Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper has been named in a foreclosure lawsuit over his 9,867-square foot home in South Florida's Broward County, according to the South Florida Business Journal.
Culpepper, a former All-Pro who finished runner-up to Peyton Manning in the 2004 NFL MVP voting, also has a lawsuit against him for failure to pay home association dues in the gated community. According to the report, the house is not Culpepper's main residence.
In 2003, Culpepper signed a 10-year, $102 million deal with the Vikings. He didn't earn the entire $102 million, but did get a $16 million signing bonus and play through four of the 10 seasons.
A devastating knee injury at Carolina in 2005 changed his career forever. In 2006, he clashed with then-new coach Brad Childress and the Vikings over his rehab and his contract. He was traded to Miami before the season. The Dolphins restructured his contract and gave him a $7 million signing bonus.
Although Culpepper met his goal of returning from knee surgery for the start of the 2006 season, he played only four games and was released. He later played for Oakland and Detroit. His last NFL season was 2010 with the Lions.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman met with 10 local reporters Friday at Winter Park, addressing everything from the Percy Harvin trade rumors to the 2014 option the team exercised on Leslie Frazier’s contract to the ongoing preparations for next week’s NFL Combine. Here are the top four highlights from that session.
1. So, will the Vikings really entertain trade offers for Harvin as has been speculated on a grand level for the past week?
Spielman grinned at that question.
“We have no intent of trading Percy Harvin,” he said. “Percy Harvin is under contract and we expect him, just like all of our players under contract, to be here.”
Case closed, right?
Well … Not exactly.
In the next breath, Spielman was asked if his intent with Harvin and his course of action could ultimately differ. In other words, while the Vikings may say they have no intent of dealing Harvin away, does that mean they won’t pull the trigger if a good offer comes their way?
That question made the Vikings GM dance a little more.
“Again, there is no intent to trade Percy Harvin,” Spielman said. “He is a very good football player. I’m not going to talk about any contractual issues because those are kept internal.”
As Harvin’s contractual issues go, he’s due to make $2.9 million in 2013, the final year of his rookie contract. He’s also seeking a long-term extension, an option the Vikings will certainly explore. But it remains to be seen whether the team and their mercurial playmaker will see eye-to-eye on the price tag of that extension. And as we’ve said all along, the whole Harvin-Vikings relationship has so many moving parts right now that it’s too early and too difficult to forecast a final resolution right now.
Further complicating things are all the varying reports and rumors that continue surfacing nationally on Harvin’s status.
At this point, in the always hyper-active world of NFL media, where it seems news has to be made every day, it’s a challenge to filter through rumors for reality.
Spielman’s take on all the wild chatter out there?
“There’s so much stuff flying out there this time of year that comes from everywhere,” he said. “I know where we stand and with the people in this organization, it’s a very close circle on what gets out. And so I sit there and look at some of the stuff. But I would just say don’t believe all the half-truths or the rumors or the no-truths that are out there because there is so much stuff that flies around. … Ya know, it’s great reading.”
Spielman said it would be too time-consuming and ultimately futile to try and keep up with all the innuendo flying around.
“You can’t just come out there and clarify every half-truth and every no-truth because there’s so much that goes on at this time of year. … That’s today’s age and the Internet and the social media and everything like that. So I understand that’s a part of the deal.”
So, yeah. Let this stand as a reminder to everyone to just take a breath and calm down on the Harvin story until something new actually happens.
2. The Vikings insist they are fully behind Frazier as the head coach to continue leading them upward on a chase for a championship.
That support has been very real and very genuine throughout the organization. Until this week when the Vikings announced they had picked up the 2014 option on Frazier’s contract but hadn’t offered a longer-term extension. In fact, Frazier’s agent Bob Lamonte said he had never heard from Vikings ownership to even begin negotiating a longer-term deal.
Is that a major slap in the face? No. Does it add a bit of awkwardness to things? Absolutely.
From a business standpoint, it’s understandable why the Vikings would take a wait-and-see approach with Frazier’s contract, especially after getting burned by the extension they gave to Brad Childress in November 2009. Just as it would have been premature to fire Frazier after the 3-13 faceplant in 2011, it probably would have been premature to go all-in on the talented head coach after the Vikings’ 10-6 march and return to the 2012 playoffs.
“Leslie has done an outstanding job here,” Spielman reiterated Friday. “He’s been a great leader of the men down in the locker room. We expect him to be our coach for a long time. He’s been outstanding at everything from leadership to development of young players, everything we’re doing. We’re just looking forward to getting ready for next year and anything from a contractual standpoint or anything like that will always be held internal, just like players. … There’s no question of the support that our ownership group, myself, I think our whole organization has for Leslie Frazier.”
