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.


Tuesday recap: Vikings offense lights up after having fire lit beneath them

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Vikings offense, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: August 7, 2012 - 6:35 PM

Tuesday afternoon's practice has finished and the most encouraging development of the day was the resurgence of the offense, which came to life after a poor effort Monday. Here's more on that and other notable moments of the day from Dan Wiederer and Kent Youngblood.

On Tuesday afternoon, those watching the Vikings practice saw just how effective a motivator Bill Musgrave can be.

Yes, Musgrave.

The Vikings’ offensive coordinator is known as a rather soft-spoken, even-keel kind of guy. But after his offense sputtered during an off-kilter practice Monday, Musgrave became animated and showed a bit of creativity in his attempt to motivate.

Players weren’t letting on about just what Musgrave did during meetings Monday night. But, apparently, it worked.

“He had a great metaphor of lighting a fire,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “He finds some unique ways of motivating us. But it works. I’m not going to go into details. It might get some people in trouble.”

Asked a few moments later if there were props involved in Musgrave’s pep rally, Ponder laughed.

“Yep,” he said. “Let’s just say it involved a bucket of water, some leaves and some sticks. It was interesting.”

During a much crisper practice Tuesday – “I thought it was the best we’ve performed since I’ve been here,” Ponder observed – the offense executed well, especially during two-minute drills. One 80-yard drive was capped by a 25-yard post pass from Ponder to Percy Harvin for a touchdown. Harvin wrestled the ball away from safety Harrison Smith in the end zone.

“We had two winning drives,” Ponder said. “That’s important for us. … [Monday] was tough. People respond to off days in different ways and obviously we didn’t respond the right way. It was important for us to step out and have a good practice today. We made a point of it [Monday night], to have more enthusiasm. And we did. It was a great way to bounce back.”

It appears Musgrave and his coaches deserve much of the credit. Ponder begged off specifics, but described a Musgrave we don’t usually see.

“He’s quiet, but when he gets on the football field he gets a fire,” Ponder said. “He’s not afraid to yell at people, and he expects a lot out of us. He does it in his own way.”

Head coach Leslie Frazier also expressed his pleasure in seeing the offense rebound Tuesday.

“We were more efficient and our tempo was better,” the head coach said. “Yesterday it kind of lagged a bit and we can’t afford for that to happen. There are always going to be some moments where the defense makes some plays in the game. And you have to push through that. Yesterday, the defense made some plays and we kind of shrunk back on offense. You just can’t do that over the course of four quarters. You have to push through it and find a way to make some plays.”

His time has come … almost

Rookie safety Harrison Smith is getting more and more reps with the first unit on defense and figures to play some there Friday night in San Francisco. The coaching staff has been impressed with how poised Smith has been during his training camp climb.

“He hasn’t blinked,” Frazier said. “He’s kind of fit in. We wanted to see how he’d respond being in there with Kevin [Williams] and those guys. And so far he’s responded well … He hasn’t shrunk back and he’s stepped up and done well when he’s been up with the first unit.”

Smith also seems to bring a bit of a nasty edge to the secondary, a feistiness that Leslie Frazier believes could become contagious.

“I saw it in our OTAs and it’s beginning to show up a little bit more with the pads on,” Frazier said. “And we need that from him. We need a physical, tough safety. With his size and his range, he seems like a guy who can provide that.

What to do with the old guys

Frazier said he has still yet to decide how much work – if any – he plans to give his older, established veterans on defense in Friday’s preseason opener in San Francisco. That means Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield – all in the 30-and-over crowd – will see limited action against the 49ers if they even play at all.

Said Frazier: “We really need to look at some other guys. We kind of know where those guys are. But we’re going to make that decision here. We’re going to talk about that as a staff either tonight or tomorrow.”

Vote of confidence

Don’t be surprised if receiver Devin Aromashodu finds a way to sneak onto the roster this season. Right now, it looks like Aromashodu may be the biggest beneficiary from the devastating knee injury that rookie Greg Childs suffered on Saturday night, tearing the patellar tendons in both knee. Now it’s up to Aromashodu to show his talents under the lights in preseason action. The seventh-year receiver has an endorsement from Ponder right now.

“He’s consistent,” Ponder said. “He’s a guy who you know is going to be where he’s supposed to be. He has great hands and runs good routes and finds ways to get open. He did a good job of stepping in last year. And he’s a veteran guy who understands what he has to do to perform. That’s great. Especially with all the young receivers we have, it kind of sets the example.”

Everybody gets along

ESPN had wall-to-wall coverage Tuesday of a handful of skirmishes that have broken out during Jets training camp this week. In Mankato? All’s been quiet.

There have been very few testy moments and nothing at all even resembling a scuffle through 10 days here. Right now, that’s OK with Frazier.

“We’ve had some competitive times," he said. "But we’ve talked at length about penalties and fights. So maybe that’s had something to do with it. There’s nothing wrong with a fight every now and then. But you have to control it.”

Great expectations?

Ponder doesn’t know how much he’ll play in Friday’s preseason opener, but he has pretty specific goals for the time he does play. “I don’t know how many drives I’ll get,” he said. “But when I do (play) we want to score points. And we want to be efficient – throw completions and be smart with the football.”

In general Ponder has been pretty efficient in camp. Musgrave said he has certain expectations for Ponder in his first preseason game action.

“We’re pleased with the completion percentage up to this point,” Musgrave said. “We want to see what he did on Saturday night in the stadium [during the team scrimmage]. We want to see [Ponder] operate the offense with people in his face, and still be able to get rid of the ball and be accurate. He’s done a great job with checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage.”

Injury updates

  • Guard Geoff Schwartz had successful surgery Tuesday to repair a sports hernia. Frazier said team doctors and trainers have established an expected recovery timetable for Schwartz of 4-6 weeks.
  • Childs also had surgery Tuesday, his to repair torn patellar tendons in both knees. Childs’ rookie season is finished and his future in football is in doubt.
  • Running back Jordan Todman, still dealing with a sprained left ankle, couldn’t practice Tuesday and will not see action in Friday’s preseason opener.
  • Cornerback Josh Robinson, dealing with a hamstring injury, was held back some during Tuesday’s practice. Frazier said there’s a chance Robinson would be held out of Friday’s game in order to get his hamstring healthy for the following week’s home game with Buffalo.
  • Defensive tackle Christian Ballard was also held out with a hamstring issue.
  • Percy Harvin experienced minor cramps at the end of practice but is OK.
  • Linebacker/defensive end Everson Griffen missed part of practice with a stinger but returned to finish the day.
  • Receiver Kamar Jorden has not practiced this week, out with a broken hand.

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Washington 41
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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 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
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
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