat Elflein going into his second year. But very excited about the direction this group is headed under the direction of [offensive line coach] Tony Sparano.”
Spielman said a big reason they don’t envision the offensive scheme changing too much under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is the fact that the Vikings finished 10th in scoring offense and 11th in total offense last season.
“It’s not a total revamp offense, because we did some really good things on offense last year, and I think he came in here and will adjust some things to help improve some of the areas we need to improve,” Spielman said. “It’ll be similar to what we ran last year.”
First-round pick Mike Hughes signed Thursday, and Spielman said he thinks the Vikings’ draft class could produce some players who contribute in their first year.
“With the coaching staff we have here and the way they do such a great job developing guys with such a high ceiling ... you see these guys improve,” he said. “You’ll see it probably from Day 1 in training camp to where they’re at as we go through the preseason and even where we’re at as we continue through this season. We saw that last year with a lot of our young guys and over the last couple of seasons that coach Zimmer has been here.”
And when it comes to opening their first training camp in the Twin Cities in over five decades, Spielman said the new Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center will be a great home.
“It’s phenomenal. For our ownership to provide the resources they do for us, starting with this new facility, we’re very excited about having our first training camp here,” he said. “I think not only our players are excited to get started and have our first training camp here, but our fans will be, as well.”
• ESPN released its rankings of the NFL teams set up to have the most success over the next three seasons and the Vikings ranked fourth behind the Eagles, Patriots and Saints. The Vikings ranked second in overall roster, third in draft success, fifth in coaching and front office but only 17th in quarterback play.
• David Morgan on what he learns from fellow Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph: “For a guy who’s been in the league and been in every situation and played a million plays … he’s just one of those guys who, every day, he comes in and works on stuff.”
• NFL.com’s Adam Schein tabbed Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen as the fifth-most indispensable defender in the league.
• Former Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio opened the Ricky Rubio Foundation this past week in Spain to raise awareness for lung cancer, which claimed the life of his mother, Tona Vives, in 2016. She was 56 and didn’t smoke. “In one of the last conversations with her, I promised her that I would do everything possible to help other people,” Rubio said at the dedication in Barcelona.
• Former Wolves boss David Kahn is now the owner and president of Paris Basketball, a team that will play in the French Pro B league next season. Kahn told the French newspaper L’Equipe he hopes to play in the EuroLeague by 2020. Paris had been without a pro basketball team since May 2016. A new stadium is being built for the 2024 Summer Olympics and the team will eventually play there.
• Twins President Dave St. Peter said at the start of the season he was hoping to draw 2.3 million fans, but that might not happen. “I haven’t given up on it, yet,” he said. “I’m hoping we can challenge Cleveland and have a pennant race at Target Field.”
• Gophers senior Jared Weyler is one of five Big Ten centers on the Rimington Trophy fall watch list as college football’s top center. Weyler was on the list last year, too.