Pete's Point: Vikings training camp provided glimpse of starters
My first trip to the TCO Performance Center was a memorable one
I’ve enjoyed making a handful of trips to Minnesota Vikings football training camp over the 50 years it was hosted at Mankato State University.
It was a chance to get close up with NFL players, especially when players would occasionally walk from their dorms to the locker rooms to the practice field. It was a free opportunity to get up close and talk with players, and sometimes get an autograph as a bonus.
I haven’t been back to training camp since the Vikings moved to their new Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan in 2018. But, on Aug. 18, I made the trip with my son and grandsons. And it turned out to be a memorable experience as the Vikings scrimmaged the San Francisco 49ers that morning.
We purchased our $5 tickets in advance, but it didn’t look like we would see the Vikings practice since it was raining for most of the drive from Brainerd to Eagan. But the skies cleared for a couple hours right about the time we pulled into the TCO facility.
My young grandsons quickly focused on the variety of fan participation activities along the walk to the practice field bleachers. There were football tosses at targets, bean bag toss, mini golf and photo opportunities with Vikings memorabilia or full-size cutouts of players. There was also a merchandise store and a team museum.
The practice field bleachers were full of spectators, but we eventually found seats around the middle. They turned out to be a perfect view as the Vikings offense was just starting to run a series of plays against the 49ers defense on the field closest to the bleachers. For about 90 minutes, we watched the Vikings offense score five or six touchdowns against San Francisco, plus a handful of impressive catches by Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
There were a couple long runs by the Vikings, especially rookie running back Bryant Koback. The Vikings offense moved the ball well with the exception of three or four dropped passes and poor blocking on some running plays. They were facing a defense led by NFL stars Nick Bosa and Fred Warner.
The scrimmage turned out to be the best chance to see the projected Vikings starters since most didn’t play in the Vikings three preseason games.
As the practice came to a close, we noticed a positive atmosphere as Vikings players gathered around their new head coach Kevin O’Connell, who really doesn’t look much older than some of the ball boys helping the team. O’Connell’s message resulted in laughter and cheers from the players. That was positive energy after a long practice in the summer heat.
We didn’t get autographs on this trip, but my family and I still enjoyed the opportunity to watch practice and get a close look at a Minnesota team with stars like Jefferson, Thielen and Dalvin Cook.
And it’s pretty obvious that the TCO facility is one of the best practice venues in the NFL with three outside practice fields, a 6,000-seat outdoor stadium and an inside practice field, a weight room and equipment facilities and meeting rooms. Having a quality facility certainly helps the Vikings prepare for the season and with attracting free agents.