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 Sage Rosenfels

Raymond, Robinson, Sendejo, Sherels won't play Thursday

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 28, 2012 - 1:00 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings will be without four defensive backs -- safeties Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and Mistral Raymond (back), and cornerbacks Marcus Sherels (ankle) and Josh Robinson (concussion) -- when they travel to Houston for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Texans.

That creates the possibility of the team having to play starting safety Harrison Smith and potential starting safety Jamarca Sanford more than they would like if there are further injuries at the position. The Vikings have four healthy safeties. Backups Robert Blanton and Eric Frampton are likely to play most if not all of Thursday's game. Blanton missed the first three preseason games because of a hamstring injury. Frampton didn't finish last Friday's preseason game because of a groin injury.

Other highlights from Frazier's press conference today:

  • Most of the starters will not play Thursday. Frazier said the team will talk about playing a few starters. Among the possibilities are right guard Brandon Fusco and Smith.
  • Finally, Frazier declared Fusco his starting right guard for the regular season opener. "No one has unseated him," Frazier said.
  • With Sherels and Robinson out, rookie Jarius Wright will be the first punt returner used on Thursday.
  •  Frazier said the team has been told by the league that receiver Jerome Simpson won't have to leave Winter Park during his three-game suspension at the starter of the season. According to Frazier, Simpson can't practice or work out with teammates, but he can sit in on meetings and work out individually with strength coach Tom Kanavy.
  • Frazier said running back Adrian Peterson felt fine this morning, a day after he was cleared to take limited contact in practice. "He's no worse for the ware," Frazier said.
  • Frazier said Joe Webb will start at quarterback and play at least the first quarter on Thursday. Sage Rosenfels will complete the first half and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will play the entire second half.
  • According to Frazier, the team plans to keep six receivers, including the suspended Simpson, to start the season.  

`No-touch' rule on Peterson to continue into next week

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 15, 2012 - 2:00 PM

MANKATO -- Touching Adrian Peterson will remain a big practice no-no until at least next week.

"At some point here real soon, maybe next week, we'll let him get a little contact," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after this morning's walk-through. "It depends a little bit on how he's feeling and where he is. We want to get him a few more reps today and increase that as we go along."

Peterson was in full pads for the first time on Tuesday. He got 10 snaps and two carries, but defenders were told and reminded often to keep their hands off the face of the franchise and the left knee that was surgically rebuilt just 7 1/2 months ago.

Peterson will practice again this afternoon, but will not play in Friday night's preseason game against Buffalo at Mall of America Field.

Meanwhile, Frazier said the healthy scratches from last week's opener -- Percy Harvin, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield -- will play against the Bills.

"Our goal is to try to get [the starters] at least through the first quarter and maybe part of the second quarter as well," Frazier said. "We have a number of plays we want to get to."

Sullivan emerging as team leader: Frazier singled out center John Sullivan as a player who emerged as a team leader during the Vikings' three-week stay in Mankato. That makes sense since Sullivan went from being the team's second-youngest offensive line starter last year to its second-oldest offensive line starter this year.

"There are a couple of guys that I'm really impressed with, one being John Sullivan," Frazier said. "I really like the way he's stepped up. I don't want to put a bright light on him. He's kind of been in the shadows of some of the veteran players who lined up with him in the past. All of a sudden he finds himself in a leadership role. He's really beginning to take that, and we need that. [Right tackle] Phil Loadholt has been another guy doing the same thing. We have other guys stepping up on the other side of the ball, but John is the one who kind of sticks out to me."

 Identity emerging as camp breaks: The Vikings break the Mankato portion of training camp after today's practice. Earlier today, Frazier talked about the identity he believes is emerging on the team.

"We feel like it's been a successful training camp," Frazier said. "A lot of the things we set out to do are being accomplished.

"We have some goals for what we want our offense, defense and special teams to look like. I think one of the things that came out of this training camp is we are coming together as a team. We're taking on the characteristics we like to have as a team. We want be a tough team. We want to be a smart team. We want to be a disciplined football team. We're seeing that in the way we're practicing. I saw some of it in the San Francisco game. Now, it's a matter of are we talented enough to go out and do the things we have to do on Sunday. But I think the foundation is being laid to do it the right way. The rest of it has to come over time."

Bethel-Thompson still competing for No. 3: The Vikings most likely will keep 33-year-old Sage Rosenfels as their No. 3 quarterback since they gave him a two-year, $3 million deal with some guaranteed money. He's also a favorite of General Manager Rick Spielman. But 24-year-old McLeod Bethel-Thompson is turning heads with what might be the strongest arm in camp.

Frazier was asked if Bethel-Thompson's best-case scenario is making the team's practice squad behind Christian Ponder, Joe Webb and Rosenfels.

"Right now, as we speak, he's fighting for that third spot," Frazier said. "Things could change, but he's fighting to get that third quarterback. We're not pigeonholing him and saying he has to be a practice squad candidate.

"We like having Sage. That was one of the reasons we signed him back, his veteran experience. We'll see how that all shakes out. But there is competition across the board, even at the quarterback position with the third spot."  

Chris Cook, Greg Childs deliver biggest highlights of Thursday's practice

Posted by: Updated: August 2, 2012 - 6:42 PM

Rookie receiver Greg Childs delivered the highlight reel play of the day in the final team session of this afternoon's Vikings practice. With the second unit offense and defense on the field, Childs’ 26-yard touchdown catch from Joe Webb came on a play during which cornerback Brandon Burton had near-perfect coverage. Yet with the receiver and cornerback face-to-face in the end zone, Childs leaped, reached both arms around Burton and managed to pin the ball on the cornerback’s back long enough to haul it in.

 

Said fellow receiver Jarius Wright, a friend of Childs’ since childhood: “I’ve seen that since our school days. Greg making catches like that? There’s nothing new for me to see.”

Added head coach Leslie Frazier: "That was a nice play. We saw him do that in college as well. That was a real nice play. Great concentration. That's what we need. We need a guy to make that hard catch for us even when he's covered. That's good to see."

Thursday's defensive standout may well have been cornerback Chris Cook, who's clearly established himself as the team's top cornerback. Cook had two eye-opening interceptions this afternoon. The first came in 11-on-11 work on a throw up the right sideline made by Christian Ponder and intended for Percy Harvin. Cook made an athletic grab and raced the other way.

Later, with the defensive backs matching up against receivers in drill work, Cook made up ground on rookie Jarius Wright and made another nifty pick of a Sage Rosenfels pass.

Cook has been superb in camp so far, a good sign as he comes back from the off-the-field troubles that cost him the final 10 games of 2011.

From 90 to 53: As practice begins, Vikings' roster and depth chart will take shape

Posted by: Updated: July 27, 2012 - 8:03 AM

Aaaaand …. here we go! In many ways, the Vikings 2012 season officially gets underway today – first training camp walkthrough at 10:30 a.m., first practice at 2:45 in Mankato. And yes we know a lot can and will happen between now and Sept. 9, the day the Vikings open the regular season at home against Jacksonville. But taking the 90 players currently on the roster, here is our very early position-by-position breakdown to help you understand the personnel dynamics and guess which 53 players will make the team for the season opener.

QUARTERBACKS
Currently on roster: 4
Likely to make opening day roster: 3
Certain to make the team: Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels
Camp depth and nothing more: McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Comment: It would take a significant injury or some other kind of unforeseen twist for the Vikings’ current quarterback depth chart to change. Unless he tries to throw lefty, Ponder is the undisputed 2012 starter with the team confident in Webb’s abilities as a backup. Rosenfels, a favorite of general manager Rick Spielman, should be secure in the No. 3 slot, capable of lending veteran guidance at practice and in the classroom. The stage is now Ponder’s to prove that his offseason time investment in getting better, in learning the offense, in jelling with teammates has paid off.
 
