In previous training camps, it’s usually pretty easy to see who the most popular Vikings player is going into the season — the face of the franchise.
Adrian Peterson held that title for several years, obviously. Even when he wasn’t participating in training camp practices — which was often, it seemed — the All Pro running back was star of the show.
This year, in the team’s 52nd and final year in Mankato, it’s a little unclear who this team’s superstar is — if there is one.
Coming off an 8-8 season and a spring that included the departure of Peterson to the New Orleans Saints and popular longtime linebacker Chad Greenway to retirement, a lot of fans might be waiting and seeing who emerges before putting down a sizeable wad of cash on a new jersey.
On Sunday, cornerback Xavier Rhodes signed a new contract worth as much $70 million — with $41 million guaranteed — making him one of the league’s highest-paid players at his position.
Does that make him the FOTF?
What about defensive end Everson Griffen, he of the 48 career sacks who also signed a contract extension upon reporting to training camp? Look around camp and there are plenty of number 22 jerseys to honor hard-hitting safety Harrison Smith and 55s for linebacker Anthony Barr.
Indeed, under coach Mike Zimmer, the defense is this team's identity.
Even though the Vikings have had a long tradition of great defensive stars loved by fans, though, the guys on the other side of the ball are usually the golden boys of the NFL. What of that group?
It’s too soon to tell if rookie Dalvin Cook will be able to successfully take Peterson’s place at running back.
Towering tight end Kyle Rudolph certainly is a FOTF candidate. Now in his seventh year, he is coming off his most productive season, one in which he caught 83 passes, seven for touchdowns.
Third-year wide receiver Stefon Diggs is a budding star who led the team in receptions with 84 despite missing three games last season.
Minnesota State alum Adam Thielen, of course, has been a local favorite at camp since first earning a spot on the Vikings’ practice squad in 2013. His profile is so much bigger now that he’s a starter with his own fairly lucrative contract.
What about the guy throwing the ball to those receivers?
Sam Bradford is a former No. 1 overall draft pick brought in 11 months ago to save the Vikings’ season after Teddy Bridgewater went down with a horrifying knee injury in practice.
Bradford set an NFL record for completion percentage last season and many players have said, as they would of any starting quarterback, that this is his team. Is he the FOTF, though?
It's hard to deny Bridgewater’s popularity. The fans love Teddy and are clamoring for his eventual return — almost to the point where they believe Bradford is just keeping the seat warm until then.
If and when that happens remains to be seen. Bridgewater's press conference last week — his first public comments since suffering the injury — didn't lay out any timeline.
It’s tough to be the face of the franchise when a player out with an injury — and one that happened well before he did much of anything to prove that he's a star.
That’s sure how it looks right now, though.
Perhaps, before, it’s all done and the Vikings pack up and leave Mankato for the last time, a player will emerge as the purple poster boy for this year and beyond. Or maybe it is indeed one of those defensive players.
Today is the first day off for the players at camp. After that, whoever it is will have just seven days to become the FOTF.
Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 507-344-6373 or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @puckato.