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 Percy Harvin

Pete Carroll believes anyone worried about Percy Harvin's fire is 'missing the boat'

Posted by: Updated: March 20, 2013 - 11:41 AM

The NFL’s annual meeting wraps up this afternoon from the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. This morning, all 16 NFC coaches held court for the conference’s coaches breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. Included: Seattle’s Pete Carroll, the proud new coach of standout receiver Percy Harvin, a Viking for his first four seasons in the league but now a Seahawks after last week’s blockbuster trade.

I had a chance to briefly pick Carroll’s brain on the move to land Harvin and how he hopes to wrap around his brain around the receiver’s fiery personality, which at times is both his greatest strength and most dangerous weakness.

Here’s a quick taste of Carroll’s thoughts ...

Before the trade occurred, when you were trying to do some background on Percy and familiarize yourself with his situation, what specifically did you want to glean from Darrell Bevell, who had obvious comfort with him? What was some of his feedback

Carroll: Darrell had nothing but the best things to say. He said he had had a great relationship with Percy, which I found out after talking to Percy, that it was reciprocated. They work together really well. Darrell raved about his competitiveness. He raved about his work ethic. He raved about his talent. And it was a total positive, supportive perspective that Darrel had. So we felt compelled that that was a perspective that we had to call on, what Darrell provided. That cemented the idea for us as we were looking into it.

In some ways, Percy’s personality can be a bit of a riddle. And people who know him well will tell you that his competitive fire is admirable but yet can get the best of him at times. How do you sense you’ll be able to manage that and channel that fire in the right direction.

Carroll: I think it’s that way with the greatest of the great athletes. I think that’s a positive. Sometimes they push the limits. But they’re like that because that’s who they are. You know what I mean? So I don’t have any problem with that. I have no problem with guys being highly, highly competitive. And so I think there’s an understanding there that’s needed. We’ve already talked about it. I want him to be as competitive as he can be, that way we make sure he’s always helping this football team. So that’s one thing I’ve had to learn, dealing with young kids. That nature has made him what he is. So if you think that that’s a problem, you’re missing the boat I think. So we’re going to figure out how to help him along the way so he can translate that competitiveness to great play and championships and all that kind of stuff. I’m not worried about that one bit.

He was glowing at his introductory press conference. Did you have an immediate sense of why specifically he was so excited for a new start and to join the offense you guys have?

Carroll: I think, from what Percy said, it first started when he began to hear about Russell. He loves Russell’s nature. He loves his approach to the game and his outlook about working hard and competing at all times. That resonated with Percy. And he started to check into it. And I think Russell wanted to see Percy. He came in and met with him when Percy was at our facility as well. Percy had a little background with me [from being recruited to USC]. He had tremendous background with Darrell. He knew that this was a young team coming up. So I think there were a lot of things that added up. So whatever he said, I know he felt very much in his heart.

What are the odds of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl?

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 15, 2013 - 12:12 PM

So what are the odds that the Vikings will win Super Bowl XLVIII?

People who earn and protect their money against your wagers say 50-1. At least that's what the online sports book Bovada has the Vikings at as the first week of free agency winds to a close.

Those odds come in tied for 22nd in the 32-team league. They're also the longest of the four NFC North teams. The Packers are at 12-1, tied for fifth. The Bears are tied for 12th at 25-1, while the Lions are tied for 16th at 35-1.

The Broncos and 49ers are tied for first at 7-1. The Jaguars are last at 150-1.

And in Seattle, the trade for Percy Harvin moved the Seahawks from 12-1 to 10-1.

No word on how crazy one has to be to place a bet on the NFL, let alone a bet in March on who's going to win the Super Bowl in 11 months.

Vikings may need to be decisive in Thursday's visit with Greg Jennings

Posted by: Updated: March 14, 2013 - 9:09 AM

The question with Greg Jennings has never been about ability. Over seven NFL seasons, Jennings has caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 TDs. He’s a versatile weapon who is adept at both stretching the field from the outside or keeping defenses honest as a smooth-moving slot guy.

He is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the kind of proven and consistent playmaker that the Vikings’ receiving corps needs. Yet when free agency neared, the questions about Jennings circled.

