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SUMMER CAMP: Excitement brews as 2nd training camp in Eagan begins in late-July

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Vikings Football

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) and other players warm up before drills at the team’s NFL football training facility in Eagan on Thursday, June 13. Training camp begins later this month and extends into early August. (AP)

It’s July, and that can only mean one thing: Minnesota Vikings training camp in right around the corner.

It was just last year I went to the new training facility in Eagan and honestly didn’t want to give it a chance after 25 great years in Mankato.

However, I am a Vikings fan, and where they go, I go. I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely things went, but admit it was strange not being able to meet the players like I had been accustomed to at Minnesota State’s facility.

Like many of you, I read the news that this year’s camp there will be autographs only for 18 and younger. I am OK with this as I have gotten my fair share of autographs in the past two-plus decades. The sting for me is not being able to meet players and get my picture with them. I have posed with over 400 different players throughout the years with only one player saying no, and that was Randy Moss. I was disappointed, but also say he was nice about it and was not rude to me, which I appreciated.

Training camp runs through August, and with that, I typically think of heat and humidity. The strange thing about this is I absolutely despise muginess, but during camp I learn to deal with it, although it’s not fun to be soaked in sweat and pound the water. Life can be strange and in my case this is a strange, but true fact. I will never forget the year Korey Stringer died and that camp heat index was in the 100s. Why was I out there? It was dangerous and I remember most days not feeling good driving back to Owatonna, but it’s training camp and I had to stay strong.

As for this year’s camp, we are only allowed two days, which I have already picked. I remember last year they tried the same thing, but, funny, I was able to go seven or eight days. I am going Sunday, July 28 and the next Saturday, August 3 for Family Night, which is typically the best night to see actual football players in pads and helmets. Players have even been known to throw autographed footballs into the crowd before the night is capped by a fireworks display.

I am going to Eagan to make the most of my 27th straight year of going to Training Camp. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I get to camp as I know it’s that much closer to regular season football.

The NFC North will be very tough this year as I expect the Bears to be just a good as last year and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, so they’ll always be in the mix.

I loved Minnesota’s draft because it made an obvious statement that the offensive line must get much better. Kirk Cousins can’t keep taking a beating, and he must learn to get rid of the ball a little quicker. This camp will be crucial to get the line cohesive in working together.

The offense has so much talent with running back Dalvin Cook, receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as well as newly re-signed tight end Kyle Rudolph.

I have loved the defense every year since Mike Zimmer took over. I am curious to see how Everson Griffen bounces back and whether or not Danielle Hunter can produce another monster year.

The linebacker core is solid with Anthony Barr returning after spurning the New York Jets and Eric “tackling machine” Kendricks leading the way. I would love to see one more step up on a consistent basis.

The offseason we saw Zimmer challenge Xavier Rhodes on stepping up and all offseason the talk of Trae Waynes possibly leaving the Vikes. I am a huge fan of Harrison Smith, so, basically, I look for a huge year out of the defense.

It will be nice to see kicker Dan Bailey get a full camp, especially with a new special teams coach. Was Mike Priefer the cause of all the kick mishaps?

There are so many questions and storylines coming into camp. How will Mike Hughes return after his season-ending torn ACL? Who will be the backup for Kirk Cousins? Will Laqoun Treadwell make the 53-man roster? How will Riley Reiff do a left tackle and who will be the right tackle? Will round pick Garrett Bradbury be the starting center and moving Pat Elflein to guard? Also, Chad Beebe will be a player to watch as I loved his potential last year.

These are just some of the questions I have and want to follow in Eagan. The days are flying and soon camp will be upon us and I can’t wait.

Thank you for reading,

Purplestick

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