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.
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has retained Twin Cities attorney Clayton Halunen to represent him in the team's investigation into alleged homophobic comments by an assistant coach.
According to a press release, Halunen will serve as co-counsel with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
The Vikings announced last week that they initiated an investigation to look into Kluwe's allegations that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made repeated derogatory gay comments in 2012.
The team announced that former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Eric Magnuson and former U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris Madel will lead the investigation.
Jared Allen, one of three Vikings players who flew to Hattiesburg, Miss., to talk Brett Favre out of retirement before the 2010 season, joked that he’s prepared to take to the skies again if need be.
“If he comes back, I’m going to fly down there and tell him to stay retired,” Allen said today before looking into a nearby camera, adding, “Brett, if you’re listening, stay retired, man. He can’t come back again.”
Favre apparently feels the same way. Speaking to SportsTalk 570 in Washington, D.C., the former Packers and Vikings – and Falcons and Jets – quarterback confirmed an ESPN report that the Rams reached out to Favre through his agent, Bus Cook, about coming back to replace Sam Bradford, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the season. Favre, however, nipped the latest Favreapolooza media fest in its infant stages by reminding people that he’s a 44-year-old grandfather who isn’t fond of being sacked.
“It’s flattering,” Favre said. “But there’s no way in hell I’m going to do that.”
Allen said he thinks Favre could pull it off if he wanted to.
“I saw him this offseason,” Allen said. “Dude’s in good shape. He could probably come back and still sling a few.”
Favre retired -- again -- after leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game during the 2009 season. But Allen and then-teammates Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson were sent during the following year's training camp to talk Favre into coming back, which he did. But the magic stayed in Mississippi as Favre's 20-year career ended with 11 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions in 13 starts during the Vikings’ 6-10 season. His streak of 321 games, including postseason, ended because of a sprained shoulder on Dec. 13, 2010 against the Giants.
LONDON -- Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper made an appearance at a fan forum as part of the NFL festivities here this weekend.
Culpepper joined former Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad and Steelers running back Merril Hoge. In response to a fan's question about his favorite moment, Culpepper mentioned throwing 60-yard passes and seeing fans rise of out their seats.
"It gives me chills now thinking about it," Culpepper said.
The final question came from a man in a Steelers jersey, who made a Love Boat joke by asking if Culpepper would bring some of friends on a cruise down the Thames River. Culpepper took the jab with humor and even had his picture taken with the man's son afterward.
We spent a few minutes with Culpepper after the event and he reflected on his time with the Vikings.
"All good memories," he said. "I would have loved to stay there my whole career. But that’s just how it happens in the business sometimes. Things happen and people move on. My memories of Minnesota are excellent. Every game was sold out. We had some games I wish we could have won. But overall, it was a positive experience for me. I had a great time. The fans were absolutely wonderful."
Culpepper lives in Orlando and opened a restaurant there a month ago called "Culpepper's."
Culpepper had an MVP-caliber season in 2004 and then had a severe knee injury the following season. He played for the Dolphins, Raiders and Lions and a stint in the UFL after leaving the Vikings.
He said he doesn't reflect on how his career might have gone had he not suffered that knee injury in '05.
"I played good football afterwards," he said. "I wasn’t on teams that were very successful. But I don’t take anything away from the time I played in the league after my knee injury. I had the same attitude. Football is a team sport. It’s not because of one guy you win and it’s not because of one guy you lose.
"I don’t have any regrets," he added. "I played the game the same way the whole time. I played to win. Whatever I had to do to try and win, I was going to do it. Every game I always wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, I put everything out there.' I don’t regret anything about how I played the game."
During his 20-year career – 19 with the Vikings at defensive end – Jim Marshall played in a then-record 282 consecutive games, starting 270 straight with the Vikings. He was an iron man.
But it took a toll. Marshall estimates he was knocked out one or two times per season. “If you were able to tell how many fingers they put up in front of you, or take some smelling salts and get it back together, you were back in the game,” Marshall said. “It was just part of the culture then. I don’t know how that affected me. But I can still talk.”
He’s waiting to see how Thursday’s news will affect him, too. News broke Thursday morning that the NFL had agreed to a $765 million settlement with thousands of former players who sued the league over brain injuries sustained while playing. They money will go to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for retired players, fund research and handle litigation expenses.
But how that will trickle down to the players involved?
Marshall, one of the plaintiffs, expects to hear an update soon, but hasn’t heard anything yet. “We’ll find out what they propose to do with that,” Marshall said. “I would assume the attorneys would be calling us individually soon, letting us know exactly what it means.’’
Marshall had already taken some calls from former teammates asking for updates. “I told them exactly what I told you,” said Marshall, 75. “I haven’t heard anything. I don’t know what it means.”
Marshall is still paying the price for his extensive career. He has had both hips and both knees replaced. Six weeks ago he had his second spinal fusion operation – it was his sixth total surgery on his spine – and will be going to the Mayo Clinic Friday for a post-operative checkup.
It'll be pretty slow on the Vikings front for the next month ... the only real news dangling out there is where former Packers LB Desmond Bishop will land, and it could be with the Vikings.
Bishop said Thursday that the New York Giants and Jacksonville might be next on his visit list, after stops at Winter Park and in Kansas City. So that situation seems likely to drag out a bit.
Nothing eventful from the Vikings mini-camp, but lots of access for the media. Here are a few leftover nuggets from coach Leslie Frazier and the team's coordinators (hey, someone transcribed all this, we might as well get some in the paper):
Frazier on his final message to his team: Just reminding them about the things they’ve got to get done in this time away and remember that they represent us in their hometowns, wherever they travel at, that we all represent one another and take care of their bodies. It’s going to be an important time away, but rest and do the things you want to do but take care of your bodies.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer on new punter Jeff Locke: Very talented like we knew he was. He’s working very hard. I knew he would be a hard worker, I didn’t realize to this extent. He does everything I ask him to do drill wise and more. He is very contentious. He’s worked very hard as a holder as well so everything is going in the right direction. He’s got just a couple things we’re working on with his footwork, taking out some of the wasted motion that he had coming from college. He’s worked very hard at that and we’re definitely seeing some progress. He has to get his get-off a little bit quicker and overall it’s going to make him a more consistent performer and that’s obviously what we’re looking for.
Priefer on ex-Vikings punter Chris Kluwe: A lot of people like to write and report that he and I didn’t get along but I have a lot of respect for Chris Kluwe, based on what he’s done in his career as a man and as an athlete. For anybody that stands up for what he believes in like Chris did, I have a lot of respect for guys like that. We had a long talk after the draft. He knew the writing was on the wall and I wasn’t going to lie to him, I figured if a young guy came in and had a good rookie mini camp then that was what was going to happen. I wish him the best of luck in Oakland, I really do.
Frazier on quarterback Christian Ponder: I really like the way that he has matured mentally and just seeing how he has taken the reins from a leadership standpoint. He is more vocal than he has been in the past. His football above the neck has been impressive in the time that we’ve been out here on the field practicing. So he’s got the athletic ability but you want him to make good decisions under the center and some of the things he’s done in these practices kind of leads me to believe, along with our staff, that he’s grown a lot in that area making better decisions with the football, which should in turn help us down the line. He’s worked his tail off trying to improve his accuracy. Our coaches have put him through a bunch of different drills and through his hard work I think he’s improved in that area. Now we’ve got some things we’ve got to get done in training camp, but he’s put in the work to improve and we are seeing it.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave on Ponder: This is his second orthodox offseason. He didn’t have one initially after he was drafted so there are much fewer unknowns for him at this stage even than there were a year ago. He knows more of what to expect and let himself go a little bit and not be so guarded. We always want to be accurate and we’re always working on our feet in the quarterback room. His decision making we’re assessing every day with all these competitive periods. It’s been good.
Musgrave on balancing an offense that includes NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson: The more first downs we get, the more we get to stay on the field. Offense is so different from defense, where on defense if you’re successful you get to go three-and-out and sit on the bench. On offense we want to stay out there. So the better we become running the ball, which we’re already pretty good with Adrian, if we can be better throwing the ball we can stay out there and everybody can get more touches or more opportunities and that’s our plan, to be more productive in the passing game, to balance the running game with Adrian and then everyone will get their shot.
Musgrave on the battle for third-string quarterback between James Vandenberg and McLeod Bethel-Thompson: We like both of them. They both have done a good job. They both get the scraps. They don’t get a lot of plays. They stand back there for 15, 20, 25 minutes, get cold and then they get thrown in there and asked to perform at a high level, but both of them are very sharp and they’re working very hard. [Vandenberg has] great visualization skills. He doesn’t get a lot of turns, but I feel like he knows our system very well. He visualizes the concepts, he knows protections and when he gets in there the wheels don’t fall off. He definitely belongs up here.
Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams on rookie linebacker Gerald Hodges: He has great feet. It looks like looks like he has good instincts. I can’t wait until the pads get on to see how he hits and how he runs around and mixes it up. I think that’s what all the coaches are waiting on to see. Right now we are just in shorts and they all look great so I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm and wait until we get pads on.
Frazier on his expectations for rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd: We’d like to be able to get him in a rotation system where he’s a part of what we’re doing with our four-down when he’s getting in sometimes with Kevin [Williams] and just rotate. Hopefully it gets to the point where he’s productive enough where he can warrant increased reps as the year goes on. That would be optimum if he’s able to get in the rotation, have success and we can gradually add more reps to his play as the season goes on.
Williams on Floyd: He’s quick twitch, he can anchor in the run, he’s very disruptive at the three and he has good pass-rush moves. I know his stats may not have shown it, but he’s been tremendous in these OTAs and he’s another one where we can’t wait to get the pads on to kind of see what happens when we get the pads on and if he’s still as productive. The one thing with him, and I just mentioned it a second ago about young guys playing situational football and the situations are new to them and they make some mistakes, he’s game ready. He had a good coach at Florida and they prepared him well and it’s not too much different what we’re doing here. So a lot of things translate over to what he did in college, so we’re looking for good things from him.
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