As I said in my earlier training camp report, my usual game-day buddy The Commish also joined me in Mankato. Here are some of the photos that he took while we attended the special teams practice.
I had forgot to leave this comment on my report from yesterday, but The Commish and I both agree that Tice will absolutely go postal if special teams screws up during the regular season. This team has been spending a tremendous amount of time on special teams since Mini-Camp waaayyyy back in May. So, if something bad happens on special teams in pre-season or regular season, turn your eyes immediately to Tice and watch.
You can hear Tice & Culpepper's as well as my interview with Chuck Foreman on my most recent podcast. If you haven't listened to a podcast yet, what are you waiting for? This is a perfect one to try. And you don't need an iPod to do it. Either download iTunes for free or simply use the Pod Alley player for free!
In Case You Missed It
From Pro Football Talk, this little nugget will put an extra hop in your step today:
"Even with Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker in camp, a scout who has scrutinized the Packers' performance in a recent scrimmage with the Bills tells us that the Pack looked "awful."
Actually, "f--king awful" was the precise quote, with a twist of "very disorganized."
Although there's still a long way to go before the season opens, it's not a good sign for a squad that lost a lot in the offseason -- and did little in the way of upgrading the talent. Coupled with the uncertain status of head coach Mike Sherman and the lack of horses to make Jim Bates' defense as effective as it was in Miami, and it could be a long season for the Cheeseheads.
Then again, folks have been predicting doom and gloom for the Pack prior to each of the past couple of seasons. Meanwhile, they keep finding a way to win the NFC North. Still, it could be different this year. Even with a motivated and committed Brett Favre at quarterback, he simply might not have the surrounding pieces to be successful. And at could mean that former G.M. Mike Sherman soon will also add the word "former" in front of his remaining title with the team."
We'll have to get Cheesehead Craig back on for a podcast soon to discuss this.
Kudos to STrib
Best sports photo of the year showing Vikings rookie Erasmus James running sprints through a tunnel of teammates.
Note: All the photos viewable for this blog entry have been uploaded at 1536 x 1024 pixels which is suitable for an 8 x 10 print. This means the photo will be very large when you open it and you may have to save it to actually view the full size. But I know how many of you like to use my prints for gifts and autographs. This is my gift to you for being such great fans of the Vikings and avid readers of this blog. You are more than welcome!
While eating breakfast Monday morning inside the stately Maas mansion, a white oscillating fan blew gusts of hot air across my sports page. It was a perfect artifact of place and time. I folded the damp sheets, and set off for Mankato.
Along the way I picked up my usual game-day buddy, The Commish, in Shakopee. Where it started to rain. Heavily. Rolling thunderstorms were hitting the area all the way to Mankato. Drat my luck.
Once in Mankato, we stopped to pick up our media credentials discovered that the entire practice schedule had been changed. Instead of viewing a 10:30 AM to 1 PM practice, the players would be lifting all morning. This would be followed by a 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM special teams practice. The afternoon practice would be from 4:30 PM until 7 PM. The Commish and I would have to leave after the Special Teams practice....being the good married husbands we are. Drat my luck!
So, being red-blooded American males, we scouted for a Chipotle and had an early lunch followed by dessert at Cold Stone. Now we were ready for practice and the skies were actually clearing.
We headed back and parked in the media parking lot behind Gage Hall, the residence of the players while in Mankato. I parked the ol' BWM by another import. This one a bit more expensive. Can you guess who owns it? First clue, Florida plates. Second clue, he just inked a new contract. I just hope he never decides to test out the speedometer that ran to 220 MPH! What a beautiful car this is.
Around noon, I stepped out onto the practice field, shouldered my various camera bags, and headed toward the goal posts. The sun beat down on the crown of my head, and my shirt collar was damp with sweat. The rain from the morning coupled with the soaring temps was going to make it miserable. I pulled a bandana from my pocket and wiped my brow. For a Monday, the practice field was getting pretty crowded, a number of media types down for the day. It was going to be the hottest practice of Vikings training camp thus far. And it was the day I chose to attend. Drat my luck!