RUNNING BACKS
Currently on roster: 8
Likely to make opening day roster: 4
Certain to make the team: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart
On the bubble: Jordan Todman, Jerome Felton, Ryan D’Imperio
On the outside looking in: Lex Hilliard, Matt Asiata
Camp depth and nothing more: Derrick Coleman
Comment: Peterson’s continued recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last December will be monitored closely throughout camp. He will likely start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. But how long will the Vikings keep him there? Todman’s burst and upside are intriguing and make him the frontrunner as the No. 3 back. At fullback, the Felton-D’Imperio battle will be interesting. D’Imperio’s special teams skills could be enough to keep him around.  
 
RECEIVERS
Currently on roster: 12
Likely to make opening day roster: 5
Certain to make the team: Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright
On the bubble: Michael Jenkins, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs, Devin Aromashodu
On the outside looking in: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Walters, Kerry Taylor
Camp depth and nothing more: Kamer Jordan, A.J. Love
Comment: Simpson may be a fantastic addition to the offense but will be suspended by the NFL for the first three regular season games. That will leave the Vikings with some tough decisions on how to compensate at the position for that early stretch. Jenkins, now 30 and due to make $2.5 million in each of the next two seasons, might not fit entirely with the Vikings’ youth movement but could also provide the veteran dependability Ponder needs. Especially early in the season as the second-year quarterback tries to build confidence. So Jenkins’ camp performance will be intriguing. Burton has thoroughly impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason and is currently a safe bet to make the team. Childs’ health is a concern. (A calf strain bothered him in the offseason. And a lingering knee injury has kept the rookie from flourishing since early in his 2010 season at Arkansas.)  Aromashodu is a wild card, athletic, selfless and hard-working enough to keep you intrigued but never consistently productive enough to excel. 
 
TIGHT ENDS
Currently on roster: 5
Likely to make opening day roster: 4
Certain to make the team: John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison
On the bubble: Mickey Shuler, Allen Reisner
Comment: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave needs reliable tight ends to squeeze the maximum potential out of his attack. The Carlson-Rudolph tandem could prove dynamic. Ellison is being molded into the role Jimmy Kleinsasser mastered for 13 seasons. Shuler and Reisner will fight for a chance to stick around.
 
OFFENSIVE LINE
Currently on roster: 15
Likely to make opening day roster: 9
Certain to make the team: Matt Kalil, John Sullivan, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt, Brandon Fusco, Geoff Schwartz
On the bubble: Pat Brown, Joe Berger, Levi Horn, Chris DeGeare, DeMarcus Love
Camp depth and nothing more: Kevin Murphy, Tyler Holmes, Austin Pasztor, Quentin Saulsberry
Comment: Crazy as it may sound after last year’s o-line shortcomings, general manager Rick Spielman is feeling pretty good about the way this year’s line is taking shape. Much of that has to do with the addition of Kalil, which gives Johnson a chance to be more successful inside at left guard. Everyone within the organization lauds the continued development of Sullivan. And Fusco’s fearlessness and adaptability has also drawn raves. But what’s next for Loadholt, entering the final year of his rookie contract and needing to show marked improvement? Keep an eye on that. Also, that on-the-bubble crop of Brown, Berger, Horn, DeGeare and Love will face intense pressure to perform in camp. Two of them will likely be shown the door by opening day.
 
DEFENSIVE LINE
Currently on roster: 16
Likely to make opening day roster: 9
Certain to make the team: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Letroy Guion, Christian Ballard, D’Aundre Reed, Fred Evans
On the bubble: Trevor Guyton, Jeff Charleston
On the outside looking in: Tydreke Powell
Camp depth and nothing more: Eric Latimore, Chase Baker, Anthony Jacobs, Ernest Owusu, Nick Reed
Comment: A front four of Allen, Williams, Guion and Robison is pretty impressive. Griffen may soon make a conversion to linebacker. Ballard and D’Aundre Reed, meanwhile, were lost-in-the-shuffle rookies in 2011; Reed was never even active on game day. But both players have been openly lauded this offseason by Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier for their impressive growth. Charleston? He’s entering his seventh NFL season with his fourth team. But he was signed by the Vikings in late-June and feels like he may have found an ideal situation to showcase his talents. Powell was an undrafted free agent that the Vikings plucked immediately after April’s draft, intrigued by his size (6-foot-3, 325 pounds) and strength and curious as to whether he can eventually be a reliable rotational tackle despite his athletic shortcomings.
 
