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Views from MN Vikings training camp
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor
Johnnie Phillips, editor, sports, Steele County Times


Long-time Vikings fan and 20-year season ticket holder Todd Walkingstick has gone to every day of Vikings training camp this summer, and after speaking with him this past weekend, one thing is apparent: This season feels different.

While I have tried to provide my takes on the team over the course of the off-season, Walkingstick’s experience from training camp has provided me with a sense of confirmation that something special is forming on the training camp grounds in Eagan.

“Every Vikings fan there sees the differences. It’s hard to put it into words. The atmosphere is just so upbeat. The overall understanding from our owner, Zygi Wilf, to our new general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, to know that we needed something new with this team. It’s just really exciting,” said Walkingstick.

According to Walkingstick, the team has a certain “aura” to it around camp, centering mainly around new head coach Kevin O’Connell.

From what Walkingstick saw on the field, O’Connell was in the huddle every play and talking to his players after every rep – with a specific interest in what the wide receivers were doing at all times.

However, what was reported to me that stood out the most was that the team culture and energy amongst the players and coaching staff shined much brighter than it did under Mike Zimmer.

Smiles, laughter and overall energy seem to be peaking under O’Connell’s tenure at the helm of the team, with the athletes being the ones reaping the benefits of an inclusive and competitive environment.

An interesting anecdote from Walkingstick as well was that O’Connell seemed to be emphasizing and integrating the importance of family at the camp by allowing athletes’ and coaches’ families onto the field after practices to enjoy some time together.

As a Vikings fan, this is exactly the breath of fresh air that I was hoping to hear about coming from camp.

It appears that the general vibes and on-field product that fans were hoping O’Connell would bring to this team are showing up in full force.

As a former member of Sean McVay’s coaching staff with the Los Angeles Rams, O’Connell has been exposed to the same winning culture and perfectionist mindset that he appears to be implementing.

However, despite all of the excitement surrounding the off-season, fans understand what’s at stake the moment that first whistle blows on Week One.

With the Green Bay Packers coming to town and a potential early NFC North lead on the line, game one almost feels like a make-or-break debut for O’Connell’s new squad.

Whether or not this year will begin with a bang or a bust will be decided on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 3:25 p.m.

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