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 DBs coach Jerry Gray praises Harrison Smith's film

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: March 4, 2014 - 2:43 PM

Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said on Tuesday that safety Harrison Smith has shown “glimpses” when asked if he could develop into the best player on defense.

“When you look at him, you’ve got those glimpses,” Gray said on KFAN. “The biggest thing that you want to do is of course you want him to be on the field for 16 games, hopefully 20; that means you keep going into the playoffs. You look at him and he has something that you want. I remember talking to him at the train station a couple years ago at the Combine. Smart guy, he gives you a chance to go out there and hopefully make all the calls on the defense. But that’s just what I’ve seen on film. That’s why I can’t wait to get to talk to him in person."

More from Gray’s radio interview:

On Gray’s philosophy with defensive backs

"The first thing we talk about is what is their aspirations because, number one, they have to have a goal in mind. I have a goal for them – I want you to be the best in the league. I want you to make as much money as you possibly can. Rick may not like that but to me, that’s what my job is. My job is to make sure I get you to be the best in the NFL and then when somebody else wants you that means we’ve done a good job here; but they have to want that also. I can’t make you do something. I want you to see what I want or where you want to go and hopefully my vision and your vision meet up together.

"And then we talk a lot of technique because, to me, I think technique tells you where you want to go. Schemes start every play but technique finishes it and if we can technique sound and be really good at technique then we can probably win a lot of football games."

On whether ball skills can be taught at this level in regards to cornerback Chris Cook

"There’s some things you can do. I think we can, number one, we can catch a lot of footballs after practice or before practice and make that a priority. Then there’s little games that guys go through. I would love to get a chance whenever Chris comes in to get a chance to talk to him and see what happens on certain play. When he’s in position to make the play and it doesn’t happen, what’s your thought process because your thought is going to determine what you’re actually going to do on that play."

On what enticed Gray to Minnesota

"The coaching staff. I think coach [Mike] Zimmer, I’ve always respected him from afar. I’ve watched his defense. I know what he teaches and knowing him when he was in the Cowboys and knowing Norv Turner, he was actually the receivers coach when I was with the Rams; so I know Norv growing up, and I know what offense he brings. Getting a chance to be around, I think, other really good coaches that have a great background a great degree in football is really good for me. And now it gives me a chance to mix my technique with coach Zimmer’s defense. It’s going to be his defense and George is going to be running it. I respect George and what he’s done. He’s been a coordinator in Buffalo and also in college.

"Those are things I look for this time as far as a staff. To me, the staff was probably more important. How can you go in as a staff and really establish yourself in the National Football League other than trying to have some guys come up through the ranks."

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
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Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
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Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
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