LINEBACKERS
Currently on roster: 10
Likely to make opening day roster: 6
Certain to make the team: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Jasper Brinkley
On the bubble: Marvin Mitchell, Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie, Solomon Elimimian, Tyler Nielsen
On the outside looking in: Larry Dean, Corey Paredes
Comment: This is the position of concern heading into camp, the Vikings not yet convinced that they have enough quality depth. Brinkley, who missed all of 2011 after hip surgery and was limited during the offseason with a groin problem, needs to quickly prove that his health won’t be an ongoing worry. Henderson, meanwhile, will be given every opportunity in 2012 to prove he’s a playmaker on the rise as he firmly believes he is. The coaching staff fell in love with Cole at the Senior Bowl in January, impressed with his passion for the game. Elimimian comes from the CFL and has a reputation for delivering big hits even though he’s a bit undersized. Mitchell may be the safest Plan B at middle linebacker if Brinkley gets hurt or slides out of favor. McKenzie could also challenge there.
 
CORNERBACKS
Currently on roster: 11
Likely to make opening day roster: 6
Certain to make the team: Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, Chris Carr
On the bubble: Zack Bowman, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels
On the outside looking in: Reggie Jones
Camp depth and nothing more: Bobby Felder, Corey Gatewood, Nick Taylor
Comment: The Vikings are a long way from solidifying things at corner. But for the first time in a long time, they have plenty of depth which will create some superb camp competition. The door has been kicked open for Cook to become the unit’s star. Winfield, by far the most experienced and dependable corner on the team, will need to have a bounce-back year after injuries cost him 11 games in 2011. But the 14th-year vet will likely see his playing time reduced as his odometer continues to climb. That means there’s an immediate opportunity for Carr to land a major role. That would give the Vikings the luxury of bringing Robinson along slowly. The rookie out of Central Florida is raw but blessed with speed and plenty of upside but admits himself that he needs to be much more consistent to prove himself on this level. Sherels’ ticket to sticking around may require him to showcase his worth as a punt returner. Bowman, too, will have to use his special teams ability to his advantage.
 
SAFETIES
Currently on roster: 6
Likely to make opening day roster: 4
Certain to make the team: Harrison Smith, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton, Jamarca Sanford
On the bubble: Eric Frampton
On the outside looking in: Andrew Sendejo
Comment: Sanford started 15 games last season but the hope is to slide him into a reserve role while still utilizing his abilities on special teams. Smith will start from the get-go and Raymond could be ready to take a big step forward in his second season, in line to be other other safety starter on opening day. Don’t forget, Raymond came out of college as a cornerback who was converted to safety, the same transition that the Vikings will ask Blanton to make. Blanton has incredible upside and could challenge for a starting role before long. So much depends on how fast he can pick up the nuances at safety and learn the responsibilities in the Vikings’ schemes.
 
SPECIALISTS
Currently on roster: 3
Likely to make opening day roster: 3
Certain to make the team: Chris Kluwe, Blair Walsh, Cullen Loeffler
Comment: Welcome to the era of “The Blair Walsh Project.” Yep, we’re getting that one out of the way early and promising not to use it after camp. Special teams coach Mike Priefer loves Walsh’s deportment and raves about his ability to go deep on kickoffs. Now the rookie out of Georgia will have to find a way to improve his accuracy by polishing his technique and heeding Priefer’s demands to slow down his approach a little on field goal attempts. Still, the Vikings liked Walsh enough to use a sixth-round draft pick on him while later cutting Ryan Longwell loose. Kluwe and Loeffler? No worries there. Both are hard-working veterans you can set your watch by.
 

