The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 14, 2013

Thielen, Brown enjoy return to MSU

By Chad Courrier
ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — The last three weeks have been a business trip for Adam Thielen and LaMark Brown, but it's also been a reunion.

The former Minnesota State receivers are trying to win a roster spot with the Minnesota Vikings, but during this training camp, there has been time to meet up with old friends and reminisce about the good times on the Minnesota State practice field and Blakeslee Stadium.

Brown was at Minnesota State for two years but only played in 2010. His quarterback that season was Jon Daniels, who has joined the Mavericks' coaching staff, so Brown, Daniels and a couple other former teammates got together one night.

But Brown wanted this return trip to Mankato to be all business.

"I feel like I've improved every day," he said. "I'm not where I want to be, but just like the rest of the team, I'm getting there."

Thielen has a similar take on training camp: "I've been working on the little things. The coaches let me know throughout camp what I need to work on and I've been trying to improve in those areas."

Thielen realizes he's kind of a longshot to make the team, mostly because of the competition in Mankato.

"It's a very talented group of receivers here," he said. "Not only are they talented but they're a good bunch of guys, too. I've learned a lot from them."

There has been speculation that Brown and Thielen are in competition for the same final receiver spot on the roster but that's not the way they see it.

"We don't look at it like that at all," Thielen said. "We're both just here to try to get better and make their decision as difficult as possible."

Receiver roulette

The Vikings first four receiver spots appear to be set with Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. After that is a crapshoot to see who will stick with the team.

Stephen Burton, Joe Webb and the two MSU players — Thielen and Brown — are smong those battling for the last fifth or sixth spots, depending on how many receivers the team decides to keep.

"I think it will begin to clear up after this ball game (Friday) and after the third ball game," Frazier said. "Those guys will get some opportunities in the next two weeks.

"It's too early right now to make any decisions. We want to get some more game situations under our belt."

Linebacker shuffle

The linebackers are in a similar position to the wideouts except for one thing. Backup linebackers usually represent the core of the special teams and that will go a long way toward deciding which ones will make the final roster.

"Not only do you have to be good on defense as a backup, but you need to be a solid special teams player for us," Frazier said. "We need to let things play out in the next couple of weeks."

Kalil more productive

Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil had a vastly different training camp this summer as compared to 2012.

"I'm a lot more prepared this year so instead of worrying about the playbook I can worry about my technique." Like all the players, Kalil is ready to leave Mankato and start hitting other players.

He feels that the Vikings complex running scheme is something he can handle and gives credit to his college coach Lane Kiffin for helping to prepare him. Kalil is confident with his skills and said he thinks people maybe overshadowed his run blocking skills.

"I try to focus on both aspects and don't favor one over the other", said Kalil.

Normally Kalil would line up against Jared Allen during practice, but this year he had reps with other players such as Everson Griffen. Kalil said, "I think it helps to line up against a few different guys during drills."

The most exciting thing about closing down camp in Mankato? Kalilgets to return home so he can lay in his own bed.

Wright maturing

Vikings receiver Jarius Wright is turning heads during training camp by asserting himself as a leader of a young group of receivers, Wright has been impressive in camp and it's not by accident.

"I've been working real hard since last year and hope it carries over to the season," he said.

Wright is expected to be the Vikings slot receiver as well as handle some punt return duties. "I actually did some punt returning work in college," he said.

Frazier gives thanks

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier made a point to thank a lot of entities before his team broke training camp this week.

First and foremost he thanked the fans for there support and providing a good atmosphere for his players to practice in.

He also thanked the Mankato community for its warm welcome and continued hospitality and then thanked Minnesota State in particular for the accommodations in the new dormitory and the campus' first-rate facilities.

The last person he thanked was the weatherman. Conditions in Mankato during the team's two-plus week stay were ideal and enabled Frazier and the players to accomplish everything they set out to do in training camp.

"The weather has been terrific all the way through," Frazier said.

Quote of the day

When asked about the possibility of Adrian Peterson rushing for 2,500 yards this season, fullback Jerome Felton replied: "If I can just stay out of his way, he can get his 2,500."