Spielman was asked Friday whether the contract issue could become a point of contention between the head coach and the powers above him.
“No. Not with Leslie Frazier,” he said. “I don’t want to put words [in his mouth]. But with Leslie Frazier you know what type of character and what type of person he is and what he stands for.”
Understand this: This is by no means any sort of significant controversy. Just more of a peculiar offseason footnote.
Moving on …
3. The Vikings currently have nine draft picks in their stockpile for April.
Last month, the team announced it had only eight selections. But after some confusion on whether they would have to relinquish a sixth-rounder to Washington in connection with the Donovan McNabb trade in 2011, the Vikings have been informed by the league that that pick remains theirs.
So, Spielman rubber-stamped the selections for the Vikings. They currently have a pick in every round and two selections in both the fourth and seventh rounds.
4. Spielman is giddy about the opportunities the combine provides to further the team’s evaluations on so many draft prospects.
The GM’s explanation of his eagerness was forthright.
"It's probably the biggest event heading into the draft,” he said. “It's the first time you're going to get all the Olympic numbers on these guys: the height, weight, speeds, the first time that we'll get in front of a lot of these guys, especially the juniors. We'll get all our medical, our psychological, both areas that we test in those. It's probably my most exciting time besides the day of the draft is going to the combine, because there's so much that you get accomplished there."
What was a foregone conclusion following a surprising playoff season has come to pass. The Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier have agreed on a multi-year contract extension, a team source has confirmed.
The agreement, which was first reported by the Associated Press, comes as Frazier was heading into the last year of his contract. He is 16-23, including 0-1 in the playoffs, since replacing the fired Brad Childress with six games left in the 2010 season.
Frazier's 3-3 record as an interim coach during that disastrous 2010 season earned him the full-time post heading into the 2011 NFL lockout. After finishing 3-13 in his first full season, Frazier led the Vikings to a 10-6 record that virtually no one saw coming for a rebuilding NFC North team that had an unproven quarterback.
Chris Cook is looking for redemption Sunday when the Vikings meet the Packers.
The Vikings’ third year cornerback was torched during his rookie season by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Cook, coming off early season arthroscopic surgery on both knees, was pulled by coach Brad Childress after Rodgers lit up the visiting Vikings for 166 passing yards in the first quarter of a 28-24 victory on Oct. 24, 2010.
Things got worse six weeks later when the Packers beat the Vikings 31-3 at the Metrodome. Cook gave up receptions of 47 and 39 yards to James Jones, and was pulled by Childress after Jones caught a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Cook was yelled at by teammate Ray Edwards on the sideline, and after the game both Cook and cornerback Asher Allen were criticized by teammates.
Childress was fired the next day.
Cook missed both meetings last season after an arrest for domestic assault on the eve of the first Packers game, which he spent in jail. He was inactive for the rest of the season, and missed the Vikings’ 23-14 loss to the Packers two weeks ago because of a broken arm.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game,” Cook said. “My rookie year, I was coming off both my knee surgeries, and they were picking on me – a lot. I expected that coming off two knee surgeries. But I don’t have knee problems now, so we’ll see how it goes this week.”
Cook said Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL.
“He’s Brett Favre-like, but I feel he makes better decisions at times,” said Cook. “He’s crazy accurate, that’s the thing that stands out. He can put balls in places the other guys can’t put it in. It’s amazing to me to me. Every time I watch him I think, man, this guy, he’s great.”
Houston running back Arian Foster bought Segways for his offensive linemen, so the question about what Adrian Peterson will do for his offensive line has been bandied about at Winter Park.
“We’ll see how it all plays out, how many yards he gets, when we win the game,” said center John Sullivan. “All I’m hoping for is a good performance from him and our offense and our entire team. The playoff berth is all we reaIly care about. I don’t really care about presents. I’m not too focused on that right now.”
Robison, Winfield ready
Defensive end Brian Robison (sprained shoulder) missed the Vikings’ 23-6 victory over the Texans on Sunday, which was doubly troubling to him because he played college football at Texas. He expects to play Sunday against the Packers.
“I’m doing much better, doing a lot of stuff hard in the rehab room, just trying to get it back,” Robison said. “I feel like I got a good range of motion, it’s just getting the strength back in it.”
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who fractured a bone in his right index finger, expects to play Sunday with his right hand padded.
The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced tonight, and Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh has an outside chance of making the NFC team. Walsh has an NFL record nine field goals of 50 yards or longer.
“It’s one of those things where it happens, it’s awesome, if it doesn’t happen, keep on pushing,” Walsh said. “I’m more focused on what I have to do in practice. Accolades are great and all, but this game is more important.”
After a poor senior season at Georgia, it was a bit of a surprise when the Walsh was drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round. He has made 32 of 35 field goal attempts, however, and all 32 conversion attempts.
