The Vikings' training camp in Mankato is, like many things, in jeopardy because of the NFL lockout.
Coach Leslie Frazier said today the Vikings will let Minnesota State University know by July 18 whether they will plan to hold camp in Mankato. The Vikings sent a letter to the university today to let them know of the date.
If the lockout is still going at that point, odds appear good the Vikings won't have training camp in Mankato.
“It makes it very difficult for us to go to Mankato [if the lockout is still going on July 18] because of the time constraints between when we need to have everything down there and ready to go," and the time the Vikings would open camp, Frazier said.
The Vikings will report to training camp on July 31, assuming the lockout is lifted and things are able to go on as normal. Practices would start the next day. (What's interesting is the players don't know this yet because the clubs can't contact them to pass along this information.)
Frazier is not really hung up on having training camp in Mankato, as much as he is making sure the Vikings have proper time to prepare for the season.
“I’m almost OK with if it does become [having camp at] Winter Park," he said. "I just want us to have the full complement of time. Whether it’s Winter Park or Mankato. An abbreviated preparation time for that first regular-season game, that would not be an ideal scenario under our circumstances with a potentially young quarterback [in Christian Ponder]. I just hope we have our full time prepare.”
If camp is held at Winter Park, Frazier has a plan in place for both housing the players and also where meetings would be held. While it seems likely players would stay at an Eden Prairie hotel, Frazier did not want to disclose that plan yet.
“I think I better hold on that one," he said. "We have a plan for that, too, but I don’t want some of them reading that and thinking about it.”
As you would expect, things are extremely fluid for the Vikings coaching staff as they attempt to prepare for both vacation time and the potential end of the lockout. Recent reports indicate the NFL and the players have been meeting again and there appears (yes, we said appears) to be progress being made.
The coaching staff is scheduled to begin what would be three- or four-week vacations on Saturday. Ordinarily, this time of year until training camp opens is when coaches and players get away for some time off.
But because the lockout could be resolved in the coming days of week, Frazier has told his assistants to have their cell phones nearby in case teams are allowed to get back to work. If the lockout does end, there would be a free agency period and there also could be a chance that teams would gather their players and hold a quick minicamp so players could get a bit of time to prepare for training camp.
It remains to be seen if wide receiver Sidney Rice will be a restricted or unrestricted free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Vikings had talks with Rice's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and were hopeful that there might be a chance to sign Rice to a long-term deal. Frazier said he also spoke to Rice during the brief time the NFL lockout was lifted in late April.
“I talked to him in that brief window we had with that draft weekend and he was enthusiastic about maybe signing back with the Vikings," Frazier said. "But he still wants to explore opportunities and you can’t begrudge him for that being a free agent. We’ll just have to kind of wait and see what happens. Obviously, we’d love to have him back in Minnesota.”
Rice has played four NFL seasons, which is the number of years a player needed to become a free agent before the 2010 season. Last year, unrestricted free agency required six years of service.