The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 26, 2013

First-round draft picks all signed, at camp on time

By Chad Courrier ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — On Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings' three first-round draft choices all were unsigned.

Even though it appeared that those signings would get done Thursday so that the players could report to training camp on time, it was still a great relief for those three to begin their professional careers on Day 1.

"I couldn't sleep much last night," said receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, the 29th pick of the first round. "I had to call my mom (Thursday morning) and tell her life is going to change for me."

All of the Vikings roster was signed and at camp Thursday as the team prepares to open its 48th training camp today at Minnesota State. Rookie holdouts have become rare in the last couple of years, but coach Leslie Frazier said their was relief Thursday morning when he received a text message from general manager Rick Spielman that all of the draft choices were signed.

"It's encouraging to me and my staff that all of our guys are going to be at the team meeting (Thursday night)," Frazier said. "That's a big deal."

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the 23rd choice in Round 1, smiled when asked if the dorm accomodations were as nice at Minnesota State as they were at Florida, but he said it didn't matter.

"As long as I have my pillow and sheets," I'm all right," he said.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the 25th selection, has talked with teammate Chris Cook and other NFL players and believes he knows about the demands of training camp.

"They said you're going to work hard," he said. "There will be times when you want to quit, but you have to fight through it."

Frazier said that he expects each of the first-rounders to have an impact on the season, and maybe some of the other rookies will contribute, too.

"One of the reasons we had a great turnaround last season is because we had rookies that were able to contribnute in a big way," Frazier said. "We're going to need that again."

Walsh starting over

Kicker Blair Walsh had a tremendous rookie season, setting a NFL record with 10 field goals of 50 yards or more.

But he said that doesn't matter this year.

"You wipe clean what you did last year and start new," he said. "The team is 0-0."

Walsh will be working with a new holder, rookie punter Jeff Locke. Walsh said it takes some time for a holder to get used to the kicker's speed and the tilt of the football, but he knows that will come during training camp.

"He takes the job seriously," Walsh said.

Stuck together

One of the first things Greg Jennings did when he got to Mankato was see who his training camp roommate was. Turned out it's someone he knows quite well.

Jennings and Desmond Bishop are staying together in the Julia A. Sears Residence Hall. The two were teammates with the Green Bay Packers before signing with the Vikings in the offseason.

Jennings, a wide receiver, said it's probably good that the two are going through camp together.

“There's something about when you're familiar with someone, there's a sense of comfort,” said Jennings, a wide receiver. “Comfort isn't always the best thing, but it feels good.”

Said Bishop, a linebacker: “I've never been his roomate. As long as he doesn't snore a lot or do anything weird, we can get along really good.”

Liking the new digs

Quarterback Christian Ponder expressed his excitement for the start of camp, especially when he realized where he would be sleeping over the next 2 1/2 weeks or so.

"It was great to make the drive down, to drive through, like, St. Peter and into Mankato and just see all the signs and everyone out," Ponder said. "Everyone's excited to see us be here, just like us as players.

"The new dorm looks great, a little better than Gage Hall. Gage looked better as rubble over there than it did standing up."

The Vikings called Gage Center home for most of their 47-year history of training camp, although they did stay in the Sears dorms in 2010.

Upcoming schedule

The Vikings begin two-a-day practices this morning but will only go two days before taking Sunday off. Then the team will work six days straight before taking Sunday, Aug. 4, off as well.

The highlight of this year's camp happens on Saturday, Aug. 3, when the team has a two-and-a-half hour, full pads evening workout inside Minnesota State's Blakeslee Stadium. The event starts at 7 p.m.

The team's first preseason game is Friday, Aug. 9, against the Houston Texans at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis.