EAGAN, Minn. — It was a scenic morning on Monday as Mark Wilf strolled the green grass at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center during a walk-through session.
Fans clad in Purple beneath a sunny sky were just who the Vikings Owner/President and his family had in mind when they built Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan with the capability of hosting Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"This facility is really state-of-the-art," Wilf said. "We're just really excited to have our fans come here and get to experience [our players] up close and really experience training camp in a special way.
"Seeing families and kids playing in the stadium or visiting the museum or team store or coming to watch the players, it's great to see," Wilf added.
Wilf spoke to the Twin Cities media Monday as training camp rolled along in Eagan for the first time.
Wilf offered a glowing report from the first week of training camp as the Vikings prepare for the 2018 season.
"There's a lot of hard work that has gone on by our staff. They've done a great job here," Wilf said. "If [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] and [Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman] are pleased, we're pleased. I think everyone is working well here. It's a great facility for the fans, for the team. Having all of our recovery and medical and weight stuff all right here, and at the same time, players can be together and bond. It's great all around."
"I think you see the field and the setup and the fans. I think altogether, a lot of hard work and details done by a lot of great working staff here at the Vikings," Wilf later added. "We're very proud of the way it's come out. I'm really excited for the fans to have a place in the Twin Cities where they can come watch training camp for years to come."
The Vikings went 13-3 and won the NFC North while reaching the NFC title game in 2017, leading to many media pundits and fans to have high expectations for Minnesota this season.
Bring them on, said Wilf, who added that expectations are lofty each year inside the organization.
"Every year we have high expectations, and this year is no different. Our goal is the same — win our division, compete and ultimately hope to win a Super Bowl championship. That doesn't change every year," Wilf said. "Like the players and coaches have been saying, it's a one-day-at-a-time process. What we did last year is last year. They are working hard now, and training camp is getting into full swing now. There's a lot of work ahead of us, and we know it's a difficult road."
"We want high expectations, and we have a high bar for ourselves. I know Coach Zimmer preaches high expectations, but he also preaches staying focused and knowing that you need to maximize what you can do yourself. That message is loudly received," Wilf later added. "We know we have the best fans in the world, and we're excited that they are encouraged and looking forward to the season. That's how it should be, but we have to work to put a product on the field they can be proud of."
The Vikings have less than two weeks until their first preseason game, an Aug. 11 game in Denver. As the Vikings work toward the preseason opener, they are doing so with heavy hearts following the unexpected passing of Tony Sparano on July 22.
Wilf recalled fond memories of chatting with Sparano and remembered his passion for his players.
"It's obviously a tragic thing. Coach Sparano was really a special, special person," Wilf said. "I know the conversations I had with him were always great conversations. He had a certain persona on the field … he was tough but very caring for his players. He was a really warm individual, a really special guy and we and the whole organization really loved him.
"Like we said last week, our hearts go out to his entire family," Wilf added. "We're going to miss him, and hopefully we take the good memories and good teachings — he was a great teacher — and what he taught our organization and our players, I know will be carried going forward this season and beyond."
Wilf was also asked about the news that the NFL and NFL Players Association have tabled a policy regarding the National Anthem. Wilf said Minnesota's leadership group are "encouraged" by recent developments.
"We are we're very encouraged by the fact that players and ownership are meeting and trying to work through things," Wilf said. "We said our piece on the matter, and we're very hopeful that there will be a good resolution in terms of ending up with something that is positive for the social justice area and for the community. We're encouraged by the fact that those conversations are happening."
Wilf added that the Vikings ownership group has met with players and coaches in relation to the issues and plan to announce involvement with social justice issues in the near future.
"We are close to finalizing some things. We've had some good conversations, some good specifics going on, but nothing yet to unveil publicly," Wilf said. "We're confident that what we're do together with the players will meet some of the concerns they have in the community and some things that will really make an impact. We're looking forward to finalizing that very shortly."