MANKATO – The number of NFL teams that hold training camp at their practice facilities continues to grow, but the Vikings won’t be joining their ranks any time soon.
Their contract with Minnesota State Mankato expires after this summer, the team’s 50th in Mankato. But the Vikings are negotiating with the university to possibly extend the contract and keep the relationship going for at least a couple more years.
Only the Packers have held their training camp at the same location for a longer period of time than the Vikings, who are one of only 12 teams that hold their camp away from their facility. In 2000, 26 of 31 NFL teams went off-site for camp.
While relocating personnel and equipment to Mankato presents logistical challenges, holding a public training camp on campus gives fans a chance to get up close and personal with the players, which helps the Vikings bolster their brand locally. More than 64,000 fans attended last year’s training camp.
From a football standpoint, coach Mike Zimmer said making the drive down Hwy. 169 still makes sense.
“With the facilities here and us having 90 players at Winter Park, it would be tough,” Zimmer said. “So I do think that the situation we’re in right now is the best for us to get ready as a football team.”
That could change if the Vikings build a new training facility in one of the suburbs of the Twin Cities, something the organization has been exploring.
But because Winter Park doesn’t have the necessary space to hold training camp and with a new facility possibly years away, renewing their contract with Minnesota State Mankato remains the likeliest scenario for the Vikings.
“I think Mankato does a great job of helping us feel welcome and the university here, as well,” Zimmer said. “At this particular time, I believe that this is the best way to go for us.”
Turner backs Bridgewater
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner isn’t a man who spends his summers scouring the Internet for quarterback rankings. But some of the recent ones made it onto his radar, and Turner didn’t seem pleased with where his guy, Teddy Bridgewater, landed.
“You try not to pay attention to those things or see them, and I see some of the rankings and none of it matters because obviously how he plays is the key,” Turner said. “There’s only four or five guys I would trust in talking to about evaluating quarterbacks.”
So who do Turner and the Vikings trust the most?
“The one evaluation we care about is ours,” Turner said. “And based on where we got to last year and where we think we’re going, I think we have a top-flight quarterback.”
New DEs fit the mold
The three defensive ends the Vikings added this offseason all have one thing in common: length.
Third-round draft pick Danielle Hunter and free-agent additions Leon Mackey and Caesar Rayford are all at least 6-5 and have long arms, particularly Hunter. Those three fit the mold of the kind of defensive ends Zimmer had in Cincinnati, such as Michael Johnson, whom the Vikings flirted with this offseason, and Carlos Dunlap.
“We brought in guys that are going to compete and that’s what we want, competition at each position,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “But the big thing is we got guys in here that fit the mold of what we’re looking for.”
After allowing 51 sacks last season while losing two starters to injury, the Vikings have moved Brandon Fusco to left guard and have been auditioning a few players at his old right guard spot. But Turner has high expectations for the offensive line.
“We have a lot of uncertainty. Like everyone else, we have training camp to get those guys ready to play,” Turner said. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t be a real good offensive line, but we have a lot of work to do.”