Editorial: Vikings sail into fresh waters

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dare we utter it? We seem now in a new era for the Minnesota Vikings NFL franchise. When owner Zygi Wilf bought the team last year, fans knew changes were to come once he found the right people to run the Vikes.

The old Vikings sure made it easier to make the transition sooner.

Gone are the soft, player-friendly coaches of Denny Green and Mike Tice. Present is Brad Childress, a hard-nosed coach who seems to realize that winning comes through toughness and great amounts of preparation. The player-friendly stuff comes after success, not before or during. You have to be tougher, smarter and better than the other teams early on to make it in the NFL.

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That philosophy shows. Reporters and players describe the Vikings training camp in Mankato as the toughest they have experienced.

And from the sound of Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel, it seems Childress is setting a tone not for the season but for any team he leads.

Spielman told the Star-Tribune: &8220;I think this is where you build the character of your team, during these two weeks before you get into preseason, because once get into preseason games, we’re still in camp, but there’s a lot less hitting going on because you’re playing on a weekly basis now.&8221;

On Monday night, the Vikings entered preseason with a 16-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders. You can’t predict a team’s performance based on preseason games, but you can note the difference in a team’s personality.

The old Vikings displayed loudmouth, selfish players who had great talent but could never gel as a team. At times, they seemed to be focused on cashing paychecks more than winning games, and it was never more apparent than after the Love Boat debacle.

This team is a new set of Vikings. If we see a more cohesive, disciplined unit as the season progresses, it showed its first glimpse on Monday.

Smart NFL teams learned a lesson from the low-key, team-focused squads fielded by the three-time Super Bowl champions New England Patriots. Let’s hope this new Vikings team follows that mold.