Jim Kleinsasser (Nick Laham/Getty)
The player with the most seniority in a Vikings uniform knows all about the rigors of training camp. He’s becoming wiser in his approach, but admits it still hurts. Plus, get dozens of notes from the Monday morning practice session.
There are a lot of new faces looking to make an impression during training camp, but as fans gathered Monday morning for the Vikings’ training camp practice, a familiar face was one of the first to take the field and the last to leave.
Training camp is nothing new to Jim Kleinsasser. This marks his 12th training camp, making him the most vested player in a Vikings uniform. He has learned what it takes to prepare in the weeks and months prior to training camp as well as the rigors of two-a-days. It doesn’t get easier with age, but the process changes.
“The only real difference is that you know what to expect,” Kleinsasser said. “It never gets easy. It takes the nerves away knowing what to expect and how to approach the process. It still hurts like it always does.”
As his body has taken the abuse that 11 NFL seasons will provide, Kleinsasser said he has learned some shortcuts to making the process as easy on his mind and body as possible. Having the knowledge of a decade of training camp experience has taught him what he should do and shouldn’t do as he prepares for another 20-game marathon.
“You know what you have to do to come out and practice day in and day out at camp,” Kleinsasser said. “You have to do the little things to save your body, like getting the right amount of rest in between. You learn that a couple extra minutes in the cold tub can get you a couple of extra days hanging in there.”
While many aspects of his preparation remain the same, Kleinsasser admits he has had to abandon some of his trademark workout routines that he was known for in his younger days.
“I can’t do the crazy He-Man lifting stuff like I used to do,” Kleinsasser said. “You have to be smart with it. You learn to do quality stuff out of it – not so much with the weights, but with your form.”
As the days of camp begin to add up in the rearview mirror, veterans like Kleinsasser know that the light is getting closer at the end of the tunnel to ending what may be his final NFL training camp. He’s no stranger to the aches and pains that come along with it, but, seeing as he isn’t wearing No. 4, he understands it is a necessary evil – no matter how draining it can be.
“It’s a grind, but it’s all part of the game,” Kleinsasser said. “We know that coming in, so you just keep your mind right and know that it will be over soon – not soon enough for an old guy like me, but soon.”
MONDAY MORNING PRACTICE NOTES
The missing in action players remained the same Monday as they were Sunday. Percy Harvin (death in the family) was nowhere to be seen on the practice field, Cedric Griffin (knee) and Sidney Rice (hip) remain on the PUP list and Benny Sapp (dehydration) and John Sullivan (leg) were also sidelined from contact drills.
Sullivan had a sleeve on his right calf, but head trainer Eric Sugarman joked with the media that he had that on “just to mess with you guys.” Unlike the regular season, teams aren’t required to divulge the extent of injuries during training camp and the preseason.
The Vikings worked on kickoff coverage drills, with rookies Marcus Sherels and Ray Small doing most of the return work. Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis also took part in the return drills.
Former Viking Rich Gannon spent most of Monday’s practice on the sidelines taking in the action. Gannon is an analyst with CBS’ NFL coverage.
The crowd was a late-arriving group, but it was a very boisterous group. Most of the cheers came for the running back tandem of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
It wasn’t all fun and games for the fans. One fan in particular took it upon himself to use his booming voice to heckle players like Bryant McKinnie and Tarvaris Jackson. Considering the adult beverages were already flowing at 9 a.m., his critiques went largely unnoticed except for their volume.
During passing drills, Jon Cooper replaced Sullivan with the first-term offensive line.
Antoine Winfield was working on the kickoff coverage team in the morning practice.
Special teams coach Brian Murphy spent some extra time schooling up Chris Cook on his responsibilities in kickoff coverage. Cook said he expects to play a lot on special teams as a rookie.
While Griffin remains on the PUP list, it didn’t keep him from taking part in the practice. He shadowed defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier – a decision Griffin made to pick the brain of his coach – for almost the entire practice. Frazier said after practice that Griffin wouldn’t be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9.
When the team broke off into passing drills, Sage Rosenfels ran the drills with running backs and tight ends, while Tarvaris Jackson and Joe Webb took turns throwing to the wide receivers.
Visanthe Shiancoe got a little physical during the morning practice. He and linebacker Jasper Brinkley got tangled up in blocking drills and took the play to the ground … and then some. Shiancoe also got into a bit of a shoving match with LB Ben Leber when Leber attempted to strip a ball after the whistle blew on a crossing route.
Cook got dinged up during the practice in what appeared to be a hard landing on his left hip. He went to the sidelines for a few minutes, but returned to practice.
It wasn’t an especially stellar morning for the Vikings quarterbacks. Jackson had quite a few overthrows, Rosenfels was clearly getting frustrated with his lack of timing with his receivers and Webb was locking onto receivers during 11-on-11 drills.
The slimmer Pat Williams is showing his agility in his old age. During a Saturday practice, he laid a hit on rookie Toby Gerhart. Monday he chased a running play to the sidelines and gave Albert Young a shot to remember him by.
Following practice, Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and several players took part in the Second Harvest Heartland Hunger Hero luncheon, which brought together dozens of children in need with the Vikings family.
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.