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.


Zimmer, Vikings give back at local playground build

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Off the field, Vikings Updated: June 4, 2014 - 3:36 PM

The playground started to buzz as the four buses rolled up to Lucy Craft Laney School in North Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon. The students at the school had been working all morning to build a brand-new playground and were excited to see the Vikings show up to help finish the job.

New head coach Mike Zimmer led the Vikings off the first bus, and most of the players and many members of the personnel staff, including general manager Rick Spielman, participated in the team’s annual playground build. They grabbed shovels and wheelbarrows as soon as they stepped off the buses. At around 2:30 p.m., after a couple of hours of work, the job was done.

“It’s important to our players that we give back to Minnesota as much as they give to us, so it’s been really fun for us to get it,” Zimmer said, surveying the scene. “It has actually been fun for us to get away from practice a little bit and get out and kind of joke around with each other.”

Rap songs and dance music blared over the speakers as players and coaches worked alongside teachers, administrators and students of a wide range of ages. The hot sun beamed down, with an occasional cloud offering a moment of shade, but the players appeared to be having a blast.

“I just love the fact that everybody is here with the same goal, the same mindset, which is to help provide and enhance the playground and the culture here at the school so kids get to have fun and experience each other with a great playground,” wide receiver Greg Jennings said.

Among the players participating in the event was rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was tasked with painting checkerboards on some tabletops. Bridgewater was wearing a pair of work gloves, of course, but he took them off to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the kids.

“It’s very cool,” said Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in the draft. “I look forward to being in Minnesota for many years. So to be out here after less than a month and to be able to make an impact, to impact this school … it’s just a great feeling to be able to leave our imprint here and I’m glad this school will have a playground that they’ll be able to play on for many, many years to come.”

Most of the Vikings organization arrived after Wednesday’s organized team activity workout, but some employees, including members of the media relations staff, arrived first thing in the morning to assist with the project. Zimmer, who mostly supervised at the playground build, said it was a good thing that the coaches and players got to spend some time together off the field.

“It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere,” Zimmer said. “It’s good. It’s good to be around them when you don’t have a whistle in your mouth and trying to be demanding on everything.”

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