MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As a first-time head coach with an almost completely new offensive staff, the NFL lockout couldn’t come at a worse time for Leslie Frazier.
The new Minnesota Vikings coach would like as much time as possible to get his players and coaches together, to get everyone used to the changes as the franchise moves on from the Brad Childress era.
Frazier and the rest of the staff are barred from meeting with players while the lockout is in place, not to mention holding the valuable organized practices that new coaches depend on to set their agenda for the upcoming season.
For now, Frazier is trying to make the most of all the extra time on his hands. He hired five new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, including new coordinator Bill Musgrave. The new staff is taking this time to meet, look at film of the players on their roster and ensure they’re all on the same page whenever the lockout ends.
“If there has been a positive, that’s probably been the positive that our coaches, and our new staff in some areas, have been able to get some work done where they may not have been able to otherwise,” Frazier said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The Vikings haven’t spoken in much specifics about the new offense that Musgrave is bringing from Atlanta, but it is expected that there will be noticeable changes from the West Coast system Childress and former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell ran for more than four seasons.
Musgrave said he will tailor his offense to Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson and try to make the transition as seamless as possible for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, the team’s first-round draft pick.
“Offensively, there will be more changes,” Frazier said. “But not to the point where a Percy Harvin or a Visanthe Shiancoe comes in and goes, ‘Man, we have to learn an entire new offense.”‘
Musgrave is meeting with new quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson, running backs coach James Saxon, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and holdovers George Stewart (receivers) and Jimmie Johnson (tight ends) so they can hit the ground running.
“For us, I think that’s a big deal because we’re a new staff in some areas,” Frazier said. “So the offensive coaches will get a chance to see how Bill would install our offense. They’ll get a chance to experience that now, in May or June, as opposed to August right before our first preseason game or third preseason game. So that’s the plus side of what we’re going through.”
In addition to the meetings on the new offensive philosophy, Frazier said the coaching staff is trying to get a start on scouting their opponents for the upcoming season, assuming no games will be lost to the labor strife.
The Vikings have already started film work on Week 1 opponent San Diego and are doing some extra work on division foes Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.
“We’re going to concentrate offensively and defensively a little bit harder — much sooner than we would if we were not in a lockout situation — on the San Diego Chargers, on our division,” he said. “So that’s the positive. It’ll allow us to get on some projects that wouldn’t have been able to get on until much later.”
The Vikings are also at a disadvantage in a geographic sense. When the season ends, most of the players on the roster scatter to warmer climates. That means there aren’t the clusters of players hanging around to do informal workouts and practices like there are in Dallas, Miami, Houston and California.
All the more reason that Frazier is hoping the labor fight gets resolved soon.
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