4 Takeaways from Rick Spielman’s First Camp Press Conference

Rick Spielman
Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman during a press conference following practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are back as training camp formally began on Wednesday.

General Manager Rick Spielman took the podium on Tuesday for the first time in a while to express some sentiments on the team. On the whole [and on brand], Spielman is optimistic about the 2021 bunch, especially after he added more notable free agents to the team than any year in recent memory.

The Vikings encounter a pivotal campaign this season, trapped into between a sect of fans that are excited about Super-Bowl-or-bust stakes while some perceive this version of the team as frowsty.

In brief summary, Minnesota welcomed a new-but-familiar offensive coordinator in Klint Kubiak, signed several defensive free agents on one-year deals, and aced the NFL draft.

These are the main takeaways from Spielman’s small chat with reporters.

1. No Cause for Concern with Offensive Line Leadership

Rick Dennison is slightly removed from his OL post due to coronavirus vaccine stuff – in comes assistant Phil Rauscher. Other than some decent run-blocking at times, the Vikings offensive line cannot truly sink to a worse level for pass protection. The removal of Dennison from the top OL job was even celebrated by some fans. Now, the gig belongs to Rauscher, who spent time with the Washington Football Team and Denver Broncos (including their Super Bowl season in 2015) before coming to the Twin Cities last year.

Rauscher will have fun new clay to mold as Spielman has drafted an offensive lineman with 2nd-Round-or-higher in each of the last four drafts. Dennison had the experience – and will stay on as a special offensive assistant – but Rauscher has the clean slate, with oodles of talent to cultivate.

Spielman isn’t worried.

2. There Will Be a WR3 Competition

The Vikings are not strangers to a WR3 camp battle – it just usually involves WR4-caliber players competing for the WR3 job title.

This year, Minnesota possesses a sure-fire frontrunner to the WR3 slot after signing Dede Westbrook, who reunites with Keenan McCardell, the Vikings new wide receivers coach. Westbrook and McCardell spent four years together with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered in 2020, Westbrook joined the organization at a relatively discounted deal.

Unless the ex-Jaguar simply cannot mend his injury in time – which is unlikely per his statements – Westbrook will be the team’s WR3. He’s better than last year’s WR3 fantasy, Tajae Sharpe. His speed mandates a role in the Vikings offense and special teams.

Nevertheless, Spielman tells us to keep an eye on WR3 in Eagan.

3. A Kicker Competition Awaits

Can you remember the last time the Vikings hosted a kicker competition? No, you’ve probably blocked out the memory.

Spielman traded for Kaare Vedvick, a punter-kicker that did not work out in the summer of 2019. For a moment in time, he was supposed to push Dan Bailey to the limit for the starting job. Bailey responded aptly, generating the best Vikings kicker season (2019) since the fruitful days of Blair Walsh – which emotionally feels like 40 years ago.

But the bad kicker voodoo caught up with Bailey, too. He floundered in 2020 – particularly in a game at Tampa Bay – making the decision not to retain him for 2021 rather easy.

Now, it’s time for a battle between Greg Joseph and rookie Riley Patterson. It’s ok if you have no idea who those men are – that’s kind of by design. Every time the Vikings attempt to solve the kicker problem with a grandiose plan, it flops.

Expectations for Joseph and Patterson are low – maybe this will be the season that the Vikings join the rest of the NFL with reasonable, steady kicking.

4. Mum on Vaccination Matters, Jeff Gladney

Spielman had very little detailed commentary about his thoughts on the team’s vaccination status. His counterpart, Mike Zimmer, was more vocal about the situation. Spielman would not reveal percentages of folks vaccinated, although he did mention the team has a “system” to identify vaccinated players/coaches and unvaccinated ones. He also implied that all Vikings coaches are vaccinated, with the possible exception of Dennison, who assumed a different job as a result.

Jeff Gladney, one of last year’s 1st-Round picks from TCU, was glossed over altogether. He’s embattled in legal woes after an alleged assault incident on his girlfriend down in Texas a few months ago.

Asked about Gladney, Spielman replied: “This is an ongoing legal matter and at this time. We just can’t have any comment on it.”