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Updated: February 16th, 2012 3:43pm
Notebook: Vikings GM juggling multiple issues as combine nears

Notebook: Vikings GM juggling multiple issues as combine nears

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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Rick Spielman will be attending his sixth NFL Scouting Combine since joining the Minnesota Vikings next week, but this will be the first one where he is in charge.

Spielman was promoted from vice president of player personnel to general manager after the Vikings' 3-13 finish in 2011 and is now calling the shots when it comes to the football operations at Winter Park.

The Vikings, who have the third-overall pick in the April draft and could have as many as 10 selections, started meetings to focus on that area on Monday and will continue through next Tuesday before heading to Indianapolis. Last week, the focus was on the free-agent class that will be available in March.

"We spent a week comparing our current players on our roster to what may be potentially available in the UFA market," he said. "You take your team, you take what's going to be available on the market and then you take what's going to be available, or what you think you're going to be able to get in the draft, and kind of tie those all together."

Spielman took some time out from this process on Thursday to meet with reporters in advance of the combine.

Here are some of the highlights:

• The Vikings could end up looking to restructure the contracts of players such as guard Steve Hutchinson, who is due $7 million in 2012, but Spielman isn't tipping his hand on that subject. "I have a pretty good idea of what we're going to do going forward," he said. "I'm not going to share that right now with you. The closer it gets to the kickoff of the new league year (on March 13), we'll have a good indicator of who we'll want to keep and who we'll want to move on from."

• As has always been the case, the Vikings will touch base with the agents for their own free agents and guys they might want to restructure at the combine.

• There are "a couple" of left tackles in the upcoming draft that the Vikings like, according to Spielman, and he has a philosophy on how they will approach that position. There are many who think the Vikings will take Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick if St. Louis doesn't grab him first.

• Spielman said the Vikings have yet to get clarification from the NFL on where the 2012 salary-cap will fall, but they are expecting to have space if they want to use it.

• Running back Adrian Peterson is rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee in Houston and is doing, "very good," Spielman said. Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman is in daily contact with Peterson's therapist. "We set up an offseason schedule for him, so he'll be going back and forth between Houston and here," Spielman said. Spielman did not want to speculate on Peterson's recovery from a torn ACL suffered on Dec. 24 at Washington but said at the rate he's going, "he'll be extremely close to being ready," for the season.

• Spielman is optimistic about the recoveries of injured players such as cornerback Antoine Winfield (collarbone), wide receiver Michael Jenkins (knee) and running back Toby Gerhart (knee).

Chris Cook remains set to go to trial in March on domestic assault charges and Spielman said "nothing has changed" when it comes to the cornerback. Spielman has spoken to Cook but is waiting for the legal process to play out. As for whether the Vikings will have to plan for a future without Cook at some point, Spielman said the fact that a team can never have enough good corners means upgrading that position is always a priority.

• With free agency starting later than usual, Spielman will be on the road attending workouts on college campuses the first week of March instead of negotiating with free agents. Free agents usually starts in early March or even late February.

• Spielman said the Vikings remain, "very confident," in Christian Ponder as their quarterback, but he wasn't willing to rule out the possibility of drafting a QB. That came as no surprise considering the Vikings want to keep as much leverage as possible if another team calls about the No. 3 overall pick.

• The Vikings plan to be in attendance at the Pro Days for quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Spielman said if Luck and Griffin end up having their Pro Days on the same day that the Vikings would try to set up a private workout with one of them.

• There may be informal contact regarding possible draft deals at the combine, but Spielman does not expect serious talks until "right before" the selection process begins. "There's so much work that needs to be done on these guys yet," Spielman said. "There may be some stuff floating out there at the combine. `Hey, we might be looking to move up.' But you really don't get down to the nitty-gritty deals until right before the draft."

• The Vikings are considering several veteran options for their third quarterback position behind Ponder and Joe Webb. Sage Rosenfels, who finished the season in that role with the Vikings, is among the possibilities. "We could be looking at options of having two quarterbacks, and having a guy on the practice squad," Spielman said. "We're very open to that."

• Spielman feels the area of strengths in both free agency and the draft are cornerback and wide receiver. Considering the Vikings needs at those two spots, that's not a bad thing. Spielman said he feels there will be a lot of good receivers in the draft, meaning he might be of the mind that quality can be picked up later in the draft.

• Spielman said it would be easier to trade the third overall pick under the new collective bargaining agreement and rookie salary pool because previously no teams wanted to come up there due to the "financial commitment" created by the uncertainty of how much a player might want.

• The Vikings won't know what type of compensatory picks they will get for losing free agents Ray Edwards to Atlanta and Sidney Rice to Seattle until the NFL owners meetings in March.

• The Vikings recent decision to promote Geore Paton to assistant general manager means his responsibilities will increase. Paton will take on some of the duties Spielman had held, handling more college scouting assignments as well as overseeing the pro department. Paton previously had focused mainly on the pro pesonnel side.

Tom Pelissero contributed.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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