Vikings going camping: 'I look forward to seeing our fans in Mankato'
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The Minnesota Vikings are Mankato-bound after all.
While NFL players met to ratify a labor deal on Monday morning, team officials were moving forward with plans to hold training camp as scheduled at Minnesota State University, Mankato, with players scheduled to report on Sunday and practice on Monday, Aug. 1.
"It is terrific that we can now get into training camp and have our players start working and competing at their respective positions so we can begin to lay the foundation for success," coach Leslie Frazier said in a statement released shortly before 3 p.m. Monday. "I look forward to seeing our fans in Mankato."
The complete schedule for camp will be released in the coming days, according to the team. Camp is scheduled to wrap on Aug. 11, two days before the Vikings' preseason opener at Tennessee.
One week ago, it appeared the Vikings might have to snap a 45-year streak of holding camp in Mankato, as a July 18 deadline arrived without labor peace. But the Vikings and the university jointly pushed back the deadline, and a team spokesman continued to express optimism on Friday the annual trip could be made.
Had camp been relocated to the team's Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie, fans would have been shut out of practices and autograph sessions, and Mankato would have lost millions.
""We wanted to prolong our decision as long as possible in an effort to maintain our training camp tradition of practicing in front of Vikings fans in Mankato" team president Mark Wilf said in a statement. "The Vikings appreciate the patience and flexibility shown by Minnesota State University and the Mankato community in making this work, and we look forward to returning to our training camp home in August."
By rule, the Vikings could report as soon as Friday, 15 days before their preseason opener. But Frazier, who was scheduled to address reporters in a media conference at 5:30 p.m., always planned to have players begin practice a little later.
That apparently will hold true even though the new collective-bargaining agreement bars pads on the first two days of practice this year and eliminates padded two-a-days altogether.
"It is tremendous to know that we can once again hit the field and get back to football," Frazier said in the statement. "I feel very good about how our coaches have been preparing all offseason, and we are ready for the staff and players to start working together to help us accomplish our goals."
The Vikings also were expected to try to bring in rookies and other young players for some sort of orientation at the team's facility before camp begins. But that would depend on when the NFL allows teams to have contact with players, and some agents could encourage players to stay away until they're under contract.
"Today is an exciting day for Vikings fans and NFL fans throughout the country," Wilf said in the statement. "With a labor agreement in place, we will now turn our full attention to football and preparations for a successful 2011 season. We appreciate the patience and support of Vikings fans throughout this process. Under Coach Frazier's leadership, we look forward to sharing an exciting season of football with our fans."