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Updated: February 21st, 2013 4:13pm
Notebook: Psychological exams a core component of Vikings' evaluations

Notebook: Psychological exams a core component of Vikings' evaluations

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Physical examinations are one of, if not the most important component of the NFL scouting combine. For the Minnesota Vikings, mental exams play a significant role, too.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Thursday gave a window into the process, which he values for its ability to take an evaluation behind anything an MRI or stopwatch can detect.

"Coachability. Social maturity. Self-esteem. Mental quickness. There's a lot of different areas that we really hone in and try to look at," Spielman said. "And each position is weighed differently. So, the psychological profile of a corner is probably going to be different than the psychological profile of a quarterback."

Psychologists collect the raw data and write their opinions. Spielman and others match it up to the profiles their scouts have compiled throughout the year.

"If there is a difference in opinion, usually, that player's going to get interviewed more than one time," Spielman said. "There will be a lot more digging. I'll tell the scout to go back to your source or we'll start digging around, because there's some discrepancy here.

"We have the chemical dependency psychologist that will give his indication of if this guy is definitely an issue or something we can manage in-house. I have to rely on those guys and their areas of expertise, because I can't make those determinations."

The Vikings even have psychologists in the room as they conduct their 60 allotted interviews here, listening to how players answer a variety of questions.

The goal of it all is to provide one more piece of the puzzle before the Vikings decide how they'll invest millions in a group of men in another group of 20-somethings.

Spielman said "a couple" players already were taken off the draft board because of off-field issues before team officials finishing setting their initial draft board earlier this week.

"Just like anything else, it's kind of an indicator," Spielman said. "I can look at all the DBs, for example, or safeties -- which guys ended up being good starters in the league, and what did their profiles look like?

"It can kind of paint a picture for you on, guys that have this type of test results usually end up resulting in being good players in the league."

The Wonderlic cognitive abilities test has been administered to all players at the combine for years. Another test, known as the PAT (Player Assessment Tool), is being given for the first time this year.

Spielman and several other NFL executives said they know little about the new test.

"I like things very (predictable)," Spielman said. "We'll see and we'll make comparisons to what we do currently."

Not much info

Spielman wouldn't say whether the Vikings intend to use the franchise or transition tag, although both options seem unlikely.

The only plausible candidate for the franchise or transition tag is right tackle Phil Loadholt, whose agent has discussed an extension with the Vikings as far back as September.

The fear is Loadholt would sign the tender immediately and lock in a robust base salary of around $9.7 million (franchise) or $8.6 million (transition) for 2013.

"I'll keep that all internal," Spielman said. "The biggest thing when you're deciding that is where do you value that player? Where do you see that player's potential market? And then you take it from there."

The Vikings began meeting with representatives for their own pending free agents on Wednesday night. They had preliminary talks about a contract extension with Loadholt's agent, Gary Uberstine, during the season and planned to meet here this weekend, Spielman said.

Other players eligible to become unrestricted free agents are: fullback Jerome Felton; receivers Devin Aromashodu and Jerome Simpson; offensive linemen Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz; linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell; and safety Jamarca Sanford.

The only restricted free agent is cornerback A.J. Jefferson. Offensive lineman Troy Kropog, safety Andrew Sendejo and cornerback/return man Marcus Sherels are exclusive-rights players.

Biding their time

As expected, the Vikings have no plans to release any veteran players until shortly before free agency begins at 3 p.m. on March 12.

Their cap space ranks in the top half league-wide, and only three players -- receiver Michael Jenkins ($2.425 million roster bonus due March 16), left guard Charlie Johnson ($500,000 roster bonus due March 16) and tight end John Carlson ($1.2 million in salary fully guaranteed if he's on the roster on March 12) -- have significant financial benchmarks commanding a decision.

"I don't anticipate anything happening at this point," Spielman said. "Now, as we get through and get closer to that new league year, we'll see where that evolves. So, I'm not going to ever say we're not going to do anything. We may. I don't know yet. We'll see how things progress."

Last year, the Vikings waited until March 10 to release veterans Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera and Cedric Griffin.

Two more depart

Vikings assistant special teams coach Chris White is leaving to coach running backs and special teams at the University of Iowa, coachingsearch.com reported.

White joined the Vikings as Brian Murphy's assistant in 2009 and stayed on after Mike Priefer took over in 2011. He spent the previous 16 seasons at the college level.

The only other member of coach Leslie Frazier's staff to depart this offseason was his assistant, Cam Turner, who joined his father Ron's staff at Florida International University.

Scouting assistant Nick Mehlhaff also recently left the Vikings to take over as director of football operations at Florida International University.

All coaches are under contract for 2013, Spielman said.

Late start

For the second consecutive year, the Vikings intend to start their nine-week offseason program one week later than the collective-bargaining agreement permits.

"(I)t gives you an opportunity for your rookies to miss one less week," Spielman said, "because they're in there a week longer than they normally would be and the weather usually is a little bit nicer where you can get outside as well."

It also shrinks the amount of time players have from the end of the offseason program in mid-June until the start of training camp in late July.

Phase One of the program is scheduled to begin on April 22.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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