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 Chris Kluwe

Vikings GM Rick Spielman says Ponder "will be here" next season

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: February 14, 2014 - 2:17 PM

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said quarterback Christian Ponder “will be here” next season but the team still plans to address the need at quarterback in the offseason.

Ponder will enter the final year of his rookie deal and expected to make $3.2 million in base salary and bonuses. All of that money is dead money however, meaning it would still count against the cap if the Vikings opted to cut Ponder.

"Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything -- him not being here," Spielman said on Friday.

The 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft hasn’t solved the Vikings’ problem at quarterback over the last three seasons. He played just nine games last year and threw for a career-low 1,648 yards after playing all 16 games in 2012.

Spielman said he’s interested to see when Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner get a chance to work with him.

“We’re not closing the door on anything and any player here,” Spielman said. “We’ve been through on personnel and our coaches and it’s a lot different when they’ve looked at our players and how they can utilize them this way or that way. I’m anxious to see when they get out there and get on the field with these guys that they’ll get a true sense of what they’re strengths and weaknesses are and how they can utilize it within their systems.”

Spielman hasn’t closed the door on bringing quarterback Matt Cassel back either, but he said the organization will bring in two quarterbacks in during the offseason. With a younger quarterback in the draft a sure lock at this point based on what Spielman and Norv Turner have said over the last two weeks, Spielman hinted he’d be open to bringing a veteran to “mentor” whoever the organization selects.

Other notes from Spielman’s 50-minute interview:

*Spielman said defensive end Michael Sam’s decision to openly announce he’s gay will not impact his draft stock with the organization. He said it’s wrong if a team does change its status on Sam because of his announcement and plans to judge him purely on football.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is the center of an independent review regarding claims from former punter Chris Kluwe of anti-gay remarks.

“I know that we will make sure that our culture is created where he could fit in to our locker room,” said Spielman on if the Vikings select Sam in the draft.”

* The Vikings completed their staff by hiring head strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus and assistant strength and conditioning coach Jeff Hurd on Friday. Marcus has 22 years of coaching experience and spent the last three seasons as the University of Virginia's Director of Football Training and Player Development. This will be Hurd's 29th year coaching and was the strength and conditioning coach during Turner's tenure as the Chargers head coach from 2007-2012.

Tingelhoff's Hall of Fame wait will continue

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: August 21, 2013 - 5:14 PM

Chris Kluwe got his wish, but Mick Tingelhoff's wait for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will stretch to at least 31 years since his first year of eligibility in 1984.

The nine-member seniors committee today selected former Raiders punter Ray Guy and former Falcons and Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey as the two senior nominees to be considered for enshrinement in 2014. The senior nominees still must receive at least 80 percent of the vote from the full 46-member selection committee on Feb. 1, 2014 to enter the Hall of Fame.

Tingelhoff, a five-time Associated Press first-team All-Pro center, played for the Vikings for 17 seasons and never missed a preseason (90), regular-season (240) or post-season (19) game. 

Guy became the first punter selected in the first round when the Raiders used the 23rd overall selection on him in 1973. He went on to play 14 seasons, making first-team All-Pro six consecutive years.

Kluwe, the former Vikings punter, campaigned for Guy's selection a year ago. He went so far that the league fined him for wearing a Post-it note saying "Ray Guy Hall of Fame" over the 50-year Hall of Fame anniversary patch on his jersey during a nationally-televised prime-time game. 

Humphrey, meanwhile, played 14 seasons for the Falcons (1968-78) and Eagles (1979-81). He was a five-time first-team All-Pro pick. He also was a senior nominee in 2009, but fell short of the 80 percent of the votes from the full selection committee.

Humphrey is the sixth player to be chosen twice as a senior nominee. Of the 46 senior nominees to be voted on by the full committee, 38 have received enough votes to enter the Hall of Fame.

Tingelhoff was given strong consideration this year. Like the other candidates who weren't chosen, he's still eligible to be reconsidered in the future.

