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.
The Vikings just finished their morning walkthrough and coach Mike Zimmer chatted with us for more than 18 minutes afterward before grabbing lunch and preparing for this afternoon’s practice. He covered a lot of ground, including ground covered yesterday, but there were some newsy nuggets.
For starters, the Vikings made some roster moves. They waived veteran wide receiver Josh Cooper, who had joined the team in June, and undrafted rookie tackle Matt Hall. Replacing them on the 90-man roster are second-year wide receivers Ty Walker and Andy Cruse. Walker has spent time with the Packers and Seahawks and Cruse was previously with the Texans.
The Vikings also placed three players on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is the headliner. He is dealing with a hamstring injury, and while Zimmer indicated that it isn’t serious -- “I doubt it will be very long,” he said -- those injuries can be tricky for cornerbacks. Also on the PUP list are safety Andrew Sendejo (lower back and ankle) and tight end Chase Ford (foot). Those three cannot do anything on the practice field until they are cleared by doctors and removed from the list.
Zimmer said that only one player failed yesterday’s conditioning test and hinted that that man won’t be allowed to practice, but he wouldn’t say who. We’ll try to get an answer for you this afternoon.
As for the decision on whether to bring in an external interim special teams coach while special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is suspended, Zimmer said he hasn’t made it yet and that he will let us know soon. And then we will let you know ASAP. Priefer is allowed to coach during camp and this morning was doing his usual thing with assistant Ryan Ficken at the end of the walkthrough.
A couple of Zimmer quotes stood out to me on the 18-plus minutes of audio tape.
The first was on Adam Thielen, the former Minnesota State Mankato standout who is obviously still a popular guy down here in Mankato. Zimmer said he has improved tremendously.
“Adam’s actually doing a terrific job,” Zimmer said. “He might have been our most improved guy in OTAs. He’s a great kid, first of all. Works his read end off. Runs routes real hard. Catches the ball good. He’s got an opportunity to make this football team.”
The second was Zimmer talking about how training camp will be different now that he has to worry about coaching and evaluating a whole 90-man roster, not just the defensive guys.
“I like to evaluate the players. The only difficult thing for me as opposed to being the defensive coordinator, I was evaluating 45 guys, I guess it was. Now I’m evaluating 90. I have to pay a little bit more attention to certain positions -- the left guard or the center or the right guard. You see the tackles all the time because you’re watching them going against the [defensive ends]. Receivers, I see all the time. So it’s just more volume, I guess, for me, trying to get that done. But I’ve got a list of things on my board that I’m going to make sure I do every single day, [and one of those things] is trying to evaluate all the players, trying to figure out how they can help us win football games and what their role can be. I try to remind myself every day to do that.”
Oh, and Zimmer said it wasn't him who pulled the fire alarm at Sears Hall around 1:30 a.m. this morning, sending shirtless Vikings scurring out of the building. "Now that I think about it, I wish it was," he said. "I'll have to use that next year."
OK, I’m going to finish my burrito now. More to come in a little bit. Practice starts at 3 p.m.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop stopped and chatted with reporters as he left the locker room Friday. Bishop said his ACL surgery is scheduled for Tuesday with Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews performed Adrian Peterson's ACL surgery, and Bishop said he's using Peterson's accelerated recovery as his motivation.
"The first person who I talked to was Adrian about it," Bishop said. "I was looking at his whole timeline so that’s who I’m kind of in competition with right now. I believe he got his surgery after the injury six or seven days after. I think mine is going to be eight so I'm a little upset about that [smiling]. Going forward, I’m just going to try and keep at the same pace he had. He kind of set the blueprint. That’s where I’m channeling all my focus, to out-do him."
Bishop suffered the injury in the second quarter Sunday when a Carolina player slammed into his right leg on a running play. It came during Bishop's first start for the Vikings.
"It’s definitely unfortunate," he said. "I feel like I was kind of getting into my groove. I've always been in my groove, honestly. But it’s just the way life is and the way things go sometimes. The only thing I can do is focus on what I can control and that’s my rehab and coming back even better."
Bishop missed the 2012 season after suffering a torn hamstring in his right leg, an injury that he called worse than his ACL tear. Bishop signed a one-year contract this past offseason so his future his unclear. He said he's not thinking that far ahead.
"I’m seriously just trying to channel all my focus on recovering and healing," he said. "Just ready to tackle this whole process. I’ve been here before. I know what it takes to come back physically, mentally, psychologically. I’m prepared."
