EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Greg Jennings said he could see the headlines coming Wednesday when he was forced to miss the Minnesota Vikings organized team activities because of a minor ankle injury.
Jennings is drawing attention in his first offseason for Minnesota since coming over from the Green Bay Packers and Wednesday’s practice was the first open to the media. Jennings, who was limited to a career-low eight games last year because of injuries, understood the timing of his injury and lamented the situation to coach Leslie Frazier.
“That was the first thing I said, “Of all the days, the media is here and I’m not practicing. Great,'” Jennings said Thursday while participating in the Vikings’ annual playground build.
Jennings was an active spectator during practices, staying with the wide receiver group during drills and talking with the receivers, quarterbacks and coaches. Frazier said Wednesday the injury wasn’t serious.
Jennings, who said taking the mental repetitions is important at this time of year, was with the rest of the team at the team’s annual playground build at the Howe Campus of Hiawatha Community School in Minneapolis and said he’s not concerned about the injury, as well as noting an important aspect of the timing of the injury.
“It is May,” Jennings said. “May. And I’m perfectly fine.”
Frazier said Thursday Jennings will likely return to practice next week. Frazier also said he’s talked with veteran defensive end Jared Allen, the only player missing from this week’s OTAs, who is reportedly out of town to tend to a family matter.
“Yeah, from everything in my conversations with him, he should be back at our practices next week, which will be good,” Frazier said. “He actually gets back on June 1; looking forward to having him back around and participating as well.”
The Vikings benefited from the nearly unanimous participation in the offseason program last year, a point Frazier credited often as the team recovered from 3-13 in 2011 to a playoff berth in 2012. Allen’s arrival — he has spent some time in town rehabbing after shoulder surgery — would mean 100 percent participation in this season’s workouts in terms of players taking part in at least part of the program.
The OTAs and previous conditioning program are voluntary, and players might come and go to tend to obligations.
Minnesota hopes its setting a standard for full participation in the voluntary workouts, even among the team’s veteran leaders like MVP running back Adrian Peterson and linebacker Chad Greenway.
“Especially as you grow into a veteran, you need to lead by example and that example starts now and what you are going to get into in the training camp,” Greenway said, later adding: “I think that’s what it’s about; is when you come and you’re part of an organization, they want to know that you’re all-in, you’re vested in what the organization is about and what we’re trying to do in the offseason and build towards the Super Bowl. Obviously with having the amount of guys that we have here, that’s pretty indicative of where our team’s at. It’s been fun. The tempo’s been great this first week. I think everything’s gone well.”
Jennings said he’s used to strong offseason participation coming from Green Bay and it’s good to see the same happening with the Vikings.
“It’s great seeing the turnout, guys being committed and buying into what we’re trying to do as a team, as an organization,” Jennings said. “It’s not anything new for me. We had almost like perfect attendance every year, but we’re like right there here too. It’s great.”
Building a playground: Thursday marked the eighth year the Vikings have grouped together with the Toro Company and KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to giving kids more opportunities to play, to build a playground.
The Howe Campus of Hiawatha Community School is located in Minneapolis and the entire team and more than 200 volunteers helped build the playground, which was designed by kids. A release by the team said the playground will serve more than 470 children in the community.
“We all know the importance of the playground at a school,” Frazier said. “If you have a new playground built in your neighborhood, it won’t only serve the kids at this school but, as you guys know, it will be other students as well, other kids in this area that will come over and use this playground.”
Over the past several years, Toro and the team have donated a total of $528,910 to build eight playgrounds in the Twin Cities area. The Vikings finished practice earlier in the morning and bussed the entire team, along with most of the staff, to the school in Minneapolis to help build the playground.
“You see all our guys, Adrian, Christian (Ponder), everybody working with the shovels, carrying cement, pushing mulch, it’s a little camaraderie building as well for our team because we get a chance to be in a different environment, and kind of break the monotony of practicing as well,” Frazier said. “There are a lot of plusses to what we are doing.”