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.
It looks as if the investigation into Chris Kluwe’s claims that Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season is close to becoming public.
All interviews have been completed, according to former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chris Madel, one of the investigators, and the team’s independent investigation into Priefer has reached its conclusion. The findings are expected to be finalized and handed over to the Vikings next week.
After they receive the report, the Vikings may have to huddle up with the NFL’s legal team before the results are made public and an announcement is made about whether Priefer will be disciplined. That process could still take a couple of weeks, but the end is in sight.
Meanwhile, Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, was scheduled to meet with the Vikings’ lawyers on Thursday to further discuss the investigation into Priefer.
Priefer was accused by Kluwe, the former Vikings punter, of making anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season. Kluwe, in an article published on the website Deadspin in January, also said that he believed his public support of marriage equality led to his release from the team in 2013.
The Vikings launched a lengthy investigation into Priefer, who has been on the staff since 2011. Madel is heading the investigation along with former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Eric Magnuson.
Priefer, who was retained by new coach Mike Zimmer, said earlier today that his focus is on football.
The investigation into Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is expected to be wrapped up and released to the public in the coming weeks, perhaps as early as this weekend. Priefer was accused by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe of making anti-gay remarks in team meetings.
Priefer, who was one of three coaches retained by new head coach Mike Zimmer, just spoke with reporters for the first time this offseason. He said his focus is on the Vikings, not the investigation.
“It’s been one of those things, I come to work every morning and I’m excited about the direction of this football team,” Priefer said after today’s morning walkthrough. “I really like our coaching staff and I’m excited about our new players and excited about the guys we retained and came back. So my focus has been totally on football.”
After Kluwe claimed Priefer made anti-gay remarks during the 2012 season and that the punter’s public support of LGBT rights led to his release in 2013, the Vikings launched an investigation into Priefer, who has been on the staff since 2011. The investigation is headed by former Minnesota chief justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. department of justice attorney Chris Madel.
In a statement issued in January, Priefer “vehemently” denied the claims Kluwe made on Deadspin.
Final from the Metrodome: Green Bay 44, Vikings 31
Story of the game: The Vikings (1-6) had no answer for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He completed 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, methodically mixing in passing and running plays to perfection. The Packers (5-2) did not have to punt once.
Ground game: Eddie Lacy rushed 29 times for 94 yards for the Packers, who ran 11 times more than they passed.
Vikings highlight: Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff an NFL record 109 yards for a touchdown.
As expected: Christian Ponder’s return as the Vikings starting quarterback was very Ponder-like. He passed for only 145 yards in relief of Josh Freeman (concussion). Expect Freeman to start next Sunday at Dallas.
Just sayin’: The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. Although NFL in-season trades are rare, the Vikings might be considering something as they are clearly now turned toward building for the future.
Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh is the NFC special teams player of the week for the third time this season..
Here is the team's release on Walsh:
BLAIR WALSH WINS NFC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS
Eden Prairie, MN (January 2, 2013) – Vikings rookie K Blair Walsh has been named the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his Week 17 performance against the Green Bay Packers. Walsh sent the Vikings into the playoffs with a 29-yard FG as time expired. He also connected on FGs of 54 and 37 yards in the 37-34 win. This was Walsh’s second game-winning kick of the 2012 season (Week 1 vs. Jacksonville).
Walsh has won this award three times and becomes the first rookie since Devin Hester earned the honor three times in 2006. Until now, no Vikings rookie has ever won the Player of the Week Award three times in one season (A. Peterson x2 – ‘07, R. Moss x2 – ‘98). The Pro Bowl kicker was honored after his Week 1 performance against Jacksonville and his Week 15 showing in St. Louis.
The Georgia product was 10-10 on FGs of 50+ yards this season, a NFL record. He led the NFL in FGs with 35 and was 4th in scoring with 141 points. His 92.1 FG percentage is the best in NFL history by a rookie kicker. Walsh was 35-38 on the season and was 3rd in the NFL with 53 touchbacks.
