EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Minnesota Vikings plan to decide where to hold training camp by July 18.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday the team sent a letter explaining that to Minnesota State, the Mankato school where the team has held two-a-days since 1966.
Though owners and players are in negotiations on a new labor deal, the NFL lockout has passed the three-month mark. If there's an agreement in the coming weeks, the Vikings will return to Mankato and hold camp as usual with players reporting July 31 for practice beginning Aug. 1.
If the work stoppage continues, however, the Vikings could be forced to scrap tradition and instead hold training camp at team headquarters in Eden Prairie — whenever the lockout is lifted.
So the point-of-no-return date has been set for July 18. If the work stoppage is still in place then?
"It makes it very difficult for us to go to Mankato because of the time constraints between when we need to have everything down there and ready to go," Frazier said.
This will be Frazier's first training camp in charge. The defensive coordinator for four seasons under Brad Childress, Frazier took over as interim coach last November when Childress was fired and was formally given the job in January. He said he's most concerned about using camp to properly prepare his team for the season, not so much where it is.
"I just want us to have the full compliment of time, whether it's Winter Park or Mankato. An abbreviated preparation time for that first regular season game? That would not be ideal under our circumstances with, potentially, a young quarterback," Frazier said.
The Vikings picked Christian Ponder from Florida State with the 12th selection in the first round of the draft. They've got a new offense to install, too, and several positions in need of improvement from last year's 6-10 team.
Frazier and his coaching staff have two-week vacations planned starting Saturday, but they're not going to get too comfortable in case a new collective bargaining agreement is produced in the meantime. Frazier said he'd like to have a minicamp or a few organized practices in early July before training camp.
Hosting training camp is important to Mankato, though, with a $5 million economic impact on the area during the two to three weeks the team is in town for open-to-the-public practices. Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau, said last week her group recently met with the Vikings about plans for 2011, operating on the assumption the labor impasse will be solved in time.
"You want to prepare for it to happen, and that's the extent we worked with them at this point," Thill said.
Separately, Frazier said he spoke with wide receiver Sidney Rice during the brief period when the lockout was lifted by a judge in April. "He was enthusiastic about signing back with the Vikings," Frazier said, but Rice wants to explore his options in free agency. "We'd love to have him back in Minnesota."