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.
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.
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is a big fan of Ray Guy, but he's not a big fan of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's ongoing campaign to get Guy voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a sign of respect for punters.
Asked jokingly if he was going to hide the tape so Kluwe couldn't write any more pro-Ray Guy messages on his uniform this Sunday, Priefer turned serious.
"I don't even want to talk about it," he said. "Those distractions are getting old for me, to be honest with you. Does Ray Guy deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there are other ways to go about doing it, in my opinion."
Asked if he's talked to Kluwe about it, Priefer said, "No. He won't listen."
Kluwe was an outspoken proponent of gay marriage rights in the fall. After Minnesota voters weighed in and agreed with Kluwe, the punter turned his attention and his Twitter account to pushing Guy for the Hall of Fame while lambasting the Hall's selectors for not selecting a punter for enshrinement.
Kluwe went a step further last Sunday when players' uniforms contained a patch celebrating the Hall's 50th anniversary. Kluwe covered the patch with a piece of tape that had the words "Vote Ray Guy" on it. He was fined $5,250, which is the standard amount for a uniform violation. Wednesday, he said the fine was worth it and continued his crusade in front of a group of reporters.
"To me, it's getting old," Priefer said. "He's got to focus on punting and holding."
Rudolph's big `catch'
When offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked why tight end Kyle Rudolph didn't have a catch in Sunday's game, he smiled and said, "He had the onside kick. That was his first touch of the game. I congratulated him for that."
Musgrave went on to say the team needs to get Rudolph more involved in the offense on a consistent basis.
Priefer also talked about Rudolph's contribution to the hands-team on kickoff returns.
"He's the perfect guy for that," Priefer said. "He's big and strong and can jump and has great hands. He's the ideal hands-team player, in my opinion."
Jefferson won't return kicks this week
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson has been cleared to return to practice following Sunday's concussion, defensive coordinator Alan Williams said today.
Priefer said Jefferson won't return kickoffs. He returned his first and only kickoff as a Viking last week. He fumbled it, but that's not why he won't be returning kicks this week.
"It's more for the concussion," he said. "He's had some really good returns in Arizona. He was very successful. No touchdowns, but he had some big plays for them last year. I was excited for that role when we got him. Because of the concussion, you have to be smart."
Punt returner Marcus Sherels "more than likely" will return kickoffs as well, Priefer said.
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