Prepared, but for what? Vikings strategize amid uncertainty

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have contingency plans in place for every conceivable scenario surrounding the labor situation and the NFL draft.

Less than two days away from the draft's first round, they're still not sure which one they are going to need to use.

A day after a federal judge lifted the NFL's lockout of its players, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier said on Tuesday that they were operating as if the lockout was still in place.

"We're still in lockout mode and that's where we are," Frazier said. "So, nothing really has changed in that regard as far as our communication with our players and what we can and can't do, other than the fact that guys are able come in the building. But that's the extent of it."

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson granted the players' request for an injunction Monday, a ruling the owners are appealing. The league is also asking for her to put that decision on hold until that appeal can be heard.

It led to confusion across the league on Tuesday, and it was no different in Minnesota.

Backup linebacker Erin Henderson stopped by team headquarters in hopes of using the cold tub to help his body recover from a recent workout. Team employees told him he was not able to use the facilities just yet.

"They have a couple more rules and regulations they are trying to figure out before they start letting people actually train and workout," Henderson said as he left the complex.

Basically, the Vikings are waiting for a green light from the league.

"From what we understand, everything is status quo," Spielman said. "We have not heard anything different and not been instructed by the NFL on anything different than what it's been from a business standpoint. So we'll continue to abide by all of those rules."

The timing of the uncertainty couldn't be much worse for a team coming off a disappointing 6-10 season that has numerous holes to fill, none bigger than at the most important position on the field -- quarterback.

Frazier, who is starting his first full season as a head coach, and his staff, including new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, have been unable to communicate with their players yet, hand out playbooks for the new offense or sign veteran free agents to address some of the team's many needs.

The lockout has prevented all of that, and Nelson's ruling did nothing to change things in the first 24 hours at Winter Park.

"We haven't had a chance to talk to any of our players about what we're doing with our new staff and what we want to get done," Frazier said. "But hopefully, that's going to happen in time."

The Vikings pick 12th in the first round on Thursday night, though Spielman said the team will consider trading the pick if the player they want isn't there when they go on the clock. He said it is more likely they would trade down and try to acquire a third-round pick to replace the one they sent to New England in the ill-fated Randy Moss trade, but left open the possibility of moving up or staying put and making a selection at 12.

"I don't ever want to say we would never move up because we might," Spielman said. "But I say the more likely scenario is to stay put or move back. But if we see someone falling down that board, and we think he's that significant of a player, then we may say hey this is too good of an opportunity to go get a difference maker."

The ability to make any moves is complicated by the labor situation. Under the lockout, teams were banned from talking to their own free agents about new contracts, negotiating with players from other teams or trading players on their rosters.

Until they hear otherwise from the NFL, Spielman said, the Vikings will continue to operate under those rules. So he has not started discussions with free-agent receiver Sidney Rice, nor talked to the Washington Redskins about a trade for quarterback Donovan McNabb, he said.

But are the Vikings running a risk at being at a competitive disadvantage if some of the other teams don't take the same approach?

"I can't answer that on the 31 (other) teams," Spielman said. "I know the Minnesota Vikings are going to stay far away from that bright line and are going to follow the rules accordingly and we're not going to go anywhere near trying to do something that is not right."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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