Vikings start showing up at team's headquarters
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE -- Percy Harvin was the first player to walk through the doors of Minnesota Vikings headquarters on Tuesday, the first time in more than four months that NFL players were allowed to meet with coaches and workout at team facilities.
The first one out the door? That appears to be Jimmy Kennedy.
The backup defensive tackle tweeted on Tuesday that he had been released by the team, as the business of football finally gets back into motion.
"Viking fans, Thank you for accepting me as your own, but Im sorry to (inform) you I AM NO LONGER With the Team," Kennedy wrote on Twitter. "I love you guys."
The 31-year-old Kennedy had eight tackles in nine games for the Vikings last season. He was scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2011, and the Vikings need to cut about $5 million to get below the $120 million salary cap.
The NFL and its players ended their long and sometimes bitter labor dispute on Monday, agreeing to a new deal that will last for the next 10 years.
Up until that point, players were barred from showing up at team facilities, or even talking to their coaches, for all but one day during the lockout.
Players could officially start showing up at 9 a.m. Central time on Tuesday, and Harvin didn't waste any time getting to Winter Park to meet with his new offensive coaches. The receiver missed two games last season because of recurring migraine headaches and had yet to meet new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who will bring a vastly different system to Minnesota this season.
"I told coach that for this team and for me it's greatness this year or it's disappointment, a failure," Harvin said in a video posted on the team's website.
If the Vikings can't re-sign free agent receiver Sidney Rice, Harvin's role in the offense could expand even further this season.
Others who arrived Tuesday included defensive captain E.J. Henderson, left guard Steve Hutchinson, second-year running back Toby Gerhart and veteran tight end Jim Kleinsasser. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph also made appearances, though none of the players were made available for interviews.
"It'll be the start of some good things to come," Ponder said on Vikings.com. "I'm excited about it. It's crazy because I never thought it would come. It's great that it's finally here."
Vikings officials, including vice presidents Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski, were working hard to digest the new rules. Teams could begin signing rookies and college free agents on Tuesday, but the team made no announcements of any transactions.
The Vikings also were able to open negotiations with veteran free agents, though no official contracts can be signed until Friday. The agent for San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle said he had several conversations with the Vikings as soon as the market opened.
David Canter's client is expected to draw considerable interest, and money, on the free agent market as perhaps the top safety available. The Vikings could use an upgrade there, with veteran Madieu Williams a disappointment in his first three seasons in purple.
The Vikings are scheduled to report to training camp in Mankato on Sunday, with the first practice held the next day.