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.


Vikings activate Munnerlyn from the PUP list

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings Updated: July 30, 2014 - 10:55 AM

The Vikings have activated Captain Munnerlyn from the physically-unable-to-perform list.

The cornerback, whom the Vikings signed away from the Panthers in free agency, started training camp on the PUP list after straining his right hamstring before the start of camp. Both he and head coach Mike Zimmer had been insisting that it was a minor injury, and Zimmer said Monday that he expected Munnerlyn to be back on the field soon. And now here we are.

That being said, hammies can be fickle, especially for corners, so they might choose to ease him into action the next couple of days. Either way, we’ll keep an eye on him.

Practice is at 3 p.m. today. We’ll see if wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who is recovering from a minor foot injury, joins Munnerlyn on the practice field. He did a little bit on Monday night.

Safety Andrew Sendejo (back and ankle) and tight end Chase Ford (foot) remain on the PUP.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 30

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Chris Kluwe Updated: July 30, 2014 - 7:40 AM

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

Remember when the Vikings arrived in the Twin Cities a few months ago for the start of the offseason working program and Greg Jennings said Norv Turner’s offense was making his head spin? He gave the juicy sound bite, but he wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed by the new offense. After all, the philosophy, the scheme and even the terminology are completely different.

Fast forward to today, the last day in July. The Vikings are now on their fourth time through the installation of Turner’s offense, according to first-string quarterback Matt Cassel, and the offensive players -- and most importantly the quarterbacks -- have gradually gotten it down.

“Each and every day we're working hard to continue learning the nuances of the offense, some checks, and also trying to see it through Coach Turner's eyes,” Cassel said Sunday night.

Cassel and fellow veteran Christian Ponder got an early advantage over first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, who didn’t join the team until May. Those guys were in the building and in the offense a month earlier. But Bridgewater has proved to be quick learner, putting him in this battle with Cassel.

“It’s a huge difference compared to where things were before,” Bridgewater said. “For me, I'm a step ahead from when I first started learning the playbook.”

Some heads are surely still spinning. But it has looked like these two QBs have theirs on straight.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- My colleague Mark Craig hung out with Norv and watched tape of Teddy.

--- CB Xavier Rhodes is still learning to trust his instincts at the pro level.

--- Bracing for a potential Chris Kluwe lawsuit, the Vikings hired two high-powered attorneys.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Bears QB Jay Cutler is not resting on his success from last season.

--- Lions QB Matthew Stafford feels rejuvenated working with Jim Caldwell.

--- The Packers are cashing in at Lambeau Field.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After a day off, the Vikings are back on the field in Mankato today. Their morning walkthrough got pushed back to 11:20 a.m., and it is now special teams only. They practice in pads at 3 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings allowed 37 passing touchdowns last season, tied for second-most in NFL history, according to Pro Football Reference. You would think with the explosion of NFL passing attacks that the dubious record would be held by a recent team, but it was actually the 1969 St. Louis Rams who allowed 38 passing touchdowns -- and that was in 14 games. The 1981 Baltimore Colts and 1961 Washington Redskins also allowed 37 in one season. Obviously, the Vikings need to be better in 2014, but the good news is Mike Zimmer's Bengals ranked 11th in 2013 with 22 allowed.

Xavier Rhodes focused on trusting instincts

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: July 29, 2014 - 12:36 PM

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer kept a close eye on the cornerbacks – as he’s done quite often during his short tenure – in their first opportunity to work on bump-and-run in pads on Sunday.

During an individual drill working on technique, Zimmer intervenes and walks up to Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He spent the next minute informing Rhodes why he must target the one-handed jam off the line of scrimmage at the wide receiver’s chest, not the shoulder.

Rhodes nailed the technique on the final attempt before 1-on-1 battles.

“Look out, Rhodes is getting it,” defensive backs coach Jerry Gray yelled as the unit jogged over to face the wide receivers.

But on the first play, Rhodes stumbled and slipped while trying to defend Greg Jennings, who completed the catch.

