Frazier wants competition, not hazing

Leslie Frazier (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)

Leslie Frazier is looking forward to the pressure provided for young players in Saturday's intra-squad scrimmage. That's one of the things he has anticipated most at training camp. What he doesn't want is rookie hazing.

As the first week of training camp comes to an end, head coach Leslie Frazier has learned a lot about his crop of young talent. In this year, perhaps more than any in the recent history of the team, more jobs – both as starters and as members of the 53-man final roster – are up for grabs and a significant number of those will be going to rookies.

From Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, both expected to be starters perhaps as early as the regular-season opener, to significant playing time expected from Josh Robinson, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs to Blair Walsh taking the job as the kicker, there is a lot to learn about the Class of 2012 and there are things Frazier wants to see and not to see.

What he is looking forward to is the annual intra-squad scrimmage at Blakeslee Field, the first chance for the players to simulate live game action in front of thousands of their fans. Frazier said he wants to see how his young players will react to the game-style conditions and the team's first real change of scenery from OTAs, minicamps and to date in training camp.

"I'm looking forward to the fact that we will have a lot of fans here and they will be in an environment not completely similar to what they will see in that first preseason game," Frazier said. "They feel the pressure of performing in front of fans in a different light in a night game, along with seeing some of the young guys perform with a little bit different atmosphere from what they're seeing in practice on a daily basis – just being able to see how they respond to some of the different situations that we are going to put them in as much as anything and being able to go back and evaluate that tape and determine how these guys handled certain situations."

What Frazier doesn't want to see is a rite of passage in the NFL over the years – hazing of rookies.

Different teams take on the ritual of hazing in different forms. Long before Bountygate was a New Orleans scandal, the Saints organization and their coaches were called to the carpet by the commissioner when it was learned that rookie players had undergone a brutal hazing in the dorm rooms they were staying at for camp. Rookies were forced to run down a hallway blindfolded, while players swung socks filled with coins. The incident came to light when one rookie was hit in the eye and sidelined.

Frazier claimed that he was never subjected to brutal hazing rituals – the worst he said he had to endure was singing his college fight song in front of the team, giving the impression he would never be confused vocally with Luther Vandross. However, even that mild humiliation forged his belief system on hazing and he's made it clear he's against it.

"I really don't want them to haze those rookies," Frazier said. "I remember when I was a rookie myself and I didn't like it a whole lot and said, ‘If ever get into a position where I can control, I'll try to control it.' They can get them to sing their college fight songs and some certain things that we'll allow them to do, but there's a point where you don't what them to go – where it comes a little more combative than it becomes fun and games and we don't want that."

With so many rookies – drafted and undrafted alike – fighting for roster spots, Frazier wants to accentuate the positive and let their only concerns be making plays and not looking over their shoulders or opening their bags with hesitation, wondering what may be inside. The worst he wants to see is a rookie carrying the pads of a veteran teammate.

This week of practice will culminate in the fan-intensive practice Saturday night at Blakeslee Field and it would appear the word has gone out to the veterans – Frazier wants Blair Walsh kicking footballs between the goal posts, not mummified with athletic tape hanging upside down from the goal post.


  • One of the big topics of training camp has been the youthful enthusiasm of the old man of the defense – 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield. Winfield has relished his role as a mentor to the younger Vikings (technically everyone). Frazier said Winfield has taken a much different approach to training camp this season. In previous seasons, he was always assured of a job and spent training camp to hone his skills, increase his cardiovascular stamina and get prepared for the coming season through rituals he had learned over the years. This year, he is taking all the reps that he is allowed and is leading by example, which has drawn praise from Frazier, but he admitted he may look to limit Winfield's reps moving forward.

  • With John Carlson out for a couple of weeks with a sprained MCL, the player being identified as the one that will benefit the most is Rhett Ellison. Drafted in hopes of becoming a replacement for the bone-crunching tight end/fullback/H-back/cyborg Jim Kleinsasser, Ellison may find himself with a chance to shine while Carlson is ailing.

    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.

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