Rosenfels: Ponder may need to tone down his perfectionist ways

Posted by: Updated: June 8, 2012 - 9:17 AM

Sage Rosenfels was supposed to be the Vikings’ starting quarterback once. In 2009, it was all lining up for him to get his chance. But then Brett Favre had one last itch he needed to scratch and Rosenfels’ first tour of duty in Minnesota was non-descript. Back for a second stint now, Rosenfels is competing with Joe Webb to be the Vikings’ back-up. He’s also has had a chance to watch Christian Ponder’s offseason growth. We visited briefly with Rosenfels on Wednesday after the team’s OTA practice to get his breakdown of where Ponder is now and where he may be headed in his second season.

Here’s some of what Rosenfels had to say:

On Ponder’s strides since the end of last season …

“Every day and every rep that he gets out here, he’s getting more and more comfortable. His approach is the way it should be. It’s very professional and very serious. And he’s genuinely always looking to get better. That approach will help him out. And I've see him making strides these past few weeks. It’s all about being really comfortable. And when a quarterback is playing comfortable, your mind makes quicker decisions. He’s starting to do that."

On how a quarterback gets the comfort dial turned to the right notch ...

"It just takes reps. First you have to get really comfortable in practice. And you have to have a lot of reps to do that. And then in games, you’ll be a little bit more comfortable every time. Over the course of weeks into years, you get more and more comfortable. I’m sure the veterans in the league that have more than 100 starts, they rarely think about the crowd or other things. They’re just so into the game because there’s no real concern about all the other stuff. I think some younger guys can get concerned with the things that are going on that have no impact on the success of the game."

On why Ponder’s skillset has the Viking optimistic that he’s their franchise quarterback ...

"Like what everybody says, he’s athletic. He’s got a strong arm. He’s a smart guy. He’s eager to learn. He’s motivated. So he has those things. But it’s up to him to use those things to his advantage. So I do see him doing that. And we’ll see what happens as time goes on. But I’m optimistic seeing the way he works."

On Ponder’s biggest hurdle going forward ...

"The hurdle is to probably just clear your mind and do it. The NFL is a whole different world that you grew up thinking about. And there’s all this sort of buildup. And the key is to just go out there and do it and perform and not always worry about the consequences. I’ve seen him do it in practice. And then at some point, it’s going to need to carry over to the games. That’s all he has to do, to go out there and actually perform."

On Ponder’s admitted tendency to be his own worst critic …

"He’s a perfectionist. You can definitely tell that. And sometimes I tell him, you need to just hose it. Sometimes he maybe tries to be too perfect with a throw. And sometimes you just have to let it rip, let it go. The corners are quick in this game. So you can’t always try to make the perfect pass. Sometimes you’d rather have a little more juice on it. Those are the types of things that I sometimes try to get across to him. You want to be as perfect as you can, especially in the individual drill work. But at the end of the day, when the team stuff’s going on, you have to just play. Because the game’s not a perfect game. You wish it was."

On the challenge of getting out of your own head …

"You practice everything you do in the offseason and the beginning of practice is all about sort of being perfect. But once the team stuff goes on, it sort of becomes mass chaos. So it’s hard to stick entirely to your fundamentals. You still have to play the game There are different speeds to this. There’s the early practice [individual work] speed. There’s the 7-on-7 speed. There’s the practice team speed. And then there’s game speed. So there’s all these things that get a little more and more crazy. Yes, you have to stick to your fundamentals but also realize there’s a game going on too."

On the value of Ponder’s charisma …

"It’s really important that a quarterback doesn’t think of himself as any better than anyone else on the team. I think he has that approach and guys respect that. I think everyone has been around, whether it’s high school of college, a situation where the quarterback put himself first. I think Christian is always eager to hang out with the guys or the offensive lineman. Go out to dinner. Go fishing. He sees himself as one of the guys. Because he is. He has a lot to learn. And he’s really one of the young guys trying to fit in with the older guys."

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