This is a classic version of what my friends call “Rand Standard Time,” applied to an entire day than mere minutes. RST, if you are unfamiliar, requires my friends to add 10 minutes to whatever estimated time I say I will arrive. I’m working on this; getting better? I swear it’s not because I lack respect for other people’s time; more so, I just have too much faith in my own ability to move quickly.
But anyway, I’ve been planning to come for a day of camp for the past two weeks; I’m finally here, with plenty to do including the recording this afternoon of the fourth installment of the Access Vikings podcast (with beat writer Matt Vensel and this week with guest Mark Craig, who also covers the Vikings and the NFL for the Star Tribune).
I figured I might as well make an entire day of it, which meant getting down by 10:30 a.m. (made it on time! Barely!) for the start of the first of two sessions today — this one of the “walk-thru” variety.
The walk-thru (you can spell it walk-through if you want, but thru is how the Vikings spell it and really the brevity of this practice is consistent with the spelling) is a creation of the most recent collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. Teams are no longer permitted to hold real two-a-day practices in camp; instead, they can do a practice and a walk-thru.
I’ve seen it before, and I was reminded again: it is, quite frankly, a ridiculous thing to watch. Players move at half-speed without pads, some of them wearing floppy hats. Quarterbacks lob throws. Fans are in the stands, but mostly to get autographs later (or, as was the case in the one walk-thru I saw in 2014, to get their burning questions answered. A young fan chased down kicker Blair Walsh, shouting at him: “Blair! Blair! How tall are you?”)
Media members check off the names of players on the field, making sure nobody has gone missing since the previous day. Players smile and go through simulated plays. And then it’s over. Quickly. And we all wait for the real practice in the afternoon.
I was about to chalk it all up as a complete waste of time, but something offensive coordinator Norv Turner said in his Wednesday media session made me remember/realize the walk-thru has one redeeming quality.
Turner was talking about preparation for Tampa Bay and how this week’s set of practices is particularly important for younger players because it’s the first time for the rookies, at least, to see 1) how differently the Vikings (and other NFL teams) game plan for different opponents and 2) how quickly them move on from one team to the next. College football, for sure, move at somewhat of the same pace; but the NFL is another level up not just in terms of speed and skill but in terms of the need to fine-tune and adjust for opponents.
Turner said the Vikings installed some of the offense during Wednesday’s walk-thru for their upcoming preseason Game 2 against Tampa Bay (their second “friendly,” if you will help me get that trend going).
The NFL is increasingly becoming an elaborate game of chess instead of a brutal game of strength and skill. Precision is vital. Timing is everything. If one player is out of place, it can blow the entire play up.
So the walk-thru reinforces this (and, you know, gives players a reason they need to be on the field in the morning and therefore a reason to be in bed at night).
Yes, they probably could have done the same thing in full pads or maybe even in a classroom instead of at half-speed wearing floppy hats. But at least even when they look like they’re really doing nothing, they’re really doing something.