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.


Michael Mauti, in the mix at middle linebacker, feels like himself again

Posted by: Matt Vensel under Vikings, Chad Greenway Updated: June 19, 2014 - 7:50 AM

For the first time since 2011, Michael Mauti hasn’t spent most of his spring rehabbing an injury.

The Vikings’ second-year middle linebacker is more than a year removed from his third ACL reconstruction surgery, and for the first time in a long time, Mauti is feeling like himself again.

“Right now, I feel great physically,” the 2013 seventh-round pick said. “I had a full offseason just to work out and get my legs right and not have to rehab anything, which is great. I feel like my body is back to where it was. I haven’t felt this good in a couple years now, which is a great thing because I don’t have to worry about where I am physically and I can just go out and play.”

Mauti is in the mix at middle linebacker, though he has been taking a backseat to Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway in a competition that defensive coordinator George Edwards describes as an “open” one. Mauti, who was active for 14 games last year because of his play on special teams, was used sparingly on defense last year.

He is ready to change that this year. And no, it’s not just because his knees are troubling him less.

“Last year, being a rookie, there were just so many things [to learn]. It wasn’t just the knee necessarily,” the former Penn State standout said. “I felt good enough to play and I made some plays last year on [special] teams. But really, not being a rookie really is the best part about it. Mentally, you got that first year under your belt and you can start to get more comfortable. You’re not the new guy anymore. Now it’s just learning the defense and putting all my focus into that.”

While he is becoming versed in a completely different defense, Mauti is working on the subtle but key nuances of the MIKE linebacker spot, the decisions that happen before the ball is even snapped -- getting himself and teammates lined up in the right spots, making the reads and calls before the snap and ensuring that all 11 defenders are on the same page of Mike Zimmer’s playbook.

Of course, what happens during the plays themselves is important, too, and Mauti will have to have a strong training camp to distinguish himself from a crowded group of linebackers. Brinkley had been lining up at middle linebacker on the first-team defense during OTAs open to the media. And now that outside linebacker Anthony Barr is back, Greenway has been manning the middle more, both in the base defense and in sub packages. Mauti has worked with the backups.

"Michael’s doing a good job," Zimmer said. "He’s again competing for a spot as a starter or on the team, both. He’s a smart guy, he’s got a tremendous family background with playing football and he’s an extremely hard worker, very, very focused on what he’s trying to get done and so I’m excited to see him when he gets in here in pads, see him when the bullets are flying a little bit more."

But down in Mankato, Mauti hopes to inject himself in the middle linebacker conversation.

“I think we’re all competing. It’s just a matter of who they feel is going to be best in that spot,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of linebackers here that work hard. In training camp, coaches will make that decision. But that’s what we’re all here to do -- to play and give it our best shot.”

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Cincinnati - LP: J. Broxton 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 2
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 9
NY Yankees - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3
Philadelphia - LP: J. Diekman 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 4
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Archer 4
Miami - LP: C. Hatcher 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: D. Carpenter 5
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 7 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: S. Carroll 1
Texas - WP: S. Baker 13 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: N. Ramirez 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: P. Neshek 2
Colorado - LP: R. Brothers 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: B. Ziegler 5
Oakland - LP: J. Lester 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 4
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 3
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 8 FINAL
Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez 3
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 13
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
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Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 11:00 AM
UAB
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Virginia
Western Mich 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
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Rice 2:30 PM
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California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
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Liberty 5:00 PM
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Ohio U 5:00 PM
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Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
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Texas
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Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
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(25) Washington 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
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 3 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 71 FINAL
Phoenix 85
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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 pmX19-3
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
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Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
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