Here's what the Minnesota Vikings are doing to prove to the NFL that last year's playoff entry...was not a fluke. It all starts in their OTAs.
Here's what we've learned.
10) Not the Average Joe…Webb
The “WR” beside his name isn’t a typo. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound backup signal caller has been running routes and returning punts to play for the Vikings this year.
For him, going with the flow seems like a horrible idea. It’s too casual.
His inexperience as a wideout means he shouldn't "go with the flow," as he’ll tread the same waters that Greg Jennings, rookies Greg Childs and Cordarrelle Patterson, third-year Stephen Burton (who’s not backing off easily), sophomore Jarius Wright and veteran Jerome Simpson are swimming in.
Webb enters his fourth and final year of his rookie contract. We’ll see if he makes the taut rotation, or return punts, because it’s his final chance to impress the coaches he's worth sticking around.
For a lanky man his feet are light and nimble. Don’t be surprised if Joe Webb plays both ways in 2013.
9) Jared Allen is All In
In 2012, Allen registered 12 sacks – his sixth consecutive in double figures. The star defensive end has not considered taking a pay cut nor is he ruling out the possibility of talking about a contract extension. Allen, 31, plans on honoring the commitment that he’s made in 2008, when the Vikings acquired him in a trade from the Chiefs. He said doesn’t have any “beefs, no quarrels, no nothing with it (contract).”
The NFL, as we’re all aware, is chock full with surprises: Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman John Abraham still loiters around the NFL free agency list while the AFC North made noise with a few intra-conference signings (Paul Kruger to Cleveland, James Harrison to Bengals). Wonder what's next for Mr. Allen.
8) The Ninth Wonder
The Vikings added a ninth linebacker to their ballooned roster, former Houston Texan, Stanford Keglar. In two years, his absence has been as impactful as his presence: none. Keglar has been invisible to the NFL since he was waived by the Texans in September 2011. Minnesota’s defense runs the base 4-3 and he’ll, if he reaches the final 53, will fit best as an outside linebacker.
Keglar made 12 tackles with the Tennessee Titans in his rookie campaign (2008). At this point, his willingness to make the team will have to outsize his own frame (6-2, 250).
7) Terrell Owens: The Man Who Cries Wolf
Apparently, the infamous tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf never ended.
He grows up, and (drum roll please), changes his name to Terrell Owens.
T.O. told the NFL Network on Wednesday that the town of Minnesota and Kansas City would be a perfect fit for him. Ha.
Whether “it’s all politics” or not, the 39-year-old man who’s job hunting won’t find a team in 2013. Sorry, not sorry.
6) Greg Jennings SITS?
Maybe T.O. read the Greg Jennings ankle injury headlines and thought, hey why not. He indirectly expresses his concerns by hinting to the Vikings that they could use a wide receiver to temporarily fulfill the semi-injured veteran. Coach Frazier claimed that GJ’s injury was “nothing serious” two Wednesdays ago. Don’t lose sleep Vikings fans, your $45 million free agent addition insists that he’s fine.5) Adrian Peterson’s Rehab
The league’s reigning MVP is “pretty much 100 percent.”
Peterson’s sport hernia rehab was, compared to last year’s ACL recovery, a cakewalk.
In an interview on NFL Network with Analyst Marshall Faulk, Peterson described his emotions after learning he was nine yards away from cracking Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season rushing record (2,105 yards).
“My heart just sunk into my stomach.”
Then he went on to mention, with confidence, that he could be the founder of the first-ever 2,500 Club.
Seriously, he meant it.
4) Losing Antoine Winfield
The 14-year veteran accepted a one-year, $3 million contract, with the Seattle Seahawks after the Vikings took a gamble and released their left cornerback of nine seasons. The man who desired to retire as a Viking chose the Seahawks’ succinct offer (one-year, worth $3 million) and denied the fat deal proposed by Minnesota (more guaranteed money). Ouch. Replacing the leadership qualities and the intangibles that the 5-foot-9, 180 pound-man possessed won’t be easy.
A dim outlook for first-round pick, Xavier Rhodes, and injury-prone Chris Cook.
3) The Nod
When the MVP of the NFL gives an affirmative or acceptance gesture, of any kind, even a simple head nod, it feels great.
On the first day of OTAs rookie Cordarrelle Patterson received the nod from Adrian Peterson. He also added that he “feels like a super hero” with the ball in his hands. He’d better, that jersey number, 84, on his back isn’t worn by just anybody in purple and yellow.
2) Building Cassels in the Sky
Quarterback Matt Cassel is a fierce competitor. All of NFL fan kind witnessed the extraordinary season when he substituted New England’s legend, Tom Brady, and led the Patriots to a historical, playoff-missing, 11-5 record.
He’s a solid contender, however, injuries have shook him up physically, and mentally. We’ll need him to conquer the battles with his ghosts from the previous seasons and take this opportunity with confidence. This chance definitely equips him with enough weapons to succeed if (or when) he steps on the field.
On a Vikings live chat, a question from “tbone vikes” asked, “Cassel the QB after Week 5? Yes or no” and 1500 ESPN’s Tom Pelissero replied, “If Ponder’s healthy and the Vikings are 0-4, no, I don’t see it.”
1) All Systems Go for Greenway
Chad Greenway spoke his mind in this interview with Vikings.com Mike Wobschall, by stating that “all the guys have really bought into the approach.”
He’s rehabbing after having arthroscopic knee surgery, but is expected to be recovered in time for training camp. Greenway attended and practiced in the first two weeks of the Vikings’ organized team activities – hopefully this knee issue won’t be a lingering concern.
What should be an issue is that head coach Leslie Frazier hasn’t declared who’ll start at middle linebacker yet, meaning that Erin Henderson’s job is up for grabs for second-year linebacker Audie Cole, backup Tyrone McKenzie and seventh-round pick Michael Mauti (knee reconstruction). We’ll see how the depth chart unravels itself come Vikings’ training camp -- until July 25, questions will be answered with questions.