Vikings OTAs: Six under-the-radar players to keep tabs on

Posted by: Updated: May 28, 2013 - 8:15 AM
The Vikings will begin their Organized Team Activities on Tuesday at Winter Park. Wednesday’s session will be open to the media. And Thursday’s workout will wrap things up for this week. Then the team will also hold additional OTA sessions June 4-6 and June 10-13 before the mandatory three-day mini-camp kicks in June 20.
Here’s our promise: We’ll keep our Team Strib filter on as high as we can as we relay info and analysis from OTAs. We’re even thinking about starting our own Twitter hashtag: #itsonlyotas. Just as a reminder to keep it all in perspective.
After all, trying to deliver definitive judgments on individual players and the team as a whole during OTAs is akin to trying to forecast the success of a marriage based on the efficiency of the wedding rehearsal.
But if you’re a Vikings junkie and need your late-May football fix, we’re here for you. Today, we bring you a snapshot look at six under-the-radar players we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.
JACOB LACEY
Following the March release of Antoine Winfield, defensive coordinator Alan Williams has been hard at work trying to identify his team’s new options at slot corner. And it may work in Lacey’s favor that he has such familiarity with Williams. Before making nine starts last season in Detroit, Lacey spent his first three NFL seasons working under Williams in Indianapolis. At present, the Vikings’ nickel corner job is open and internally there’s doesn't seem to be a high level of confidence that Josh Robinson is ready for the move inside, having had minimal training in the slot. A.J. Jefferson could be an option. Bobby Felder, a 2012 practice squadder could figure into the competition as well. And the Vikings may not be opposed to experimenting some with a nickel package that’d deploy three safeties. But right now, perhaps it’s Lacey who will get the early nod. And his understanding of Williams’ system has given him a head start on his transition to Minnesota.
“Coming off the jump, it’s not like I’m running a brand new system,” he said. “It’s so much more of a picking up where I left off kind of deal.”
The keys to excelling in the slot? Said Lacey: “You have to be quicker. You have to think a lot quicker. You have to use your eyes a lot more in there because you always have to read the run as well as play the pass. So it’s a different feel. But it’s a feel I have and a feel I like.”
JEFF LOCKE
Tracking the progress of a punter? In May? At OTAs? Ah, the glory of being an NFL beat writer. But hey, this is the obligation now.
The Vikings haven’t had a full-time punter not named Chris Kluwe since 2004 when Darren Bennett held the post. Well, now with Kluwe released and relocated in Oakland, this is Locke’s gig. As a senior at UCLA last fall, he averaged 43.3 yards per punt. (Kluwe’s career average with the Vikings, for what it’s worth, was 44.4 yards.) But once the Vikings determined they needed to get younger, cheaper and better at the position, they spent the pre-draft process doing their homework on Locke. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer began getting to know Locke first at the Senior Bowl in January and a few weeks later at the combine.
In mid-March, Priefer put Locke through a private workout at UCLA, which provided the closing argument to ink him in as the top punter on the team’s draft board. Locke said he had other private workouts with the Jets, Bills, Eagles, Browns and Ravens but had a hunch he had really clicked with the Vikings. Now he has to keep the team feeling that way.
“I’m just trying to do what I do,” Locke said at rookie mini-camp earlier this month. “I’m not trying to do anything extra.”
JEROME SIMPSON
Simpson has a new contract, new optimism and, yes, a new bed. All three of those things have the sixth-year receiver believing he’s ready for a 2013 breakthrough.
That contract, the one-year, $2.1 million deal Simpson signed in March? Simpson appreciated it as a sincere vote of confidence from the organization, using it as encouragement to push forward into a second season in Minnesota.
The optimism? Well, Simpson knows things can’t be any worse this season than they were last year when he missed the Vikings’ first three games due to suspension, then suffered an odd lower-back ailment that caused a frustrating nerve issue that slowed him for two months.
