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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Report Date: External expectations are greater this year for NFC North champs

By Derek Wetmore

By: Joe Oberle

MANKATO — The Minnesota Vikings reported to Minnesota State University—Mankato for training camp on July 28. For the rookies and undrafted free agents stumbling off a bus from Winter Park, it’s a brand new experience, while the seasoned veterans prepared for the same old grind. But this year it’s a little different. With high expectations on a club that last season won the NFC North Division and were a play away from the second round of the playoffs, the Vikings camp is just a little different, right?

“Last year we started camp with just worrying about ourselves and with nobody on our side,” Sharrif Floyd said. “And with the added attention, I don’t think there is anything different than what we already prepare and prep for. It’s still the same, Mankato; it’s still that dorm room. Nothing’s changes. We still go to practice, Zim’s still the head coach, and we’re going to keep going hard at it. It don’t change.”

And that is probably just how Zim, a.k.a. head coach Mike Zimmer, prefers it—his team not buying into the hype. But Vikings general manager Rick Spielman announced on check-in day that Zimmer just signed a new contract extension. Certainly that should raise some expectations.

“Obviously the expectation level is much higher, I get that, but the expectations aren’t any higher for me than they were the first year or second year,” Zimmer said of momentum building around his team. “[But] the thing about football, when you’ve got 22 guys on the field, there are a lot mistakes being made. The team that makes the least mistakes usually wins. So that’s what we want to try to accomplish.”

Asked if he is finding any league observers counting them out, Zimmer responded: “Lots. And I will mention it tonight in the meeting [with the team].”

Regardless, the expectations remain. This spring running back Adrian Peterson famously talked about playing in Houston, where the Super Bowl will be held. And Thursday, the players hauling their luggage into Sears Hall on the MSU—Mankato campus got an earful of it from the fans waiting behind the fence for autographs, and from the media asking questions about it.

“These are the [loftiest] expectations we’ve had since I’ve been with the team,” kicker Blair Walsh said. “That will be an interesting place to come from, defending your title. But if there is a team that is equipped to handle it, it’s this one.

“But we’ve got to prove that, we’ve got earn it. We played well in that underdog role last year, but it will be flipped this year. People will know we’re good and we will be favored in a lot of games—we have a lot of prime time games. So we’re coming from a different perspective, but I think we have the mix of veterans and young guys on this team that we can handle that.”

Few players want to admit that the feeling around the team is different this season. Safety Andrew Sendejo bats aside questions that this camp is any different than the previous ones. He would rather talk about his spring adventure in which rappelled 40 stories down the side of a hotel for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He lights up when describing hanging hands free from the top of the building, and then pausing on his way down to knock on a window and wave at someone inside. He smiles and says it was fun . . . until someone asks if Zimmer signed off on it.

“No, I probably should have [asked him],” Sendejo said. “I didn’t ask anybody. I just did it.”

But attitude toward camp depends on each player’s perspective. Cornerback Jabari Price could not wait to get to camp. He was injured last season and is looking forward to getting back on the field.

“I am looking forward to competing,” he said. “I am looking forward to practicing and getting better—and most importantly my first joint practice ever [in Cincinnati]. I can’t wait. I haven’t hit anyone since like November of last year. I went on the I.R. last year, so I am ready to get back to it.”

Linebacker Chad Greenway is about to play his final season in the league, and he has witnessed some of his former teammates (Greg Jennings, Phil Loadholt and Kevin Williams) retire this past week. He wants to savor this season, and he also knows that the possibility exists that it could be a memorable one. But he cautions against all that talk and the team getting ahead of itself.

“We can’t forget who we are,” Greenway said. “Everybody is so excited for our season and what ‘could be.’ But none of that happens without going to work and being yourself and not trying to be something that everybody says you are.”

Peterson, however, is not slowing down on his title talk—saying his expectation “is for the highest level.” He says this year is no different than last year, because if teams didn’t now who they were at the beginning of the season they certainly found out.

“Everybody thought we were an underdog last year, but before every game you have a week to watch film, so you knew who you were going up against,” he said. “So those teams knew, even though we weren’t being talked, that they were coming in to face a good team. I think it’s going to be the same this season.”

But he still has to go through training camp first, and for Peterson, not much has really changed with that.

“Camp is camp. It’s still a grind,” he said. “ The worst part is being away from your family. The best part is, kind of, being away from your family, too. You get a chance to relax, you know, and clear your mind.”

Peterson is coming to camp to relax. Not likely this season.

The post Report Date: External expectations are greater this year for NFC North champs appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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