The Vikings signed cornerback Jacob Lacey to replace safety Harrison Smith, who was placed on IR/designated to return list.
Lacey was released by the Vikings during training camp.
The NFL announced Tuesday that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $100,000 for his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan on Sunday.
Suh, who has a history of cheap shots, avoids a suspension. He was informed of his punishment by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks.
Suh dived at Sullivan's knees on an interception return in the second quarter. Sullivan was behind the play and had no chance of catching Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The penalty negated a touchdown. The league "prohibits blocks below the waist by players of either team after a change of possession."
Sullivan limped off the field but was able to return the next series. He escaped with only a knee contusion and is expected to play this week.
Suh apologized to Sullivan before the start of the season half.
"He said there was no intent to injure," Sullivan said Monday.
Asked if he believed Suh, Sullivan said, "I think guys get caught up in the play sometimes and sometimes things happen. It’s hard to even remember what you do when you get caught up in the moment. I appreciate the fact that he said something to me.”
Update: The Vikings made some practice squad changes, putting running back Joe Banyard back on the practice squad and releasing defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo and running back Bradley Randle from the practice squad.
The Vikings finished their preseason with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night and now comes the hard part.
The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Leslie Frazier, his coaching staff and general manager Rick Spielman will meet today to begin setting the final roster.
The team could begin informing players today but the Vikings won't announce the moves officially until Saturday afternoon.
These two days are anxious times for players on the bubble.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said of releasing players. "When you sit down and realize that for a lot of the guys that played tonight, they will probably never wear an NFL uniform again and we have to sit down and discuss who those guys might be. When you sit down with them on that Saturday, or Friday, they come by the office and you explain to them their career in Minnesota for sure is going to be over, and there’s a possibility it may be over for good, it can get emotional."
Spielman has final say over roster decisions, but Frazier said personnel matters are a collaborative effort with the coaching staff.
"Rick is going to give his input and I’m going to share my input, but he is going to make that final decision," Frazier said. "One of the things that he’s learned and I’ve learned is that you don’t want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are totally against it. It’s hard if as a coach, you have to get this guy going and so on and then you don’t necessarily believe in it. It’s a tough deal, but we’ve been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk about what needs to be done and what’s best for our football team. Whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we have always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
Asked if he has a chip he can use if he wants a certain player, Frazier laughed.
Quick wrapup from the Metrodome, where the Vikings beat the Titans 24-23. Crowd was announced at 62,603, I'd say seats were 9-17ths occupied.
No Vikings starters played, but it was an entertaining game. Both teams punted once each, and it moved right along.
The only delay came when Vikings guard Seth Olsen was down for about 10 minutes after taking a knee to his helmet while blocking. He was strapped to a board and went off on a stretcher after being basically motionless. The Vikings announced a neck injury. Olsen was OK in the locker room afterward, going through his normal routine, but couldn't speak to the media because of the NFL's concussion protocol.
Other injuries: Bobby Felder, maybe in a battle for the reserve cornerback and No. 1 punt return spot with Marcus Sherels, left on the final play of the third quarter because of a right ankle spain. And defensive end D'Aundre Reed also sprained an ankle.
Sherels had a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception after missing Sunday's loss at San Francisco because of his father's funeral. Quite a comeback and quite a statement in his battle to make the team. Chip is writing about Sherels for the paper.
Coach Leslie Frazier said cuts will be discussed tomorrow and revealed Saturday. The team must get from 75 to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Matt Asiata carried eight times for 32 yards and a 1-yard TD on the Vikings' opening offensive series. He was replaced by Joe Banyard, who carried 13 times for 62 yards and scored on an 11-yard pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson. MBT was 19-for-26 for 187 yards and the TD, and had one picked.
Blair Walsh missed from 45 but made from 25 in the fourth quarter. The second, with 1:38 left, decided the game.
Desmond Bishop had a nice game at linebacker with seven tackles, two for loss.
Lots of hopeful faces in the locker room, but more than a few looks of resignation from the 30 or so players how have to worry about their jobs.
Banyard, a bubble guy, said if he makes the team "I might cry. I really might cry. I will definitely have to thank the good Lord, and then I'll just cry because I know this is where I want to be."
Joe Webb, the converted QB trying to make the team as a WR, said "I am going to get a peace of mind, and hopefully the coaches will make the right decision."
Former Minnesota State (Mankato) standout receiver Adam Thielen, a long shot to make the roster: "It has been awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better situation. It has been a blast just being here."
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