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Updated: June 29th, 2011 8:53pm
Player-run minicamps? Vikings haven't even discussed following suit

Player-run minicamps? Vikings haven't even discussed following suit

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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More than 50 players reportedly showed up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' player-run minicamp that began on Tuesday. The San Francisco 49ers opened their second camp with roughly two dozen.

The Minnesota Vikings remain part of the ever-shrinking minority whose players haven't organized some sort of team-wide practices during the 3½-month-old lockout, and that's not expected to change, with the scheduled start of training camp a month away.

"I think now, really, it's not going to matter," Vikings end Brian Robison told 1500 ESPN's "Reusse & Mackey" show on Tuesday. "It's a little bit too late to really do anything now. I think now is the time where we just need to get this (collective-bargaining agreement) done and get back on the field in training camp."

That echoes sentiments expressed in recent months by several Vikings veterans, including defensive tackle Kevin Williams and left guard Steve Hutchinson, who told 1500ESPN.com last week that "from where we usually are at this point in the offseason, I'm in just as good of shape as I would have been, and that's really all you can ask."

The value of such workouts remains to be seen. But leaders for roughly two-thirds of the NFL's teams have taken a different approach, with informal camps popping up around the country since May.

More than 20 teams are known to have held larger-scale workouts involving players from both sides of the ball, with at least 11 of those teams -- Carolina, Detroit, Houston, New England, New Orleans, the New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington -- reportedly drawing upwards of 30 players.

"We really haven't" discussed it, Robison said. "It's different when you've got guys in Florida, they're all pretty much staying in Florida. I talked to (Carolina Panthers linebacker) Jon Beason a couple of weeks ago when we were in St. Louis (for a hearing at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals), and he said most of their guys stay around Charlotte. They stay in that area, so it's easy to get guys together.

"When you're talking about guys in Minnesota -- unfortunately, with the winters, nobody wants to stay in Minnesota."

Hutchinson has been working out in the Twin Cities with a group including linebackers Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and Heath Farwell and center John Sullivan. Two other linebackers, brothers E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson, also have worked out locally with other teammates coming and going.

Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder tried to organize a minicamp last month in Bradenton, Fla., but only seven players showed up, none of them starters. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe visited last week to work with Ponder, and receiver Jaymar Johnson, who has been attending Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald's annual receiver camp on the "U" campus, told the Star Tribune he wants Ponder, Shiancoe and other key skill-position players to stop by.

That's unlikely to happen anytime soon. Ponder is scheduled to appear at Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's passing camp in Louisiana late next week, pushing back the first-round draft pick's arrival in Minnesota to mid-July -- around the same time many hope the NFL's labor situation will be resolved.

That includes Robison, who has been keeping close tabs on the situation as one of the plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL lawsuit at the center of the ongoing court battle between owners and players. The Vikings have set a July 18 deadline for deciding whether they'll have training camp in Mankato, Minn., beginning on Aug. 1.

"I think we're on the right track to at least getting something done where we can at least have preseason and everything else," Robison said. "But it will be close on" the Vikings' deadline.

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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