Verizon Vikings Training Camp will look entirely different this year due to the guidelines and restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least one thing will remain the same, however, as the team enters its 60thseason: the bonding and camaraderie between teammates, socially distanced or not.
Training camp over the years has brought a number of different experiences – bocce ball with Bud Grant, two-a-day practices in Mankato, the yearJared Allen arrived in an RV, a move in 2018 to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. So as Verizon Vikings Training Camp is ramping up, we took some time to catch up with Vikings Legends and listen to their favorite training camp memories.
For this segment, we focus on the vibe at the start of 1998, when Minnesota went on to record a franchise-best 15 victories and score an NFL-record 556 points (since broken) during a regular season filled with highlights by a revolutionary rookie.
Randall McDaniel, Mike Morris, Dixon Edwards, Pete Bercich, Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard each recently reminisced about 1998 during video chats.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel.
Days of a particular training camp often melt together, but the same can be true for years for those players that are able to stack multiple NFL seasons.
Vikings camps were held in Mankato from 1966-2017, and Gage Hall served as the dormitory for the first 47 of those 52 summer sessions.
But when the Vikings arrived on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 1998, it was clear to all that something special was in the air, from the practice field to the elevator of the dorm.
Edwards, who was a member of three Cowboys teams that won Super Bowls before joining Minnesota, recognized a "magical team" in the works.
Edwards: "You could just tell something about that training camp that the entire group clicked. Everything was just meshing right. The offensive side of the ball was right, the defensive side of the ball was right. Special teams was great. You had a lot of headhunters — hungry people on special teams — and you could see the excitement of whenever they would go down on kickoff. That would fire us up on defense, 'If the special teams did this, we've got to keep this and echo this for the rest of the game.' We were all feeding off each other. That's the one thing I remember about the '98 training camp. Everything was clicking, even the coaching and the timing of everything they were doing. There were no selfish acts in any portion of the team. It was just a very magical team that was put together, a great team. I was fortunate enough to be on Super Bowl teams, and I could just see it and feel it: 'This is the team, the one that can make it all the way.' "
Morris: "[The camps] all kind of run together, but I do remember seeing Randy Moss in the elevator of Gage Hall [in 1998]. He already had a pretty-good-sized chunk of platinum around his neck. I think it was a dollar sign with diamonds."
The seasoned long snapper recalled telling the fresh-faced receiver, " 'You've got a chance to be pretty good.' "
Moss entered camp with a high-ankle sprain from playing basketball but quickly previewed what was to come.
Bercich: "I remember watching that 7-on-7 film … it took about seven plays to figure out he was the real deal."
Smith and Hoard said Moss was the most-athletic teammate they've ever had. Smith explained how his hunch about Moss began the moment the phenom was drafted at No. 21 overall.
Smith: "I remember in the locker room, we would watch ESPN between meetings. I remember seeing highlights of Randy catching these long touchdowns at Marshall, and you could just see his speed was just so different. When he got drafted, we got him 21st, and I was like, 'This just isn't going to be fair.' We already had Cris [Carter] and Jake [Reed], a lot of talent at wide receiver.
"But that first camp practice … having seen guys like Cris and Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith, just great players … but I saw Randy, and I've never seen anyone look so much better than everybody else. Even without pads, you just know. You guys remember the first time you saw him, there was just something so different about the way he moved in relation to everyone else. I got a call from my agent during a break in camp and he was like, 'How does Randy look?' And I was like, 'If he stays healthy, he's going to be a Hall of Famer.' I'd never seen anyone so good, and so different athletically than anyone else. It was easily the most impressive thing I've ever seen in camp."
Hoard: "People don't realize it, because it was hard to see how fast that dude was. I'd never seen a guy put stress on more DBs in camp than Randy did in one camp.
"It was almost like the offense wanted to show him off, too. All he did for the first month was run go routes … like, three weeks straight. There's only one other guy I was on a football field and thought, 'Holy smokes, he's fast,' and that was Eric Metcalf. I don't think anyone could explain to people how freakishly fast [Randy] was because he had those big thigh pads on."
McDaniel: "That was a special year. The offensive side, everything just clicked for us that year. … We just marched down the field on people.
"The Green Bay game when Randy had [five receptions, 190 yards and two scores on Monday Night Football], I'm blocking Gilbert Brown in front of me and I'm talking to him at the same time, 'Man, you should see what he's about to do out there now.' 'Did he get another one?' 'Yeah, he got another one.' Everybody just came together, and it was all about the team."
Moss claimed NFL Rookie of the Year honors after totaling 69 receptions for 1,313 yards and setting a league record for a first-year player with 17 touchdown receptions.
Morris: "A monster year, but that's what kind of guy he was. He was running past people and catching one-handed, just to be catching them one-handed in practice. That was one thing I remember about that year, how he came in and just, it was a big splash. He was an outstanding athlete, and we had outstanding athletes on that team: Randall McDaniel, Randy Moss, John Randle. Those three guys are on the Top 100 players list of all time, and three were on the same team."