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 are expected to release tight end John Carlson, the Star Tribune confirmed on Tuesday.
The team tried to restructure Carlson’s contract for a second straight offseason but the two sides couldn’t reach a deal. Carlson is expected to be released on Wednesday.
Carlson, 29, finished the season on injured reserve due to a concussion he suffered in Week 14 against the Ravens but told the Star Tribune in February that he planned to continue his football career next season. It was his third concussion in six NFL seasons.
The Litchfield, Minn. native signed a five-year deal worth $25 million in 2012. In two seasons with the Vikings, Carlson played 27 games and had 40 catches for 387 yards and a touchdown. Most of his production occurred after tight end Kyle Rudolph broke his foot in Week 9 last season. Carlson had 283 yards and a touchdown in a five-week span as the starter before suffering the season-ending concussion.
Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said on Tuesday that safety Harrison Smith has shown “glimpses” when asked if he could develop into the best player on defense.
“When you look at him, you’ve got those glimpses,” Gray said on KFAN. “The biggest thing that you want to do is of course you want him to be on the field for 16 games, hopefully 20; that means you keep going into the playoffs. You look at him and he has something that you want. I remember talking to him at the train station a couple years ago at the Combine. Smart guy, he gives you a chance to go out there and hopefully make all the calls on the defense. But that’s just what I’ve seen on film. That’s why I can’t wait to get to talk to him in person."
More from Gray’s radio interview:
On Gray’s philosophy with defensive backs
"The first thing we talk about is what is their aspirations because, number one, they have to have a goal in mind. I have a goal for them – I want you to be the best in the league. I want you to make as much money as you possibly can. Rick may not like that but to me, that’s what my job is. My job is to make sure I get you to be the best in the NFL and then when somebody else wants you that means we’ve done a good job here; but they have to want that also. I can’t make you do something. I want you to see what I want or where you want to go and hopefully my vision and your vision meet up together.
"And then we talk a lot of technique because, to me, I think technique tells you where you want to go. Schemes start every play but technique finishes it and if we can technique sound and be really good at technique then we can probably win a lot of football games."
On whether ball skills can be taught at this level in regards to cornerback Chris Cook
"There’s some things you can do. I think we can, number one, we can catch a lot of footballs after practice or before practice and make that a priority. Then there’s little games that guys go through. I would love to get a chance whenever Chris comes in to get a chance to talk to him and see what happens on certain play. When he’s in position to make the play and it doesn’t happen, what’s your thought process because your thought is going to determine what you’re actually going to do on that play."
On what enticed Gray to Minnesota
"The coaching staff. I think coach [Mike] Zimmer, I’ve always respected him from afar. I’ve watched his defense. I know what he teaches and knowing him when he was in the Cowboys and knowing Norv Turner, he was actually the receivers coach when I was with the Rams; so I know Norv growing up, and I know what offense he brings. Getting a chance to be around, I think, other really good coaches that have a great background a great degree in football is really good for me. And now it gives me a chance to mix my technique with coach Zimmer’s defense. It’s going to be his defense and George is going to be running it. I respect George and what he’s done. He’s been a coordinator in Buffalo and also in college.
"Those are things I look for this time as far as a staff. To me, the staff was probably more important. How can you go in as a staff and really establish yourself in the National Football League other than trying to have some guys come up through the ranks."
Nineteen NFL scouts were on hand at Gophers pro day on Monday. That doesn’t include the Vikings, who brought an army to watch prospects like Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen and Concordia defensive end Zach Moore. (Gophers beat writer Joe Christensen has more on how the prospects did at pro day on the Gophers blog.)
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator George Edwards were just some of the Vikings on hand along with a number of position coaches and scouts. They arrived right before players began position drills and helped with that portion of the event. They also received a tour of TCF Bank Stadium after Pro Day, where the Vikings will play for the next two seasons.
“I was kidding these coaches all that I know they can do right now is watch tape,” Spielman said. “I haven’t seen them coach yet, so they were all excited that they got an opportunity to get up here and get on the field a little bit.
“That tells you what coach Zimmer is about. We have to go through our process, but I can’t wait until we’re about to get out on the field because I know him and just to see our coaches out there working with the kids and working on technique and things like that. That’s what they’re here for.”
