Plenty of storylines at 2011 Vikings' Training Camp
(Check out this week's www.dl-online.com as Detroit Lakes Newspaper Sports Editor Brian Wierima will be covering the Vikings' Training Camp live from Mankato this Thursday and Friday.
He will be posting live Twitter feed, which can be seen on the homepage of dl-online and at Twitter's DLSportsGuy. Photos galore and audio, along with a daily blog from Thursday's and Friday's practices will also be posted.)
To say last year was a disaster for the Minnesota Vikings is certainly an understatement.
What started out as Super Bowl aspirations, turned out to be a three-ring circus resulting in a 6-10 record.
But one good thing about the NFL is the fact there is a new season every year -- although not quite guaranteed as the lockout almost wiped out America's favorite past time.
So the 2010 season can be looked upon as water under the bridge, along with several of the main forces who made it into the Vikings' first losing season in quite some time.
Those who pass under that bridge and into Viking history include lead ringmaster head coach Brad Childress, who was fired just past midway through the season and replaced by current head coach Leslie Frazier.
The preseason carnival of wooing now-retired Brett Favre is also a history notation.
The Vikings finally addressed their quarterback situation for the future by selecting Florida State's Christian Ponder. But even that selection was tainted a little by the offseason-long NFL lockout, which forced the Vikings to go out and get a more reliable veteran QB in Donovan McNabb, because there would be no way a rookie quarterback could take over the reins in a matter of weeks to prepare.
But other than the acquisition of McNabb, the Vikings' offseason additions have been underwhelming.
Just recently, another hole was created with the dismissal of 10-year left tackle starter Bryant McKinnie.
Man, what a disappointing finish to McKinnie's Viking career, as the already mammoth tackle from the University of Miami came into camp a bit bloated -- as in nearly 400-pounds of bloat.
McKinnie's "don't give a damn" attitude must have been practiced to the fullest extent during the lockout. Even his cholesterol was off the charts, marking him to be a danger of tipping over dead on the Mankato practice field -- and all this coming on the 10th anniversary of Korey Stringer's death at training camp.
Unfortunately, McKinnie came to the Vikings after the tragic death of Stringer, which was marked by the team during this year's training camp.
The big-eating, club-going moron McKinnie could have learned something from Stringer on how to be a real professional. But in the end, McKinnie's career was marked by mediocrity and his legacy will be that of blown potential.
Even technology has been against McKinnie, as his Twitter account backfired on him.
Some frustrated Twits were directed towards McKinnie since his release Tuesday, some actually pretty funny.
One Twit stated, "Apparently, Leslie Frazier was worried about the bridges in Minnesota being able to hold #BryantMcKinnie."
Another thanked McKinnie "...for going to #TacoBell w/me 2night. I never thought about wrapping a chalupa in a quesadilla in a Mexican pizza b4."
All jokes aside, McKinnie put the Vikings in a tough spot, although some good foresight was had with the signing of Colts' left tackle Charlie Johnson, who has been guarding Peyton Manning's blindside for the last 49 games.
And no, the Vikings are not retiring McKinnie's number, since Johnson already took it Wednesday morning.
Another big loss came with Seattle signing wide receiver Sidney Rice, who signed a five-year $41 million contract, with $18 million guaranteed.
That's quite a lot of guaranteed money for a player who has only been able to complete one full season out of four, but make no doubt about it, Rice is a top ball catcher.
With the Vikings not dipping into the quality end of the wide receiver free agency pool, there is quite a void on the edges.
Minnesota did sign the Bears' fourth wide receiver Devin Aromashodu and Falcon reject Michael Jenkins.
So far, that leaves underachieving Bernard Berrian and Jenkins as the starting wideout positions, with the talented Percy Harvin in the slot and two solid tight ends in Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie Kyle Rudolph.
McNabb is used to not having quality weapons down the field, so if the Vikings stay pat and not sign San Diego's Malcolm Floyd or the Jets' Braylon Edwards, he will be working the middle quite a bit with Harvin and his two tight ends.
Although there is one intriguing prospect who could grab some attention on the outside and that is Canadian Football League standout Emmanuel Arceneaux, who goes 6-2, 215 pounds and is a speedster.
But McNabb's job will be to find those receivers, who need to create separation. Oh, yeah, and hand it off to All-World Adrian Peterson, who maybe seeing his carries increase quite a bit this year.
The defensive line wasn't addressed as much as it should have, either.
Thus far, the Vikes have opted not to resign nose tackle Pat Williams, instead going with the Saints' Remi Ayodele, who goes 6-2, 318 pounds.
Not a bad exchange, since Williams, along with Kevin Williams, will probably be suspended for the first four games.
But another DT should have been signed and not retread Fred Evans.
There still maybe more signings coming, but it looks as if what is at training camp now, will be the frontrunners the rest of the way.
One glaring need, though, is at safety. Madieu Williams was released after an inglorious stint as a Viking.
That leaves disappointing Tyrell Johnson and unknown quantity Husain Abdullah as the last line of defense.
Many of the free agent safeties have been snapped up, but Buffalo's Donte Whitner is still hanging out there.
One thing which there isn't at Mankato this year which was there last year are expectations.
Linebacker Chad Greenway was stated as saying the Vikings can go .500 or better. Quite the difference from a year ago, but at the very least, this training camp does provide hope for the future with a potential franchise quarterback in Ponder and a level-headed head coach in Frazier.
There are some very good storylines popping up at Mankato this year, just not as circus-like as it has been the last few years.
With some of the garbage being cleared out -- i.e. McKinnie -- the work of Frazier has just begun.