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Updated: July 27th, 2012 6:39pm
Notebook: Vikings coach praises Everson Griffen for weight loss

Notebook: Vikings coach praises Everson Griffen for weight loss

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Leslie Frazier admitted he was a little concerned this spring when Everson Griffen reported for the Minnesota Vikings' offseason program weighing more than the team wanted.

"We have a weight where we think our defensive ends play at and play best at," Frazier explained Friday on the Vikings' opening day of training camp. "We also have a speed we think they play best at and fit what we try to do. He had gotten up to around 274, 276 (pounds) and that's not the ideal weight for our defensive ends."

Frazier wanted the 6-foot-3 Griffen to weigh between 260 and 265 pounds as a defensive end. But Frazier also had another plan in mind for Griffen, who was behind starters Brian Robison and Jared Allen on the depth chart.

The Vikings had used Griffen at linebacker on occasion last season and saw an opportunity for a trimmed down Griffen to spend more time at that spot this coming season.

Frazier broached the subject with Griffen during the offseason and used him at that spot for a minicamp practice. On Friday, Griffen was running with the third team at outside linebacker. He did so weighing 18 pounds less than he did when he showed up at Winter Park.

"He was so motivated to play the position and play it well that he goes home and he loses close to 18 pounds to come back and be ready to play the linebacker position," Frazier said. "That's just a testament to how motivated he is to do well and play well and really adhere to what the coaches are looking for and what his teammates expect of him."

Griffen said he shed the extra pounds by eliminating alcohol and eating fish, chicken and turkey. He did not eat red meat and only occasionally mixed in some carbs.

"I just took care of my body the best way possible and that's how I dropped the weight," he said.

As for the transition to linebacker, Griffen knows it won't be easy.

"This is just the start of it," he said following the afternoon practice Friday. "I just have to keep on grinding, stayed focused. It's not going to happen over one night and you're going to be the biggest critic of yourself.

"I've just got to concentrate more. I've got to really tune in and really listen to coaches and take their advice and whatever they teach me off the field I have to put it on the field and show them I can do that."

Frazier sounds as if he plans to give Griffen every chance to succeed at his new position.

"I want him to show us that he can't play that position," Frazier said. "We feel like we've got two outstanding starters at defensive end. He was our third defensive end (last season). We want him to show us that he's not a linebacker."

What expectations?

Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen spent part of Friday introducing himself to some of his teammates. That's how many new faces there are among the 90 players in camp with the Vikings.

Allen, who finished a half-sack short of Michael Strahan's single-season record last year, admitted things are very different around Mankato with the Vikings coming off a 3-13 finish in 2011.

"I think this is the first year where there are no real expectations going into camp, which isn't necessarily a bad thing," he said. "Our expectations as a team are always the same. It's always to win the North and get into the playoffs and go that route. But as far as any preseason hype, there is none. We were 3-13 last year, we have a completely new team, a lot of young guys. But that's a good thing.

"As cliché as it sounds, you can come into camp and focus on the team, focus on where we have to get day-by-day and week-by-week and go out there and just play football without any of this added pressure of, 'Well you guys got this guy, this guy, that guy, where do you see yourselves being?'"

Allen is entering his ninth NFL season and his fifth with the Vikings. He admits the veterans need to lead but points out that only goes so far.

"This is professional football," Allen said. "We're not talking high school or college. Everybody is getting paid to be here and you're getting paid to win football games. So as far as people needing an example. Yeah, as veterans we will show them how to be pros and how you have to work and personally I'm going to set a level of how I always practice. A standard that we expect around here.

"But at the end of the day, it's your job to come out here and work. It's your job to get yourself ready to play. If you're not that guy, we'll find out and we'll go on without you. I think that's the biggest struggle for young guys is realizing that nothing is guaranteed in this league. For me, I've never believed in that, 'Oh, we're young.' You're in the NFL, it's time to play. We've all been playing football a long time."

