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.


Don't rule out the waiver wire settling unstable safety spot

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: August 4, 2014 - 2:03 PM

Remember two summers ago when we all were wondering who the Vikings third cornerback would be?

Would it be Zack Bowman, a free-agent acquisition the team apparently liked? Or possibly Chris Carr, another free-agent picked they apparently liked? Story after story was filed on Bowman, Carr and the cornerback battle.

Bowman and Carr had to be in the mix, right? After all, they were on the roster that we were all looking at every day for what seems like an eternity down in Mankato.

Well, the final cuts were made and neither Bowman, nor Carr survived. The Vikings ended up making a trade after the final cuts to get A.J. Jefferson from Arizona. Jefferson ended up playing a significant role that season, starting seven of 15 games as one of the top three or four corners.

This comes to mind as safety Andrew Sendejo’s return from the physically-unable-to-perform list became a big deal today. With all due respect to Sendejo, a gutsy NFL special teams survivor, the fact that his return is a big deal speaks to just how unstable the safety spot next to Harrison Smith really is.

It also suggests the Vikings might be looking at a lot more than the eight safeties on their current roster. I asked Zimmer how much time he and General Manager Rick Spielman will be spending daily on evaluating other teams’ safeties and other players now that the preseason games have started.

“We’ve got scouts assigned to all of those games,” Zimmer said. “They’ll watch them and come up with a list of guys, potential cuts, trades and whatever else that may be made. Then we’ll sit down and discuss them.”

Back and ankle injuries have prevented Sendejo from doing anything for which Zimmer can evaluate him. And Zimmer was hired seven months ago.

Yet Zimmer said it’s not too late for Sendejo to compete for that starting position. Zimmer did, however, hint that it is getting very close to being too late.

“We’re going to watch him [today] as he goes and be careful with him,” Zimmer said. “But I need to see him. Yeah, I need to see him.”

The plan for this afternoon’s practice is for Sendejo to participate in team drills only if he looks comfortable in individual drills first.

Yes, Sendejo turned some heads last year when he went from under-the-radar special teamer to a hard-hitting replacement who started 10 games when Smith was hurt. But let’s also not forget that those 10 starts – Sendejo’s only 10 starts – came for a defense that ranked last in the league in points allowed and in the bottom three of virtually every pass defense statistic there is.

With Sendejo out, an even less established youngster stepped up momentarily in the form of Robert Blanton. Blanton has fallen back because of a hamstring injury that lingers and, according to Zimmer, should keep him out of Friday night’s preseason opener.

In Blanton’s absence, Zimmer has been auditioning Kurt Coleman, Mistral Raymond, rookie Antone Exum and an ultimate overachiever/survivor in Jamarca Sanford.

Considering the current state of the position, the money here is on Sanford pulling yet another come-from-behind victory. Then again, the pool of candidates might not be limited to what we’re looking at in Mankato.

Asked today if he has a sense of urgency today, Sendejo shrugged and said, “I always have a sense of urgency."

In other news,

  • Zimmer said OLB Brandon Watts (hamstring) should be able to practice today.
  • Zimmer also said he expects to name an interim special teams coordinator at some point after Friday’s preseason opener. It’s expected to be assistant special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken. Current special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve a two- or three-game suspension at the start of the regular season as punishment for the anti-gay remarks he made to former punter Chris Kluwe in 2012. Priefer said he’ll use the preseason games to help prepare Ficken for the in-game decisions he’d have to make. Zimmer’s delay in naming an interim could mean he wants to see how Ficken does on Friday.
  • Priefer said he doesn't anticipate using No. 1 kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson on Friday. He also said he'd like to get Patterson a couple of returns late in the preseason, but the final call rests with Zimmer. Priefer also said he wants to see Adam Thielen get some punt and kickoff returns on Friday. He also wants to see Jerick McKinnon and Cain Colter get some returns on Friday. As for No. 1 punt returner Marcus Sherels, Priefer said he might get one return.

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