First, let's call this what it is. It is a non-padded practice in shorts. So from the "take it with a grain of salt" perspective, I'm not ready to proclaim the Vikings ready for the big game in 2014. It is fun to see the pieces come together and one of the biggest things I walked away with today is how drastically different this team is than just four years ago when a gray haired hall of famer was leading the way.
There are several things that are different about the Vikings off season than a year ago. The obvious being the reigning league MVP, Adrian Peterson who last year at this time was working his way back from a devastating knee injury and found himself running up and down the hill at Winter Park. This year, Peterson is coming off his best year as a pro and has proved every doubter wrong but is more than motivated to prove last year was not a fluke.
"Just being able to be involved in OTA's," said Peterson about the difference of a year. "Come out here and participate with the guys. It feels good a lot better than last year."
Peterson proclaimed himself "pretty much 100 percent" following his February surgery to repair a sports hernia.
On the other side of the ball, veteran linebacker Erin Henderson doesn't have the injury to answer to, but even more importantly, he has moved inside as the anchor of the defense and has plenty of people asking if he can handle the job. He has his brother, E.J. who manned the spot from 2003-2011 to bounce things off of and from a leadership perspective, Erin has found his voice as a veteran on this team.
"It's the standard that we've created around here," said Henderson when asked about the big numbers at voluntary OTA's. "They are doing a good job of coming to work, when we're here taking care of what we have to take care of. It speaks to the character of the guys."
New Viking wide receiver Greg Jennings tweaked his ankle in day number one of OTA's. Not exactly the start the team was looking for from the former Packer although head coach Leslie Frazier termed the injury "no big deal". Every rep Jennings misses with Christian Ponder is big as the two try to form a connection.
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson made the catch of the day as he hauled in a high pass on a post route and held on despite two defenders surrounding him. With Jennings on the side line, Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson played with the first group, but Patterson saw reps both with the one's as well as the second team.
"This game is different than it was in Tennessee," said receivers coach George Stewart. "It's more physical. But he has the physical tools to do a great job."
Jared Allen was the only Vikings player not physically at Winter Park. A number that Frazier says is the key to making the Vikings from just a playoff team to a championship contender.
Three years removed from Brett Favre wearing a Vikings uniform and helping the franchise attain one of the oldest teams in the NFL, the scales have tilted the opposite direction. Only seven players currently on the roster are older than 30. (Matt Cassel 31; Joe Berger 31; Jared Allen 31; Brian Robison 30; Kevin Williams 32; Chad Greenway 30 and Cullen Loeffler 32)