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Vikings break camp, head for home

Tice succeeds at running tough and physical camp

Associated Press

MANKATO -- The Minnesota Vikings broke training camp this morning after a grueling, three-week stretch of preparation that coach Mike Tice hopes will ready the team for the rigors of a16-game NFL season.

Tice put his players through more than a dozen fully padded practices, including three fight-filled workouts with the Kansas City Chiefs, and two passing scrimmages.

That might be a peculiar strategy for a team that wore down late in 2003, missing the playoffs after a 6-0 start. But Tice designed the camp to build toughness -- both physical and mental -- in hopes of avoiding a similar collapse this season.

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"We have to continue to develop consistency, dependability, find who the playmakers are," Tice said. "Then, sustain this type of work ethic, attitude, crispness, enthusiasm (and) toughness throughout the entire season."

Players griped often about the physicality and length of the two-a-day practices -- some workouts exceeded two-and-a half-hours -- but most agreed that the hard work would pay off during the season.

"(Camp) has toughened us up very much," rookie defensive end Kenechi Udeze said. "When you come out here and you're not feeling it, or your body's aching -- anytime you pass any kind of test, you become stronger as a team."

A year ago, Tice tested his players with numerous physical workouts during camp and continued to hold padded practices once the regular season started. That team opened with six straight wins but seemed to run out of energy in a 3-7 finish.

The difference between getting tough and wearing down is subtle.

"There's a fine line," said cornerback Antoine Winfield, noting that he never experienced such a grind in five seasons with Buffalo. "Of course we're tired -- we've been here for almost three weeks, working hard, practicing twice a day, doing a lot of hitting -- but it's also getting us tougher.

"Doing all this work and then going to a game, it makes (adjusting) a lot easier."

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