MANKATO, Minn. — It's two weeks until the Vikings open the preseason slate against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game, but they are already managing the expectations camp.
Players and coaches arrived Saturday for the 50th training camp in Mankato riding a wave of positive offseason vibes that have reverberated across the web.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he's seen teams enter with high expectations and underperform and seen lower expectations exceed them. Zimmer knows how important focus, hard work and execution will be to reaching goals.
"I kind of take it with a grain of salt. I believe that no team that has played in a temporary stadium has gone to the playoffs, so we got that going against us," Zimmer said. "We've got other things. We were 7-9 last year. I reminded the team of these things, but the thing I keep telling the team is that if we go out here in this parking lot and we play better than everybody else, we'll win the football game. If we're the smarter team on Sunday, if we're the tougher team on Sunday, if we take care of the ball better, if we execute better, we'll do those things."
Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press took a look at the expectations game, with reactions from Chad Greenway, Zimmer, Harrison Smith and Teddy Bridgewater.
"We have high expectations around here that we're not afraid of," Bridgewater said. "We're going to continue to just get better. But we know we have a long way to go."
Talking clean trash
Speaking of Greenway, the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan featured the linebacker preparing for his 10th season with the Vikings. There were multiple interesting caveats about Greenway in the piece, but here's a quote from former teammate and Vikings analyst Ben Leber.
"He talks more trash than any player I ever played with,'' Leber told Souhan. "But it's all clean. It's so elementary a fourth-grader might say it. He'd yell stuff like, 'Yeah, that's the way we did it at Iowa!' I'd just look at him and say, 'What is wrong with you?' "
Impactful rookie class?
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks ranked his top five rookie classes most likely to make a quick impact and ranked the Vikings second (click here for full rankings).
Brooks noted "every general manager and head coach understands that it takes three seasons to fully evaluate a draft class, but that doesn't stop decision makers from counting on rookies to make immediate contributions."
"Mike Zimmer is quietly building a playoff-ready team with the core components needed to make a run down the stretch: franchise quarterback, strong running game and a stingy defense," Brooks wrote. "Trae Waynes gives the unit a gritty defender with the length and athleticism to challenge receivers at the line. He has shown impressive versatility working on the outside and in the slot, making him a strong candidate to earn quality minutes as a nickel corner for the Vikings. Eric Kendricks is a compelling 'Mike' linebacker with the athleticism, instincts and versatility to stay on the field as a three-down player. He could emerge as the centerpiece of a nasty Vikings defense that overwhelms NFC North opponents with its collective speed and athleticism."
QBs most likely to chase title
NFL Media columnist Adam Schein put together a list of the nine quarterbacks he thinks are most likely to win their first title and placed Bridgewater at sixth, a spot a head of Dallas QB Tony Romo.
Schein noted the list "isn't a quarterback ranking. It's more of a look into the crystal ball for teams and passers."
Schein wrote: "I'm on the record saying the Vikings could be the surprise team in the NFL this year — the league's version of the Golden State Warriors. With Adrian Peterson back in the fold, Mike Zimmer coaching the team up and Bridgewater's inevitable growth after a solid rookie campaign, there's plenty to believe in.
"The second-year quarterback has a lot of talent around him and a rapidly rising defense. At the very least, I believe the Vikes make the playoffs," Schein added.
Click here for Schein's full list.