By Mike Max

MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota Vikings training camp is kind of here, with the rookies in camp for day three.

On Wednesday, the veterans arrive for the final camp ever in Mankato before moving to their new facility next year in Eagan. But it’s never too early to make a good first impression.

For most of the rookies here early, it’s about making an impression that they belong on an NFL roster. But for a few, it’s about making a statement that they’re ready to play, as in this season.

It’s a bit like freshman orientation. The rookies get to campus first. One who will be in focus this camp? Center Pat Elflein.

“Yeah it’s just a dream come true. Ever since you were a little kid, you wanted to play in the NFL. Now this time is here and it’s exciting. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get out there on the field and get better,” Elflein said.

They may need him to play early. Without pads on it’s difficult to gauge, but at least the coach has had a positive first impression.

“He’s doing a good job with the communication, his footwork, things like that. I was just talking to one of the coaches about it, getting these guys in pads eventually is going to help see a lot more,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

It’s the intense and long road to September, but this is where it starts.

“At this level you evaluate the whole defense, you have a bigger scope on everything at center. That was probably the biggest learning curve is evaluating all 11 players on the defense,” Elflein said.

The football calendar moves along quickly this time of year. The Vikings’ first exhibition game is two weeks from Thursday night at Buffalo. Their first home pre-season game is Sunday night, Aug. 27, against San Francisco.

Mike Max