There are clear indications when training camp is about to end. Players see the end of the tunnel of living in dorm rooms and being isolated in Mankato. At times, tempers will flare.
Such was the case Thursday morning on the final day of training camp practices. Rookie Toby Gerhart, who has been the subject of some big hits in “non-contact” drills, got into it with Ray Edwards and it got both the offense and defense involved.
Gerhart got things started by putting a block on Edwards before going to his route. Edwards retaliated by shoving Gerhart, which got both the offense and defense involved – as well as a couple of coaches.
Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy ran down the field yelling at Edwards, and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier got involved. As Frazier tried to hold Edwards back, he was having none of it. He wanted a piece of Gerhart and wasn’t going to let Frazier stop him. Gerhart said it was just an emotional flare-up that happens during the two-a-days as nerves get a little frayed.
“I tried to give him a little chip and then went down the seam and he didn’t like the chip I guess,” Gerhart said. “I didn’t really throw back. I was just doing what I’m supposed to do. That’s part of the play. It’s football. It’s the end of camp. Everybody is tightly strung and getting tired of each other.”
Edwards wouldn’t say what cause him to go after Gerhart, but said he didn’t like what he did (presumably chipping him while he was engaged with Phil Loadholt) and said you don’t need to do things like that to your own guys. When asked about the incidental hit he made on Gerhart that sparked the uprising, Edwards was quick to clarify.
“It wasn’t incidental, it was on purpose,” Edwards said. “It happens. It’s hot our here. Some guys do things you shouldn’t do in practice against other players. It happens, but sometimes you have to let those guys know.”
For his part, Frazier, a tough guy in the Bears defenses that ruled in the 1980s, tried to downplay the emotions of the event, even though he was visibly angry when squaring off with Edwards and not getting him to stop going after Gerhart.
“Everybody is ready to break camp, get home and see their families,” Frazier said. “He’s a rookie and, whether it’s Toby or Chris Cook, those guys are going to welcome them to the NFL. The same will be true on Saturday night, so he’s getting ready for (the Rams game) I guess.”
While fans rarely see Frazier that furious, Edwards said it’s nothing new to the Vikings players, especially him and fellow defensive end Jared Allen.
“He gets mad at me and Jared a lot,” Edwards said. “That’s not the first time I’ve seen him that mad.”
Head coach Brad Childress could sympathize with the situation, having been involved in them himself. He said often the peacemaker gets the worst of those kinds of altercations.
“He went in to break things up,” Childress said of Frazier. “I’ve broken in myself and gotten clubbed. A lot of times that discretion is the better part of valor. There are a lot of emotions that are hot. I haven’t seen the play yet, so I’m not sure what exacerbated it. In terms of the continuation, you don’t want the continuation. The way I prefer to look at it, it’s a pretty good teaching moment. I appreciate Leslie jumping in there. That’s what we do.”
While a sign that camp is coming to a close, Frazier said that the incident will have a positive impact, as the players see what can happen when tempers flare because, in a game situation, a huge penalty can be the difference between winning and losing.
“We talk in our meetings all the time about what a personal foul can do to our defense,” Frazier said. “You just try to let cooler heads prevail and not get caught up in stuff. It was a great teaching moment for us when we get in our meetings to talk about it as a group and it’s something we’ll learn from.”
THURSDAY A.M. PRACTICE NOTES
Childress described the entire practice as being “a little heated,” which may have been an understatement. Despite temperatures pushing 90 degrees already with high humidity, there was a lot of hitting going on – even in individual drills.
U.S. Senator Al Franken was on hand, making his first appearance at a Vikings training camp despite being a lifelong Vikings fan. Check back to VikingUpdate.com later today to hear what he thought of camp, his feelings on Brett Favre and the stadium issue, among other things.
The Vikings had their fewest players missing practice since the days of camp. Visanthe Shiancoe and J Leman were back in practice, leaving just Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, John Sullivan and Cedric Griffin off the practice field.
The linebackers had tackling dummy drills early and, despite not wearing full pads, they dove at the dummy as if they were trying to break it.
Ryan Moats hasn’t had a strong camp and didn’t help his case by stumbling and falling during the foot agility drills for running backs, earning the wrath of Bieniemy.
A huge crowd was on hand for a team-wide autograph session following practice. Not only were the stands full, but fans were five-deep along the fence that surrounded the field.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen made a stop at Vikings camp and was schmoozing it up with several players, Childress and Frazier following practice.
Tarvaris Jackson headed to the locker room after getting a little dehydrated. He returned about 15 minutes later and finished off practice.
Heath Farwell had the showboat moment of practice. On a sweep by Gerhart, as the whistle blew, Farwell stripped the ball at about the 20-yard line, scooped it up and ran into the end zone – the whole time giving the No. 1 signal with his index finger.
Joe Webb had an up-and-down 2-minute drill practice. He completed a 50-yard bomb to Marquis Hamilton to get to the 20-yard line, but threw a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by Benny Sapp to kill the drive.
The team got a scary moment when Steve Hutchinson went down hard after getting his legs tangled in traffic. But Hutch got up after a few seconds and went on with practice.
Jeff Dugan was carrying his own pads after practice. When asked why a rookie wasn’t carrying them, he said, “It’s not like it used to be. Rookies don’t do the things they used to all the time. Times are changing.”
The Vikings have one more practice before the end of camp – a special teams practice from 2:10 to 3:15 p.m. this afternoon.
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.