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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NY Mets 4 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Minnesota 2
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Washington 1
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 4
NY Yankees 10 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Tampa Bay 0 Cancelled
Baltimore 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 6
Texas 6 FINAL
Oakland 7
Cleveland 2 FINAL
Arizona 3
Arizona 7 FINAL
LA Angels 2
Miami 0 Cancelled
Houston 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Kansas City 4
San Francisco 9:05 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 9:05 PM
San Diego
Milwaukee 9:05 PM
Cincinnati
Detroit 111 FINAL
Orlando 97
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Philadelphia 98
Charlotte 107 2nd OT 0:04
Washington 110
Boston 93 4th Qtr 0:13
New York 89
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Brooklyn 106
LA Lakers 83 FINAL
Toronto 94
Miami 86 FINAL
Atlanta 99
Golden State 97 4th Qtr 2:51
Memphis 78
Sacramento 88 FINAL
New Orleans 102
Minnesota 95 4th Qtr 4:49
Houston 104
Dallas 54 3rd Qtr 3:51
San Antonio 61
Utah 39 2nd Qtr 0:27
Denver 52
Portland 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Calgary 1 3rd Prd 12:41
Minnesota 3
Columbus 4 2nd Prd 3:00
Chicago 2
Dallas 0 1st Prd 4:47
Edmonton 1
UCLA 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 74
NC State 65 FINAL
Louisville 75
Utah 8 1st Half 11:26
Duke 10
Kent State 0 1st Half 19:20
Northern Ariz 0
Michigan State 9:16 PM
Oklahoma
(15) North Carolina 65 FINAL
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(18) Iowa 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 81
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(2) Notre Dame 4
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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 NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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