Summer — where did it go? Yes, it has been hot, humid and muggy. I was just getting used to it and bam! It’s over!
Yes, we are still in July, mind you, but the Vikings are in Mankato. And when the Vikings go to Mankato, you know what that means: back-to-school sales and the Minnesota State Fair.
They start playing pre-season games in a few weeks. The Vikings announced this is their final season training in Mankato. Mankato State University has been their summer home for 52 consecutive years. 2017 will be their last.
Training camp is all business. Ninety players each on 32 teams report at the beginning, and when September rolls around 57 players will have survived.
I must say training camp is not what it used to be. The players don’t hit as much as they used to. The teams, thanks to the NFLPA, actually show a greater concern for the players’ health.
Coaches for years built the mental toughness of their teams by working their players hard in the heat and humidity of late summer conditions. That meant lots of hitting during the twice-daily practices.
Everything the players do in camp except going to the bathroom is recorded on video. The contracts that the players sign don’t kick in until September, the start of the regular season. NFL players make about $400 each week during training camp.
Most of the jobs have already been won. However, for a few veterans who get challenged by rookies and second year players, this could be the end of the road.
It’s football, football, and more football — training, lifting weights, sprints and gassers. There is nothing to love about training camp. The coaches are seldom happy. They push you to the brink demanding that you show the potential or consistency they expect.
This is year four for Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Two years ago he won the NFL North title. Teddy Bridgewater was his starting quarterback; in 2017 the job, for now, belongs to Sam Bradford. General Manager Rick Spielman has one playoff win in 10 years.
With Super Bowl 52 in February at U.S. Bank Stadium, the pressure is on this team to really be good. If the Vikings are to be a playoff team, they will have to be much better on offense. Last year they could not run the football, and Adrian Peterson is gone. Eventually it caught up with them.
I’ll be making my final trips to Mankato over the next few weeks to gauge the potential of the 2017 Vikings. NFL pre-season football starts with the Hall of Fame game from Canton, Ohio on Thursday, August 3, Dallas vs. Arizona.
You thought I was joking? Summer is over. It’s football season.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.