Sid Hartman: Kleinsasser will retire from Vikings after season

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2011 - 8:52 AM

The 34-year-old North Dakota native remains an outstanding player, but he said he feels the time is right.

Jim Kleinsasser, a 13-year veteran with the Vikings, has decided to retire from the NFL after this season.

Kleinsasser, a second-round draft choice (44th overall) out of North Dakota in 1999, has been a starter since his rookie season and has been hailed by Vikings coaches as one of the best tight ends to play for the Purple.

"I think my wife has always been happy either way [if I play or not], but I think she is, along with myself, excited to move on to the next parts of our life," said the 34-year-old Kleinsasser, a native of Carrington, N.D., who is the father of two children, ages 2 and 4.

Kleinsasser, who will be a free agent at the end of this year, said that the Vikings had interest in him coming back and he isn't retiring because he can't play.

In fact, Vikings tight end coach Jimmie Johnson recently described Kleinsasser as "one of the best tight ends in the NFL."

"That kind of makes me feel good about that, I still feel like I can play," Kleinsasser said Thursday. "I'm walking away with two legs that work great and my head is still intact, so I think I feel good about leaving the game right now and just kind of moving on."

Asked what has been the highlight of his career, he said: "Oh, just coming in and hanging with the guys. I can't say there's one single game or play or anything. We've had some great years: '09 was a great year, 2000 was a great year, the NFC Championship games. But coming into work and just hanging out with the guys and sitting in meetings and just the camaraderie of a bunch of guys sweating and bleeding together for a common cause, I think that's one of my biggest memories."

The Vikings are going to miss Kleinsasser, not only because they are going to have a hard time replacing him but because he is one of the real leaders in that locker room and one real class act.

Cook will be back

It's pretty certain that the Vikings will bring back cornerback Chris Cook, who has been sidelined since getting arrested and subsequently charged for domestic assault in late October, once he works out his personal problems.

Because of a lack of depth at defensive back, don't be surprised to see veteran Cedric Griffin, who has not seen the field much either of the past two weeks, get some more playing time Saturday at Washington. But guard Steve Hutchinson won't play because of a concussion; until he landed on injured reserve late last season because of a thumb injury, he hadn't missed a game since 2002.

Shanahan's local ties

Joe Salem was named Gophers football coach in 1979. Mike Shanahan had been a running backs coach on Salem's staff at Northern Arizona in 1977 and then went to alma mater Eastern Illinois as offensive coordinator in 1978; that year, Eastern Illinois went 12-2 and won the Division II national title.

So Salem hired Shanahan, then 27, and let him install the run-and-shoot offense with the Gophers. Even though they finished 4-6-1 in 1979, they put on a show on offense and were outscored by only seven points on the season.

In fact, they were so impressive that then-Florida coach Charley Pell hired Shanahan after he had been on the Gophers staff for only one year. Florida was 0-10-1 in 1979, Pell's first year; the next four years with Shanahan as the offensive coordinator, the Gators went 8-4, 7-5, 8-4 and 9-2-1, going to a bowl game each season.

Shanahan then became a receivers coach for the Denver Broncos in 1984 before being promoted to offensive coordinator, a job he held for three years before getting his first head coaching job, with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988.

"Mike was a graduate assistant on the Oklahoma staff at the time [I first hired him]," Salem said. "They were playing in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix and I went down and interviewed him and hired him.

"You talk to him today, he hasn't changed any. He was sharp, he knew what he was doing, he was a good asset.

"He's the one that kind of went out, he went out and we ran the run-and-shoot that year and he's the one that went out and got all the information from Mouse Davis and put it all together. He's very good. I can't say enough good things about him."

Shanahan has been coach and executive vice president of the Redskins since January 2010. They went 6-10 last year and are 5-9 this season, but Salem believes that Shanahan can still make them into a winner.

"He told me, he said they were still three years away from being a good football team," Salem said. "That was his comment at the time [he was hired]. That's probably the timetable that he's on."


• Besides the six junior college football players who have signed with the Gophers and will register for classes in January and be available for spring practice and conditioning, two high school recruits also will start classes on campus next month: Quarterbacks Philip Nelson of Mankato West, who was named Associated Press Player of the Year, and Mitch Leidner of Lakeville South are both graduating early and starting college. They will officially sign in February.

• Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant described Nick Davidson, son of Vikings offensive line coach Jeff, as one of the best players he has coached in 20 years. Nick Davidson has announced he is going to Stanford. His brother, A.J., is a freshman wide receiver who will likely play for Eden Prairie next year. Coincidentally, both brothers had surgery this year. ... Andrew Larson, Eden Prairie's two-time all-state running back who led the school to its seventh state title, has committed to Harvard. He ran for 4,084 yards in his career with 52 touchdowns.

• Three former Gophers have signed with NFL teams the past couple of weeks. The Chargers signed linebacker Nate Triplett to their active roster Dec. 7. In addition, fullback Jon Hoese signed with the Packers practice squad, and the Patriots practice squad added defensive lineman Cedric McKinley on Tuesday. Hoese, who has been working on the family farm, joined the Packers before last weekend's game.

• Among the players the Vikings released this year now with other teams are tackle Bryant McKinnie with the Ravens, offensive lineman Ryan Cook with the Dolphins, linebacker Heath Farwell with the Seahawks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy with the Giants, safety Madieu Williams with the 49ers, receiver Jaymar Johnson with the Cardinals and cornerback Tony Carter with the Broncos.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. •

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NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 2 Top 8th Inning
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 7 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Mets 2
Miami 4 Bottom 9th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 7
Cleveland 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 5 Top 9th Inning
Chicago WSox 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado 1 Top 8th Inning
Arizona 0
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 5th Inning
St. Louis 1
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 5th Inning
San Diego 1
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 4th Inning
San Francisco 0
Oakland 0 Top 4th Inning
LA Angels 0
Washington 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Seattle 0
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(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 10 4th Qtr 14:00
(4) Oklahoma 47
Stephen F Austin 16 4th Qtr 13:13
(20) Kansas State 45
Fresno State 13 3rd Qtr 4:21
(15) USC 45
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Miss State 42
Texas-El Paso 24 3rd Qtr 9:45
New Mexico 7
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Texas 28
(1) Florida State 17 3rd Qtr 15:00
Oklahoma State 10
(14) Wisconsin 10 2nd Qtr
(13) LSU 7
Idaho 0 Delayed 14:50
Florida 0
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(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
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SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
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Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
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Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
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(2) Alabama
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(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
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(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
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Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
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(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
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SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
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UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
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Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
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(11) Stanford
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Oklahoma State
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(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
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NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
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(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
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(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
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(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
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(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
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(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
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Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 2nd Half 25:00
Chicago 0
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
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Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
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Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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