Positive sign

Wide receiver Greg Childs, a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in April, was slowed this offseason because of a calf injury. That was bad news considering Childs' stock in the draft had dropped substantially because of a torn patella tendon he suffered in his right knee during his junior season at Arkansas.

But Childs said after Friday's practice that he was feeling great. "It's just a tremendous difference, because that injury takes at least a year and a half," to recover from, Childs said of the knee injury. "Now I'm in the clear of that, it's just good to go."

Frazier said the Vikings do believe that Childs is 100 percent.

"We're looking forward to watching him practice and continue to grow as a player," he said. "He missed a lot of time from minicamp on so we need him to stay healthy, be on the field. We're counting on him to be in the mix for us during the regular season. But he missed a lot of time."

Childs, 6-3, 217 pounds, has the potential to provide quarterback Christian Ponder with another vertical threat in the passing game. He caught 133 passes for 2,066 yards and 15 touchdowns in four seasons at Arkansas, including a career-high 48 receptions for 894 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009.

Words of wisdom

The Vikings have had at least seven players arrested since the start of 2011, including four who remain on the team. (Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Griffen and Chris Cook).

This caused Frazier to be a bit stronger in his message about conduct on Thursday night during the Vikings' season-opening meeting.

"I did get into conduct maybe a little bit more than I might have say a year ago, maybe," Frazier said. "But for a myriad of reasons. It's the right thing to do. We have a lot of guys that are doing so many good things on our team and in this community as well.

"But when one or two guys step to the left as opposed to going to the right it creates some issues for everybody that's a part of our team. So we wanted to talk through some of that and just remind everybody that you represent your teammates, along with your family and community, our state. But we talked in depth about conduct and how we should approach things going forward."

Putting on the pressure

Blair Walsh, a sixth-round pick of the Vikings last April, is the only kicker in camp with the team, meaning he already has won the job. It also means Walsh is going to get every available kicking rep.

So how does Frazier plan to balance things between making sure Walsh gets the necessary work and not overdoing it?

"We're definitely conscious of that," Frazier said. "We don't want to overwork him, but we've got to get him some work. We're going to try to put him in some situations in practice. But we're monitoring his reps every day in practice.

"We're counting how many times we have him kickoff, how many times we have him kick field goals and extra points. We want to get him to the point where he's confident but not overworked. So we'll monitor the number of kicks that he has in training camp."

The Vikings won't have Walsh kick on a daily basis but when he does they will try to apply some pressure.

"We're going to have some competitive moments where we really want to get our fans involved and put a little pressure on him as well," Frazier said. "But we're going to create some situations to make him have to function under pressure."

Stepping in as the starter

Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil, the fourth-overall pick in the draft, worked with the first unit on the opening day of training camp and that isn't likely to change.

"We expect Matt to be our opening day starter," Frazier said. "That's why we have him working with the number ones. We want him to continue to progress and get better. He'll be in some challenging situations."

Meanwhile, Harrison Smith is expected to be a starter at safety for the Vikings, but the 29th pick in the first round last April worked primarily with the second unit on Friday, as Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond lined up with the first team to open things.

"In Harrison's case, there is going to be some competition," Frazier said. "We want him to compete and win that job. We'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks."

Getting his chance

With Anthony Herrera gone, Brandon Fusco opened practice with the first unit at right guard. Fusco was a sixth-round pick in April 2011 out of Slippery Rock. Veteran Geoff Schwartz also could be in the mix to challenge for that job.

"You'd like to get it done as soon as possible where you could identify the guy, but part of why we're going to be here during the period that we're here for the next three weeks is to identify the right guy at that right guard position," Frazier said of the competition.

"But if you had your druthers, you'd like to know by the time we play San Diego in the third preseason game that you've identified that guy. That may not be the case, but that would be ideal. That we know by the time we line up against San Diego in that third preseason game, 'This is going to be our starting right guard when we line up against Jacksonville.'"

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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