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.


Posts about NFC

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 26

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 26, 2014 - 7:22 AM

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

After an interesting first day to Mike Zimmer’s training camp that included a fire alarm waking up the players in the middle of the night and an injury keeping one of the team’s top young players out of practice, the Vikings will be back at it again today at Minnesota State Mankato.

Yesterday’s afternoon practice itself was pretty uneventful, with the players practicing in shells and Zimmer easing his players into training camp. We’ll be looking for the intensity to pick up today. We’ll also be looking to see if Cordarrelle Patterson is back at practice after sitting out yesterday.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Despite the absence of hitting, it was an eventful first day to Camp Zimmer.

--- Linval Joseph is healthy and ready to roll, and Zimmer sounds pretty excited about it.

--- Patterson missed practice with a foot injury and is considered day-to-day.

--- The Vikings made a couple of minor roster moves and put three players on the PUP list.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Jared Allen is already making his presence known on the Bears defense.

--- The Packers are turning to youth on their defensive line.

--- The Lions are not optimistic about getting a deal done with Ndamukong Suh.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings will hold their morning walkthrough at 10:30 a.m. Afterwards, we will hear from coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards. The team will practice in shells starting at 3 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings, who have been coming down to Mankato every summer since 1964, are one of just 14 NFL teams to hold their training camp away from their practice facility. According to MMQB.com, 27 NFL teams held their camp away from home back in 2000. The Vikings, by the way, are locked into holding training camp at Minnesota State Mankato for one more summer.

Patterson misses practice, day to day with a foot injury

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: July 25, 2014 - 5:24 PM

Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was held out of practice today for precautionary reasons and has been listed by the team as day to day with a foot injury. A source called it a "minor" issue.

Because of the injury, Patterson didn't take his conditioning test when players reported to camp on Thursday. The first practice of camp was today. The team will won't be allowed to put full pads on and begin hitting until Sunday.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 25

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 25, 2014 - 7:19 AM

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

Pushing carts stocked with flat-screen TVs and video-game systems -- in Everson Griffen’s case, an old Nintendo 64 -- and pulling wheeled suitcases into the dorms, Vikings players on Thursday reported to the quiet campus of Minnesota State Mankato for the start of training camp.

After dropping off their stuff in their rooms, they took their physicals and had to run the team’s conditioning test, something Adrian Peterson said previous coaching staffs never asked players to do. But the Vikings didn’t put on helmets or pick up any footballs. That all comes today.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Wanting to focus on football today, the Vikings made Mike Priefer available yesterday.

--- Chase Ford is expected to miss all of camp, but Matt Kalil and Linval Joseph are good to go.

--- Adrian Peterson wants to know who is going to start at quarterback soon, too.

--- This is more than a day old, but oh well, here is my pre-camp Q&A with Mike Zimmer.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Packers WR Jordy Nelson wants to get paid.

--- The Lions put WR Golden Tate and DE Ziggy Ansah on the PUP list at the start of camp.

--- The Bears are learning to deal with high expectations.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

Camp Zimmer officially kicks off at Minnesota State Mankato with a morning walkthrough that starts at 10:30 a.m. The first full practice runs from 3 p.m. to approximately 5:10 p.m. and players will be in helmets and shells. The first full-padded practice isn’t until Sunday afternoon.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Ten different quarterbacks have started a game for the Vikings since Peterson entered the league in 2007. No wonder the guy is hoping for a little stability at the position this season.

Adrian Peterson doesn't want repeat of three-headed QB fiasco

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: July 24, 2014 - 4:28 PM

MANKATO, Minn. – If Mike Zimmer somehow forgets the No. 1 decision he faces as a rookie head coach, there's a certain former NFL MVP who could probably remind him.

Tucked away in today's transcript of Adrian Peterson's first interview of training camp was his thoughts on the quarterback situation and the importance of coming to a quick, definitive decision when it comes to deciding whether to start Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater or even the long, long, long shot, Christian Ponder.

“I feel like it’s going to be very important for us,” running back Adrian Peterson said Thursday as players reported to Minnesota State Mankato for the start of training camp. “It’s not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn’t played well.”

Peterson went on to express confidence in Cassel and Ponder because of their efforts to improve this offseason and rookie Bridgewater, a first-round draft pick who was meticulously researched by the Vikings prior to the draft.

“I feel like we have three good quarterbacks right now,” Peterson said. “Basing everything off OTAs and the minicamps, of course Matt Cassel is our guy, with Christian Ponder and Bridgewater right there. I have confidence in our organization from the top to the bottom, the head coach.”

Zimmer said the first-team reps will not be split evenly between the three quarterbacks when practice begins on Friday. But that’s subject to change based on daily performance on the field and in the classroom.

“In my mind, I have Cassel as the No. 1 quarterback going into camp, but I don’t have a starter in mind yet,” Zimmer said. “They’re going to determine who the starter is on the practice field about how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games.”

Barring something completely unforseen, the competition is between Cassel and Bridgewater. Asked essentially if he'd have the courage to start a rookie quarterback, Zimmer said, "The Minnesota Vikings, (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and myself, we’re really not afraid to do anything. It’s really about doing what we feel is best.

"If we do make a mistake, pick the wrong guy or play the left corner the wrong guy to play, then we’ll try to fix it at that time. That’s part of adjusting. I have no problem playing a rookie quarterback, or a ninth year veteran or a fourth year veteran. We’re going to do what we think is best collectively as a group. I’m lucky as heck to have Norv Turner here to help with this decision. I was lucky to have him in the draft process to help there and honestly our scouts. I know I keep saying these kinds of things and people think that I’m saying it, but it is true. I’ve been in a lot of organizations and these are first class people that know their jobs very, very well."

Cassel, Vikings QBs must fare better on third down

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 5, 2014 - 8:31 AM

One area where the Vikings need to get much better, on both sides of the ball, is on third down.

Of course, it is easy to look at where the Vikings ranked defensively and point to that as the bigger issue, but the offense’s inability to convert on third down was also very costly a season ago.

You can probably spread the blame throughout the offense from the pass protectors to the guys running the routes. But in the end, there is a reason why the quarterbacks make the big bucks. And on third down last season, the Vikings quarterbacks ranked among the NFL’s least efficient.

According to Pro Football Focus, only former Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, now with the Seahawks, fared worse than Matt Cassel on third down. Christian Ponder was not much better.

On the 80 dropbacks that PFF charted, Cassel completed just 37 of his 70 attempts for 536 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. His accuracy percentage -- completion percentage taking drops into consideration -- on third down was near the bottom of the league at just 62.9 percent, lower than quarterbacks such as Josh Freeman, Thaddeus Lewis and Brandon Weeden.

Interestingly, it was the shorter conversions that gave Cassel the most trouble. He ranked near the bottom of the league on both 3rd-and-medium and 3rd-and-short. When it came to the latter, Cassel completed just one of his 10 attempts with a NFL passer rating of zero point zero.

As for Ponder, he completed 41 of his 66 third-down attempts for 443 yards and his accuracy percentage was a little higher than Cassel's at 66.7 percent. He threw three interceptions on the down, though, with no touchdowns. Ponder also took 12 sacks, a lot on only 92 dropbacks.

The Vikings converted 36.4 percent their third downs, last in the NFC North and 19th in the NFL.

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