MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings went-off site Friday for their third practice of training camp, to what will be their home for at least nine games in the 2022 season: U.S. Bank Stadium.
Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf were on hand, as was Jared Allen. The former star defensive end watched practice, and was asked to speak to the team when they were done. He talked to them about playing in the NFL, and remembering their purpose as they play for each other and try to win championships. Then, he got the surprise from the team that he’s being inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor.
It'll happen during a halftime ceremony on Oct. 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium as the Vikings host the Arizona Cardinals.
"Man I watched him growing up and one of the main things that he talked about was your purpose. Is it family? Is it money? What is it really?" defensive end Za’Darius Smith said. A lot of people get the money and want to quit after that. I look at it differently. I was a guy that came in, played one year of high school football, got a little taste of the money but I’m still here today wanting to play football. It’s because I love the game and it’s in my heart. That message that he sent, it meant so much to me because I felt like I was a part of that, because I really love this game of football."
Allen spent six seasons with the Vikings after being traded to Minnesota in 2008. He earned three All-Pro honors, and was a four-time Pro Bowl pick. Allen set the Vikings record for sacks in a season with 22 in 2011, a mark that’s also tied for third in NFL history. His 136 career sacks is 12th in NFL history. Allen is also tied for the NFL record with four career safeties, all with the Vikings.
He was a fan-favorite for his calf-roping celebration after every sack.
After practice, Adam Thielen joked that he’s starting to feel old that one of his former teammates will now go in the Ring of Honor.
"His energy I’ve always tried to emulate. He brought it every single day, he was a fun guy to be around because of the energy," Thielen said. When it was game time, he was going. When that ball was snapped, it was a different guy so I’ve always tried to emulate that."
"He’s a special player in Vikings history, and now and forever he’ll be a Viking legend in our Ring of Honor. Just a great player and off the field as well. Really well-deserved," Mark Wilf said.
The Vikings held their final workout before opening fans to practice on Saturday at TCO Performance Center. For most of the coaching staff and the team’s rookies, Friday was their first time inside U.S. Bank Stadium in a competitive setting.
It was Smith’s first time in the building since playing with the Packers in 2020. He didn’t play there last season after having back surgery.
"Just to come in the stadium and get a feel for it, walking out on the other side it just feels weird. But it’s a good feeling to have and I’m just excited to be a Minnesota Viking," Smith said.
Thielen said players were already talking about Week 1 against the Packers while they were stretching before practice started.
"There’s nothing better than Sundays in here. Guys were talking about it from the second we walked in here. Can’t wait for Week 1 when this place is packed," Thielen said. "We know the fans are excited for this year, we’re excited. Definitely gets you excited, but that’s a long ways away."
VIKINGS OWNERS SEE POSITIVE VIBES FROM O’CONNELL, KWESI ADOFO-MENSAH
Friday marked the first time owner and president Mark Wilf spoke with reporters since introducing O’Connell as the next coach to replace Mike Zimmer. It’s only three days into training camp, but the ownership group likes what they’ve seen since the start of the offseason program.
"The energy, the positivity, the communication, the collaboration between the two of them and across the team and the whole team and organization has been excellent. We couldn’t be more happy to have them onboard," Wilf said. "I can’t wait to get this thing going further."
The ownership group made the decision to move on from Zimmer and Rick Spielman after an 8-9 season, missing the NFC Playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. The Vikings have been to three NFC title games since 1999, but not since losing 38-7 to the Eagles in 2018.
"That is what drives us every single day. It burns all of us to get back to winning ways and competitiveness, and to be where we want to be. Winning divisions, winning championships and competing," Wilf said. "There’s a lot of good energy, good positivity towards those goals and I believe we’ll get there."