  • How much gas is truly left in the tank for a receiver who will turn 30 in September?
  • Are there any significant worries health-wise about a guy who has missed 11 games the past two seasons with knee, groin and core injuries?
  • Most importantly, what is the price tag?

At this point -- with Jerome Simpson and his 97 career catches as the top dog in the receiving unit – the Vikings are in no position to be picky. And that’s why, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Jennings will visit Winter Park on Thursday, the Vikings would be wise not to let him leave without a purple jersey and a rubber-stamped contract.

This visit should be a business interview, a way of unifying a vision and hammering out the finer print of the contract details. The Vikings have had since late Friday night to communicate at length with Jennings’ agent, Eugene Parker. You can bet Parker has an asking price, one that’s moved over the past several days. And you can bet Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has a thought in mind for what he’d like to ultimately pay.

But as Spielman said Tuesday afternoon about the chaos and unpredictability of free agency, “This is a very fluid business.”

Indeed it is.

At this point, so many other free agent receivers are off the board. Mike Wallace is in Miami. Wes Welker has gone to Denver. Danny Amendola has landed in New England. Donnie Avery is a Chief. Brandon Gibson, reports say, has visits scheduled with the Jets, Dolphins and Titans.

The Vikings? They’ve always vowed to be patient in free agency, to make sure they find guys who fit their system, their character profile and their budget. But to this point, the Vikings have given out six contracts this week, all of them re-signings of players that were already on the roster.

The biggest move by far so far was Monday’s trade or Percy Harvin to Seattle, followed a day later by the surprise release of Antoine Winfield.

The Vikings have lost their top playmaker in the passing game and their linchpin leader on defense. In a pass-happy league, they’ve depleted their receiving corps and their secondary.

At some point, they need a splash to replenish the talent pool in a major way. And there’s no way they should allow themselves – nor had they ever planned to – to get to April’s draft with Simpson as their top receiver.

That’s why today’s reported visit with Jennings shouldn’t be a getting-to-know-you encounter. It should be a determined effort to provide third-year quarterback Christian Ponder a real weapon. Welker’s two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos was a huge power-shift move in the AFC, taking the league’s most prolific pass catcher over the past six years and moving him from one Super Bowl contender to another. But Welker’s contract may have also been a shifting of power in Jennings’ negotiating leverage. Sure, there have been the mammoth deals for receivers – six years, $67 million for Harvin; five years $65 million for Wallace; five years, $56 million for Dwayne Bowe.

But now, wouldn’t it make sense that Jennings’ price tag slides closer to that Welker ballpark. If so, the Vikings should be quietly celebrating. And they should be doing everything they can to make sure that Jennings is their guy.

Spielman 'leaves door open' to Winfield returning

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: March 12, 2013 - 5:54 PM
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he wanted "to leave the door open" for cornerback Antoine Winfield's return.
Whether the 14-year veteran cornerback, who had rejected the hypothetical notion of having to accept a pay cut, would choose to walk back through that door is, obviously, another matter.
That's the question of the day since it now appears that Winfield wasn't even presented with a restructured deal before he was released.
Either way, Spielman said the Vikings will be OK at cornerback in 2013. The top three corners would be 2012 third-round pick Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, who's a restricted free agent, and Chris Cook, a promising 2010 second-round pick but a guy who has had a hard time staying on the field.
"We feel confident the way Josh has developed, and tendering A.J. Jefferson, and having Chris Cook," Spielman said today during a news conference. "And we have a couple other guys we want to look at as well."
Then Spielman surprised reporters by saying Winfield isn't out of the team's plans entirely. Of course, it wasn't as surprising as Spielman cutting the 35-year-old corner an hour or so earlier rather than pay him the $7.25 million he had left on the final year of his contract.
"By no means do we want to shut out Antoine," Spielman said. "We hopefully want to have the door open for his return, if that’s possible."
Spielman said Winfield's release wasn't based on performance. Or his locker room presence. Winfield remains -- or remained -- one of the team's best defensive players and leaders.
"Antoine played very well last year," Spielman said. "He’s probably one of those players who defied odds for his age, what he did for our football team last year. There’s no question what Antoine does for our football team on the field and off the field as well.
"It was a very, extremely hard decision to make. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the door open for him. We’ll just have to see."
Spielman said he spoke with Winfield today. He wouldn't discuss the details of what was said, so at this point we have no indication one way or the other whether Winfield is open to return.
Obviously, since he resisted a pay cut to stay on the team, he's not likely to accept one until he's shopped around a bit. And the guess is he'd choose a comparable contract with another team with a chance to make the playoffs rather than return to the team that cut him.
"I definitely want to keep the door open for Antoine to potentially return," Spielman said. "But we have to make all the pieces fit into the puzzle as well."
Spielman confirmed the Percy Harvin trade and the re-signing of tackle Phil Loadholt. He also said the team is still wrapping up a deal to re-sign receiver Jerome Simpson and has "four or five" things going on when it comes to trying to re-sign some of the team's other free agents.
Asked if he thinks the team will be able to compete this year, Spielman said, "We think we’re going to compete next year. There’s no doubt about that because we were a playoff team last year. And by keeping your own and continuing to build through the draft, and the success we’ve have the past couple years with the draft -- and we feel very strong about this draft class coming up -- we feel that this is an approach and a philosophy that is showing success."
 

