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.


Will Percy Harvin's role as a kick returner be heightened?

Posted by: under Rookies, Vikings, Bears, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell, Vikings special teams Updated: July 28, 2012 - 6:47 PM

Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer has no trouble saying it. Percy Harvin is the team’s No. 1 kick returner. That was clear Saturday morning when Harvin went through the morning walk-through on the first unit kickoff return team. And it was clear when Priefer met with reporters afterward.

“Come Week 1, if he's ready to roll, we're ready to have him back there,” Priefer said. “Absolutely."

If only it were that simple. Harvin returned 16 kickoffs last season, averaging 32.5 yards per return. He returned the season’s opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown and also had a 104-yard return in Atlanta in Week 12 that finished at the 3 yard line. But as the season moved on and Harvin was dealing with nagging rib and shoulder injuries, the coaching staff was much more cautious about using him extensively on kickoff returns, not wanting to endanger a playmaker they also count heavily on on offense. In the four games Adrian Peterson missed, Harvin only returned two kicks.

That’s why it will be interesting to monitor how the fourth-year speedster is used early this season as Peterson’s return to health is also watched closely.

"I think we're going to have a good plan with Percy this year," Priefer said. "He is our number one kickoff returner. When we have the opportunity to use him, we're going to use him.”

Other guys in the mix at kick returner right now include rookies Josh Robinson and Jarious Wright, Kerry Taylor and Bryan Walters. For the record, Lorenzo Booker returned 19 kickoffs last season but is now with the Bears. Cornerback Marcus Sherels returned 16 kicks but may be a longshot to make this team.

Pressure points

In other special teams news, both Priefer and head coach Leslie Frazier have made it clear they intend to put significant pressure on rookie kicker Blair Walsh during training camp, trying to get a feel for how he produces under duress.

Said Frazier: “We’re going to have some competitive moments where we really want to get our fans involved and put a little pressure on him.”

Priefer said the push to up the pressure on Walsh is a different tactic than what he would have used had veteran Ryan Longwell still been the team’s kicker.

“Ryan was a proven commodity,” Priefer said. “And Blair needs to prove himself. He knows that.”

Priefer also had this to say about Walsh’s deportment: “Being the only kicker here, he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself to prove himself. He’s a very conscientious young man. He’s a very hard-working kid. This is extremely important to him. And he competes with himself. That’s why I didn’t get another guy into camp. Like I said at mini-camp, I wanted him to get as many reps as he can with [long snapper] Cullen [Loeffler], with [holder] Chris [Kluwe], with our whole first field goal unit to put him in a situation where he can be successful.”

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Washington - LP: T. Clippard 3 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Giles 4
St. Louis - LP: S. Maness 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 5
Tampa Bay - LP: G. Balfour 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Brach 4
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 11 FINAL
Toronto - LP: C. Janssen 7
NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 2 FINAL
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 5
Atlanta - LP: A. Wood 2 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 3
Chicago Cubs - WP: T. Wood 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto 0
Cleveland - WP: B. Shaw 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Petricka 6
Minnesota - LP: G. Perkins 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 2
Oakland - LP: L. Gregerson 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Fields 4
Los Angeles - WP: R. Hernandez 9 FINAL
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 5
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 2 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 4
Texas - LP: N. Martinez 0 FINAL
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 0 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 3
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
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(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
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ULM
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(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
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TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
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UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
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Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
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NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
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Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
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North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
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(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
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Calgary
Chicago 81 FINAL
Atlanta 80
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
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