Other Vikings kickers to win the award are: Fuad Reveiz (2x), Gary Anderson (4x), Eddie Murray and Ryan Longwell (2x).
Adrian Peterson’s quest for the NFL rushing record has taken center stage. But there is another pretty good running back to watch in this weekend’s Vikings game: Arian Foster.
Entering this week’s games Peterson has a league-best 1,812 rushing yards, and is within Eric Dickerson’s NFL-record 2,105. But Foster, who first came to the Texans as an undrafted free agent, has put up some strong numbers, too.
Foster is fourth in the league with 1,313 yards. Now, to show just how much Peterson has lapped the field this season, those 1,313 are precisely the same number Peterson has had since Week 7.
Still, Foster’s numbers are impressive. His 1,493 yards from scrimmage is fifth in the league – Peterson’s 2,023 is No. 1 – and if Foster scores a TD this week he will become the sixth player in NFL history to score 50 TDs in his first 50 NFL games.
“The scheme they run really fits what he does well,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of Foster. "He’s really patient, good at finding cut-back lanes. They throw the ball well out of the play-action game and bootleg game, and that serves Foster well in the run game as well.”
The Vikings have seen their share of good running backs this season, going up against five of the top 10 NFL rushers this season in Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (second), Washington’s Alfred Morris (third), Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (fifth), Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (seventh) and Frank Gore of San Francisco (ninth). Lynch ran for 124 yards, Morris had 57, Martin 135, Johnson 24 and Gore 63.
And now they get Foster.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he saw some similarities between Foster and Peterson.
“The thing about Adrian is that he has the home run speed,” Kubiak said. “Arian is one of those guys where it seems, the more he carries it, the stronger he gets. These are two guys who, the more they touch it, the more difficult it is to tackle them. Just two great players.”
(Almost) no comment
Christian Ponder’s marriage was not something many Vikings players wanted to discuss in the locker room.
Some, like center John Sullivan and guard Brandon Fusco, simply changed the subject.
“My focus right now is just going and grabbing some lunch and relaxing before practice,” safety Mistral Raymond said. “That should be dealt with somewhere else.”
Fullback Raymond Felton said he heard about it in the media like everybody else. Reaction? “I congratulated him,” Felton said. “Several people have congratulated him. So, obviously, whatever makes him happy we want that for him. It was a big day for him, and we’re happy for him.”
Of course, if anyone was going to have a little fun about the situation, it was punter Chris Kluwe, who wondered openly where he might find a gift registry. As for the present he planned on buying?
“Maybe a tea cozy,” he said.
Wins, not records
After winning NFC special teams player of the week honors for the second time this season, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh talked about winning, not records.
Specifically when he was asked whether he thought about making the Pro Bowl in this, his rookie season. “Yeah, it would be awesome, but that’s not my main goal right now.”
Walsh hit all five of his field goals last week, three in the 50-yards-plus range. He is now 8-for-8 from that distance, which ties him with Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson for most field goals of 50 or more yards in a season. He is one away from holding that record alone.
“I’m just wishing we win,” Walsh said. “I don’t’ care about the records. My whole deal with the records is that they’re meant to be broken. It would be nice to have, but I’d rather win.”
Walsh is 29-for-32 on field goals this season and is fourth in the NFC in scoring among kickers. He said the snap and hold has been perfect for every attempt this season, and that his three misses were entirely his fault.
So the question is, in a dome, in ideal circumstances, what does he think his limit is? “I think 65 (yards) and in I can at least give it a realistic shot,” he said.
Doing his part
Felton said he, along with the linemen and the rest of the team, are pulling for Peterson to break Dickerson’s record. But will he feel he earned a part of that record should it happen?
“A little bit,” he said. “I’ll be able to tell my grandkids about it. So, obviously, I think it’s important for our whole team. And the most important thing is getting wins. But when Adrian is successful that helps our team. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Meanwhile, it appears the work Felton has done has probably put to rest the question of whether Peterson prefers a fullback or running out of one-back sets. Felton said he’d seen a stat that indicated the Vikings gain better than 7 yards per rush with a fullback and 3-plus yards out of one-back sets.
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