Rock bottom may have been a Week 12 loss in Chicago when Simpson had several key drops and finished with one catch for 1 yard. The injury, Simpson believes, played a major role in his lack of productivity through October and November.
“It was more my push-off. I didn’t really have my burst to be able to get away from my defenders when I needed to,” Simpson said.
And this new bed? That’s a Tempurpedic mattress with a pillow top.
“It’s helped stabilize my back and keep me in good posture,” Simpson said.
Simpson thought his strength and burst started to return in December and says he’s now back at 100 percent. Which is why he’s envisioning a much more productive season in 2013.
Yes, we’ll take all Simpson’s optimism with a grain of salt, still hesitant of a full buy-in after miscalculating what his 2012 contributions could be. But with rookie Cordarrelle Patterson likely needing significant time to get up to speed with the offense, Simpson will almost certainly start the year with a golden opportunity to be the Vikings’ main outside speed threat.
ROBERT BLANTON
Quietly, Blanton put together a terrific season on special teams as a rookie. And in the one game where he saw extended action on defense – in Week 5 after Harrison Smith was ejected from the win over Tennessee – Blanton held his own, convincing the coaching staff that the game is not too big or too fast for him at this level. So what kind of role can Blanton carve out for his second season? While Jamarca Sanford will open training camp as the second starting safety alongside Smith, Blanton and Mistral Raymond will be given every opportunity to make a run at that job. Having made a successful transition from cornerback to safety last year, Blanton should hit the ground running this week. His confidence and passion always needles at high. A significant emergence may not be far off.
AUDIE COLE
We didn’t recognize Cole at first when the Vikings opened the doors to their offseason strength and conditioning program one morning late last month. Gone are the long, blonde Thor-like locks that used to swim out of his helmet. Now, the second-year linebacker has an unfamiliar preppy look and an increased hunger to contribute. Cole has every intention of pursuing a starting spot in his second year. As OTAs begin, a very confident Erin Henderson will man the Vikings’ middle linebacker position, the best bet to own that job heading into training camp. Especially now that we know for certain that Brian Urlacher isn’t walking through that door.
But head coach Leslie Frazier will also give Cole an opportunity to show what he can do in the middle. And Cole feels like he has climbed the steepest part of the college-to-NFL learning curve. He’s also trimmed down after coming into the league, he says, about 10-15 pounds too heavy a year ago. The Vikings drafted Cole in 2012 because they admired his versatility, not to mention his smarts and passion. So certainly, he’d be thrilled if he wound up winning the starting spot at weakside linebacker. But right now, he has his sights set on competing at middle linebacker.
“In the big picture, it’s simple,” he said. “You have to make tackles that are there to make, limit mistakes and be solid in coverage. When you describe it, it’s that easy. Obviously, it’ll be tougher come game time. But that’s all you’ve got to do. That’s the role. Find the ball. Make tackles.”
NATE WILLIAMS
If you’re looking for an OTA darkhorse, we present this 6-foot-3, 241-pound undrafted rookie from Ohio State, whom the Vikings signed last month to add depth at linebacker. Williams didn’t hear his name called over seven rounds and 254 picks in part because he’s something of an outside linebacker/defensive end ‘tweener and was still working back to full strength in 2012 after missing almost all of the previous season due to a knee injury. But Williams is also the kind of unselfish, intelligent, hard-working player this Vikings’ coaching staff is magnetized to. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team fell in love with him over these next few months. Of course, that means Williams will have to initially catch the eye of Priefer, needing to show he can contribute significantly on special teams in order to get a foot in the door. With the right mindset, that’s something he’s capable of. And his ability to supply quality depth at outside linebacker would certainly be a plus.
Early prediction: Williams will at least find his way onto the practice squad this season. He also has a legitimate chance to make the 53-man roster.