Vikings re-sign Jerome Simpson to aid depleted receiving corps

Posted by: Updated: March 12, 2013 - 12:32 PM

A day after trading receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Vikings have made their first move toward replenishing their receiving corps. It comes by way of re-signing Jerome Simpson to a one-year deal, according to an NFL source.

Salary figures for the deal are not yet known. But the Vikings had been intent on giving Simpson a second chance to prove himself if they could see eye-to-eye on contract details.

Apparently, they have with Simpson's return assuring quarterback Christian Ponder at least some continuity with his receiving corps. After Monday's blockbuster trade, Ponder was left with only two receivers who he had completed passes to: Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton.

Now Simpson is back in the fold and looking to rediscover top form in an offense that plans to give him significant opportunity to do so.

By all accounts, the Vikings' 2012 experiment with Simpson was a disappointment. After signing the athletic receiver to a one-year deal worth approximately $2 million last April, the Vikings had high hopes that Simpson would jell quickly with Ponder and provide the deep threat and vertical speed that would keep defenses honest.

Instead ...

  • Simpson sat out the first three games due to a league suspension, a punishment the Vikings knew was coming when they first signed him.
  • Then, in Week 5, Simpson woke up the morning of the Tennessee game with a strange back problem that was causing sudden weakness and numbness in his lower leg. He went catchless against the Titans and then was declared inactive the following week against the Redskins.
  • After that, Simpson had a seven-game stretch in which he contributed a total of 11 catches for 26 yards, struggles that reached rock bottom during a drop-filled performance during a lopsided loss in Chicago..

The 2012 season totals: 26 catches, 274 yards, zero touchdowns.

So why would the Vikings put their hand back on that stove after apparently being burned by the Simpson signing last year? 

Because on a one-year deal, Simpson again is in a prove-it situation. It's low risk for the Vikings with a guy who already has familiarity with both Ponder and the offensive system of coordinator Bill Musgrave. Furthermore, General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier seem convinced that Simpson's 2012 struggles were greatly exacerbated by his back troubles, which for a stretch, made it difficult for Simpson to push off and reach top speed when running routes. But with Simpson's back problems no longer a concern, there's a belief he can again fulfill his potential.

That, the Vikings promise, was evidenced in Simpson's debut with the team when he contributed four catches for 50 yards in a Week 4 win in Detroit. Simpson seemed closer to top form again in December aiding the Vikings' charge into the NFC playoffs with 11 catches for 98 yards in the final three wins.

Calvin Johnson numbers they weren't. But in an offense that relies so heavily on MVP running back Adrian Peterson, that modest production was cause for celebration. It gave the Vikings at least some potency in the passing game.

That gave Spielman hope. And he noted back in January that Simpson "has the potential to really thrive if we were able to get something done with him."

The deal is now done.



 

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