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.


Spielman's week-long adventure starts at Gophers pro day

Posted by: Mark Craig under Quarterbacks, Roster moves, Vikings, NFL draft, Jared Allen, Vikings draft Updated: March 5, 2012 - 4:14 PM

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman kicked off a busy week of pro day visits with a stop at the University of Minnesota earlier today. He'll leave town tonight for the bigger fish of  UCLA on Tuesday, USC and left tackle Matt Kalil on Wednesday and Oklahoma State and receiver Justin Blackmon on Friday.

Then it's back to Winter Park on Saturday one final team meeting with ownership before the start of free agency on March 13.

Today's pro day started with 27 local prospects, including eight Gophers.

"All these kids are going to be late-round, free-agent type guys," Spielman said. "Hopefully, there will be some guys that we'll definitely invite or maybe sign in college free agency."

Spielman brought about six to eight members of the organization with him today. Although it's unlikely the Vikings will draft anybody that they saw today, Spielman used the name Marcus Sherels to prove it's not a waste to attend the Gophers' pro day. Sherels, the team's top punt returner and a backup cornerback, was signed after being invited to a rookie tryout in 2010.

One of the standouts today was Gophers defensive lineman Anthony Jacobs. Listed at 6-2, 291 pounds, he ran the 40 in the 4.7-4.8 range and had a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump that was much better than a lot of the smaller players.

Spielman wouldn't say which players he liked to disliked, but when asked about Jacobs' numbers, he said, "That should get him a look."

Another impressive number: 27. That was the number of times Gophers running back Duane Bennett bench pressed 225 pounds.

Here are some of the other highlights of Spielman's interview with local reporters:

  • On the conditioning level of the Gopher players:"I think they got this program going in the right direction. I think Coach [Jerry] Kill has done an outstanding job. I heard he's got a very good recruiting class coming in. I'm very excited to see these kids and what happens down the road."
  • On whether anything has changed about the Vikings' intentions to field offers for the No. 3 overall pick in the draft: "No. We got 52 days left until draft day. Everybody knows we're open [to trading down]. We're open for anything right now."
  • On guarding against getting too carried away with combine and pro day drills (think Williamson, Troy): "You always remember what you've seen on [game] tape. That's the most important thing. And then you add this as part of the process. But it always comes down to what they do between the white lines."
  • Spielman said the Vikings will have their rookie minicamp the week after the draft.
  • On pro day success stories such as Sherels: "I think Marcus Sherels was our biggest success story coming out of here. He was a college free agent. We had him at our rookie minicamp and signed him there. He ended up making our team and did some good things for us. That's why you go out to these pro days, because you never know what you're going to find. There was some kids from these small schools that popped up a little bit as well."
  • On where the team stands in its free agency planning: "We're done. Everbody is just sitting and waiting for the 13th. There's not much more we can do. We were done before we went down to the combine. Now we're focused on the pro days."
  • On whether the team will be active in free agency: "If there's a guy there that we covet. Other than that, we'll probably be patient. We'll see how that shakes out. I know there are a lot of franchise tags going out the door [recently]. So we'll see where things shake out on the 13th."
  • On guarding against relying too heavily on free agency to build a team: "You're hoping that you're always drafting and keeping the guys you draft as you bring them up through your system. If you're able to keep those guys, I think that's the best way to do it. But if there is a free agent out there that you think is unique, or a trade like when we traded for Jared Allen, if something pops up like that then you try to go ahead and do that if you can. But for the most part you're hoping to re-sign some of the guys as they get to the end of their contract from their rookie deals."
  • On when the Vikings will cut the veterans they intend to cut: "I think if we have any roster moves, it will be before the 13th. We have a pretty good idea [what moves we'll make]. We had some meetings with our ownership on Friday. We'll get together on Saturday, one last meeting before everything gets started."
  • On what the team will do with the third pick (yeah, I wasn't expecting him to answer this one, either): "I don't know who we're going to take. What if one of the quarterbacks slides down? Do you trade or do you take one of the quarterbacks? We got to do a lot more work on Blackmon, and everybody knows what [LSU cornerback Morris] Claiborne is, too. All those are areas of need that we need to look at."
  • On the issue of bounties that's sweeping through the league: "The bounty thing is a league matter. We'll let the league handle that."
  • On pro days in general: "I love the combine. Love the Senior Bowl. I love going out to these pro days. I'll have some private dinners as we go through this. It gives you a chance to meet them, meet their families. This is the time of year you can really hone in. You know what they are as football players. Now, you try to really hone in on what they are as people and whether they fit what you're looking for."

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