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
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.