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 Packers

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 27

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 27, 2014 - 7:36 AM

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

Finally, the Vikings are breaking out the pads.

The first two days of Camp Zimmer felt like a couple of spring workouts with the players in shells doing non-contact drills. But things will heat up in Mankato today with the first full-padded practice of Zimmer’s tenure. We in the media are certainly excited to see some contact, and that anticipation pales in comparison to what the coaching staff is feeling. During his news conference yesterday, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards pointed out at least a half dozen times that he couldn't draw too many conclusions about players and competitions until he saw them in pads.

That doesn’t mean there will be huge hits left and right. Zimmer -- who must walk the line between running an aggressive, physical camp and keeping his players healthy -- said he wants it to be “thud” contact only, not tackling to the ground. Oh, and "Adrian won't get tackled,” he added.

Still, with the players in pads starting today, we’ll start to see guys distinguish themselves.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Whether he is saying it publicly or not, Teddy Bridgewater is preparing to be the guy.

--- Adrian Peterson’s pass protection is being praised by the new staff.

--- Captain Munnerlyn keeps proving doubters wrong.

--- The offense struck back during yesterday’s training camp practice.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Bears DE Jared Allen had some interesting things to say about his time with the Vikings.

--- Packers WR Jordy Nelson got his big day, but will there be any left for WR Randall Cobb?

--- Lions QB Matthew Stafford is entering a new phase in his career.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings will hold their walkthrough from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. Practice will run from 3 to 5:10 p.m. Zimmer is scheduled to speak with the media for the first time since Friday morning.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Continuity is important on the offensive line, and, yes, talent is kind of important, too. Still, it’s pretty noteworthy that the Vikings return all five starting linemen from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. How many other teams can say that? One, maybe two. The Patriots have definitely started the same five guys. The 49ers have not, but their current starting five have been on their roster at least that long.

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.

Zimmer on Vikings roster moves, three PUP guys, a Mankato fan favorite and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 25, 2014 - 1:01 PM

The Vikings just finished their morning walkthrough and coach Mike Zimmer chatted with us for more than 18 minutes afterward before grabbing lunch and preparing for this afternoon’s practice. He covered a lot of ground, including ground covered yesterday, but there were some newsy nuggets.

For starters, the Vikings made some roster moves. They waived veteran wide receiver Josh Cooper, who had joined the team in June, and undrafted rookie tackle Matt Hall. Replacing them on the 90-man roster are second-year wide receivers Ty Walker and Andy Cruse. Walker has spent time with the Packers and Seahawks and Cruse was previously with the Texans.

The Vikings also placed three players on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is the headliner. He is dealing with a hamstring injury, and while Zimmer indicated that it isn’t serious -- “I doubt it will be very long,” he said -- those injuries can be tricky for cornerbacks. Also on the PUP list are safety Andrew Sendejo (lower back and ankle) and tight end Chase Ford (foot). Those three cannot do anything on the practice field until they are cleared by doctors and removed from the list.

Zimmer said that only one player failed yesterday’s conditioning test and hinted that that man won’t be allowed to practice, but he wouldn’t say who. We’ll try to get an answer for you this afternoon.

As for the decision on whether to bring in an external interim special teams coach while special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is suspended, Zimmer said he hasn’t made it yet and that he will let us know soon. And then we will let you know ASAP. Priefer is allowed to coach during camp and this morning was doing his usual thing with assistant Ryan Ficken at the end of the walkthrough.

A couple of Zimmer quotes stood out to me on the 18-plus minutes of audio tape.

The first was on Adam Thielen, the former Minnesota State Mankato standout who is obviously still a popular guy down here in Mankato. Zimmer said he has improved tremendously.

“Adam’s actually doing a terrific job,” Zimmer said. “He might have been our most improved guy in OTAs. He’s a great kid, first of all. Works his read end off. Runs routes real hard. Catches the ball good. He’s got an opportunity to make this football team.”

The second was Zimmer talking about how training camp will be different now that he has to worry about coaching and evaluating a whole 90-man roster, not just the defensive guys.

“I like to evaluate the players. The only difficult thing for me as opposed to being the defensive coordinator, I was evaluating 45 guys, I guess it was. Now I’m evaluating 90. I have to pay a little bit more attention to certain positions -- the left guard or the center or the right guard. You see the tackles all the time because you’re watching them going against the [defensive ends]. Receivers, I see all the time. So it’s just more volume, I guess, for me, trying to get that done. But I’ve got a list of things on my board that I’m going to make sure I do every single day, [and one of those things] is trying to evaluate all the players, trying to figure out how they can help us win football games and what their role can be. I try to remind myself every day to do that.”

Oh, and Zimmer said it wasn't him who pulled the fire alarm at Sears Hall around 1:30 a.m. this morning, sending shirtless Vikings scurring out of the building. "Now that I think about it, I wish it was," he said. "I'll have to use that next year."

OK, I’m going to finish my burrito now. More to come in a little bit. Practice starts at 3 p.m.

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.

Rookie pass rushers like Barr often start slow

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 2, 2014 - 12:36 PM

When trying to project how first-round pick Anthony Barr will fare during his rookie season, you may want to point to what Aldon Smith and Von Miller did as rookies as the best-case scenario.

The reality is, though, that it takes most edge rushers time to find their groove at the next level.

While Smith had 14 sacks for the 49ers in his first season in 2011 and Miller was not far behind with 11.5 for the Broncos, edge rushers racking up double-digit sacks as rookies is not common.

For every Smith and Miller, there is a Vernon Gholston or Aaron Maybin who made little impact.

Looking at the 32 edge rushers selected in the previous seven drafts, those players averaged just 3.7 sacks and 20.2 tackles as rookies despite playing 509 snaps on average in their first season, according to Jeff McLane, who did some digging on rookie pass rushers for the Philly Inquirer.

Gholston and Maybin were top picks of the Jets and Bills, respectively, who did not record a sack as rookies. Gholston is the worst-case scenario, having washed out of the league without a single sack.

The Vikings, of course, are confident Barr will develop into a star pass rusher. General manager Rick Spielman has said that they projected the outside linebacker out of UCLA as the second-best pass-rushing prospect of this class behind Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

While it appears that Barr will be facing an even steeper learning curve than his rookie peers and predecessors considering he didn’t start playing defense at UCLA until his junior year, the Vikings said that Barr, before he got sent back to California, did not look like a major project.

“I know that’s a big thing with everybody that he’s only played two years, but the things he’s done defensively he’s done pretty well,” coach Mike Zimmer, who envisions Barr playing a hybrid role like Miller does in Denver, said two weeks ago. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue whatsoever.”

Still, while the Vikings anticipate that Barr will ascend to a starting role by the time training camp ends, it might be best to curb your enthusiasm when it comes to his first-year sack total. Potent rookie pass rushers like Smith, Miller, Brian Orakpo (11 sacks for the Redskins in 2009) and Clay Matthews III (10 sacks for the Packers in 2009) appear to be exceptions to the rule.

“Everybody has a development stage,” Spielman, speaking generally about the immediate contributions of rookies, said last month. “Some hit it right off the bat. Some take some time.”

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