Vikings set July 18 deadline for decision on holding camp in Mankato
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings sent a letter to university officials in Mankato on Tuesday to say they'll provide notice by July 18 about whether they're canceling their annual training camp in the city.
The Vikings have held camp at what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato since 1966, but the ongoing NFL lockout could change the team's plans. If the labor situation isn't resolved by the July 18 deadline, the team likely would opt to relocate camp -- or whatever is left of it -- to its Winter Park headquarters in this southwest suburb.
"I'm almost OK with if it does become Winter Park," coach Leslie Frazier said. "I just want us to have the full complement of time, whether it's Winter Park or Mankato."
As it stands now, players would report to Mankato on July 31 and begin practice on Aug. 1. Their stay generally last two weeks in one of the university's dormitories, which is occupied soon after by students, further complicating the possibility of making the trip if the start of camp is delayed.
"It makes it very difficult for us to go to Mankato," Frazier said, "because of the time constraints between when we need to have everything down there and ready to go by the time we open training camp."
One option for replicating the training-camp experience at Winter Park is checking all players into a team hotel somewhere near the facility. Frazier said he already has made a decision on that possibility but declined to reveal it.
Coaches are scheduled to begin their usual pre-camp vacation this weekend. But Frazier has told them to "just be on alert in case the lockout gets lifted and you have to come back" for the start of free agency and perhaps even a last-minute minicamp.
"If the lockout was lifted, say, July 6 or 7 -- that's one of the reasons the coaches kind of got to be on alert," Frazier said. "We would put an abbreviation to our vacations. Even if it got lifted this weekend, you'd have to put things on hold and get ready to get started for a minicamp or an OTA practice."
The lockout began on March 11 and has entered its fourth month. Owners and players resumed private negotiations on Tuesday outside Washington, D.C.
The biggest question mark on the Vikings' depth chart is the identity of the starting quarterback, and Frazier repeatedly has made clear first-round pick Christian Ponder's chances of winning the job in Week 1 diminish the longer the lockout lasts.
"An abbreviated preparation time for that first regular-season game -- that would not be an ideal scenario under our circumstances with a potentially young quarterback," Frazier said. "I just hope we have our full time prepare."