Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Zimmer eyes Vikings' first preseason game

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: July 31, 2014 - 2:17 PM

The days are blending in for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer eight days into training camp, and he still has another eight days until the team trots into TCF Bank Stadium for its first preseason game against the Raiders next Friday.

Zimmer said the team will begin to prepare for the Raiders on Tuesday and Wednesday but mainly plan to continue installing schemes on offense, defense and special teams.

“We’re trying to continue to get better and really not too worried about the Raiders,” Zimmer said.

The plan is to continue installing different packages until about two weeks before the season opener against the Rams. Zimmer said he wants to players to play fast for that game and not think too much.

It’s all part of a balancing act Zimmer is learning as the head coach to make sure the players understand the new installs with good retention.

“The more you put in, the more it runs together sometimes,” Zimmer said. “We’ll start backing it down, and they’ll start to get a little more fine tuning from there.”

Zimmer also said he’s not sure when safety Robert Blanton will return. He’s used Harrison Smith at both safety positions as a result of the injury, while Mistral Raymond has received first team reps.

The players will also meet with NFL officials this evening to discuss the rule changes this year and points of emphasis with illegal contact, clipping and offensive pass interference.

Jarius Wright seeking breakout season

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: July 31, 2014 - 10:32 AM

Jarius Wright has played a limited role in his first two seasons in the NFL.

Last year, the fourth rounder played every game but had just a slight bump in his stats. Wright, 24, finished with 26 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns. Now in his third year, Wright expects to take that next step as a wide receiver. 

“My confidence level is at an all-time high right now,” Wright said. “Year 3 is usually the year a receiver breaks out because he’s comfortable at this level and knowledge of the football game.”

While he’s tasked with learning a new offense, Wright doesn’t think that will hold him back from his growth. He displayed flashes of his ability last year, burning Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on a double-move for a touchdown, but Wright played behind Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. He has seen an increase in reps with the first team so far and has sprinkled in with the starters after Patterson returned from a foot injury.

“It’s not totally new anymore, but we’re still learning new things about the system and running routes depending on the coverages,” Wright said. “I can continue to get smarter and smarter that way.”

Wright has still received reps as a returner on special teams as well and expects to get some action at some point during the regular season depending on situations. He returned just one kick last season with Patterson receiving the majority of the workload. Wright only had 17 punt returns at Arkansas serving as the backup as well.

There will be ample opportunites for Wright to have that breakout season he wants. Time will tell if he'll capitialize this year.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 31

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 31, 2014 - 7:54 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Sharrif Floyd is leaner in his second season, but will he be meaner?

--- QB Teddy Bridgewater and OLB Anthony Barr got first-team reps yesterday.

--- Norv Turner says the preseason will weigh heavily in the quarterback decision.

--- The injury bug is starting to bite the Vikings, particular their secondary.

--- Jerome Felton says that if the Vikings plan to use a fullback, he’ll be the guy.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- The Lions aren’t worried that injured DE Ziggy Ansah is falling behind.

--- The Packers signed general manager Ted Thompson to an extension.

--- WR Brandon Marshall thinks QB Jay Cutler could be the NFL MVP.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are back to their normal schedule, with their walkthrough at 10:30 a.m. and their afternoon practice at 3 p.m. Head coach Mike Zimmer and wide-out Greg Jennings will be on the podium.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Every NFL team is looking to get younger and cheaper -- well, except for maybe the Redskins or Raiders -- and the Vikings are no exception. The team has just eight players on its 90-man roster who are 30 or older. The oldest is long snapper Cullen Loeffler at 33. Guard Joe Berger is 32. Quarterback Matt Cassel, outside linebacker Chad Greenway and defensive end Brian Robison are all 31.

What you missed at Vikings camp Wednesday

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Injury report, Quarterbacks, Vikings, Brian Robison, Vikings training camp Updated: July 30, 2014 - 6:42 PM

Earlier this week, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that he and the coaching staff would huddle on Tuesday and come up with a plan to redistribute reps to the players. That plan apparently included giving Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr work with the starters.

Midway through practice, during an 11-on-11 drill, Bridgewater stepped into the huddle with the first-team offense and took five or six snaps. It was not his sharpest practice, though. He missed on a few throws, leading Zimmer to remark after practice that Bridgewater wasn’t as accurate as usual. Soon, Cassel was back on the field, but the crowd buzzed for a while after Bridgewater’s cameo.

Barr, meanwhile, spent most of the practice with the first team. He flashed a couple of times off the edge and on one play hurried Bridgewater. But Zimmer didn’t exactly give him a glowing review.

“The only time I noticed him, he was late on a blitz,” he said. “And I talked to him about it.”

SETTING THE SCENE: After a day off, the Vikings were back in pads. I’ve got to say, today was the nicest day so far. It was partially cloudy and pleasant, with temperatures in the 70s.

YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK BLURB: This was the dullest day for the quarterbacks since training camp began. Well, except for Christian Ponder, who threw an accurate five-yard dump-off to a running back on his only pass of the day in team drills. I was a little scatterbrained today so these numbers are unofficial, but I had Cassel at 7-for-11 during team drills and Bridgewater at 8-for-13. The quarterbacks particularly struggled in the blitz period.

SPEAKING OF THE BLITZ PERIOD: We got a brief look at some of the mayhem Zimmer intends to bring in obvious passing situations. Zimmer tinkered with three-man and four-man defensive lines in his sub packages. On one play, it was Barr and Brian Robison rushing from the edges. On another, it was Robison and Everson Griffen. We also saw Sharrif Floyd on the inside. Zimmer has weapons to work with. The defense certainly won the blitz period today, either forcing errant passes or check-downs to a running back or tight end short of the sticks.

BACK IN A FLASH: Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson practiced fully for the first time this summer and looked unhindered by the foot injury that sidelined him for the first few practices. It didn’t take long for him make his presence known. At the start of the team takeoff drill, a quick team activity before individual work, Patterson caught a pass from Cassel and turned upfield. That got him a nice ovation from the fans, who were happy to see him back.

PINNING THEM DEEP: With only three touchbacks in his rookie season, Jeff Locke didn’t misfire often when trying to pin opponents deep. Today, he fared well while booming punts from near midfield, dropping many inside the 10-yard line and a couple of them inside the 2-yard line, though confusion between Derek Cox and Jabari Price resulted in one that should have been downed bouncing into the end zone. That couldn’t have made Mike Priefer happy.

KID’S GOT QUICKS: It seems like every day rookie running back Jerick McKinnon grabs your attention with his athleticism. Today, that moment occurred when he caught a quick swing pass from Bridgewater as he sprinted to the right. Rookie corner Kendall James took a bad angle in pursuit, and McKinnon planted his right cleat into the ground and shot up the field into the secondary.

SUBBING IN AT SAFETY: Robert Blanton did not practice, giving Zimmer a chance to try other safeties such as Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and Kurt Coleman with the first-team defense. Coleman made a couple of nice plays, including one where he raced to the sideline to jar the ball loose from the grasp of tight end Kyle Rudolph. This competition is wide open.

INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (hamstring) returned to practice after being activated from the PUP list this morning, but he did not do much. Blanton and cornerback Josh Robinson also have hamstring injuries, Zimmer said. Rookie tight end AC Leonard left practice with a headache. For more on those injuries and other nuggets, read this post-practice blog.

Zimmer on injuries and Teddy with the first team

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Vikings defense, Chad Greenway Updated: July 30, 2014 - 5:44 PM

The Vikings were able to go through the first couple of days of training camp without the injury bug biting them. But that little bugger has reared its ugly head during the past two practices, and it has had a craving for the hamstrings of Vikings defensive backs in particular.

Safety Robert Blanton, who had been working with the first-team defense, sat out today’s practice after injuring a hamstring during Monday night’s practice. Then, this afternoon, cornerback Josh Robinson hurt a hamstring and left practice. He came back but did not resume practicing.

Coach Mike Zimmer hinted that Blanton’s injury is the more concerning of the two.

“[Robinson’s] got a tight hammy,” he said. “I don’t think it will be very long. It just got tight. It was more preventative. I told [athletic trainer Eric Sugarman] to [hold him out today.]”

Rookie tight end A.C. Leonard also left practice. Zimmer said he was dealing with a headache.

As for safety Andrew Sendejo, who is on the PUP list because of lower back and hamstring injuries, Zimmer expects him to be activated and start practicing with the team early next week.

There was some good injury news. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had full participation and seemed to get through the practice without issue. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn also suited up, but was limited to just a little bit of individual work. He said after practice that he expects his participation to ramp up tomorrow and that he hopes to be a full-go by next week.

“You don’t want to get yourself reinjured, but it feels great to be back on the field,” he said.

In non-injury news, Zimmer indicated that the Chad Greenway experiment at middle linebacker is all but over. The Vikings are keeping him at outside linebacker for now so that they can evaluate others at the position. I guess Greenway could always be a fall-back option at the Mike, but you have to figure if the coaches liked what they had seen from him in the middle, they would have kept him there. Jasper Brinkley got most of the first-team reps between Greenway and top pick Anthony Barr, who was getting his first extensive look with the ones since he was drafted.

I guess I should mention that a certain other first-rounder got some first-team reps, too. Bridgewater got at least five reps with the ones before veteran Matt Cassel was inserted back with the first team. So #HowDidTeddyLook? Zimmer said Bridgewater was a little shaky.

“Ahhhh, he didn’t look quite as accurate as he had throughout the whole camp,” Zimmer said.

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