You're probably busy reading up on the Saturday night scrimmage at Blakeslee Stadium or Chris Doleman being honored in Canton, Ohio, or about how Greg Childs is pretty much screwed for the season. I'm still working through all my material from Thursday and Friday in Mankato, and it took me most of the day yesterday to get back to normal after all the dehydration from cruising the disgustingly hot sidelines on Thursday and Friday. Guess I'll have to spend hours in a sauna taking notes to get ready for next year in Mankato.
But it seemed like I should report on Friday afternoon before I devote myself to listening to all the player interviews I recorded. Anything to keep from having to hear how my voice sounds recorded.
Join me after the jump for a belated Friday afternoon report from Mankato.
When I left off in my camp updates, I was on my way to a fan appreciation event hosted by Minnesota Momentum, the Vikings' grassroots stadium support organization. The event, which deserves (and will get) it's own post, was interesting for a lot of reasons. For one, the crowd was comprised of some of the most active and highly costumed fans who had worked very hard to help the stadium legislation to be successful. There were times in that crowd that I was afraid the person next to me might turn his head too quickly and I could accidentally be gored by the horns on his headgear. However, one of the other interesting things was the Vikings' continued focus on showing appreciation to these hardcore fans who helped make a new stadium deal a reality. Like I said, that event deserves (and will get) it's own post.
Following the fan appreciation event, I got swept up with the crowd heading over to the VIP tent for a luncheon. All I wanted was something cold to drink, but instead I stood in line in the hot sun sweating through my shirt for the second time that day. Fortunately, there were plenty of interesting folks to talk with, like representatives from Vikings World Order and DN reader Admiral BigGun. Eventually, I escaped the line, but by that time the players were coming back onto the field for the afternoon practice.
Brief respite from the heat
I suppose, if I had been a truly dedicated journalist, I would have popped into the media tent for some water and then headed back out to the field. However, the DN health plan is essentially "Don't get sick, you moron," so, even though I was sure to miss some interesting stuff, I decided to head back to the media center and soak up some air-conditioning while I wrote a quick report about the Minnesota Momentum event.
What? You didn't see that report? Well, my infernal bad luck was holding and I couldn't post the report on DN. I kid you not, I really was living National Lampoon's Trip to Training Camp.
An hour later, a little cooler and better hydrated, but disgruntled about not being able to post my report, I made it back out to the field. As I was walking past the media tent I saw a guy sitting in a tub of ice, shirt off, and a towel on his head. Eric Sugarman was walking up and there was muttering about an ambulance. I kept moving because I didn't want to get in trouble with security, figuring I'd just ask a couple of the other writers what I'd missed.
Turns out, they didn't know and I'd been able to, unwittingly, give them a scoop. Apparently, the guy hadn't collapsed on the field so it hadn't interrupted practice and alerted the press. It was fascinating to see the journalists go into action with their phones trying to figure out what had happened, asking me for the best description I could give of the guy in the tub. We eventually learned that it was Kevin Murphy, an offensive lineman, who was suffering heat exhaustion and had been taken to the hospital, apparently stable, as a precaution. Eleven years after Korey Stringer, the Vikings do not mess around with heat-related illness.
Signs and wonders
Friday afternoon sweated on with encouraging signs that Jerome Simpson and Christian Ponder have been able to work together enough to have developed their timing. Simpson caught some passes immediately coming out of a break, leaping into the air. Already, he seems to be becoming a fan favorite, smiling and waving to a kid who was asking him about Skittles, smiling and waving to another kid who was holding up a #81 jersey flag. The crowd waiting for autographs after practice went nuts when he appeared and he gamely signed autographs. For the Vikings, this has to be reassuring that Simpson could be the kind of reformed problem-child-turned-fan darling that Jared Allen has been in Minnesota.
There was a scary moment when Stephen Burton caught a pass and then landed on Eric Frampton. Frampton was down on the field for a few minutes in distress. Considering his teammate's full weight had landed on his midsection because of the way they fell, at the least Frampton would have had the wind knocked out of him. Fortunately, Frampton was able to walk off the field.
Recorder in hand...
At the end of the afternoon practices the Vikings make one of the big three (Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, or Jared Allen) available to the media. Those three are so popular that if the team didn't control access to them they probably would be harassed for interviews constantly. Friday it was Allen's turn to face the media and I stood directly next to him on his left.
Once again, I felt like I was standing in a hole. It's one thing to know Jared Allen is a big guy, it is something else entirely to stand next to him and feel like an Oompa Loompa.
Allen answered questions about Chris Doleman, about practice, and about being used in 3-4 packages before being whisked away. I had one more player I'd really wanted to talk to so I continued to lurk at the edge of the field even though I was beginning to worry that if I didn't get something to drink soon I'd be shoving Kevin Murphy out of the ice tub so I could get in.
And then, finally, John Sullivan appeared and I got my final interview. Under normal circumstances, I would have been impressed that he made sure to take time to talk with the military members who had attended the practice and sign autographs for them, but I was pretty close to seeing mirages. Sullivan seemed pretty spent from the hot practice, but he was willing to answer my questions. Somewhere in the midst of that final interview, my digital recorder decided the file was full and stopped.
Yep, my bad luck held right up to the very end.
That's a wrap!
My recorder seemed to have reached it's limit and, having sweat through my shirt for the third time that day, it was time to go.
I think that next year there will be just about nothing at Training Camp that could phase me. After all, it couldn't possibly be as mishap crammed as this year was, right? Well, I'm going to knock on wood and hope that's the case. See you again in Mankato in 2013, even with the bad ju-ju, it was still a great experience.