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Thread: Notebook: As some NFL teams scale back, Vikings keep status quo for rookie practices

  1. #1
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    Notebook: As some NFL teams scale back, Vikings keep status quo for rookie practices

    By Andrew Krammer | @Andrew_KrammerMay 6, 2016 6:06 pm

    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Some NFL teams have taken steps to lessen the risk of their newly-drafted players getting injured.

    Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are permitted a three-day session with rookies that can be held one or two weeks after the draft. Rules already limit players to shorts and helmets, no live contact and no more than 3.5 hours on the field split between two practices.

    After Jacksonville’s top pick last year, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the team’s first day of rookie camp, the Jaguars decided to switch things up. This month they’re holding a ‘rookie orientation,’ which will focus more on meetings than on-field development. The Los Angeles Rams have taken a similar approach under Jeff Fisher. First-year Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is taking it a step further in Miami, where he chose to eliminate on-field work altogether during the rookie minicamp.

    Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer preaches annual change, but he’s not going to advocate for less time on the field.

    “It’s important for me to see them. I want to see them,” Zimmer said Friday. “I understand some of these teams are not doing anything. I don’t think you can be scared. You have to do what you want to do. And I like watching them out here on the field at practice, so. We’re going to continue to do that and hopefully we don’t get anybody hurt.”

    A few minor bumps happened during Friday’s afternoon practice open to the media. Top pick Laquon Treadwell, who has yet to sign his contract and is practicing on an injury waiver, lightly walked off the field about an hour before the end of practice. He got his left leg looked at and quickly returned.

    Before the afternoon session, Treadwell said he’s expecting to sign his contract soon.

    “It’ll be done,” Treadwell said. “Got a good agent and just waiting for the go-ahead.”

    As far as getting on the field, the 20-year-old Treadwell is happy to be back in his element.

    “This is what we’ve all been waiting on.”

    Alexander gives back

    Vikings rookie cornerback Mackensie Alexander didn’t wait to donate to his community.

    Alexander, the Vikings’ second-round pick (54th overall) last week, made an arrangement with Adidas to donate $10,000 worth of clothes and shoes to the Boys and Girls Club in Collier County, Fla., where he grew up working orchards as the son of Haitian immigrants.

    “I know how it was when I was a child,” Alexander said. “I didn’t go to a Boys and Girls Club. For them to have that now, the gym and stuff to keep them out of trouble. My Boys and Girls Club was going to the field and working every day with my mom and dad.”

    Alexander, 22, fondly recalled the time he received a pair of gloves from former NFL star Edgerrin James, who attended the same high school in Immokalee, Fla. Not only did he keep the gloves, but he remembered how a larger-than-life name reached back to help a kid from his hometown.

    “There’s a lot of people in America that are successful, but they don’t come back home,” Alexander said. “They don’t show their face, and the kids don’t know who they are. They don’t have anybody to look after, and that’s when you’ve got problems of kids being bad, they’re going to jail, not doing positive things. I just want them to look at me as a positive outlet.”

    ‘A good opportunity’

    Joel Stave was born in Wisconsin and left the Badgers as the program’s all-time winningest quarterback with a 31-10 record.
    He’s also been a Vikings fan since he can remember. Stave’s aim has crossed borders to Minnesota, where he’s now the fourth quarterback on the 90-man roster. After going undrafted, he signed a three-year deal with the Vikings for the league minimum.

    “I had always admitted it,” Stave said of his Vikings fandom. “My dad grew up in North Dakota so he was always a Vikings fan — me and my brother, too.”

    Stave, 23, said he was talking with four teams after the draft and chose the Vikings because of the current quarterback situation. Behind starter Teddy Bridgewater is 36-year-old Shaun Hill and second-year passer Taylor Heinicke, who won the third-string job out of training camp last year.

    “I think the way [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner runs the offense is pretty consistent with what I was doing in college,” Stave said. “I like the way they coach here. I know they keep three quarterbacks on the roster, so it was a good opportunity to just compete and earn a spot.”

    Late hits

    The Vikings do not announce tryout players. This weekend’s group includes quarterback Marquise Williams (UNC), long snapper Courtland Clavette (Brown), running back CJ Ham (Augustana), tight end Nick Lee (Augustana), receiver Zach Vraa (North Dakota State), guard Lawrence Walker(Mankato State), defensive back Edwin Young (Northern Iowa), safety Antonio Johnson(Minnesota) and punter Nick O’Toole (West Virginia)

    Seven of eight rookie contracts have been signed as of Friday, leaving only Treadwell’s deal to be finalized. The latest NFLPA figures have the Vikings with $9,004,150 in cap space, but that’s before factoring rookie salary caps. The Vikings should have more than $6 million left after signing the whole class.

    Treadwell exited briefly and had his left leg evaluated by athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. He returned fewer than 20 minutes after leaving the field. Receiver Terrell Sinkfield also left early with an apparent leg injury.

    Receiver Moritz Boehringer, a sixth-round pick, took part in his first official American football practice on Friday. He was seen losing his lunch on the sideline during the team’s second session of the day.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like Moritz is finding out what it is like to be an NFL prospect. If he's 'hurling' at rookie mini camp wait until he gets to training camp.

