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INDIANAPOLIS — "Transition" would be an appropriate way to describe the Minnesota Vikings. Leslie Frazier is entering his first full season as head coach. Bill Musgrave has been hired to coordinate the offense. QB Brett Favre is (supposedly) retired. And plenty of key players are about to hit the open market.
But the Vikes have one major constant: Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson. To no one's surprise, he's going to get the ball as much as ever in 2011.
"I know Leslie, when he has spoken, that he wants to run the football," said Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman while speaking Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "When you have No. 28 in the backfield, that's going to be a key part of our offense. But I also know that we have some pretty good weapons in Percy (Harvin), along with Shank (TE Visanthe Shiancoe), and we're hopefully working on some other of our UFAs to keep on offense."
Specifically, Spielman was referring to WR Sidney Rice, who missed most of 2010 but proved to be an elite target during his Pro Bowl '09 campaign. Retaining him could be critical as Minnesota attempts to move on from Favre.
And that leap likely will be a significant one. The Vikings very well could go from having a 41-year-old veteran under center to a 22-year-old rookie. Picking No. 12 in the draft, Minnesota could target a QB and might even start him from Day One. If the club does take a passer, Spielman wants somebody who can be a leader both on and off the field.
"I think the quarterback is going to be, hopefully, that face of your organization," he said. "He's going to be one of your leaders on your team so you are going to really hone in on a lot of the intangible part of that player. He has to have the physical skill set to do what he needs to do to be successful in the NFL. But he also has to have a lot of those other intangibles that are very, very important, especially at that position."
The Vikings could also have a big hole at defensive end if they can't work out a deal with free agent Ray Edwards, who has 16.5 sacks over the last two seasons. But they are not yet ready to give up on Everson Griffen, despite his numerous off-field issues.
"I know Leslie and Everson had a pretty good conversation," said Spielman. "... He is a very talented football player and (we) felt very fortunate we were able to get him in the draft last year and showed signs of that as a rookie. (We) have a lot of high expectations for him going into next season."
Just because the Vikings have faith in Griffen doesn't mean they're about to abandon their efforts to re-sign Edwards or their other top free agents. In fact, this week in Indy is a big one for them.
"We'll have a lot of meetings to talk to our players and let them know where we're at right now and if there's any potential deals that can get done," said Spielman. "We'll explore all that while we're here."