One of the very first players to arrive for this special teams practice was Fred Smoot. All the players, and I mean all the players, were present for special teams practice unless otherwise excused. The Commish commented that this was a great idea on Coach Tice's part to make sure that all the players recognized the importance of the special teams unit.
Since I only attended the hour long special teams practice, the number of my photos was limited. And I seemed to draw towards a few players that just seemed to capture my eye.
Earlier this season I had told you to keep an eye on rookie wide-receiver Chris Jones. Here's another rookie name to watch and I think stands a real chance of landing a spot on the team, linebacker David Bamiro.
Bamiro is a 6'-2", 220 lb. linebacker out of a college called Stony Brook. Heard of it? Neither have I. But you have heard of his high school which is Central Islip, New Jersey. Still not ringing a bell? Central Islip is the high school that the current Vikings head coach, Mike Tice attended. So, Bamiro has a leg up in that regard.
I observed Bamiro play special teams on the kick-off squad. He showed great poise and speed and best of all, did not get chewed out by Tice once....which was saying something because despite Tice being all smiles at the start of practice there was a lot of F-Bombs flying during special teams drills.
Another player that I think is destined to make the team due to his special teams play is TE T.J. Cottrell. It does not hurt Cottrell that Tice, a former TE himself, seems partial to keeping TE's around. Especially given the injury bug that hit the team in this area last season.
Right now, Napoleon Harris is assigned the first team strong-side linebacker spot. I say right now because Tice made a point to talk about Keith Newman giving Harris a run which you can hear on the podcast.
Darren Sharper, the Packer Killer, was also early onto the practice field. He was quickly followed by Mark Wilf, the new President of the Vikings. Mark Wilf is brother to new owner and Vikings Chairman and Zygmunt Wilf. Zygi was all over the field today observing his team and tossing the ball. Zygi even spent some time speaking with Troy Williamson on the sidelines. I rarely observed Red McCombs speaking to players on the field during practice. After games, yes but not during practice. I like this new aspect that Zygi is bringing to the players and I could tell that the players are responding positively to their new owner.
P-Will, whom I've nicknamed The Planet also showed some amazing dexterity for a man his size.
Kicker Paul Edinger seems to be coming on and I think we have a real race developing for the kicker position. I thought Aaron Elling, due to his kick-off distance might be running away with the spot but Edinger seems to be getting more umpf on the ball.
We saw a lot of players take reps today at kick-off receiving. Troy Williamson was once again taking kick-offs and looking comfortable at it. He was perhaps being a bit too cautious about making sure the ball was caught, but I'd rather have that than a fumble. And Williamson came up with the ball every time.
One thing The Commish and I commented on was the lack of bodies on offensive line. OG Shannon Snell was out due to a family emergency and Matt Birk is still on the PUP list. So, who else but Mr. James Kleinsasser to provide an extra offensive line body for practice. And it seems like OG Chris Liwienski has stepped into the roll of offensive line leader for the time being.
Of course, mammoth OT Bryant McKinnie was also in practice and looking very focused, working out here with OT William Obeng.
A drill I had not seen the OL perform before was a hand-slapping drill with one player trying to place his hands on the other players jersey before it was slapped away.
The wide-receivers were out playing catch and, from what I could tell, making Daunte Culpepper laugh. And one receiver in particular is making Culpepper very happy as Daunte made a point of it which can be heard on my podcast.
Travis Taylor and Nate Burleson seemed to be very chummy today, perhaps a sign of these two becoming your game-day WRs. But then, all the WR's were all smiles so I could be just spitting into the wind. For now, just call it a feeling.
They certainly were having a relaxed time during special teams drills, not having to participate until the hands-team was called. Burleson passed the time making up some bizarre pass-tip game much to the delight of Taylor.
A new podcast is now up and running. You'll hear some sounds from practice. You'll hear Mike Tice and Daunte Culpepper address the media after practice. Tice talks about an interesting battle between Keith Newman and Napoleon Harris at SAM. Hear Culpepper speak about Travis Taylor and others. And you'll hear an exclusive Viking Underground interview with Chuck Foreman. See if you can recognize the voice asking Daunte about rookie receivers.
Give it a listen!