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.


Harrison Smith happy to be back

Posted by: under Vikings, Vikings defense, Vikings players, Adrian Peterson, Vikings rookies Updated: October 10, 2012 - 6:01 PM

Harrison Smith said he is not the kind of guy to lose sleep over something he can’t control. So Sunday night, after he had been ejected from the Vikings’ game with the Titans for making contact with an official, Smith said he didn’t lose sleep wondering what his punishment would be. He just expected the worst.

“I anticipate the worst in most things,” the rookie safety joked Wednesday. “Because then you can’t be disappointed. … I’m just happy to get back on the field. That’s the main focus.”

Smith, of course, was neither fined nor suspended for the infraction, which occurred early in the second quarter of the Vikings’ victory.

And while he might not have sweated his potential punishment, being forced to watch the game rather than play in it taught a valuable lesson.

“It definitely makes you realize how much you love the game,” he said. “And how much you want to take advantage of every opportunity you get to get on the field. So it kind of puts it in perspective, just how lucky I am to be a part of the Vikings and even play in the NFL. It just makes you realize how great it really is.”

Not his call

At least two things came out of linebacker Erin Henderson’s return to the field Sunday after missing two games with a concussion. First, there were absolutely no concussion-related issues. Second, Henderson is not about to worry about how much time he gets on the field.

First, the concussion. Henderson admitted he was a little nervous during pre-game warm-ups. But those concerns went away quickly. “It’s your head, you don’t really know how it’s going to react or what’s going to happen, how it will play out,” he said. “But once you get your first couple contacts, then you know you’ll be all right.''

Now the playing time. Jasper Brinkley played so well in nickel situations that the coaches kept him in that role after Henderson returned. As a result Henderson played fewer than 20 snaps against a Titans team that played from behind most of the game. In a relatively short time, though, Henderson made three tackles – two for loss – and forced a fumble. It will be interesting how the Vikings move forward in regards to their nickel defense

“I just play football,” Henderson said. “I just do what they tell me to do when they tell me to do it. Every time I’m out there I play well, that’s all I can control. So you guys can dice it up and slice it up and make if what you will. But I just do what the coaches tell me to do.”

Getting better

Vikings cornerback Chris Cook said that while he’s happy with the way he has played  so far this season there is a lot of room for improvement.

In five games Cook has made 20 tackles, has one sack and has a team-high 10 passes defensed. He is in his third season, but was limited in playing time  during the first two by injuries and legal issues. That’s why he sees a big upside for himself going forward.

“I had a lot of time off my first two years,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s an excuse or anything like that. But I definitely feel I can play better. And, with more reps, I feel I will.”

Cook said he is especially excited to play in this game having grown up and gone to school not far from Washington D.C.

“I’ll be a little more amped up this week,” he said.

A difficult memory

In conference calls with local reporters, both Washington receiver Santana Moss and head coach Mike Shanahan expressed their happiness at the return of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson injured his knee during the Vikings’ victory in Washington last season, and he will return to the scene of that injury – FedEx Field – Sunday. “I think everyone was hoping Adrian would come back,” Shanahan said. “Watching him on film, you can tell he has worked extremely hard to put himself in the position he’s in. … I think everyone was pulling for him. Our players were sick when it happened.”

Said Moss: “You can tell he’s a hard worker. That always pays off. He attacked it in the off-season. That’s why he’s back doing what he’s doing now.”

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