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.


Posts about Bears

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 30

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 30, 2014 - 7:40 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

Remember when the Vikings arrived in the Twin Cities a few months ago for the start of the offseason working program and Greg Jennings said Norv Turner’s offense was making his head spin? He gave the juicy sound bite, but he wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed by the new offense. After all, the philosophy, the scheme and even the terminology are completely different.

Fast forward to today, the last day in July. The Vikings are now on their fourth time through the installation of Turner’s offense, according to first-string quarterback Matt Cassel, and the offensive players -- and most importantly the quarterbacks -- have gradually gotten it down.

“Each and every day we're working hard to continue learning the nuances of the offense, some checks, and also trying to see it through Coach Turner's eyes,” Cassel said Sunday night.

Cassel and fellow veteran Christian Ponder got an early advantage over first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, who didn’t join the team until May. Those guys were in the building and in the offense a month earlier. But Bridgewater has proved to be quick learner, putting him in this battle with Cassel.

“It’s a huge difference compared to where things were before,” Bridgewater said. “For me, I'm a step ahead from when I first started learning the playbook.”

Some heads are surely still spinning. But it has looked like these two QBs have theirs on straight.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- My colleague Mark Craig hung out with Norv and watched tape of Teddy.

--- CB Xavier Rhodes is still learning to trust his instincts at the pro level.

--- Bracing for a potential Chris Kluwe lawsuit, the Vikings hired two high-powered attorneys.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Bears QB Jay Cutler is not resting on his success from last season.

--- Lions QB Matthew Stafford feels rejuvenated working with Jim Caldwell.

--- The Packers are cashing in at Lambeau Field.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After a day off, the Vikings are back on the field in Mankato today. Their morning walkthrough got pushed back to 11:20 a.m., and it is now special teams only. They practice in pads at 3 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings allowed 37 passing touchdowns last season, tied for second-most in NFL history, according to Pro Football Reference. You would think with the explosion of NFL passing attacks that the dubious record would be held by a recent team, but it was actually the 1969 St. Louis Rams who allowed 38 passing touchdowns -- and that was in 14 games. The 1981 Baltimore Colts and 1961 Washington Redskins also allowed 37 in one season. Obviously, the Vikings need to be better in 2014, but the good news is Mike Zimmer's Bengals ranked 11th in 2013 with 22 allowed.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 29

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 29, 2014 - 8:23 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

We have a long way to go until the Vikings’ position battles are settled. But of all the position groups, the linebacker situation is easily the one with the least clarity four days into camp.

Take last night’s practice for example. One second you see No. 52, 54 and 57 on the field together. Then you look up and No. 55 is out there with some first-teamers in the blitz period. Then you see No. 50 or 56 or 58 getting sprinkled in with the first or second team.

Whoops, you just blinked and missed another combination.  

“We are rotating a lot of different guys in a lot of different areas,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said a couple of days ago, adding, “We like the competition, we like the guys that we have got, we know it will work itself out in the end.”

My best early guess: Chad Greenway will be one starter, and could either be in the middle or at one outside linebacker spot. Mike Zimmer loves him some Anthony Barr, so I bet we see him starting on the outside, though a job isn’t going to be handed to him. As for that third spot in the base defense, your guess is as good as mine right now. What do you say we just throw some darts?

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- TE Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings envision a bright future together.

--- RB Adrian Peterson thinks the Vikings offense will be much less predictable.

--- The Vikings had a spirited practice under the lights last night.

--- Rookie CB Jabari Price is learning to play with better technique instead of relying on speed.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Could Jimmy Clausen be the Bears’ backup quarterback?

--- The Lions have called off contract talks with DT Ndamukong Suh.

--- Pass rusher Julius Peppers is settling in with the Packers.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

Today is a scheduled off day for Vikings players, and for us, too. Time to catch up on laundry.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

We have yet to see a Vikings quarterback throw an interception in team drills through the first four days of training camp. And yes, before you ask, that’s including Christian Ponder. What are we to make of that? I guess it depends on whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty guy or gal. On one hand, offensive coordinator Norv Turner has stressed ball control, so the lack of picks is a good thing. But Zimmer wants his defensive backs to contest passes, and while they have done a decent job deflecting passes and jarring them from receivers, interceptions are even better.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 28

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 28, 2014 - 7:26 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

The Vikings don’t care about your delicious dinner. They don’t care that your ribs are falling off the bone. They just want to sign Kyle Rudolph before he explodes.

On Sunday night, as a group of unsuspecting Vikings beat reporters chowed down at Number 4 restaurant in Mankato, the Vikings signed the 24-year-old tight end to a five-year contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the game.

Is Rudolph worth it? We might not know until a couple of years from now. After all, we are talking about a guy who made the Pro Bowl -- and was named MVP -- after catching nine touchdowns in 2012 and then missed half of 2013 with a fractured foot. But seemingly everyone around Vikings training camp seems to think Rudolph is poised for a breakout season under coordinator Norv Turner.