Rhodes has all the talent to become an All-Pro cornerback. But there’s barrier that the second-year corner will have to hurdle to reach his potential -- trusting his instincts.

“Second guessing yourself; you’re thinking you might not get there and make the tackle but thinking you can,” Rhodes said. “You’re just thinking too much.

“You have to think out there but you more have to react. You have to know what you’re getting yourself into, the route he’s doing. Everything goes hand-in-hand.”

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Rhodes looks at him as a big brother constantly seeking advice. He said Rhodes has reached out about trusting his instincts, which Munnerlyn told Rhodes not to be afraid to take chances.

“When you’re a young guy, you think entirely too much instead of just letting it go and playing football,” Munnerlyn said. “When you’re a rookie in the NFL playing defensive back, all eyes are on you and every mistake that you do. They don’t notice when a running back steps to the wrong gap or a wide receiver drops a pass. It’s like, ‘Oh everybody does that.’ But when you get beat for a couple touchdowns or a player out there catching slants and you’re not making any plays, everybody knows that.”

Rhodes learned a Cover 2 defense during his rookie season but now has to adjust to Zimmer’s defense that mixes man with zone principles at cornerback. Munnerlyn said he went through a similar switch during his first two season with the Panthers after being scared to make plays during his rookie season.

“Instead of being so close to making the plays, it’s time to make the plays,” Munnerlyn said. “And that’s what I see in him. This year, I know he’s going to be ready.”

Safety Kurt Coleman called that revelation an “aha” moment. It occurs in different moments for players, while some remain timid in the secondary. Coleman said along with the different system Rhodes has to learn, the Vikings also have only had two practices with pads.

“I think once you understand the playbook and what coaches wants you to play within that, I think that’s when you allow yourself to really let your natural ability to play,” Coleman said. “…Give it a day or two, and I think he’ll feel a lot better about himself.”

Zimmer said Rhodes is still learning about the techniques at the position but possesses a number of advantages physically, with his long arms and speed, to become a good corner.

“I probably need to do a better job of coaching him in certain ways,” Zimmer said. “…Just talking to him, coaching him; what is his hot button, what motivates him more. I am not saying he is unmotivated, I’m just saying part of coaching is trying to figure out how you can take this player and make him better.”

Until then, Rhodes’ confidence still remains high. He said he doesn’t dwell on a bad rep he watches on tape. He’s taking notes, hoping to avoid that same mistake during the next practice.

“I know it’s going to be a long process, but I’m just working at it,” Rhodes said. “It’s still a learning process; just getting better each and every day.”  

High-powered attorneys to join Vikings legal team in Kluwe case

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion under Vikings, Vikings off the field, Chris Kluwe Updated: July 29, 2014 - 10:35 PM

Ted Wells and Roberta Kaplan are joining the Vikings legal team as they brace for a possible lawsuit from former punter Chris Kluwe just eight days before the two sides were scheduled to meet and discuss a possible settlement.

Wells provided the NFL with a report earlier this year on the atmosphere of bullying in the Miami Dolphins locker room. Kaplan is best known for her work opposing the Defense of Marriage Act.

Clayton Halunen, Kluwe's attorney, said on Tuesday there's an Aug. 6 meeting scheduled between Vikings management and their lawyers. It will be the first time Kluwe and his attonrey will meet with Vikings management since July 17, the day before the team released a 29-page summary. 

Halunen first felt hopeful once he heard news about the Vikings retaining Wells and Kaplan but said this afternoon he was suspicious by the moves, specifically Kaplan's recognition with the LGBT community.

"I think it’s very convenient at this stage with their fourth law firm that they’re bringing in someone from the community," Halunen said. "It sounds to me like a strategy to obtain public support because the LGBT community has been outspoken about what’s happened and the refusal to make the report public. This is merely an effort to try to address those concerns that have been made public."

A source said during the investigation there was a six-month tolling agreement signed on Aug. 1 that no law suit would be filed in the case. Halunen confirmed the tolling agreement is set to expire on Aug. 1 but both sides are working on an extension beyond the Aug. 6 meeting. 

