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.


Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 4

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Vikings players, Brett Favre, Chad Greenway 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 under NFC 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.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: August 3

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Adrian Peterson, John Sullivan Updated: August 3, 2014 - 7:48 AM

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Who is George Edwards and what exactly does he do around here?

--- S Jamarca Sanford is used to having to battle for a starting position.

--- Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater finished last night’s practice strong.

--- GM Rick Spielman is quizzing coach Mike Zimmer on in-game decisions.

--- OLB Anthony Barr is working to become a better pass rusher.

--- C John Sullivan is hoping for improved health and improved play in 2014.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Packers rookie WR Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL in camp.

--- Lions rookie TE Eric Ebron is starting to show improvement.

--- Two Bears rookie defensive tackles are getting rave reviews.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After last night’s night practice, Zimmer is giving players the day off. They’ll be back tomorrow.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Few, if any, NFL teams used running back screens less often than the Vikings did a season ago. Less than 1.8 percent of Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder’s attempts were running back screens, according to Pro Football Focus. Those percentages should be on the rise with Norv Turner calling the plays. We have already seen Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon get involved in the screen game in camp practices, and both looked dangerous in the open field, particularly Peterson.

What you missed at Vikings training camp Saturday night

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: August 2, 2014 - 11:05 PM

Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has had some rocky moments in recent practices, throwing four interceptions in the past three days, including one tonight in the end zone. But he showed the loud crowd in the bleachers a glimpse of his promise in the two-minute drill at the end of the night.

After Matt Cassel was unable to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown in a situation in which a field goal wouldn’t cut it, Bridgewater coolly guided the second-stringers 60 yards for a touchdown. Not counting a spike to stop the clock, Bridgewater completed each of his six attempts for all 60 yards and the touchdown, which came on a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Rodney Smith.

Chatting with reporters after practice, Bridgewater acknowledged that the two-minute drill “went good.” But he was still stewing over the interception he threw in the red-zone drill moments earlier.

“I'm not so happy about the way it ended as I am [upset] about the interception I threw in the red zone. That's something I'll learn from,” Bridgewater said. “Coach Zimmer always stresses that we have to outsmart our opponent. If you have points, try to keep those points. I'm not as happy about the touchdown as I want to be.”

SETTING THE SCENE: Approximately 9,200 Vikings fans attended tonight’s practice at Minnesota State Mankato. The spirited practice lasted about two hours, and afterwards each of the 90 men on the roster tossed autographed footballs into the stands -- well, except for the unidentified player who cleared the entire bleachers and put one out into the parking lot. Now, as I type this blog, fireworks are popping outside the window of the media room. It had to be a fun night for the fans.

YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORD: Bridgewater bounced back after a couple of shaky practices by completing 20 of his 25 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. Two of those incompletions were drops, and veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway made one heck of a play on the pick, reading Bridgewater’s eyes and flashing in front of the intended receiver for an interception that left Bridgewater shaking his head. Meanwhile, Cassel was 18-for-27 with a pair of interceptions, both of them coming -- one from cornerback Xavier Rhodes and another from fellow corner Marcus Sherels -- on go routes down the sideline. “That's going to happen in camp,” Cassel said. “The thing is I'm confident in how I'm playing.” And then there is Christian Ponder, who didn’t even attempt a pass in team drills and appears to be nothing more than a camp arm at this point.

ONE MORE TEDDY TIDBIT: I was really impressed with a particular play from Bridgewater during 11-on-11 drills, and it was an example of the pocket presence that offensive coordinator Norv Turner and others have raved about. As the pocket collapsed on him from behind, Bridgewater climbed the pocket then made a strong throw between a pair of linebackers to wide receiver Donte Foster, who was well covered while running a deep in route across the field. Now that was an NFL throw.

THE PLAY OF CAMP SO FAR: Rhodes made an incredible play to intercept Cassel. Trailing wide receiver Jarius Wright down the left sideline, Rhodes laid out to make an over-the-shoulder grab of a well-thrown deep ball. “Xavier made a great play,” Cassel said. Rhodes landed on the ball and bounced off it like he was doing “The Worm,” but he turned out to be OK. Earlier in practice, he impressed in 1-on-1 drills, too, breaking up a slant to Cordarrelle Patterson with some physical coverage then running stride for stride with Patterson in a trail position on an incomplete deep ball.

GRIFFEN SPINS AND SWIMS: The 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen are always fun to watch, particularly when (as Zimmer calls him, "eager") defensive end Everson Griffen is involved. After a stalemate with left tackle Matt Kalil, Griffen blew by him on the next opportunity, setting Kalil up with an outside rush then spinning inside to blow up an imaginary quarterback. A couple of minutes later, Griffen ripped right by rookie left guard David Yankey with a swim move.

HE’S GOT LEGS, AND HE KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM: The Vikings are trying to ratchet up Blair Walsh for the preseason games, and he is responding well. Tonight, they let him unload on a couple of 50-plus-yarders in front of the fans, and he connected from 51 then 53 yards. He was 8-for-8 on field goals. Afterward, he boomed four straight touchbacks before focusing on directional kickoffs.

INJURY REPORT: Rookie outside linebacker Brandon Watts missed practice with an undisclosed injury. He was shaken up yesterday after a collision with tight end Rhett Ellison. Also sidelined tonight were cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), tight ends Chase Ford (fractured foot) and AC Leonard (head), and safeties Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Andrew Sendejo (back and ankle).

Spielman quizzes Zimmer on game situations

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: August 2, 2014 - 12:47 PM

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are constantly exchanging words after walkthrough, during and at times even after practice.

But the two met together on Saturday for an hour to dissect game management situations. Zimmer said Spielman gathered tape together of different scenarios where a coach has to call a timeout, throw a challenge flag or when to kick a field goal.

The two will meet again for the next four days, tackling 15 game situations, as Zimmer prepares for his first preseason game against the Raiders on Friday.

“Rick is never wrong,” Zimmer said with a smile.

The hardest challenge for a first time head coach is being pressed with different situations that can alter the outcome of the game. Zimmer said it’s been his focus at the moment while the rest of the coaching staff dissects the Raiders in the film room. Zimmer plans to watch the Raiders as well but his goal isn’t to devise a clever scheme for a preseason game.

“To me, this is about us; us getting better and evaluating our guys against other guys,” Zimmer said. “I don’t want to go out there and trick the Raiders. I want to go out there and play solid, fundamental football where guys aren’t thinking and their athletic ability does show up. I’m sure we can probably run some blitzes that they’re probably not ready for, but that’s not what I am looking for.”

Zimmer will continue to work on situations during Saturday night’s practice. There won’t be a live period, but the Vikings will have stretches in the red zone, two-minute drill and third down situations.

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