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

Vikings remind fans of do's and don'ts for those attending Friday's game

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 5, 2014 - 9:38 AM

Because most of us can't remember ... what were we talking about?

Here is a reminder from the Vikings about he do's and don'ts for those attending Friday night's preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium:

VIKINGS REMIND FANS NFL’S ENHANCED PUBLIC SAFETY POLICY WILL BE IN PLACE FOR SECOND SEASON BEGINNING WITH FIRST PRESEASON GAME THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 8

Eden Prairie, MN (August 5, 2014) – With the Vikings first preseason game set for this Friday, August 8, the team is reminding fans of the NFL policy that limits the size and type of bags allowed in the stadium on game day.

The league-wide policy, which will be in place for the second straight season at all NFL stadiums, is designed to provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry on game day. The Vikings strongly encourage fans to not bring any type of bags, but fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:

  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.” (Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags are available through club merchandise outlets or at nflshop.com), or
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
  • Clutch bags no larger than 4.5” x 6.5”, with or without a handle or strap, may be carried into the stadium along with one of the clear bag options.
  • An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.

Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size. For additional information, go to NFL.com/allclear.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Spielman, Crocker, depth and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 5, 2014 - 7:41 AM

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- GM Rick Spielman has made this roster young again.

--- Chris Crocker's arrival is not a good sign for the team's safety depth.

--- The Vikings activated S Andrew Sendejo from the PUP list.

--- Here's our best guess at what Mike Zimmer's depth chart would look like.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Brett Favre is "truly honored" to be heading into the Packers Hall of Fame.

--- Marquess Wilson, the Bears’ No. 3 WR, fractured his clavicle in practice.

--- Lions RB Reggie Bush is determined to stay productive.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are back to their normal routine, with a 10:30 a.m. walkthrough and a padded practice that starts at 3:30 p.m. Coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards are scheduled to talk.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

As the folks at Football Outsiders pointed out in this recent ESPN piece, at least one team has gone from worst to first in its respective division in each of the past 11 seasons. So what are the odds the Vikings can do it in 2014? Based on their simulations, Football Outsiders says they have a 12.9 percent chance, the third-worst odds among the eight last-place finishers from 2013. Of course, as their projections show, anything is possible. Even the Raiders winning the Super Bowl.

Don't rule out the waiver wire settling unstable safety spot

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 4, 2014 - 2:03 PM

Remember two summers ago when we all were wondering who the Vikings third cornerback would be?

Would it be Zack Bowman, a free-agent acquisition the team apparently liked? Or possibly Chris Carr, another free-agent picked they apparently liked? Story after story was filed on Bowman, Carr and the cornerback battle.

Bowman and Carr had to be in the mix, right? After all, they were on the roster that we were all looking at every day for what seems like an eternity down in Mankato.

Well, the final cuts were made and neither Bowman, nor Carr survived. The Vikings ended up making a trade after the final cuts to get A.J. Jefferson from Arizona. Jefferson ended up playing a significant role that season, starting seven of 15 games as one of the top three or four corners.

This comes to mind as safety Andrew Sendejo’s return from the physically-unable-to-perform list became a big deal today. With all due respect to Sendejo, a gutsy NFL special teams survivor, the fact that his return is a big deal speaks to just how unstable the safety spot next to Harrison Smith really is.

It also suggests the Vikings might be looking at a lot more than the eight safeties on their current roster. I asked Zimmer how much time he and General Manager Rick Spielman will be spending daily on evaluating other teams’ safeties and other players now that the preseason games have started.

“We’ve got scouts assigned to all of those games,” Zimmer said. “They’ll watch them and come up with a list of guys, potential cuts, trades and whatever else that may be made. Then we’ll sit down and discuss them.”

Back and ankle injuries have prevented Sendejo from doing anything for which Zimmer can evaluate him. And Zimmer was hired seven months ago.

Yet Zimmer said it’s not too late for Sendejo to compete for that starting position. Zimmer did, however, hint that it is getting very close to being too late.

“We’re going to watch him [today] as he goes and be careful with him,” Zimmer said. “But I need to see him. Yeah, I need to see him.”

The plan for this afternoon’s practice is for Sendejo to participate in team drills only if he looks comfortable in individual drills first.

Yes, Sendejo turned some heads last year when he went from under-the-radar special teamer to a hard-hitting replacement who started 10 games when Smith was hurt. But let’s also not forget that those 10 starts – Sendejo’s only 10 starts – came for a defense that ranked last in the league in points allowed and in the bottom three of virtually every pass defense statistic there is.

With Sendejo out, an even less established youngster stepped up momentarily in the form of Robert Blanton. Blanton has fallen back because of a hamstring injury that lingers and, according to Zimmer, should keep him out of Friday night’s preseason opener.

In Blanton’s absence, Zimmer has been auditioning Kurt Coleman, Mistral Raymond, rookie Antone Exum and an ultimate overachiever/survivor in Jamarca Sanford.

Considering the current state of the position, the money here is on Sanford pulling yet another come-from-behind victory. Then again, the pool of candidates might not be limited to what we’re looking at in Mankato.

Asked today if he has a sense of urgency today, Sendejo shrugged and said, “I always have a sense of urgency."

In other news,

  • Zimmer said OLB Brandon Watts (hamstring) should be able to practice today.
  • Zimmer also said he expects to name an interim special teams coordinator at some point after Friday’s preseason opener. It’s expected to be assistant special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken. Current special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve a two- or three-game suspension at the start of the regular season as punishment for the anti-gay remarks he made to former punter Chris Kluwe in 2012. Priefer said he’ll use the preseason games to help prepare Ficken for the in-game decisions he’d have to make. Zimmer’s delay in naming an interim could mean he wants to see how Ficken does on Friday.
  • Priefer said he doesn't anticipate using No. 1 kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson on Friday. He also said he'd like to get Patterson a couple of returns late in the preseason, but the final call rests with Zimmer. Priefer also said he wants to see Adam Thielen get some punt and kickoff returns on Friday. He also wants to see Jerick McKinnon and Cain Colter get some returns on Friday. As for No. 1 punt returner Marcus Sherels, Priefer said he might get one return.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 4

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 4, 2014 - 7:11 AM

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- After years of turbulence, the Vikings are all rowing together.

--- Rookie G David Yankey is trying to play catch-up.

--- OLB Chad Greenway taught rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater a lesson.

--- Check out this photo gallery from Saturday night’s practice under the lights.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Former Packers (and Vikings) QB Brett Favre will have his number retired in Green Bay.

--- Former Minnesota S Brock Vereen has climbed the Bears’ depth chart.

--- Lions RB Theo Riddick has impressed in camp, but he has a lot of competition.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After getting yesterday off, Vikings players will be back on the field at 10:30 a.m. for today’s morning walkthrough. This afternoon, the Vikings practice at 3:30 p.m., and they’ll be in pads.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Last season, with Norv Turner coordinating their offense, the Browns ranked fifth in the NFL in offensive pace of play, according to Football Outsiders. The Browns ran one offensive play every 24.96 seconds of game time. That pace trailed only the Eagles, Bills, Patriots and Broncos. The Vikings, meanwhile, ranked ninth last season in offensive pace at 26.22 seconds per play.

Greenway pick teaches Teddy what used to be open isn't always open in the NFL

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 3, 2014 - 1:15 PM

If you're a Vikings fan, you should be happy that linebacker Chad Greenway came out of nowhere to intercept Teddy Bridgewater during an 11-on-11 red zone drill during Saturday night's practice in front of a packed house at Blakeslee Stadium.

Why?

Because it was tremendous reinforcement for the rookie that what used to be open at Louisville isn't open in the NFL.

Running the first-team offense during Saturday night's red-zone segment of practice, Bridgewater had the ball inside the five-yard line when he dropped back to pass. Receiver Greg Jennings appeared to pop open for a split second. Greenway read the play perfectly, anticipated where the rook would go with the ball, got a great jump and closed the window with the interception.

"That's a situation where [offensive coordinator Norv] Turner always tells me that I have to be quicker with my decision-making," Bridgewater said. "In that situation, I have to understand the situation. We have points on the board [in a field goal attempt]. I have to get my head around faster. Everything happens faster in the red zone. I have to understand the situation. [Sunday], I'll be able to look at the film and learn from my mistakes."

Bridgewater wouldn't say whether he saw Greenway, but indicated the he did see him and thought he could zip the ball past him.

"Chad made a great play," Bridgewater said. "Still, my primary progression wasn't there. I should have gotten off of it. I saw Greg pop wide open and I thought I could squeeze it in there. But down in the red zone, if you have points, there's no need to force throws."

We have to remember that Bridgewater is indeed a rookie. He got off to a great start in camp, but has leveled off with four interceptions the past two days as more of the offensive and defensive packages have been installed.

Bridgewater was asked how long it will take him to get a feel for what's open and what isn't open at this level.

"I'll learn that in no time," he said. "It's all about experience and repetition. That's something I can learn from tonight, that open in the National Football League is totally different than college football. Open in the National Football League is a guy not even out of his break yet when he's running his route. College guys are wide open even after their break."

CASSEL CONFIDENT HE'S THE MAN: Cassel threw two interceptions Saturday night and one on Friday. But he said he's not concerned because two of the interceptions were a matter of quarterback and receiver getting in sync in a new offense. (This, after all, is why these guys practice). The other interception was the defensive play of camp by far. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes made a diving, fully-extended catch with an awkward roll at the end to rob a deep ball intended for Jarius Wright.

Cassel and the first-team offense looked sluggish and did not score in the two-minute segment. Bridgewater and the second-team offense looked crisper, ending that segment with a Bridgewater-to-Rodney Smith touchdown pass. Cassel and the first unit threw two incompletions into the end zone as the clock expired.

Overall, Cassel said he feel a lot more comfortable in Turner's offense.

"I feel great, I honestly do," he said. "I feel like I'm picking up the verbiage. The biggest thing early on was just getting in and out of the huddle and just being able to say the plays. Now that I'm able to do that, I think I have more confidence going to the line of scrimmage and being able to execute those plays."

Cassel's other interception Saturday went to cornerback Marcus Sherels, who was working with the first team. Sherels got good position on Cordarrelle Patterson and made the sure-handed pick.

Asked if that was a case of Patterson running one route and Cassel thinking it should have been another, Cassel said, "Right. Exactly. It's a go route. He went inside. I'm thinking he's going to stack him. That's just one of the things that happens in camp. Issues come up and you correct the mistakes. And as you come back out the next time and run that go route again he's on the same page and running that go route where I think he's going to and vice versa."

Cassel also said Bridgewater getting the first-team red zone reps was par for the course and doesn't indicate that the rookie is gaining ground on him.

"That's normally what happened everywhere I've been," Cassel said. "The No. 2 guy, you have to get him ready to play at any point. The fact of the matter is he's going to get reps with the one's and this is the time of year to do it. it's also a situation where they're preaching competition. I think competition makes all of us better, including myself. I embrace that part of it."

The Vikings have today off and return to practice on Monday. It will be worth watching Bridgewater to see if he learned a thing or two from Greenway on Saturday night.

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