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.
When the Vikings made their move to TCF Bank Stadium official, there were a number of scheduling requests the University of Minnesota asked the NFL and the Vikings in their facility use agreement. Only one of the restrictions was mandatory, but the Vikings schedule this season will minimize any potential conflicts.
The Vikings schedule pretty much accommodated every request in the agreement. It’s pretty impressive (and surprising) the NFL did when it has 31 other teams to consider, and it’ll make for a better experience -- for fans, the Vikings and the university – in the team’s first year at TCF Bank Stadium.
"We are pleased that the Vikings and the NFL did their best to construct a schedule within the spirit of our agreement," Gophers senior associate athletic director Chris Werle said in a statement. "It’s our goal to make the transition as seemless as possible while we host the Vikings for the next two years. Having the football teams play on the same weekend only once during the first season will certainly help alleviate strains on the nearby neighborhoods, traffic, support staff and campus grounds."
Per the agreement:
* The Vikings could use TCF Bank Stadium for one weeknight game when classes weren’t in session (on a date coordinated and approved by the school).
The one weeknight game was the only restriction the NFL and the Vikings had. The Vikings have their mandatory Thursday night game on the road against the Packers in Week 5.
* The Vikings “shall make best efforts” with the NFL to avoid schedule conflicts with the school’s academic calendar. Some of the events included move-in (Aug. 15, 25-26, 30), Welcome Week (Aug. 27-Sept 1) and Finals (Dec. 12-18).
The Vikings host their final preseason game on Aug. 16 against the Cardinals. Their home opener isn’t until Sept. 14 against the Patriots, and they’re on the road for the only game on Finals week (Dec. 14 at Detroit).
*The Vikings “shall make best efforts” with the NFL to avoid scheduling games during the Minnesota State Fair and on Gophers football home games.
The Vikings are on the road for their final preseason game (Aug 28 at Tennessee), which is the only game during the Minnesota State Fair (Aug. 21-Sept. 1).
The next suggestion is a bit more challenging, but there’s surprisingly only one weekend that both the Gophers and Vikings play at home. The Gophers host Northwestern on Oct. 11 when the Vikings host the Lions on Oct. 12.
* “The Vikings’ coordination efforts with the NFL shall also include best efforts to accommodate University’s reservation of 2 Sundays in November and 2 Sunday’s in December for University home basketball games.”
The Vikings have a bye week on Nov. 9, then a road game at Chicago on Nov. 16. In December, the Vikings have back-to-back road games against the Lions on Dec. 14 and the Dolphins on Dec. 21.
So how in the world do we make assumptions about an NFL team's schedule in April? Heck, even the NFL draft isn't in April anymore.
Teams aren't fully assembled, practices haven't been held and nary a bone has broken nor ligament torn.
In case we, the media, haven't beaten it into you by now, it's a violent game that's unfit for the human body. Therefore, a game on paper in the spring tends to look a tad different in reality in the fall. For example, a can't-win road game against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers on paper is but one broken collarbone from becoming a blown-opportunity tie against the Packers and Scott Tolzien.
But we are allowed to have initial thoughts, so here's the primary one that jumped out at me after the Vikings schedule was released Wednesday night:
If Mike Zimmer really is the self-proclaimed `fixer,' he better be a quick fixer.
The toughest part of the schedule -- ON PAPER -- comes in the first five weeks.
A season-opener on the road, even if it is St. Louis, is never good (see: at Detroit, 2013). And then things get really tough.
Until the Vikings prove they have a quarterback and can stop the other team's quarterback, a good place to start evaluating their schedule is at the quarterback position. And Weeks 2-5 features Brady followed by Brees on the road; followed by Matt Ryan and a presumably healthy set of giant, skilled receivers; followed by Rodgers on the road on a short week (Thursday night).
If Zimmer's defense isn't fixed by the time the Vikings return from St. Louis, it may be broken beyond repair by the time Week 6 rolls around.
The NFL unveiled the 2014 regular season schedule Wednesday night. The Vikings kick off the season in St. Louis on Sept. 7 and play their first game at TCF Bank Stadium, their temporary home, against the New England Patriots the following week. The Vikings play one primetime game and will wrap up the season at home against the Chicago Bears. Here is the schedule:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7 @ St. Louis Rams (noon)
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14 vs. New England Patriots (noon)
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21 @ New Orleans Saints (noon)
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28 vs. Atlanta Falcons (3:25 p.m.)
Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 2 @ Green Bay Packers (7:25 p.m.)
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12 vs. Detroit Lions (noon)
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19 @ Buffalo Bills (noon)
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26 @Tampa Bay Buccaneers (noon)
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2 vs. Washington Redskins (noon)
Week 10: BYE WEEK
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16 @ Chicago Bears (noon)
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23 vs. Green Bay Packers (noon)
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30 vs. Carolina Panthers (noon)
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7 vs. New York Jets (noon)
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14 @ Detroit Lions (noon)
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21 @ Miami Dolphins (noon)
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28 vs. Chicago Bears (noon)
So does anyone care to make some premature predictions on the team’s 2014 record?
Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Cordarrelle Patterson, John Sullivan and a Vikings rookie to be announced -- maybe Patterson again? -- will pick up some shiny hardware next weekend.
The Vikings will hand out their 2013 awards at the “Minnesota Honors Football” awards event May 4 at the Hilton Minneapolis. The Vikings are the presenting sponsor for the second straight year.
The event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at www.nffmn.org.
Peterson, who rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, was named their Offensive Player of the Year. Greenway, who led the team in tackles, was their Defensive Player of the Year. Patterson won the Special Teams Player of the Year award after averaging 32.4 yards per kickoff return and scoring two touchdowns. John Sullivan was the Community Man of the Year.
The team’s Rookie of the Year for 2013 has not been named. So who should it be?
We have spilled a fair amount of digital ink these past few days on the subject of fifth-year options. And if you’re still unsure about how they work, you should probably familiarize yourself.
That’s because no one will be making more of these decisions in the next few years than Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who has drafted five players in the first round the past two years.
In 2012, Spielman selected left tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick then traded back into the back end of the first to nab safety Harrison Smith. Last year, he drafted defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (with the first-rounder acquired in the Percy Harvin deal) then jumped back into the first to select wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, too.
In the case of Smith, assistant general manager George Paton explained last year that they simply wanted Smith and had the draft assets to strike the deal with the Baltimore Ravens to make it happen. But an added bonus was that the Vikings will get Smith for five years instead of four.
Which begs the question: Will NFL teams, especially the ones eyeing up quarterbacks early in the second round, attempt to move into the first round to gain that extra year of contractual control?
“It could be a consideration because look at San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick,” former NFL agent Joel Corry told me this week. “Assuming everything checks out with this Miami incident, he is going to be at a minimum of $18 million per year on his next deal. If they had traded up into the bottom of the first round [in 2011], they’d have him locked up for another year.”
Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports also had the same thought, and he spoke with an NFL G.M. about it.
"Things have changed with all the good players from that 2011 first round and it's going to cost more to get a team to move out now,” the G.M. told Kirwan. “Back in the old days teams liked to move out of the bottom of the first to avoid the contract expense but now it's reversed."
Just something to think about as the first round winds to a close two weeks from tomorrow.
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