  3. #3
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    For Moritz Boehringer, 'the feel-good story is over'

    Kevin SeifertNFL Nation 9:03 AM ET

    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Let's get cynical for a moment. (It's easier forsome than others, I know.)

    Suppose a sports/entertainment corporation -- we'll call it the NFL -- wanted to make more money. What might it do? Like any business, it would search for undervalued markets and explore ways to capitalize on them. This profit-driven corporation -- I mean, the NFL -- might turn its attention to the 6.3 billion people on the planet who live outside the borders of the United States. That's a lot of people, and a whole lot of money, just waiting to be exposed to America's obsession.

    That wasn't so bad, was it?

    In reality, you'll need but a modest degree of cynicism to understand why German wide receiver Moritz Boehringer was a part of the Minnesota Vikings' rookie minicamp Friday. This is not the rags-to-riches story of a young man toiling deep in the Bavarian Alps. (It isn't even a story at all, if you ask Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. We'll get to that in a bit.)

    Boehringer is an impressive athlete who has played what amounts to club football. Of more relevance, though, is that he is the product of a pilot program designed to raise interest in the NFL abroad, according to the coach who coordinated his offseason training. Boehringer's arrival is a mixture of marketing, opportunism and a team willing to use a draft pick that historically provides minimal returns, anyway.
    Such is the true melting pot that deposited Moritz Boehringer in Minnesota on a 91-degree day for a non-padded practice that included a long detour to the sideline so that his stomach could, uh, purge its contents. He did not succumb, however, and returned in time to demonstrate that he has a long way to go before he can be considered a genuine NFL prospect.

    If that doesn't kill your buzz, I'll let Zimmer finish it off.

    "I want to kind of end the story, to be honest with you," Zimmer said. "I want him to be here playing football, not being a celebrity. I've given him a hard time already about being on TV shows and stuff like that. It's football now and it's time to work.

    "The feel-good story is over."

    There was little doubt about that after watching the Vikings' 90-minute afternoon workout. Clearly, Zimmer said, he "is a pretty good athlete." But Boehringer practiced just as you would expect -- as if he had never been through something like it in his life.

    He dropped a go route down the right sideline during an early one-on-one session with defensive backs, and he allowed cornerback Keith Baxter to grab inside position on another. His best look? As a gunner on the punt team. He got down the field fast.

    To be fair, it was only a few months ago that he was playing for a club team that practiced once a week and played on weekends. Boehringer said that Friday's team meetings were the first he has ever attended and was honest about his experience deficit.

    "The offense is new to everyone, so that's kind of good for me," he said. "But in general, football knowledge, I need to do some work."

    Boehringer could hardly be blamed for it. An international marketing whirlwind annexed him this winter before he knew what hit him.

    I spoke this week to Aden Durde, a native of England and an NFL Europe alumnus who identified, pursued and ultimately trained Boehringer in the span of 12 weeks prior to the draft. Durde had two stints on NFL practice squads in the mid-2000s and has served as a coaching intern for the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys.

    Now a member of the NFL's United Kingdom office, Durde was part of a brainstorming session over the winter that focused on growing football's international interest. Retired NFL defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora, who was also involved in the discussion, suggested the league should assimilate more international players to raise the game's profile abroad. Germans, the theory goes, are more likely to take an interest if they had some German players to root for. (Expect many more slick promotional videos like this one from the Vikings and/or NFL.)

    A plan was hatched: Gather a group of four or so prospects from Europe's top club leagues, train them at a satellite camp in the United States and aggressively market them to NFL teams. That was around the time of the annual scouting combine, when most prospects are expected to be at their physical and mental peak -- not at the starting point of daily football training.

    "It was a small project," Durde said, "that just kind of escalated. We had figured that at some point Moritz would be a free agent that teams might look at, but during the process we found out that he was draft-eligible. So we decided to put him into a pro day."

    To be sure, Boehringer's size (6-foot-4, 229 pounds) and speed (4.4 in the 40-yard dash) at the Florida Atlantic University pro day helped draw more interest. And Durde deserves a heap of credit for the crash course during their months together at a camp in Florida.

    But not even Durde, with his extensive experience projecting European players at an NFL level, can say with any confidence that Boehringer will make it. The Vikings' practice squad is probably a best-case scenario in 2016.

    "He's basically what you see," Durde said. "An extremely talented athlete. He has a very good skill level, but what happens with these guys is that now they have to adapt to the speed of the NFL and the system, and that slows them back down before they can speed back up. He's a great kid and I do believe he can do that.

    "That's what is meant by a developmental player. A lot of guys taken in the late rounds are."
    Indeed, consider for context that since 2010, only 30 percent of sixth-round draft choices have gone on to play at least five games in the NFL, according to the Pro Football Reference database. There are always success stories, from Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, but math tells us that seven of every 10 fail.

    Moritz Boehringer could well play a significant role in NFL history. But it's far more likely to be as a marketing gateway than as a substantial on-field contributor to an actual team. That's not too cynical, is it?

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