Vikings may meet this weekend, will go to Mankato if labor deal passes
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- While NFL players met on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to discuss a proposed labor deal and owners prepared to do the same on Thursday in Atlanta, the Minnesota Vikings were making tentative plans to bring players into town as soon as this weekend and launch training camp in Mankato as scheduled on Aug. 1.
According to team sources, the Vikings were waiting for clarification on the rules before finalizing plans that most likely would start with bringing in members of the team's draft class, since the lockout has barred most of them from even meeting their new coaches.
Other younger players also would be among the first returning to the team's Winter Park headquarters, and veterans would be allowed to work out at the facility whenever the NFL gives the green light.
If the labor deal is approved on Thursday, sources said, the Vikings also would move forward with holding camp on campus for the 46th consecutive year at Minnesota State University, Mankato -- a decision the team delayed past a Monday deadline because the labor situation remains up in the air.
Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson was one of the NFL Players Association representatives present for Wednesday's meeting in Washington. No vote was taken on the proposed deal, but owners reportedly were prepared to vote on Thursday and players' could soon follow.
At least a handful of Vikings already are in the Twin Cities, with quarterback Christian Ponder, tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Visanthe Shiancoe, linebacker Jasper Brinkley and receiver Jaymar Johnson making appearances this week at Larry Fitzgerald's group workouts on the "U" campus.
"I'm to the point I'm like, 'Look, just call me when it's ready, man,'" Shiancoe said. "I don't care about all this other stuff. I don't care about any hypothetical dates. Just get me the date, OK? That's all I care about. I'm going to be ready to go, and I'm pretty sure a lot of other people feel the same way I feel, because it's been a long, drawn-out ordeal."
Shiancoe said the main point he has followed in negotiations is the likely elimination of two-a-day practices in training camp, which will force many coaches to adjust their usual scheduling.
In an interview with ProFootballTalk Live, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said he would give his support to ratifying the deal and wants to rejoin his teammates as soon as possible.
"The owners will come together on Thursday," Kluwe said, "and then ideally, at that point, I'll get a phone call from the Vikings saying, 'Hey, we've got a plane flight for you on Friday. Come down.' And then we can get back to the season."
An ESPN report on Tuesday said the start of training camps could be delayed to allow enough time for teams to digest the rules of the new CBA and go through free agency. But there are no signs yet the Vikings' July 31 reporting date will be affected. The first practice is scheduled the morning on Aug. 1.
"I talked to a bunch of guys, and they're saying probably this week, later this week, that they feel it should be done," said Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals' star receiver.
"So, that'll probably put us in camp sometime next week, and I know guys are excited about that."