Hageman, Vereen and Moore only participated in the position drills since they participated in the rest of the activities at the NFL Combine last week, but Spielman said the team treats this Pro Day like a local workout. The Vikings have previously invited players that partcipated at Gophers Pro Day to rookie mini-camp and even training camp, including wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was in attendance on Monday.
“You never know what you’ll find, but there’s a lot of hidden talent up in these areas that you never know what you’re going to come across,” Spielman said.
Other notes from today:
*Spielman again said he doesn’t expect the Vikings to use their franchise tag. The deadline to apply the tag is at 3 p.m. CT.
Three players have been tagged so far: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Jets kicker Nick Folk. Redskins reportedly will tag linebacker Brian Orakpo if they can’t reach a deal before the deadline.
*Spielman said the Vikings will make at least nine Pro Day trips in March. Here’s a few notable Pro Days to watch for this month:
March 5: Texas A&M, Wisconsin
March 6: Clemson, Missouri, Nebraska
March 7: Northern Illinois, Ohio State
March 11: Michigan State
March 12: Alabama, Oklahoma, USC,, Michigan
March 13: Oklahoma State, Oregon
March 15: Florida
March 18: Florida State
March 19: Baylor, Lidenwood, Virginia Tech
March 20: Notre Dame, Stanford
March 25: North Carolina
March 26: Texas
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgwater was regarded as the top overall pick last season. Now he might not be the first quarterback taken in the draft.
What has gone wrong in that span? Surprisingly, nothing.
Bridgewater answered the biggest knock against him at the NFL Combine, which was his weight. The 6-2 quarterback was 214 pounds at the event. It’s difficult to say whether that will translate to durability, and Bridgewater battled through injuries that he played through late late season. He was listed at 205 pounds according to the school’s site.
Bridgewater didn’t throw at the NFL Combine, and he didn’t compete in the 40-yard dash either after saying he would. He’s a pocket-first quarterback however, so his speed isn’t necessarily a big deal. Bridgewater said he will throw at Lousville’s Pro Day on March 17.
Outside of the 40-yard dash, Bridgewater recorded a 30-inch vertical jump, 113-inch broad jump and ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.20 seconds.
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Vikings selecting Bridgwater with the eighth pick in his latest mock draft. Lousiville’s offense has helped develop Bridgewater into a potential Week 1 starter and the most NFL-ready quarterback according to some draft analysts. Bridgewater is an accurate quarterback with good vision, and he lit up Miami with a career-high 447 yards in his final game with Louisville.
Outside of his durability, there aren’t many negatives about Bridgewater. If he can stay healthy, that could be a steal with the eighth pick.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t throw at the NFL Combine, but he participated in every other event last week.
Manziel measured at 5-11¾ and 207 pounds with 9 7/8 hands. His massive hands eased some of the concerns with his height. Yes, Seahawks quarterback Russell just won a Super Bowl at 5-11 but not every quarterback under 6 feet will be a success story. Manziel will break a barrier as a first round quarterback under 6 feet partly due to Wilson, who was drafted in the third round in 2012.
“I think [Wilson’s] kicked the door wide open,” Manziel told the Houston Chronicle. “You’re seeing more guys being successful avoiding that first wave of pressure — get out and do things outside the pocket.
Johnny Football displayed his athleticism during the other events, including the 40-yard dash where he had the fourth fastest time at 4.68 seconds. He also had a 31.5-inch vertical jump and 113-inch broad jump.
Manziel also did well during his teams interviews, including the Vikings on Saturday. He also reportedly interviewed well with the Jaguars and Raiders.
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has met with the #Vikings. Spielman, Zimmer and Turner were all in the meeting. ....Ran 4.56 (u) 40 time.— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterStrib) February 23, 2014
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner will throw at Texas A&M’s Pro Day on March 5. Manziel’s drawing comparisons to Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie.
Two quarterbacks with two drastically different caers are the best comparisons for Manziel because there really hasn’t been someone like him in the modern draft era. Outside of his personality and celebrity status, the biggest question is how will Manziel's talents translate at the next level.
Will he be a Tarkenton, which Vikings fans would love in Minnesota, or a Flutie? Manziel's career will be fun to follow over the next four years even if he doesn't get picked by the Vikings.
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