Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Got a solution to the Vikings' problem with birds hitting the new stadium and dying.
Let's think about this. Birds flying into building. Legendary coach who loves shooting birds. That's it!
Put Bud Grant out in front of the stadium. The man is known to be a little miserly. All you have to do is give him $50 bucks, a tank of gas, and free shotgun shells.
Birds fly toward stadium. Bud lets loose. Dinner for everyone.
What could go wrong?
Why would the Vikings sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to a $36.5 million contract?
Because they have big plans.
After spending three days with the team in Mankato, what struck me is that this team, after a couple decades of turmoil, has a chance to be somewhat stable.
Denny Green won a lot of games, but the organization was never calm when he was around.
Mike Tice was turmoil personified. Brad Childress was constantly battling with quarterbacks or bosses. Leslie Frazier was a calm and wonderful human, but he wasn't hired by the general manager who runs the team, so he was always in limbo.
Now you have a head coach hired by the general manager he works for who cares about nothing other than winning games. You have a coaching staff that Vikings employees say is already making a difference. And one of those coaches, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, is capable of building one of the best offenses in the NFL out of the parts he's assembling.
The worst contracts in sports are those that reward what a player has already done. This one projects what the Vikings expect Rudolph to do.
Rudolph has been a very good player. He has not been a star. In Turner's offense, he could become one.
Jay Novacek played five seasons in the NFL before playing in Turner's offense in Dallas. His best season pre-Norv: 38 catches, 569 yards, four touchdowns.
His first season with Norv and a budding offense: 59-657-4. His best season with Norv: 68-630-6.
Rudolph is bigger and stronger than Novacek, and about as fast. Turner spoke this weekend about teaching Rudolph to run more fluid routes, which should enable him to get deep more often, and to catch the ball in stride and run with it more often.
Assuming decent quarterback play, Rudolph could have a breakout season this year, or next.
Wrote about receiver Erik Lora for today's editions. Other interesting or emerging players to watch: Cornerback Jabari Price, safety Robert Blanton, guard David Yankey.
Key player to watch? Maybe Sharrif Floyd. He's lighter this year. I don't know if that's a sign that he's hungry and in better shape, or a desperate move for a player who didn't make an impact as a rookie.
I'll be on 1500ESPN-AM today and every weekday at 12:15 with Mackey&Judd. I'm on WJON at 7:05 a.m. with Jay Caldwell in St. Cloud every morning. My Sunday show, Sunday Sports Talk, airs 10-noon on 1500ESPN. Sincere thanks for reading and listening.
Eli Manning has made five career starts against the Vikings.
In those games, he's thrown three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, and the Giants have gone 1-4.
Against the rest of the NFL, Manning's career numbers are: 217 touchdowns, 148 interceptions, and a 77-59 record.
Perhaps Manning's worst game as a pro came in Jersey against the Vikings. The Vikings would finish 8-8. The Giants would rally to beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.
On Nov. 25, 2007, the game was a mismatch. The Vikings intercepted Manning four times, returning three interceptions for touchdowns, and won, 41-17, with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
Dwight Smith intercepted Manning twice, returning one for a touchdown. Chad Greenway and Darren Sharper each intercepted one and scored on returns.
Sharper had a knack for reading Manning, and baiting him into throwing into coverage. And those Vikings defenses were particularly tough on teams that wanted to play traditionally, by running to set up the pass. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams didn't allow many rushing yards, and the front four put lots of pressure on quarterbacks in obvious passing situations.
Manning lost his first four career starts against the Vikings before finally beating them, 21-13, on Dec. 13, 2010. Even in victory, the Vikings held him to one touchdown pass and intercepted him twice.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 Tuesday with Judd&Dubay.
Last time the Vikings played a Monday night game at Met Life Stadium in Jersey, the Vikings were in the middle of another lost season, but the personalities and circumstances were dramatically different.