“I knew I was capable of doing it from the start,” Walsh said. “The biggest surprise is the number of attempts we’ve gotten. Thirty-five attempts is a lot. It’s a different beast at this level, each kick is so important, it matters so much when the game is so close.”
Veteran Ryan Longwell, who was cut to make room for Walsh, tweeted his support for Walsh’s Pro Bowl candidacy on Sunday.
“It was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever had said about me by anyone,” Walsh said. “My response was 100 percent truthful -- guys like him have set the bar for other kickers who come in the league, and they hold us to a higher standards, and we try to emulate careers like his.”
The Vikings signed tight end Chase Ford to their practice squad. Ford, a rookie from Miami, has been on both the Philadelphia and Dallas practice squads this season. Tight end Allen Reisner, who has been on and off the Vikings’ roster the past two years, was claimed by Jacksonville after the Vikings cut him on Saturday. The Jaguars also signed guard Mark Asper, who had been waived by the Vikings.
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 6 game with Washington at FedEx Field, here’s a look at a handful of eye-opening figures and facts.
Vikings defensive players who have recorded either a sack or had a hand in a takeaway this season. In Sunday’s win against Tennessee, Jared Allen and Brian Robison each took down Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck once. Antoine Winfield intercepted a pass in the second quarter. And Jasper Brinkley forced a Chris Johnson fumble that rookie safety Harrison Smith recovered. The defense is in a groove right now as it heads to play the Redskins.
Career interceptions by Winfield, who has now recorded at least one pick in 13 of his 14 NFL seasons. Sunday’s pick was Winfield’s first since the 2011 season opener. He has also now intercepted passes from 17 different NFL quarterbacks. The two quarterbacks Winfield has victimized most? Peyton Manning and Joey Harrington, who were each picked off four times by Winfield.
First-half points allowed by the Vikings during their three-game winning streak. The Vikings shut Tennessee out in the first half Sunday. That came after surrendering six points to Detroit the week before and three to San Francisco in Week 3. In those three games, the Vikings’ defense has been on the field for 13 first-half drives, allowing 369 net yards and 22 first downs.
Rushing yards per game allowed by the Vikings to the top running back of their first five opponents. That’s a decent stable of backs too – Maurice Jones-Drew, Donald Brown, Frank Gore, Mikel Leshoure and Chris Johnson. Jones-Drew had the biggest game of that quintet, rushing for 77 yards on 19 carries. The last back to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings was Washington’s Evan Royster (19 carries, 132 yards) on Christmas Eve last season.
Rushing yards per game by Redskins back Alfred Morris this season. The 5-foot-10, 218-pounder is in his rookie season and was the 12th running back taken in April’s draft, selected in the sixth-round (No. 173 overall). But Morris currently ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards with 491, trailing only Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (551) and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (508). Morris had 115 yards on 18 carries in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons
Rushing yards so far this season by Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin is a multi-dimensional quarterback who can fluster defenses with his arm and his legs. He has thrown four touchdown passes this season and rushed for four more. Yet the worry that his dazzling and athletic running style could expose him to extra danger was confirmed Sunday when he suffered a concussion on a 7-yard red zone run against Atlanta.
Yards from scrimmage this season for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returns Sunday to the site of where he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. At the time, Peterson’s injury was thought to be a devastating setback for one of the league’s top playmakers. And while Peterson hasn’t necessarily shown he’s back to 100 percent yet, his recovery and 2012 production has been remarkable. For comparison, Peterson’s 499 yards this year have come on 109 touches. Through five games in 2011, he had 547 total yards on 119 touches.
Leslie Frazier’s record as Vikings head coach in games played at FedEx Field. Last December, Frazier’s team scored an improbable 33-26 victory in a game during which they lost running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Christian Ponder on successive plays early in the second half. In place of Peterson, Toby Gerhart rushed for 105 yards after halftime. In place of Ponder, Joe Webb went 4-for-5 for 84 yards with TD tosses of 17 yards to Kyle Rudolph and 8 yards to Percy Harvin. Webb also rushed for 34 yards, including a 9-yard score. A year earlier, the Vikings beat Washington 17-13 in the first game after Brad Childress was fired with Frazier supplanting him as coach.
Receptions so far this season by Percy Harvin. In history, only one other Vikings has had more catches through the season’s first five games. That was Cris Carter, who had 41 grabs in 1994 on his way to a 122-catch, 1,256-yard season. Harvin is currently on pace to catch 122 balls for 1,302 yards. He recorded his first two offensive touchdowns of the season against Tennessee on Sunday – a 4-yard run and a 10-yard reception. Harvin had 108 receiving yards and now has nine career 100-yard games. In last season’s win at Washington, Harvin had five catches for 65 yards as a score.
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