MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin arrived to training camp in Mankato last week about 30 minutes before coach Leslie Frazier’s imposed report time of 4 p.m.
Harvin’s arrival, one of the last players to report, ended any possible suspense after the receiver expressed displeasure a month earlier during minicamp. Harvin’s showed up in plenty of time to find his bike, and report in time for the first meeting.
First-round pick Matt Kalil was without a contract heading into the final days before training camp. Yet, Kalil agreed to a deal and made his way to Mankato on Thursday with the rest of his teammates, getting a ride from quarterback Christian Ponder.
Any possible distractions for the Vikings had been solved prior to the first meeting last week, quite the change from season’s past.
“You go from the last three years and you just look at the things we had going on, with the years we had Brett (Favre) coming in, or not coming in, or coming in, or not coming in, and coming in and then not coming in, and then we had the thing coming in with Donovan (McNabb) last year,” veteran linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Not that (McNabb) was a distraction, but it was just more attention was put on to what we were doing.”
Instead, Minnesota was able to get off to a quiet start to training camp in Mankato this season coming off last year’s 3-13 season and with a young team focused on development, if not full rebuilding. There is no courting of another year out of Favre, the savior in 2009 when the team made its way to the NFC championship game or 2010 when the decline started. There are no holdouts this season. Everyone reported to camp in time. Aside from running back Adrian Peterson’s continued rehab from knee surgery, there are very few questions regarding key positions or leaders of the team. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is finally past his long-awaited suspension from the StarCaps case. There are no looming contract questions, especially with Peterson and Greenway being extended during the preseason last year.
And the quarterback position is securely in the hands of Christian Ponder, alleviating any quarterback controversy.
“You don’t expect those things,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “Those things are obviously rarities. I’ve had more normal camps than camps where you have all the drama. But, again, like I said, there’s no distractions. We can go to work and everybody can concentrate on what they need to do to get ready for the season.”
Harvin’s situation had the potential to blow up after he said he and the team had a “couple of issues” to work through. But Harvin and Frazier met in the month leading up to training camp and ironed out any differences. Both came to camp saying all the right things.
“Me and coach have talked numerous times,” Harvin said. “We are all on the same page. This team is on the same page. We’re just trying to win around here…I’m at camp. I’m happy. I’m onboard.”
Kalil was one of the final draft picks to sign a contract this season. But the Vikings relented on some of the “offset” language in the contract and the two sides agreed to terms, which Frazier called “a big deal.”
“We needed everyone in that room (on the first night) to hear the message that we wanted to get across as a team, as opposed to getting it second-hand,” Frazier said. “It’s important to have everybody here and eliminate some of the drama when you don’t have everybody here.” Free of any off-field distractions, there is also little buzz about Minnesota. Last year’s 3-13 record combined with a very young teams leave’s little outside expectations. The Vikings were one of the worst teams in the league last season and aren’t being picked as a playoff team this season either.
“I think this is the first year when there are no real expectations going into camp, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you know?,” Allen said. “Our expectations as a team are always the same, and that’s to win the North and get into the playoffs and go that route, but as far as any preseason hype, there is none. We were 3-13 last year, we have a completely new team and a lot of young guys, but that’s a good thing.
“As cliché as it sounds, you can come into camp and focus on the team, focus on where we have to get to day by day and week by week and go out there and just play football without any of this added outside pressure of ‘we got this guy, this guy, that guy, where do you see yourself being?'”
Greenway called it the “most needed” camp since he joined the team as a first-round pick in 2006. He understands expectations also have a lot to do with the lack of bustle at camp and he appreciates the quiet and isn’t worried about preseason predictions.
“You guys aren’t giving us much of a hope, and why would you do that?,” Greenway said. “We’re 3-13. We have a lot of young players. But from within, we’re going to buy in to what we’re doing, and we’re going to get better, and that’s going to start on a fundamental level. That’s going to start here at training camp. So we’re just going to continue to grind it out, and we hope to turn things around in a hurry. And we know it’s going to happen this month and then push into that first month of the season.”