Frazier hopes distractions have finally passed (video)

Frazier hopes distractions have finally passed (video)
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier watches his players during the scrimmage at Thursday's practice in Mankato.

MANKATO — Leslie Frazier has been through more in his short time as an NFL head coach than many coaches go through in a career.

He managed to keep the Minnesota Vikings from collapsing over the final six games of last season, even after their stadium collapsed, their top two quarterbacks suffered season-ending injuries and they were forced to play a home game at Detroit.

Leading up to his first full season as a head coach, Frazier has had to deal with an expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, meaning he had no mini-camps during the summer to help the Vikings' rookies adjust to life as pro football players.

When the new CBA was ratified late Thursday afternoon, all of the Vikings players were finally able to put pads on and practice. Suddenly, a team for which distractions had become the norm, is distraction-free.

"Well, hopefully," Frazier said with a laugh after Thursday's second practice session. "I am looking forward to normalcy, if there is such a thing in the National Football League. Every team has gone through the same things we have this offseason, so we're not in the minority in that regard. Now we can put those things behind us and concentrate on getting our team prepared to play this season."


The Vikings were originally scheduled for a two-and-a-half hour practice Thursday morning, but, Wednesday night, they moved that practice to a 3 p.m. start when they learned that the new CBA would not likely be ratified until that time.

All 90 players on the roster took the field in full pads shortly after 3 p.m., but the 17 players who signed as unrestricted free agents or who re-worked their contracts this offseason, continued to be nothing more than spectators. Finally, at 3:56 p.m., Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman walked onto the field and gave the thumbs-up for those spectators to become players.

"Now we don't have to look over our shoulders and wonder what's going to happen next," Frazier said. "I don't think that will be the case. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

Cook ready to compete

On Monday, Ryan Cook was an out-of-work player who was a bit nervous that training camps were opening and he didn't have a contract in hand.

The year veteran offensive lineman was able to breathe easier on Wednesday night, when he signed a two-year deal to return to the Vikings, the team with which he spent his first five seasons. Cook (6-feet-6, 328 pounds) was a second-round draft pick out of New Mexico in 2006. He has played in 40 NFL games, mainly at tackle.

Cook said he intends to challenge for the starting right guard spot, though, as incumbent starter Anthony Herrera continues to recover from ACL surgery.

"I've been told it's an open position and everyone in camp is competing," Cook said. "I'm coming to be a starter. That's my goal. That's what I'm looking forward to doing."


Cook and second-year player Chris DeGeare will likely split time with the top two offensive units while Herrera — who is on the Physically Unable to Perform list — continues to heal. If, or when, Herrera returns, Cook can serve as a backup at any position on the line.

At least three other teams — the Cowboys, Saints and Giants — contacted Cook before he re-signed with Minnesota. Returning to the Vikings likely gives Cook his best chance to play a lot.

"Being as versatile as I am, it was natural that that was the next step," he said.

Loadholt staying put

With the release of veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, there was some thought that third-year player Phil Loadholt would shift from his right tackle position to the left side.

Frazier quickly put an end to that line of questioning.

"We'd rather not (move Loadholt)," Frazier said. "Phil is going to be an outstanding right tackle in this league and we feel like we're pretty solid at that position. We don't want to weaken that position, so that's not in the plans as we speak."

Charlie Johnson, who signed with the Vikings on Monday, will replace McKinnie at left tackle. Johnson started 54 games at left tackle over the past five seasons for Indianapolis. Johnson was a sixth-round draft pick of the Colts in 2006.


A.P. returns

Running back Adrian Peterson has been away from training camp all week, as his fiancee gave birth to a boy on Monday. Frazier said he expects Peterson will be back at practice today.

"He will be landing in just a few minutes," Frazier said late Thursday afternoon, "so as far as I know, he's on schedule to be at practice (this) morning."

Ponder works with 2's

Vikings coaches have said all week that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is behind Joe Webb — who finished last season as the team's starter — on the depth chart. But Ponder, selected No. 12 overall in April's draft, took all of the reps with the second team offense during 11-on-11 drills Thursday.

Frazier said that doesn't mean that Ponder is the No. 2 quarterback.

"We're just rotating those guys," Frazier said. "They'll rotate throughout training camp. There's nothing that's etched in stone with No. 1 or 2 or 3."

Ponder threw one of the best passes of the day, during an 11-on-11 period. He zipped a ball over the middle that rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph hauled in with one hand while being closely covered by second-year linebacker Mark Washington.

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