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.
JERSEY CITY -- Too much time has been spent worrying about what surly Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch won't say than appreciating the pure maestro that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is during his Super Bowl media sessions.
Today was the final access day for assistant coaches and quarterbacks. Manning was asked who he lists as his top three quarterbacks of all time, and was told he couldn't pick his dad (Archie) or his little brother (Eli).
Manning didn't skip a beat. He look the question and figuratively ran with it.
"Me and my buddies don’t discuss that," Manning said. "We have other things to talk about.
" don’t have a list, but I think I could describe the perfect quarterback. Take a little piece of everybody. Take John Elway’s arm, Dan Marino’s release, maybe Troy Aikman’s dropback, Brett Favre’s scrambling ability, Joe Montana’s two-minute poise and, naturally, my speed in there."
The last part was delivered with the kind of subtle humor that makes Manning the perfect TV commercial pitchman.
"I could take a piece of everyone, of some of my favorite quarterbacks, and I could take 30 traits from different guys, and put them in that perfect quarterback," Manning said. "That is how I like to look at it. I don’t have the list. I know a lot of people have lists. ‘Anytime,’ as John Elway once said, ‘you might be kind of in the conversation of someone talking about some of their favorite quarterbacks, that’s a nice compliment in itself.’”
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Like a lot of NFL kickers, Steven Hauschka has been, putting it nicely, well-traveled during a six-year career that has seen him suit up for six NFL teams and one UFL team.
He got his start as an undrafted Viking in 2008 and has wound his way through Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, the Las Vegas Locomotives, Denver and finally Seattle, where he'll play for the NFC champion Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
"It's been an interesting journey," he said. "I've learned a lot along the way."
In 2008, then-Vikings coach Brad Childress was looking exploring the possibility of having a young leg take over kickoffs from the aging, but still highly accurate Ryan Longwell. The Vikings didn't draft a kicker, but did sign Hauschka after the draft.
The idea of sharing the kicking duties with a rookie never set well with Longwell. But Hauschka said Longwell kept their brief relationship professional. Longwell also stepped up his kickoffs enough that the Vikings released Hauschka before the regular season.
"Ryan was a great, great kicker who had been through it all and had a great career," Hauschka said. "I learned a lot from him, especially the mental part of the game. Just how much it takes as a professional to perform at this level, all year round. You have to be constantly preparing yourself."
Hauschka wasn't sure what to expect when cutdown day arrived that summer. He knew he wasn't going to beat Longwell out for the place-kicking chores.
"I was young," he said. "I didn't really know any better. I was just trying to kick the ball as far as I could and hope someone saw me. I had nothing to lose and wasn't expecting anything. Sometimes, that's a good place to be."
The Ravens signed Hauschka to their practice squad in September of 2008 and made him active for kickoffs and long field goal attempts as a partner with another aging vet, Matt Stover. Hauschka's first professional field goal attempt was a successful 54-yarder, which remains his career long.
Hauschka played in Baltimore for parts of two seasons, Atlanta for part of one and Detroit for the 2010 preseason. He also played for the Locomotives in 2010.
Late in the 2010 NFL season, Denver needed a kicker when Matt Prater went down with an injury. So the Broncos signed Hauschka to finish out that season. Sunday, Prater and Hauschka will square off in the first outdoor Super Bowl played in a cold-weather city.
The weather is supposed to be mild, in the upper 30s to low 40s with no snow expected at this point.
"The weather shouldn't be a factor," Hauschka said. "I think we'll be fine."
Seattle signed Hauschka in 2011 and has leaned on him ever since. This year, he was nearly perfect, connecting on a career-high 33 of 35 field goals for a career-high 94.3 percent.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Man, is it me or is it impossible to take two steps around the Big Apple without tripping over a former Viking getting ready to play or coach in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII.
We've brought you multiple posts and stories on Darrell Bevell, Jack Del Rio, Percy Harvin and Randy Moss' "brah-mance" and Heath Farwell, whom one of us called Keith Harwell back when he was an undrafted rookie in Mankato. Jim Souhan chipped on the purple connections and brought you this blog post on Tarvaris Jackson.
