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Author: Mike Wobschall, vikings.com
The Vikings held a three-day, four-practice rookie mini-camp last weekend as the coaching staff for the first time could move full-speed ahead toward the 2007 season. After a full season's worth of hard work and preparation, NFL coaches waste little time after the season's end to reorganize efforts for the following season.
But each year, the focus on next season must be curtailed some in order for the team to prepare for the NFL Draft. Following the draft, a brief and brisk period ensues where teams are scrambling to assemble a crop of undrafted rookie free agents to tryout.
But despite the "tryout" tag associated with many of these players, the importance of evaluating and developing them is paramount. Because of escalating salaries and the constriction of the salary cap, teams must continue to both manage their caps wisely and develop dependable talent from players who don't command such a high salary.
The latter part of that process began for the Vikings last weekend.
"It was great to get them all here and my message to them was it's our job to find the best 53 guys to be Minnesota Vikings, and I don't care how they got here," Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the team's opening practice on Friday. "My favorite school, Piskyswitch, I don't care if they're from Piskyswitch or Penn State. That was my line to them last night. I really don't care. I don't care if they were drafted or they are here for a weekend tryout. The big thing is we're looking for guys that can play fast and they're football players."
And there are plenty of quality football players to be found among rookie free agents - just ask the Indianapolis Colts.
During their 2006 Super Bowl season, the Colts received vital and irreplaceable contribution from players who entered the league as undrafted free agents and earned a place in the NFL because of the tryouts that immediately follow the draft each year. Linebacker Gary Brackett, receivers Terrance Wilkins and Aaron Moorehead, tight end Ben Utecht and running back Dominic Rhodes all played pivotal roles for the Colts last season and all of them were undrafted rookies at one time.
So while the players at Winter Park last weekend may not have name recognition or a high price tag, the potential value they may hold can become an invaluable part to a successful season.
Undrafted rookie free agents who participated in last weekend's mini-camp include:
DT Joe Anoai
DT Conrad Bolston
DT Joe Bradley
S Jeremy Burnett
C/G Kyle Cook
G Brian Daniels
T Josh Day
CB Sergio Gilliam
LB George Hall
LB David Herron
T Chase Johnson
TE Braden Jones
C/G Dan Mozes
P Alex Reyes
RB Arkee Whitlock
Call em as I see em!