Once the tolling agreement expires, Kluwe is free to continue with his lawsuit. He has threatened to sue for more than $10 million because the team won’t release the full investigation into his claims about what he calls its culture of discrimination. Kluwe and Halunen said that “substantial” evidence was left out of the 29-page summary of the report that the team released two weeks ago.

The summary concluded Priefer did, and he has been suspended for the first three games of the regular season.

Here is the official Vikings release on adding the high-powered attorneys:

VIKINGS RETAIN ROBERTA KAPLAN AND TED WELLS

 “We pride ourselves on the workplace environment that we have created, centered on diversity, tolerance and respect. In consideration of our standards and the great sensitivity to the issues raised by Chris Kluwe and his attorney - and their potential litigation – the Vikings have retained Roberta Kaplan and Ted Wells, two well-respected and extremely experienced partners at Paul, Weiss, as well as Minneapolis-based Joseph Anthony, founding shareholder and chief executive officer of Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A., to serve as the team’s counsel.” – Kevin Warren, Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs & Chief Administrative Officer.

Kaplan most recently has been recognized for successfully arguing before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of her pro bono client Edith Windsor in United States vs. Windsor, the 2013 landmark Supreme Court case in which the nation’s highest court ruled that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the U.S. Constitution by barring legally married same-sex couples from enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of marriage conferred under federal law. As a result of that case, at least 28 courts throughout the United States have since relied explicitly on Windsor and held that gay couples should be accorded equal rights under the law.

Among other areas of expertise, Wells has extensive litigation experience in complex civil and corporate litigation. He has been recognized as one of the best jury trial lawyers in the United States by numerous publications. Wells recently led the thorough investigation concerning issues of workplace conduct with the Miami Dolphins.

Anthony has tried a significant number of cases and arbitrations to verdict in Minnesota and throughout the country. For the past 15 years he has been selected to the Minnesota "Super Lawyer” list and has been ranked by Super Lawyer Magazine in the top 2 or 3 trial lawyers in the state since 2008.

At this time, the Vikings will have no further comment about this pending litigation.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 29

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Vikings offense, Vikings players, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway Updated: July 29, 2014 - 8:23 AM

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

We have a long way to go until the Vikings’ position battles are settled. But of all the position groups, the linebacker situation is easily the one with the least clarity four days into camp.

Take last night’s practice for example. One second you see No. 52, 54 and 57 on the field together. Then you look up and No. 55 is out there with some first-teamers in the blitz period. Then you see No. 50 or 56 or 58 getting sprinkled in with the first or second team.

Whoops, you just blinked and missed another combination.  

“We are rotating a lot of different guys in a lot of different areas,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said a couple of days ago, adding, “We like the competition, we like the guys that we have got, we know it will work itself out in the end.”

My best early guess: Chad Greenway will be one starter, and could either be in the middle or at one outside linebacker spot. Mike Zimmer loves him some Anthony Barr, so I bet we see him starting on the outside, though a job isn’t going to be handed to him. As for that third spot in the base defense, your guess is as good as mine right now. What do you say we just throw some darts?

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- TE Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings envision a bright future together.

--- RB Adrian Peterson thinks the Vikings offense will be much less predictable.

--- The Vikings had a spirited practice under the lights last night.

--- Rookie CB Jabari Price is learning to play with better technique instead of relying on speed.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Could Jimmy Clausen be the Bears’ backup quarterback?

--- The Lions have called off contract talks with DT Ndamukong Suh.

--- Pass rusher Julius Peppers is settling in with the Packers.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

Today is a scheduled off day for Vikings players, and for us, too. Time to catch up on laundry.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

We have yet to see a Vikings quarterback throw an interception in team drills through the first four days of training camp. And yes, before you ask, that’s including Christian Ponder. What are we to make of that? I guess it depends on whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty guy or gal. On one hand, offensive coordinator Norv Turner has stressed ball control, so the lack of picks is a good thing. But Zimmer wants his defensive backs to contest passes, and while they have done a decent job deflecting passes and jarring them from receivers, interceptions are even better.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT