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.
The Vikings, who have their final preseason game against Tennessee tonight at 7 at the Metrodome, will have to cut their roster to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The eight-man practice squad can be formed from eligible players after those players clear waivers. In general, practice squad-eligible players haven’t been active for more than eight NFL games and can’t be on the practice squad for more than two years. So, yeah, the Vikings can’t stash Joe Webb on that practice squad, folks.
Here is the Vikings’ unofficial depth chart. Feel free to make yourself part of the team’s staff and figure out which 22 players you can whack to get to 53. Keep in mind you will have the practice squad, which means there are 61 guys around, but it’s often hard for teams to sneak rookies through waivers, so be careful about your cuts.
VIKINGS DEPTH CHART
WR: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson*, Joe Webb, Rodney Smith*
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca*
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond*
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson*
WR: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Adam Thielen*
QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
FB: Jerome Felton, Zach Line*
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard
LE: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud*
UT: Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd*, Everett Dawkins*, Spencer Nealy*
RE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Collins Ukwu*
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti*
WLB: Marvin Mitchell, Desmond Bishop, Tyrone McKenzie, Gerald Hodges*
LCB: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes*, Marcus Sherels
RCB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder
SS: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo, Darius Eubanks*
FS: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop*
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
P: Jeff Locke*
K: Blair Walsh
LS: Cullen Loeffler
KEEP IN MIND: RETURN DEPTH CHART
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson*, Marcus Sherels, Stephen Burton, A.J. Jefferson
PR: Marcus Sherels, Bobby Felder, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton
Note: DT Christian Ballard (Active/Left Squad) does not count on the current roster; Felton will start the season with a three-game suspension and will not count against the 53-man roster.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked to NFL officials about the low hit that injured veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams and said the league agreed that Joe Looney's actions were unnecessary and dangerous.
“I have talked to the league about it; they concur,” Frazier said. “It's not the type of play they want in the game for player safety reasons. There's a big emphasis regarding player safety and that play really endangers our players' safety. It's not something that the league wants. It's not something that any of us want as we are trying to make the game safer for our players.”
Looney, a 49ers backup lineman, hit Williams in the knees away from the play when he wasn't looking. Williams escaped ligament damage, but he suffered a hyperextended knee, a significant bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain.
Looney told reporters in San Francisco that he didn’t intend to injure Williams and was just trying to finish his block. Vikings players weren’t buying it.
“I think the hit was uncalled for,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Really quite ridiculous. It’s something we specifically talked about in our meetings with the league, with the refs, before the preseason games started. It was just unnecessary. He wasn't going to make the play. He wasn’t going to be a part of the play.
“You can say what you want, you didn't mean to hurt him, didn't mean to, but the reality is you did that, and you didn't have to. And now you have a guy who's been one of the best at his position for a long time dealing with an injury he shouldn't have to deal with. I think the reality is, if the roles were reversed, and the defensive guy was going into a quarterback or a receiver, or a high-profile player, you tell me what would happen.”
Frazier reiterated that the team hopes Williams will be available to play in the season opener Sept. 8.
With Williams sidelined, depth at defensive tackle has become a concern. Frazier said rookie Sharrif Floyd (knee) was expected to do some work in practice Tuesday but will not play in the final preseason game Thursday night. Christian Ballard remains on the active/left team list. Frazier did not give a timetable for his return.
Frazier said the team knew Jerome Felton’s three-game suspension was always a possibility when they re-signed the Pro Bowl fullback this offseason. Felton’s suspension is the result of his DUI charge last year, which was later reduced to careless driving.
“You always knew that there was potential,” Frazier said. “You didn’t know if it would happen. His incident was some time ago. But it was always looming that this could possibly happen.”
In Felton’s absence, Frazier said the team will look to tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison and possibly rookie Zach Line to fill the void.
On Ellison, Frazier said: “He’s one of the hardest working players on our team. It’s hard to outwork Rhett. He comes prepared every single day. Seeing his work ethic his rookie year, I was so impressed. You just don’t see very many rookies with his maturity and just understanding the time that you have to put in to be good at your craft. He has not let up from his rookie season. I don’t think we can overwork him. He’ll be ready when we line up against Detroit. But yes, we could add more to his plate and we probably will have to now.”
** Frazier said cornerback Chris Cook is OK after leaving the game because of a groin injury.
** Linebacker Erin Henderson is still bothered by a heel injury.
** Safety Mistral Raymond suffered an AC joint sprain of his shoulder and is doubtful for Thursday night.
** Wideout Greg Childs was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable To Perform list. He has been on the PUP list since camp started while trying to recover from surgery on both knees. The move means he won't be eligible to play through the first six weeks of the season.
The Vikings agreed to terms with all three of their unsigned first-round picks.
Sharrif Floyd, the 23rd overall pick in the draft; Xavier Rhodes, No. 25 overall; and Cordarrelle Patterson (29th) all signed and are headed to Mankato this afternoon. The Vikings players report between noon and 4 p.m.
The Vikings announced the signings, and tweeted a picture of team VP Rob Brzezinski signing the trio.
Floyd, a defensive tackle from Florida; Rhodes, a cornerback from Florida State; and Patterson, a receiver from Tennessee, were the team's only unsigned players.
Floyd, Rhodes and Patterson all participated in the team’s rookie mini-camp in May followed by three weeks of Organized Team Activities and another week of mandatory mini-camp.
Here is the information from the Vikings' releases:
During his three seasons at Florida, Floyd recorded 115 tackles, 26.0 TFL and 4.5 sacks. Floyd earned 1st-Team defense AP All-SEC honors in 2012.
While at Florida State, Rhodes earned first-team All-ACC honors and was named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. Rhodes finished the 2012 season with 7 PBU and 3 INTs.
During his lone season at Tennessee, Patterson led the Southeastern Conference averaging 158.43 all-purpose yards per game. His play earned him 1st-Team All-SEC honors by the Associated Press as an All-Purpose Player.
Desmond Bishop is officially a Viking.
The team made the announcement this afternoon, three days after the former Green Bay linebacker agreed to terms. To make room on the 90-player roster, linebacker Stanford Keglar was cut.
The announcement was made on Twitter.
Bishop, who spent seven seasons with the Packers, was taken in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Cal. He was a starter at inside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme in 2010, when they won a Super Bowl, and 2011 before missing last season because of a ruptured hamstring.
Bishop is reported to have a one-year deal for around $1 million and will likely play middle linebacker in the Vikings' 4-3 defense, although weak-side linebacker Erin Henderson was at the mike position during mini-camp. Marvin Mitchell and rookie Gerald Hodges took reps at weak-side linebacker during that mini-camp last week.
The Vikings report to training camp in Mankato on July 25, the day after Bishop's 29th birthday.
In a brief conference call with local reporters following the announcement, Bishop said he will be ready to go when training camp starts.
Getting ready for that day, he said, is more important than thinking about a potential return to Lambeau Field to face his old team.
He said he’s healthy, but Bishop hasn’t played in a regular season game in more than a year.
“You know what? I’m not sure,” Bishop said when asked how difficult it will be to return to top form. “But, after watching a guy named Adrian Peterson come back from his torn ACL, and how well he did it, I have a lot of confidence I can do the same.”
Bishop sustained his injury during the preseason last season. He said it took six or seven months following surgery last August before he was running at or near full speed. “It’s still a process,” he said. “I have to build on my strength and endurance, all the little things. You never max out on that stuff. Still, to this day, I’m working on getting as strong as I can, and I feel really good.”
Bishop said he hasn’t talked in detail with Vikings coaches about whether he will line up at middle linebacker or on the weak side. But he said he’s capable of playing both positions.
“I’m just relishing the opportunity to go out to Minnesota and work hard, earn everything I get, and help a young team go back to the playoffs.”
It didn't take long for Desmond Bishop to find a new home.
Bishop was released by the Green Bay Packers a week ago, worked out for the Vikings last week and was signed by the team to a one-year deal Monday.
Bishop's agent, Blake Baratz (@blakebaratz), confirmed the signing on Twitter. Baratz tweeted: congrats 2 @Desbishop55 on heading 2 the Vikings. Gr8 player but a better person. Bizarre week to say the least, but great addition 4 all
The contract is for one season, according to profootballtalk.com.
Bishop was a very productive player for the Packers; he had 218 total tackles in 2010 and 2011 before having to miss the 2012 season because of a hamstring injury.
The Vikings now have options for middle linebacker. Jasper Brinkley, last year's starter, signed as a free agent with Arizona, and it appeared Erin Henderson would move to the middle this season. Henderson said at mini-camp last week that the position was his; Marvin Mitchell was working with the first defensive unit at outside linebacker.
Bishop was an inside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, but started his career playing inside in a 4-3 defense.
Bishop, 28, was a sixth-round pick (192nd overall) by the Packers out of Cal in the 2007 NFL Draft.
At mini-camp last week, Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams was asked about Bishop's visit to Winter Park:
Q: Did you guys get to look at Desmond Bishop at all today?
Williams: We did. Good workout and we’ll see. We are doing our due diligence in terms of bringing in guys that are free agents. The neat thing is I don’t have to make those decisions. I just have to coach them once they get here. Coach Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman are the ones that make those hard decisions.
Q: How hard of an adjustment would that be for him in terms of defensive schemes?
Williams: I don’t think there is much. It’s not rocket science. It’s football and it’s still about running to the ball, tackling and reading your keys and making plays when the ball comes to you, so I don’t think it’s a big adjustment.
Q: Would he play on the outside or the inside?
Williams: I’m not sure. I haven’t seen enough tape on him. That would be Coach Frazier and Rick Spielman, they would answer that a lot better than I could. From what I hear, he’s just a good football player.
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