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.


Chris Kluwe speaks his mind

Posted by: under Vikings, Super Bowl, Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings off the field, Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen Updated: September 12, 2012 - 4:18 PM

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has been a busy fellow.

And not just because he, along with his fellow teammates, are preparing for Sunday’s game in Indianapolis. Kluwe, the team’s well-spoken – and well-written – punter, has been doing lots of interviews about things other than football.

It started with his well-written, fairly intense and rather profane essay on Deadspin.com last week. Kluwe took issue with Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr.’s attempt to muzzle Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s statements on gay rights. One of Kluwe’s main points in the essay was defending Ayanbadejo’s first-amendment right to speak his mind.

Since then, Kluwe said, the response he’s gotten has been prolific – and one-sided. “It’s been very heartening,” he said Wednesday. “Because it’s been very positive. I’d say over 6,000 replies – maybe five or six negative ones. It’s a pretty good ratio of good to bad, so it gives me hope that, when our kids look at us 50, 60 years from now, they’ll be able to look back and say, ‘They did the right thing, they fought for freedom instead of oppression.’ ‘’

Kluwe has also achieved a pretty high profile for his stance. He has been featured at the Huffington Post. This week he did many interviews, including one with the British Broadcasting Corporation. “That was fun,” he said. “It was, I think, about 4:30 in the morning there, so that was pretty cool. It’s been interesting, doing the different interviews and stuff. But my focus now is on the Indianapolis Colts and helping the team win this Sunday. That’s what we’re here for.”

Kluwe would like to make a couple things clear: While his heightened profile might make him a spokesman of sorts, he stressed that he’s not speaking for anyone but himself. Second, Kluwe went to great lengths to thank the Vikings organization for allowing him to do so. Indeed, perhaps the only regret he has is some of the language he used in the Deadspin article.

“I do regret the language, because it put the Vikings in a tough spot, which was never my intention,” Kluwe said. “They’ve been very supporting of my right to speak out.”

That said, Kluwe recognizes that his position gives him a platform, and his ability to express himself struck a chord with many readers.

“I think we have a unique social platform as athletes,” he said. “We have a chance to maybe influence people who might not otherwise be influenced. So I’d like to take advantage of that. But, on the other hand, if it does become a distraction, that’s my job on the line. (The Vikings) are perfectly within their rights to cut me, because that’s not what I’m getting paid to do.

“One common message I’m getting through Twitter is, ‘You said what we couldn’t say.’ ‘’

Meanwhile, back to football ...

There is a game to prepare for, and here are some nuggets from the Colts’ conference calls and from the Vikings' locker room:

Both quarterback Andrew Luck and coach Chuck Pagano talked about the one-two combination of defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian  Robison when asked what about the Vikings defense stood out. While neither had a sack against Jacksonville, they stood out on film, if you listen to Pagano.

“He’s what we call a game-wrecker,” Pagano said of Allen.

Robison?

“He ain’t bad either,” Pagano continued. “He’s a high-motor guy. We call him a rolling ball of butcher knives.”

Pagano also said:

--Outside linebacker and pass rushing threat Dwight Freeney is “day-to-day’’ with an ankle injury. But: “Dwight has been able to come back from injuries rather quickly," Pagano said. "He’s getting treatment around the clock. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go.” Pagano said if Freeney can’t go, Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and Justin Hickman would get snaps there.

--Offensive lineman Joe Reitz (knee) is also day-to-day.

--The Colts signed veteran lineman Trai Essex to help bolster a struggling offensive line that might also be without Winston Justice (concussion). Essex played in Pittsburgh for current Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, so he knows the offense. Pagano said Essex could step in and play this week if needed.

--Pagano marveled at the play of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returned from knee surgery to score two TDs vs. Jacksonville. Pagano was an assistant in Baltimore in 2009 when Peterson rushed for 143 yards against the Ravens, and Pagano said Peterson didn’t look like he’d lost anything. “He’s a super-human guy,” he said. “Just a rare, rare, rare talent. Watching that first touchdown he scored (against Jacksonville), he put the foot down and cut back. I mean, just tremendous.”

A reunion

Luck and Vikings running back Toby Gerhart shared two years together at Stanford. The first was Luck's redshirt year, the second came when Gerhart, as a senior, ran for 1,871 yards.

Gerhart said he saw signs of greatness in Luck right from the get-go. As a redshirt freshman Luck ran the scout team and Gerhart remembers standing with then-coach Jim Harbaugh watching Luck pick apart defenses with pinpoint passes. "Whether it be off his back foot, on the run, 50 yards downfield to a receiver coming out of his cut, coach Harbaugh and I watched that," Gerhart said. "We looked at each other and shook our heads and smiled. We knew he'd be a great player."

Luck was asked in Wednesday's conference call if Gerhart ever subjected him to any hazing.  “No, Toby’s too nice to haze anyone,” Luck said, laughing. “Actually, I talked to him (Tuesday). He was my big brother as a freshman at Stanford. We had lunch every Thursday. It will be fun to get to talk to him before the game.”

Another challenge

Vikings rookie left tackle Mat Kalil said he came out of the Jacksonville victory with a lot of confidence. Should Freeney be ready to play – something Kalil said he fully expects – the Colts game will be another huge test for him.

“He’s a Hall of Fame-type player, I’m not underestimating him at all,” Kalil said. “He played in the Super Bowl with that ankle, and he didn’t play too bad, either. So I’m preparing like he’s going to play. That’s my mindset.”


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