Brad Childress was the coach, and fighting for power within the organization. Tonight, the Vikings' coach will be Leslie Frazier, whose job may be in as much jeopardy today as Childress' was in 2010, but who plays his role with more diplomacy.
Brett Favre was the quarterback, and fighting off tabloid stories about his texting habits. Tonight, the quarterback will be Josh Freeman, who, unlike Favre in 2010, is hoping to play another 10 years in the NFL.
Randy Moss was the supposed midseason saviour. Tonight, Freeman plays that role, trying to prove that Greg Schiano really is who we think he is.
The Jets beat the Vikings on that rainy Monday night in 2010, but what I really remember was dealing with Moss and Favre after the game.
Moss was difficult, parrying interview requests until Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press challenged him to talk, and Moss did. That night, you could not have imagined that a television network would ever hire Moss and pay him for his thoughts.
Favre was masterful. Not on the field, but in the cramped, overcrowded postgame interview room. If Anthony Weiner could handle negative press and difficult questions about his personal life the way Favre did, Weiner could be president, instead of out of politics.
The Minnesota media had already asked Favre plenty of questions about his texting habits and relationship with Jenn Sterger. This was the New York media's chance to go after him. Favre calmly turned every question towards football without getting angry or offering any new information.
I think Favre would have made the perfect politician. He looks and acts like a leader. He is a master at manipulating the national media. He has fame and money on his side. And he is the best press-conference manager I've ever interviewed.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 instead of noon today so I can catch my flght to New York. I'll also be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely, probably around 3:30 Central time. I'll also be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before heading back to Minnesota.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
A series of national reports indicated the Vikings have signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman is problematic. He was inaccurate and error-prone this season. He missed a team photo and battled with his head coach.
This part is important: The coach he battled with, Greg Schiano, may be an idiot.
I like the move. Freeman has had two outstanding NFL seasons. He has the talent to succeed. The Vikings are getting a chance to try out a quarterback capable of being a productive NFL starter without giving up a first-round draft pick or a massive, long-term contract.
The reports are Freeman will sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 to $3 million. That's nothing for a quarterback.
The Vikings may not admit it, but this should end Christian Ponder's tenure in Minnesota. Matt Cassel is sure to start against Carolina next week, and the Vikings aren't bringing in Freeman to be a third-string quarterback.
Freeman gets a fresh start, and the Vikings get a quarterback with NFL talent without waiting and hoping the right guy falls to them in the draft.
This is a smart, aggressive, low-risk, high-reward move by Rick Spielman.
Watford _ The Vikings' first full-fledged press conference in London offered some startling news: Quarterback Christian Ponder injured his ribs against the Browns on Sunday and is not certain to play against the Steelers.
Ponder spoke at the team hotel before Vikings' practice. He said he was able to throw the ball during the team's walk-through, but coach Leslie Frazier said he needed to evaluate Ponder during practice and would make a decision by Friday afternoon.
Matt Cassel would start if Ponder was unable to play.
Ponder said he injured his ribs on a play early in the Browns game. He was able to finish the game.
-Vikings GM Rick Spielman wouldn't comment on whether he has reached out to former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield. Safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerbacks Chris Cook and A.J. Jefferson will not practice today because of injuries.
Spielman said his staff in MInnesota is looking for roster depth but wouldn't comment specifically on Winfield. Spielman usually doesn't speak publicly during the season but made an exception to meet with the London and U.S. press covering his team's practice at the team hotel on Wednesday. Owner Mark Wilf, Frazier, Ponder and Adrian Peterson also spoke.
-Not much news came out of the Peterson press conference, but one Brit did ask whether he would consider expanding his acting career, perhaps to become the next James Bond.
``I'll have to take acting lessons,'' Peterson said with a smile.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself are covering the Vikings all week in London. Please check for updates, features, videos, photos and posts all week on Startribune.com. And please buy the paper! It's cheap and filled with lots of great stuff!
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