Now we'll bring you another guy who spent the 2012 training camp with the Vikings. His name is Derrick Coleman, who was a running back when he came to the Vikings as an undrafted rookie out of UCLA in 2012. He was cut in training camp because, as you may have noticed, the Vikings were in pretty good shape at RB.
Coleman is now a fullback with the Seahawks. He played in 12 games, starting three of them. He's caught eight passes for 62 yards and run the ball twice for three yards.
Coleman, as you may remember, also is deaf. He's also become an international story because of it.
“I just became aware of that a couple of days ago," Coleman said. "My agent’s always telling me how many views I have on YouTube. It’s funny, because I was looking on Twitter and I saw a lady from Australia and I said, ‘How did it get way over there?’ Like I said, I’m really just targeting one group of kids and the fact that it went all over is a blessing. I’m doing something right. I’m helping.”
Asked if getting cut from the Vikings was a motivating factor in his life, Coleman said, "Oh, absolutely. You only get so many opportunities in this world and however many you have, you can’t just squander it. You have to manage every chance you have. I wasn’t just sitting at home just hanging out playing video games. I was still, either early in the morning or late at night working out, because you never know when that next opportunity will come. If it never came, I knew I was prepared regardless.”
As for his lip-reading skills, they seem amazing, but Coleman says they aren't perfect.
“I’m not saying I’m perfect at it," he said. "If we’re talking right now I’m good at reading. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. But when it comes to some guy way over there, that may get kind of hard to do. I remember I had an interview one time and they had a clip of Russell (Wilson) and Doug Baldwin saying things and they wanted to see how good I was. I think I got like 85, 90 percent at it. It was pretty good, but you’re not always perfect at it.”
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Let's just say that Heath Farwell didn't set the bar for his career quite as high as Super Bowl XLVIII.
"Going undrafted by the Vikings in 2005, just to make the practice squad as a rookie coming out of Mankato was a dream come true," said Farwell, the Seahawks' special teams leader. "I remember thinking, `What an unbelievable accomplishment that was."
Five weeks into his rookie season, Farwell was being considered for a promotion from the Vikings' practice squad.
"We had some injuries and some of the older guys, [linebackers] Sam Cowart and Keith Newman, were guys who kind of went into coach [Mike] Tice's office and said, `We should activate this kid. He can help us on special teams,'" Farwell said today during Seattle's media access period at The Westin hotel in Jersey City. "They did it on a one-week, trial basis. I survived the week and I've been active ever since. It's been an unbelievable ride."
It also reached the top of the football world when the Seahawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game two Sundays ago. For Farwell, that win was particularly gratifying because of how the Vikings turned the ball over five times while blowing the NFC title game in overtime at New Orleans during the 2009 season.
"We came so close in '09 and came up so short," Farwell said. "Myself, [quarterback] Tarvaris Jackson, [receiver] Percy Harvin, [receiver] Sidney Rice, even though he's on injured reserve, and [offensive coordinator] Darrell Bevell were all on that team. So when we beat San Francisco, yeah, I think it was a little extra special for us considering how tough that loss in '09 was. I think we all wondered then if we'd ever get another opportunity and here we are. Living the dream."
Farwell said both the '09 Vikings and '13 Seahawks have some similarities, but a lot of differences.
"On that team in 2009, there was a lot of star power, a lot of future Hall of Famers," Farwell said. "This is a younger group here. There are Pro Bowlers here and I'm sure there are future Hall of Famers, too. But we don't have Brett Favre, Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and some of those guys I played with in Minnesota. It's just a bunch of up and coming superstars who happen to play well together. Top to bottom, the roster is unbelieveable here. The 53rd guy is a heck of a player here."
Farwell isn't sure where he ranks among those 53 players, but he really doesn't care. He's a former Pro Bowl special teamer who is about to play in the Super Bowl.
"I never expected any of this," Farwell said. "I guess that's the beauty of it and why I enjoy it so much. I can't describe how unbelievable this feels."
Farwell also thinks at least one former Viking will have a significant say in what happens against the Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"To get Percy on our team is going to pay off, just wait," he said. "He's going to have a heck of a game and make a big impact on the game. I know he's only played two games all year. But Percy with fresh legs in the Super Bowl is going to be scary. Very scary."
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