As the Minnesota Vikings' rookies prepare for their first taste of NFL coaching with a three-day minicamp that starts Friday, Phase One of the veterans' offseason conditioning program wrapped up Thursday.
Once again, the Vikings had strong participation. With 90 players on the roster, they were without the 25 rookies – nine draft picks and 16 undrafted free agents – but had most of their veterans working out over the last two weeks.
This week, they were without RB Adrian Peterson, CB Chris Cook, DT Kevin Williams and DE Jared Allen, but most of the other starters attended the second week of the program, which is limited to strength and condition and physical rehabilitation only, according to the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"It's good to be back and be with all the guys. Everyone is showing up and working hard," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "I think last week with the conditioning that we started, we jumped in right away. Everyone has progressed great. I don't think there's any comparison this year to last year."
Ponder is now a veteran of the program, entering his second year participating in it. This year, he is joined for the first time by Greg Jennings, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Green Bay Packers.
Jennings and Ponder have made an effort to get their timing down together in workouts on their own after the conditioning program, but Jennings said there isn't much difference between what he has been doing in Minnesota the last two weeks versus what he became accustomed to in Green Bay.
"I like them. They're intense. They push you. They definitely push you. But I think more than anything, you get out what you put in," Jennings said. "If you're not willing to push yourself, then you're not really willing to get great results.
"If you're working, it's hurting. I don't care who you are, what profession, work hurts. But when you're uncomfortable, somehow, uncomfortable … discomfort equals results. So I'm looking for some good results."
Some players, like center John Sullivan and receiver Greg Childs, either weren't able to participate or were limited in what they could do coming off of surgeries. They have been in Minnesota most of the offseason rehabilitating.
"I stayed up here the entire time. I might have went home a week-and-a-half since I got hurt. So the rest of the time I've been doing my rehab here with (athletic trainer Eric Sugarman) and them," Childs said. "I've got a great training staff. They've got me on schedule. They've got treatments we do. We're taking it slow, but also we're getting the most work we can."
For Harrison Smith and other second-year players, this is their first experience with this part of the program. Rookies don't participate in the first phase, but after a solid year as a valuable starter at safety, Smith is comfortable with the Vikings' program this year.
"There's not as much anxiety. I know where I'm at," he said. "I know, for the most part, the defensive plan, a lot of the guys I play with, the coaches, more familiarity. I feel like that will allow me to take another step forward and get a little more precise in the things that I do."
After the rookies finish their three-day minicamp, veterans will return next week for the start of Phase Two, which consists of three weeks that can include individual player instructions and drills and team practices conducted on a "separates" basis. However, no live contact or team-offense-vs.-team-defense drills are permitted.
The Vikings' first organized team activities (OTA), which resemble full practices, start May 28.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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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