[size=18pt]Value of pre-season[/size]

August 12, 2006

As the Vikings first pre-season contest of the 2006 campaign nears, it's interesting to get different perspectives on the value of those games to players and coaches. While it's important to see players in live situations to better evaluate them, it's also critical to avoid injury before the regular season begins. It seems every year a player with significant value to his team goes down in a pre-season contest. However, it should also be noted that pre-season games provide a great evaluation tool for coaches, a great conditioning test for players and warm-up for the fans.

"I've had a ton of reps here in practice, and the biggest thing is just having my legs underneath me and being in condition for the first game," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "That's kind of a shocker to your system sometimes, but in general, as far as the plays go, I don't think I need to play more than that to get in game shape. It's more just conditioning and running on my own."

There has been some talk of shortening the pre-season and possibly lengthening the regular season, although this idea has not been given serious consideration. But many coaches weigh the value of evaluating their players with the potential for injuries and find that the pre-season games serve a useful purpose in trying to create the best possible roster for the regular season.

"I'd love to get to the games as quick as we can," Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I don't know if [shortening the pre-season] is ever an option that's going to happen. Right now it's four (pre-season games). It does give you the opportunity to evaluate a lot of guys. We have 84 or 85 guys out here. It still gives you the opportunity to evaluate down the line 50 through 53 on your roster. That's where it's the most helpful to be able to see all those guys."

"I love to play, but obviously I wish we played two pre-season games and 18 regular season games," Johnson joked. "I wish it were turned around, but the way the league is set up, it probably will never change. There is a course that has to be taken, and I think just getting your feet wet on Monday night, get more playing time as the pre-season goes on, and it does get you ready for the first game."

Although some of the starters play only sparingly, coaches say the pre-season allows them to evaluate most of their players in live situations.

"I think it's probably a little bit easier process to evaluate because you put those guys in the best situation physically but also mentally," Bevell said. "They can just go out and they can react to what they're seeing because they know the stuff. It's the base stuff. To see their athletic ability come out."

Goal line situation

During this morning's practice, the Vikings offense worked against the defense from their own one yard line. The offense was able to move forward and avoid any safeties during the drill.

The Vikings used a different defensive formation during that part of practice, inserting four linebackers into the lineup and taking away one defensive back. Chad Greenway was the fourth linebacker and he lined up as an extra defensive end.

"What (defensive coordinator) Mike (Tomlin) is doing is matching our personnel," coach Childress said. "When we put a heavy personnel grouping in there, they put a fourth linebacker in there. You'll see that sometimes on the goal line, which they've done."

Scheeled, signed and delivered

This year at Midwest Wireless Minnesota Vikings Training Camp the team has set up a specific area for fans to go and receive autographs. The area is called the Scheels Autograph Zone, and fans line up 20 minutes before practice ends to get a chance to have a Vikings player sign an item.

"When we set that up, our idea was to make sure that we serve the most people," coach Childress said. "Sometimes when you have a gauntlet like they've had, the loudest or most obnoxious fan is the one that always prevails. We wanted to make sure that people were ale to get autographs in a safe environment [and] that they could kind of chart and see who they were going to get an autograph from, so we published that (chart)."

Coach Childress also said that the players have signed over 10,000 autographs so far during camp.

Other guests at camp

The ESPN Monday Night Football crew was at practice today observing the team as they begin preparations for Monday night's broadcast at the Metrodome. Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser and Michelle Tafoya were on the sidelines watching the Vikings practice. Tirico, Theismann and Kornheiser will be in the broadcast booth on Monday night, while Tafoya and Suzy Kolber will report from the sidelines.

Minnesota Senator Dean Johnson was also at training camp today

Highlight reel

Tight end Jeff Dugan made a nice grab on a tipped ball. Dugan ran a short curl route and the pass intended for him was tipped by linebacker Ben Leber. Dugan kept his eye on the ball and caught it as it came back down, not an easy feat considering he was in the middle of four defenders.

Newly acquired safety Ahmad Treaudo also made a nice play on a tipped pass. Tarvaris Jackson's pass intended for tight end Richard Angulo was tipped and intercepted by Treaudo.

Jason Carter made a nice catch along the left sideline inside of Blakeslee Stadium today. On the play, Carter burned past the secondary and quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan hit him in stride.

Brad Johnson and Koren Robinson hooked up along the right sideline for what would have been a 60-yard touchdown. Robinson beat defensive back Tony Beckham on the play and hauled in the bomb in stride.

Receiver Aaron Hosack may have made the catch of camp so far. On the play, quarterback Mike McMahon threw a long pass down the middle of the field intended for Hosack. The pass looked to be just slightly overthrown, but Hosack reached out with one hand and snagged the pass with his fingertips. The catch received a big ovation from the crowd inside of Blakeslee Stadium.

Quotable

Coach Childress on offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie wearing a big "club" to protect his hand: "But you know you can't hold din the gamy anyways. You don't need your fingers anyway. They ought to put clubs on everybody."

Injury report

Ciatrick Fason was back practicing today, after missing some time with a concussion. He did run around a little during yesterday afternoon's practice but today was his first contact since the concussion.

McKinnie is wearing a large glove, wrapped in tape, to protect his injured hand. "We're trying to protect that fracture and trying to get him comfortable with that," coach Childress said.

Fred Smoot sat out of practice this morning due to a minor neck injury he sustained during yesterday morning's practice. "He's got a little neck irritation that they're trying to settle down," coach Childress said. "So he stayed in the training room and got about every treatment that they have in there." Coach Childress said Smoot should be okay but that they were going to be cautions, especially with a neck injury.

http://www.vikings.com/news_detail_o...Camp81206.html