The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

July 23, 2013

With training camp just days away, here's a VIKINGS PRIMER

Five things to watch at this year's camp

(Continued)

Picks

No training camp visit is complete without a close look at the rookies. This year, the Vikings have three first-round draft picks competing for starting jobs.

Besides selecting Patterson, the former Tennessee standout, for the offensive side of the ball, Minnesota drafted Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shore up the defense.

Their next pick wasn't until the fourth round when they grabbed Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges. The linebacking corps is another area that will be closely scrutinized over the next three weeks.

"I can’t wait until the pads get on to see how (Hodges) hits and how he runs around and mixes it up," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "I think that’s what all the coaches are waiting on to see. Right now we are just in shorts, and they all look great so I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm and wait until we get pads on."

The first full-pads practice of camp is scheduled for the afternoon of Monday, July 29.

Punter

The punter and other special teams players don't do a heck of a lot during training camp. But fans will miss the character that was Chris Kluwe, the Vikings' punter for the last eight years. Whether it was his band, video games, Twitter or politics, Kluwe always had some topics to talk about beyond football. And he sure wasn't afraid to voice his opinion.

The Vikings parted ways with Kluwe after drafting UCLA's Jeff Locke in the fifth round. If Locke has the same kind of success that rookie kicker Blair Walsh had after replacing the popular Longwell last year, Kluwe won't be missed much on the field.

"I like our new punter (Jeff Locke), very talented like we knew he was," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "He’s working very hard. I knew he would be a hard worker. I didn’t realize to this extent.

"He does everything I ask him to do drill-wise and more. He is very contentious. He’s worked very hard as a holder as well, so everything is going in the right direction."

Finally, there's one more big question that needs to be asked this week:

Are you ready for some football?

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