Mickey Shuler (Alissa Foreman/VU)
TE Mickey Shuler has a dad that was a 13-year veteran of the NFL, but the younger Shuler is learning the rigors of camp on his own. Plus, get a dozen notes from a hot Wednesday afternoon practice.
The first training camp is always a time of emotional upheaval for late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents. They don’t know if they’re working for a spot on the roster or just live bodies necessary to do the number of reps needed for a training camp and its 25 practice sessions.
Mickey Shuler is one of those players. A seventh-round draft pick and a legacy – his father of the same name played more than a decade in the NFL – he had a lot of people telling him about the rigors of training camp on players whose roster spot is far from assured. However, he said he let it go in one ear and out the other as far as expectations were concerned.
“To tell you the truth, I came into camp with no expectations,” Shuler said. “I just knew I was going to go day to day and try to go all-out every day. I knew you had to get that first experience under your belt. As a rookie, you just don’t know. People can tell you this or tell you that. But you don’t understand it until you actually do it. I got my first taste of it and I’m glad I did.”
He said the most valuable thing he learned was that, despite being in excellent shape and able to do a lot of athletic things on the field, giving his own body a little TLC was a top priority.
“The first thing I learned is that, off the field, you need to take care of your body,” Shuler said. “Get in that cold tub. Get some sleep. You have to do the little things so you’re ready to go the next day.”
Shuler entered camp trying to carve a spot out among a veteran group that has been together for a while, including Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan and Garrett Mills. In some instances, players can be threatened by the arrival of a youngster, but Shuler said he has been welcomed into his position with open arms by his teammates.
“I’m really fortunate that all the tight ends are really good guys and they’re helping me out,” Shuler said. “None of them are telling me the wrong things like you hear stories about. They’re all great guys and have helped show me the ropes. We’re just out there competing as players. We’re players. They’re coaches. In the end, it’s the coaches that make the final decisions.”
He realizes his odds are long to make the team, since it is unlikely they will keep five tight ends on the 53-man roster. To make the team, it would likely have to come at the expense of Dugan or Mills and there aren’t too many camp analysts that think that will happen. He said he can only control what he brings to the table, not what the others do and will approach the next four weeks as the most important of his life and hope for the best.
“I’m doing everything I can to stick with the team and, hopefully, it will be enough,” Shuler said. “I’ve got some time to make a good impression or build on what I’ve done. All I can do is work hard and let the cards fall where they may.”
WEDESNDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES
The temperatures for the afternoon practice soared into the mid-90s with high humidity, bringing out a sweat in not only the players, but the fans who came to see them.
The afternoon practice was held inside Blakeslee Stadium instead of the practice fields.
Heading out to the field in the sweltering heat, veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard said, “Man, I’m told old for this” while shaking his head.
Missing the afternoon practice were Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Cedric Griffin, John Sullivan, Visanthe Shiancoe and J Leman.
Wide receiver Logan Payne was wearing a protective wrap on his right calf during the morning practice, but dispensed of it in the afternoon.
With all the injuries to the Vikings offense, the first-team unit included Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis at wide receiver, Jon Cooper at center and Albert Young at running back.
For the first half hour of the 75-minute practice, the defense performed without helmets on.
A couple of players had mistimed drops of easy passes on the third-team offense. With the Triangle of Authority – Brad Childress, Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski – huddled together on the sidelines, Ryan Moats dropped a short pass within 10 feet of the three of them. On the very next play, Ray Small dropped a 20-yard pass right in his hands.
Guard Anthony Herrera was back at practice Thursday and showed no ill effects of the back injury that sidelined him this week.
Tarvaris Jackson looked sharp in passing drills, completing long bombs right on the money to Greg Lewis and Jaymar Johnson.
Not everyone was wiped out at the end of practice. With only a couple of minutes remaining in the practice, as Ray Edwards headed to the sidelines, he did a perfectly executed cartwheel.
The final two practices are scheduled for tomorrow, but there is the hope that the afternoon special-teams practice will be scrapped. Over the last two years, Childress has canceled the final practice and there are a lot of players hoping that three is a charm.
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.