Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 7/25/12
This is the 13th in a series of 13 previews leading up to the Minnesota Vikings' July 27 start of camp.July 10: Quarterbacks July 11: Running backs and fullbacks July 12: Wide receivers July 13: Tight ends July 16: Offensive linemen July 17: Defensive linemen July 18: Linebackers July 19: Safeties July 20: Cornerbacks July 23: Specialists July 24: Coaches July 25: 5 things to accomplish in camp July 26: Fans' guide to camp Minnesota Vikings' fans have become accustomed to making the short drive down Highway 169 to Mankato, Minn. in late summers for training camp.Only one team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers, has heldits training camp in one place longer than Minnesota has been traveling down to Mankato. The Vikings are set to open their 47th training camp in Minnesota on Friday, July 27. Green Bay has held training camp at St. Norbert College for 55 years. It's given most Vikings' fans the chance to become well acquainted with the town of Mankato.For the players, they need to pack their bags for a bit longer trip this year. Minnesota's players will report on Thursday, July 26 with camp scheduled to break on Aug. 16, the longest stay in Mankato since a three-week stay in 2008. In recent seasons, Minnesota would break camp before the first preseason game, but this year the Vikings return for one more week following their preseason opener on Aug. 10. Last year, due to the lockout, Minnesota only had 11 on-field practices in Mankato. This year they have 15 scheduled practice dates.Just more chances for fans to catch the Vikings close-up. More than 45,000 fans made their way to the Vikings Village, the fan-accessible portion of Mankato's training camp site. Hard to believe, but yes football is back already with the 2012 season officially beginning with practice on Friday. Below is everything fans need to know before making the trip down Highway 169. PRACTICE SCHEDULE The Vikings are adjusting their training camp schedule this season, switching their full-padded practices to the afternoon, with walk-throughs to be done in the morning. The players report to Mankato on Thursday, July 26 at the Gage dormitory and practices begin on Friday. Minnesota will break camp following practices on Wednesday, Aug. 15 in preparation for the second preseason game at the Metrodome on Friday, Aug. 17. All regular practices in Mankato are free and open to the public. The practice schedule is currently as follows:Friday, July 27 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Helmets Saturday, July 28 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Helmets Sunday, July 29 Players day off Monday, July 30 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Tuesday, July 31 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Wednesday, Aug. 1 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Thursday, Aug. 2 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Friday, Aug. 3 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Saturday, Aug. 4 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 7:00-9:00 p.m. - Full pads (Practice at Blakeslee Stadium) Sunday, Aug. 5 Players day off Monday, Aug. 6 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Tuesday, Aug. 7 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Wednesday, Aug. 8 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Thursday, Aug. 9 Travel day, no practice Friday, Aug. 10 Preseason game at San Francisco 49ers Saturday, Aug. 11 Players day off Sunday, Aug. 12 10:55-11:55 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Monday, Aug. 13 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Tuesday, Aug. 14 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads Wednesday, Aug. 15 10:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads FEES, PARKING AND WHERE TO WATCH Parking is right near Blakeslee Stadium, just a short walk from the entrance to the Vikings Village. Parking is available in lots 20-23 and can be accessed through the entrance on Monks Ave. Minnesota State University charges 7 for parking in the fan lots.Once in the Vikings Village, there are several fan-friendly activities and the practices are held on the fields between Blakeslee Stadium and the Gage dormitory. Fans can watch the practices from the open area to the east of the practice fields and the assembled bleachers, which fill up quickly.In case of inclement weather, the Vikings may move practice indoors to the Myers Field House. Limited seating inside the field house may be opened to the public. In case of severe weather, the Vikings Village will close as well. AUTOGRAPHS AND PHOTOS Fans have two options to collect autographs. The Vikings set up their designated autograph zone at the north end of the Vikings Village and have a different position group signing each day. Many players will also sign autographs, typically following practices, as they make their way across the street back to the locker room. From the northern side of the practice fields, players will cross Stadium Road over to the field house.The designated autograph zone is to the north of Blakeslee Stadium and south of Stadium Road. Entrance into the autograph zone is free, but the autograph sessions are scheduled for just 25 minutes and lines form early. The gates will open at the beginning of each practice and fans are allowed to wait in line. Autographs are done on a first-come, first-serve basis and there is a limit of one item per person. Personal photographs are not allowed. The Vikings have a countdown clock for the 25-minute session and a horn will sound at the end of the session.Running back Adrian Peterson's autograph time is a fan-favorite and Minnesota uses a ticket system for the running backs session due to demand. The first 2,000 fans through the gates at the opening of practice will receive a scratch-off ticket, with 150 of those bearing Peterson's name for the chance to receive his autograph. Access to the remaining running backs are conducted with the usual autograph zone procedures. The schedule for position groups in the autograph zone is:July 30 Tight ends 11:30 a.m. July 31 Offensive line 11:30 a.m. Aug. 1 Linebackers 11:30 a.m. Aug. 2 Wide receivers 11:30 a.m. Aug. 3 Defensive ends 11:30 a.m. Aug. 4 Vikings alumni 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6 Quarterbacks 11:30 a.m. Aug. 7 Defensive tackles 11:30 a.m. Aug. 8 Running backs 11:30 a.m. Aug. 12 Specialists 11:30 a.m. Aug. 13 Defensive backs 11:30 a.m. Aug. 14 Entire team 11:30 a.m. SOUVENIRS At the entrance to the Vikings Village, the team opens a temporary Minnesota Vikings Locker Room store to satisfy all fans' souvenir needs. The air-conditioned tent features merchandise, including jerseys, apparel, and items that can be used in the autograph zone. It is the only souvenir area located in the Vikings Village. Food and drinks are available for purchase in the Vikings Village with a variety of concessions available. SPECIAL EVENTS Aside from the two-a-day practices and autograph opportunities, the Vikings offer a few special events for fans. Set up every day in the Vikings Village is a kids' section with several fun football-themed activities. Two special events for kids are also the junior football clinic and Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders cheer clinic.The first junior football clinic will be held Saturday, Aug. 4 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium as is free for participants. The second clinic is Tuesday, Aug. 7 from 1-2 p.m. Boys and girls of all ages are invited to participate. Each child must complete a registration form with a signed liability waiver. Registration forms can be found online at Vikings.com or picked up at the training camp information booth in the Vikings Village. Completed forms, with signatures by a parent or guardian can be submitted on the day of the clinic. Check-in for the clinic is 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the session at the north end of the stadium near the autograph zone.The cheer clinic, conducted by the Vikings' cheerleaders is Saturday, Aug. 4 from 4-5 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium. The clinic is free. A registration form and liability waiver is required.Saturday, Aug. 4 is family football day at training camp with a complete day of activities lined up. The Vikings Village is open at 10 a.m. for the morning practice, per usual. Gates re-open at 2 p.m. for the afternoon session, which will include the junior football clinic and cheer clinic.The one night practice of training camp is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be conducted in Blakeslee Stadium. Following the practice, at approximately 9:30 p.m. is team introductions with fireworks to follow at approximately 9:45 p.m.Fan appreciation day is Tuesday, Aug. 14 for the morning practice from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The entire team will be signing autographs in the autograph zone from 11:30-11:55 a.m. Minnesota will host four season ticket owner's socials, scheduled from 2-6 p.m. on July 31, Aug. 1, 7 and 8. WHILE YOU ARE THERE The main draw for fans in Mankato is the Vikings, though there are several area restaurants and bars that cater to fans. Fans make the annual trek to Mankato to see the on-field product though and enjoy the football-related activities as the official start to football season. Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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