Vikings make it official: Punter Chris Kluwe has been cut

Posted by: Updated: May 6, 2013 - 12:05 PM
It’s now official. The Vikings have cut punter Chris Kluwe.
The 31-year-old was given the news Monday morning at Winter Park during a meeting with General Manager Rick Spielman. Kluwe had been anticipating the move, one that became transparent April 27 when the team used a fifth-round draft pick on UCLA punter Jeff Locke.
Locke participated in the team’s three-day rookie mini-camp over the weekend and fared well enough for the Vikings to feel totally secure in selecting him. And that meant kicking the door open and sending Kluwe on his way.
This morning, on his Twitter account (@ChrisWarcraft), Kluwe wrote: “Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
In eight years with the Vikings, Kluwe launched 623 regular season punts, averaging 44.4 yards per punt with a 37.3-yard net. Last season, he averaged 45.0 yards per punt with a career-best 39.7-yard net. Kluwe was inconsistent at times but still had a productive campaign overall.
Still, the Vikings wanted a change in direction, something that first became obvious in January when Spielman signed punter T.J. Conley as a street free agent to come in and push Kluwe.
Upon drafting Locke, Conley was promptly let go. And it was widely believed Kluwe would be soon to follow. On Monday, he received his pink slip and will now be free to seek work elsewhere.
Kluwe’s release will not come without some controversy. The veteran punter has raised his profile in recent years by speaking out on political and social issues, most notably taking a firm stance in support of gay rights and marriage equality.
In the past year, Kluwe has appeared across many platforms expressing his opinion. He made TV appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and NBC’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to speak out on behalf of gay rights. Kluwe was also featured on the cover of the October issue of Out, a popular magazine that describes itself as “a gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture, and the world at large.
Kluwe’s outspoken opinions have also frequently been published on Deadspin.com.
With those extracurricular activities, cynics will ask whether the Vikings’ releasing of Kluwe is tied entirely to football ability or simply a way of ridding the organization of a player who had grown too outspoken on hot-button issues. After drafting Locke, Spielman insisted he was simply trying to upgrade the team’s special teams and that he did not take issue with any of Kluwe’s opinions.
“It has nothing to do with anything Chris Kluwe is off the field,” the GM said. “When we’re making decisions, we’re purely making them trying to bring in the best competition possible regardless of position. ... This was just another normal personnel move. It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns, I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete.
The Vikings’ most recent football decision now hands the punting and holding duties over to Locke as Kluwe ventures back out to seek work elsewhere in the league.
He is hoping to catch on somewhere, certain he still has plenty left in the tank. But if and when Kluwe lands with a new team, he isn't likely to keep his opinions to himself.
As he said in an interview with the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins last week: "I’ve had guys talk to me. They’re not going to put stuff out there just because they know in the NFL the upright nail generally gets hammered down. There’s a lot of very smart guys in the NFL. But you never hear about them because they take care of business and then go home. You hear about the dumb guys because they go out and get arrested. Everyone looks at it like, oh, the NFL is filled with all these dumb, knuckle-dragging guys who get in trouble all the time. No, that’s the people you hear about. There are so many more people who are actually interesting and fascinating." 
Kluwe finishes his Vikings tenure as the leader in career punting average, with his 44.4 yards per kick ranking ahead of both Harry Newsome (43.8 yards from 1990 to 1993) and Mitch Berger (43.5, 1996-2001). Kluwe also had a franchise-record 198 punts downed inside the 20.

Here's Chris Kluwe from his appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" :

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 Here's Kluwe on "The Colbert Report":

 

Vikings sign DE Lawrence Jackson, CB Jacob Lacey

Posted by: Updated: April 30, 2013 - 8:49 AM

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson and cornerback Jacob Lacey are now officially Minnesota Vikings. The team announced the signing of both veterans Monday morning, adding additional depth and reinforcement to their defense.

Jackson agreed to his contract with the Vikings in the middle of last week with the deal finalized today. He comes to the Twin Cities following a three-year stop in Detroit, where he played 37 games as a back-up end. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman had familiarity with Jackson from within the division and saw an opportunity to find another pass-rushing option as the Vikings head into the 2013 season with the team's top three ends -- Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen -- all in the final year of their contracts.

Spielman said on Friday that Jackson was given a one-year deal, which has been the organization's m.o. the past two offseasons with many of their second-tier free agent signings. That gives the Vikings a low-risk opportunity to look at Jackson as a pass rusher in 2013 as they then begin to decide what to do up front going forward with so much uncertainty surrounding the futures of Allen, Griffen and Robison.

Jackson, originally a first-round pick by Seattle in 2008, made 24 starts in his first two NFL seasons with the Seahawks. He has 19.5 career sacks to go along with 141 tackles. He was traded to Detroit in the summer of 2010 in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.

Lacey, meanwhile, also arrives from Detroit where he made nine starts last season, recording 36 tackles and a Week 11 interception of Aaron Rodgers.

Lacey began his career in Indianapolis, signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 draft. He spent three years there working with secondary coach Alan Williams, who is now entering his second season as the Vikings defensive coordinator.

As we noted this morning, the Vikings have been searching for solutions at slot corner since releasing Antoine Winfield last month and failing to re-sign him. Lacey may now find his opening to make a bid for that role.

Etc.

-- The Vikings released punter T.J. Conley on Monday afternoon, two days after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke out of UCLA. Conley was signed in January as a street free agent. He was with the Jets in 2011 but cut before the start of last season and was out of the NFL during the 2012 season.

With Locke selected in the fifth round Saturday, veteran Chris Kluwe is widely figured to be on the ropes as the Vikings eye a new direction at the position.

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