The excitement to start training camp and virus protocols

Kendricks: "Being on that pristine grass on the practice field brought smiles across the board"

Jeff Diamond
August 06, 2020 - 5:31 pm
Eric Kendricks

Hannah Foslien / Getty Images


Rudolph, Kendricks talk ramp-up period, excitement to start training camp and virus protocols

By Jeff Diamond, former Vikings GM who co-hosted Monday Night Purple and Purple Sunday Postgame last season on News Talk 830 WCCO.

It’s readily apparent in the voices of Vikings players how happy they are to be back at the team’s Eagan facility as training camp opened this week after this most bizarre offseason and several days of COVID testing before they were allowed in the facility.

Two of the Vikings top veteran players—tight end Kyle Rudolph and linebacker Eric Kendricks--spoke via video conference of the positive vibe during the current ramp up period involving strength and conditioning work and walk throughs leading to the first on-field practice on August 12 to be followed by the initial padded practice on August 17.

Rudolph, the two-time Pro Bowler who caught the winning touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins in last January’s wild card playoff victory in New Orleans, talked of his feelings entering his tenth training camp. “I’m extremely excited to be back at the facility where I feel comfortable and safe,” he said. “After the uncertain times over the past few months, to gain a sense of norm has been a lot of fun. With no preseason games as dress rehearsals, it puts importance on making the most out of the next four weeks.”

Regarding the offense having the same system as last year (with Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator), Rudolph said, “For the first time in five years, we have carryover in terminology and scheme. As an offense, we feel it’s giving us a head start that we have this carryover from last year and now it’s important for us to hone in on Gary’s scheme and the things we can build on. For our tight end group (Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin), it’s a great opportunity for us to have an impact on the passing game.”

It was interesting to hear Rudolph speak of COVID-related policies impacting daily routine for the players during camp time and how he and other players are being diligent in following the new protocols. “There are so many steps starting with filling out a questionnaire on the app when you wake up,” he said. “When you come to the facility, you sanitize your hands, do a temperature check, get your COVID test, grab your tracker, you have to make sure to put your mask back on coming off the field and back into the building. A lot of things are added to the routine of coming into the building but they will be the difference in our team staying healthy, our families staying healthy and being able to be out there every week this season.

“I feel the Vikings have my health at the forefront and my family’s health. But all 32 teams are going to have to take this seriously. When everyone leaves the facility and goes home, they have to be very conscious of where they’re going and what they’re doing. I have faith in our league and the protocols put in place by the NFL and NFLPA so everyone should theoretically be safe.”

Kendricks is coming off a terrific season in which he went to his first Pro Bowl and was selected first team all pro. He echoed the comments of Rudolph on the excitement of being back in Vikings camp.

“Being on that pristine grass on the practice field brought smiles across the board,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be able to play football and be out there running around. I don’t take that for granted. But we’re being smart and very calculated during this ramp up period. I feel we’ve done a great job so far of keeping players safe. There are constant reminders and it’s on all of us—not one team doing it better than another--if we want to have everyone play this season which is what we all want to do. So we have to take the right precautions.”

Kendricks also followed the lead of Coach Mike Zimmer earlier this week in regard to having confidence that the Vikings defense will be effective despite several new starters on the defensive line and at cornerback.

“The beauty is we have a lot of guys who are new but we have a lot of guys who have been doing it at the highest level for a long time—myself, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Anthony Harris,” Kendricks said. “The young guys see us as examples and see how we act and it gives them that confidence so we’re all swimming in the same direction.

“The young guys have an opportunity to come in and make a big splash. We have a job to do and we want to be the best in the league. That’s our goal.”

Kendricks also commented on his active role with the Vikings social justice committee and raising his concerns in this area. “We’re starting to narrow down people we want to work with as far as where the funding goes. These are important issues we’ve been facing our whole lives and it’s important we talk about them. Obviously football is important, but these are our lives and it’s for the betterment of our country.

“When you have a lack of resources at school, kids are more likely to fall behind. That just creates the gap further and further. And we’ve got to start rehabilitating the people who get in trouble versus just locking them in prison and forgetting about them, because it creates a further gap and lack of education. It’s much more complex than that, but as I get into it more throughout the year, I’m going to try to get myself more involved with programs that can help.”  

 Vikings & NFL Observations:

1.Vikings news this week included the trade for defensive tackle P.J. Hall with the Raiders not going through after Hall failed his Vikings physical. Returning vets Jaleel Johnson and Armon Watts remain the top candidates to fill the starting spot that opened with Linval Joseph leaving in free agency and Michael Pierce opting out this season due to his asthma. Watts spent a couple days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before being returned to the active roster on Wednesday.

Two rookies—first round receiver Justin Jefferson and seventh round safety Brian Cole—also were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week which is great news especially in the case of Jefferson who is being counted on to be one of the Vikings top three wide receivers and a likely starter opposite Adam Thielen.  

2. It’s also good news for the Vikings to have continuity at the top of their football operations now that GM Rick Spielman’s contract is finalized so he and Mike Zimmer are both reportedly under contract through the 2023 season.

3. The deadline has now passed for NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season with 66 players taking the voluntary or high risk opt out and Pierce the only Viking on the list. Teams have been granted salary cap relief with contracts tolled until next season for these players including signing bonus pro-ration delayed a year. The Vikings picked up $2 million in 2020 cap relief with Pierce’s pro-rated signing bonus now beginning to hit the books next season.

4. The latest rumbling on former Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen is that Seattle has interest in signing him (along with their interest in former Packer linebacker Clay Matthews). Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll was Griffen’s college coach at USC before both left for the NFL in 2010. Sounds like Seattle is moving on from their free agent Jadeveon Clowney unless the reported interest in Griffen and Matthews is a smoke screen to get Clowney to lower his contract demands.

Jeff Diamond was the NFL Executive of the Year in 1998 after the Vikings' 15-1 season. He also is former president of the Tennessee Titans. He does sports/business consulting, media and speaking work including corporate and college speaking on Negotiation, Management, Leadership and Sports Business--contact him at diamondj4@comcast receiver off

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