MANKATO — For the 48th time, the Minnesota Vikings are Mankato-bound, getting ready for their annual training camp at Minnesota State. The Gage towers may be gone (much to the players’ delight), but the NFL’s reigning MVP is back in town for the first time since Fran Tarkenton showed up in the summer of 1976.
Starting Friday morning, the Vikings are scheduled to hold about 30 practices over the next three weeks as they prepare for what they hope is a return trip to the playoffs.
Here are a few storylines The Free Press’ will be following at this year’s camp. Call it a preseason primer or, just maybe, the five P’s:
This may be Adrian Peterson’s team, but it’s still a quarterback’s league. Christian Ponder is beginning his third NFL season, and Vikings hope it can be a breakout year for him. Unlike last season’s training camp, he has a legitimate backup, if not some competition, with the addition of former Chiefs QB Matt Cassel.
“I really like the way that (Ponder) has matured mentally and just seeing how he has taken the reins from a leadership standpoint,” coach Leslie Frazier said during the June minicamp. “He is more vocal than he has been in the past.”
The Blakeslee Stadium crowds will be scrutinizing every one of Ponder’s throws and hoping to see if he’s got more in his training camp arsenal than a checkdown to Kyle Rudolph.
“I think he’s much better,” Frazier said. “He’s worked his tail off trying to improve his accuracy. Our coaches have put him through a bunch of different drills and through his hard work I think he’s improved in that area. Now we’ve got some things we’ve got to get done in training camp, but he’s put in the work to improve and we are seeing it.