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.


Vikings FAQ: Winfield at safety? Gerhart’s knee? Competition for Walsh?

Posted by: under Vikings, Bears, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Leslie Frazier, Ryan Longwell Updated: June 19, 2012 - 9:25 AM

If you follow the NFL to any extent, you realize this is a ‘round-the-clock business nowadays with a combination of fan interest and media coverage that’s never been larger. So to keep you up to speed with the Vikings, we’re delivering our Frequently Asked Questions post, our way of centralizing many questions that get asked and answered over and over and over again. Here goes … 

Would the Vikings ever move veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield to safety?

Nope. No way. Never. Head coach Leslie Frazier has said consistently that he has no plans to move Winfield to safety, preferring to use him in his natural role at corner. More significantly, Winfield has made it clear to anyone who will listen that he’s not even a little bit open to the possibility of a position change.

“No. No. Safety is a different animal,” Winfield said during the first week of Organized Activities. “I’ve never played safety. Ever. So I’d have to learn everything. No. I’ll either be playing outside or at the nickel.”

Keep in mind, the Vikings have drafted three safeties (Mistral Raymond, Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton) over the past two years. Plus Winfield is now 34 and entering the final year of his contract. He will be used some on the outside but may be at his best as a nickel corner as well.

How’s Toby Gerhart’s knee?

If you recall, Gerhart suffered a slight tear to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the Vikings’ 2011 season finale. That injury came just eight days after star running back Adrian Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL in a win at Washington. So initially, there were fears that the Vikings’ top two running backs would be sidelined for significant periods of time.

Even Gerhart had that fear when his knee buckled in the New Year’s Day loss to the Bears, admitting he felt far more panic than pain in the wake of Peterson’s injury.

But Gerhart’s injury turned out to be minor. It did not require surgery. And it did not set Gerhart back much, if at all. He was active during the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program and ready for the team’s first session of OTAs in late May. Gerhart has said repeatedly he feels 100 percent. It was a non-serious injury that shouldn’t cause any worry going forward.

After cutting veteran kicker Ryan Longwell in May, will the Vikings have a second kicker at training camp in Mankato to heighten the competition for rookie Blair Walsh?

Highly doubtful. The Vikings loved Walsh enough to use a sixth-round draft pick on him in April. And they have set things up for Walsh to be their starting kicker in 2012 and beyond with no one around to challenge him. The Vikings admire Walsh’s leg strength, believing he can be more valuable on kickoffs than Longwell was in his final season wearing purple. And they’re not worried about the 14 missed field goals Walsh had as a senior at Georgia in 2011.

The decision to release Longwell was made both to shake things up on special teams and to clear an unobstructed path for Walsh to be the team’s lone kicker for the immediate future. Asked in May whether a second kicker would be brought in to challenge Walsh during training camp, Frazier replied, “Right now we don’t plan on bringing another leg. No, we don’t plan on bringing in another kicker.”

Will the Vikings change to a 3-4 defense any time soon?

Not so long as Frazier is the head coach and Alan Williams is his defensive coordinator. Frazier was peppered with questions throughout the second half of 2011 about whether he would consider abandoning his system – a 4-3 structure with heavy use of Cover 2 zone principles – to shift to a 3-4. Yet that never really drew serious consideration inside Winter Park and died the minute Frazier brought in Williams as his defensive coordinator.

In mid-January, we offered a detailed analysis of the Vikings’ resistance to a scheme overhaul. Said one player: “When you build an organization for six years around one defense and you draft that way and structure your team that way personnel-wise, it’s a major change to disrupt that.”

Added Frazier: “What I’ve tried to do with our players is remain committed to what I think is right. There is great value in having a clear vision and stating what the plan is. And you can’t deviate from your plans and vision just because of outside circumstances.”

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