One down. With any luck, 4,000 or more to go.
Under the watchful eye of tailgate-sitting offensive linemates John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco, as well as a wandering beneficiary of their gainful employment (Christian Ponder), rookie Matt Kalil completed his first day as a Minnesota Viking – taking part in the first “official” day of his NFL career.
“It feels good,” Kalil said of the first working day of his NFL career. “It feels good to be running football plays and working with our O-line again. It’s been since November, so it just feels good to get back out there, knock the rust off and come back flying out (in the afternoon) practice.”
Kalil was smooth as silk in his drills and live action – or what passes for live action sans pads. For the vast majority of the guys looking to make an impression, the only one that didn’t have his NFL life on the line had the easiest time, finding the way the Vikings do business pretty much the same as college powerhouse USC.
“It’s pretty similar to USC – nothing I haven’t seen before,” Kalil said. “At SC, we did a lot of helmets flying around, basically full contact with less pads, so it’s something I’ve seen before. It’s just cool to be in a different uniform on a different team and see how great these players are.”
Kalil said his biggest issue early on may be occasionally getting lost in translation. When he reads his assignment in the playbook, he’s already done it, but the verbiage is different. He needs to become football bilingual of sorts.
“It’s been somewhat of an easier transition that some other guys, since we ran a similar offense at USC,” Kalil said. “It’s a lot of the same things with basically a different language. So, it’s about translating what something used to be called into what they call it here. It’s just like taking Spanish class in college – just learning a whole new terminology and all that. But I’ve been catching on pretty fast and I feel comfortable and confident with what I’ve done so far.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier got his first glimpse of Kalil in action Friday and came away duly impressed with what he witnessed in his blue-chip first-rounder. Asked to assess what he witnessed, if Frazier had any skepticism about the Kalil selection, it was erased Friday.
“Very impressed,” Frazier said. “The first thing that sticks out is his size. He’s a big man. It’s one thing to watch him on tape, but to actually stand beside him and be able to watch him against our other players, you can see why we have high hopes for him.”
Had Kalil stayed at USC for his senior season, he would be in the midst of the spring practice routine – and would have likely made the loaded Trojans lineup a favorite to be next year’s college national champion. Having not “shaken off the rust” since last November, Kalil could have easily been persuaded to come back for another year of college football with a “BSC or Bust” motto. Asked if he had any regrets, Kalil likely ended any future attempts to ask a similar question. Not a chance. One day down. 4,000 to go.
“Not at all,” Kalil said. “I accomplished everything I wanted to at USC and I’d still be there if I wanted to stay. I’m confident in my decision to move on to the next level and play for the Minnesota Vikings.”
Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen will be joined by Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders at a Mall of America rally at 12:30 p.m. today. The vote on the stadium comes up Monday in the State House of Representatives. It is being viewed as a watershed day in the history of the franchise and the hope is that a show of support at the mall will go a long way to assisting the effort to drum up enough support to get a new stadium built.
Appearing on the radio show of Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen Friday, Gov. Dayton intimated that the Democrats in the House have pledged 34 affirmative votes for the stadium project. He also said that Republican leaders had promised both him and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “34 of 35” votes – a contention that was vehemently denied by Republican leaders and effectively disavowed by Goodell’s people.
The talk of the weekend heading up to what is being termed “Game Day” by many pundits as it pertains to the importance of Monday’s vote in the full House is Dayton vetoing a tax bill widely viewed as the political concession that could get a stadium deal done. The bill included business tax exemptions that would greatly change the business landscape in terms of tax collection at the state level and Dayton said the two issues – business taxes and stadium approval – weren’t related in the give-and-take politics that take place in the 11th hour. However, at a Republican press conference following the veto, it seemed abundantly clear that the GOP in Minnesota differs with the governor’s assessment of the situation. However, the tax bill was vetoed, but not killed.
There are a total of 71 players taking part in this weekend’s rookie minicamp – the 10-player draft class and 61 other invitees, including 15 undrafted free agents that signed contracts this week.
From “We’re Way Too Litigious As a Society” Department comes this: The NFL Players Association is taking an interesting tactic to the suspensions of four players on the New Orleans Saints caught up in the Bountygate scandal. They’re playing the “grandfathered-in” card that any transgressions committed prior to the signing of the last collective agreement in August would be subject to amnesty. Seeing as Goodell is not only the guy who signed off on the suspensions but is also the appellate judge, it doesn’t look good for the Furious Four.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.