It had to be an interesting negotiation considering what Rudolph accomplished in 2012 and what injury kept him from accomplishing in 2013. I can’t help but think of Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, a comparable player I covered in Baltimore.

Pitta put up nice numbers in 2012, but he fractured and dislocated his hip early in training camp and missed most of the 2013 season. Still, the Ravens rewarded him with a big extension that is similar to the five-year, $36.5 million deal that Rudolph signed late last night.

Anyway, the talk of training camp today is going to be Rudolph’s big deal, and you can be sure his Vikings teammates will be giving him plenty of grief after he got nearly $20 million guaranteed.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Cordarrelle Patterson is feeling better, but hasn’t been cleared yet.

--- Mike Zimmer is not afraid of a little bit of rain.

--- The Vikings know that playing offensive line in the NFL isn’t getting any easier.

--- Norv Turner wants a “physical presence” at fullback.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Lions coach Jim Caldwell "absolutely" believes a deal will get done with DT Ndamukong Suh.

--- Packers WR Randall Cobb says he hasn’t done enough to get a new deal.

--- Bears RB Matt Forte is apparently showing no signs of slowing down.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

After a rainy but seemingly productive first day in pads, Camp Zimmer continues Monday with a morning walkthrough then a rare night practice that should ratchet the intensity up a bit. A larger crowd is expected at Blakeslee Stadium for the practice, which runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Bill Barnwell does a great job writing about the NFL for ESPN’s Grantland site. He recently did a series looking at the best and worst contracts in the league. Two Vikings players made his list of the worst contracts, and you might not be able to guess who without peeking. I’ll give you a moment to muster up a guess. … Just a few more seconds. ... OK, pencils down. They were WR Greg Jennings and DE Everson Griffen. Go ahead and clink on that link to hear Barnwell’s logic.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 27

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 27, 2014 - 7:36 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

Finally, the Vikings are breaking out the pads.

The first two days of Camp Zimmer felt like a couple of spring workouts with the players in shells doing non-contact drills. But things will heat up in Mankato today with the first full-padded practice of Zimmer’s tenure. We in the media are certainly excited to see some contact, and that anticipation pales in comparison to what the coaching staff is feeling. During his news conference yesterday, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards pointed out at least a half dozen times that he couldn't draw too many conclusions about players and competitions until he saw them in pads.

That doesn’t mean there will be huge hits left and right. Zimmer -- who must walk the line between running an aggressive, physical camp and keeping his players healthy -- said he wants it to be “thud” contact only, not tackling to the ground. Oh, and "Adrian won't get tackled,” he added.

Still, with the players in pads starting today, we’ll start to see guys distinguish themselves.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Whether he is saying it publicly or not, Teddy Bridgewater is preparing to be the guy.

--- Adrian Peterson’s pass protection is being praised by the new staff.

--- Captain Munnerlyn keeps proving doubters wrong.

--- The offense struck back during yesterday’s training camp practice.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Bears DE Jared Allen had some interesting things to say about his time with the Vikings.

--- Packers WR Jordy Nelson got his big day, but will there be any left for WR Randall Cobb?

--- Lions QB Matthew Stafford is entering a new phase in his career.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings will hold their walkthrough from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. Practice will run from 3 to 5:10 p.m. Zimmer is scheduled to speak with the media for the first time since Friday morning.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Continuity is important on the offensive line, and, yes, talent is kind of important, too. Still, it’s pretty noteworthy that the Vikings return all five starting linemen from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. How many other teams can say that? One, maybe two. The Patriots have definitely started the same five guys. The 49ers have not, but their current starting five have been on their roster at least that long.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: July 26

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: July 26, 2014 - 7:22 AM

Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.

After an interesting first day to Mike Zimmer’s training camp that included a fire alarm waking up the players in the middle of the night and an injury keeping one of the team’s top young players out of practice, the Vikings will be back at it again today at Minnesota State Mankato.

Yesterday’s afternoon practice itself was pretty uneventful, with the players practicing in shells and Zimmer easing his players into training camp. We’ll be looking for the intensity to pick up today. We’ll also be looking to see if Cordarrelle Patterson is back at practice after sitting out yesterday.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

--- Despite the absence of hitting, it was an eventful first day to Camp Zimmer.

--- Linval Joseph is healthy and ready to roll, and Zimmer sounds pretty excited about it.

--- Patterson missed practice with a foot injury and is considered day-to-day.

--- The Vikings made a couple of minor roster moves and put three players on the PUP list.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

--- Jared Allen is already making his presence known on the Bears defense.

--- The Packers are turning to youth on their defensive line.

--- The Lions are not optimistic about getting a deal done with Ndamukong Suh.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings will hold their morning walkthrough at 10:30 a.m. Afterwards, we will hear from coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards. The team will practice in shells starting at 3 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings, who have been coming down to Mankato every summer since 1964, are one of just 14 NFL teams to hold their training camp away from their practice facility. According to MMQB.com, 27 NFL teams held their camp away from home back in 2000. The Vikings, by the way, are locked into holding training camp at Minnesota State Mankato for one more summer.

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