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.
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.
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.
We'll take a daily look at where the Vikings' roster stands at the moment position-by-position leading up to our NFL Combine coverage next week.
On the roster: Chad Greenway, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges, Simoni Lawrence, Michael Mauti
Free agents: Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell, Larry Dean (restricted), Erin Henderson (released)
The Vikings have already made two roster moves at linebacker this offseason. They released Erin Henderson and signed former Gophers linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who spent the last two seasons in the CFL.
There’s some young talent on the roster that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and his son, linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, will inherit in Audie Cole, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
Cole, who will turn 25 by the start of next season, started at middle linebacker when he replaced Henderson during the season before spraining his ankle. His recorded a sack during his rep as a starter on an A-gap blitz against the Packers and finished with 13 tackles. He matched that performance with 13 tackles against the Ravens two weeks later.
The seventh round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft at worst will be a serviceable special teams player and backup linebacker given his aggressive mentality. He’ll have a shot to earn a starting position in training camp either at middle or inside linebacker.
Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges were used sparingly on defense and mainly on special teams, but the Penn State linebackers will also get a shot at a larger role next season. Mauti, 24, made it through his rookie season playing in 14 games after three torn ACL injuries in a five-year span at Penn State. If his knees can hold up, the seventh round pick in last year’s draft has always had the potential as a starting inside or middle linebacker.
Hodges, 23, played in 11 games during his rookie season. He was projected as an outside linebacker last year in the draft but was hardly used at the position with Chad Greenway on the roster.
Zimmer will get a chance to work with the young linebackers before the draft in May. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley could be available when the franchise is on the clock with the eighth overall selection.
Greenway started all 16 games for a fifth consecutive season, but his play regressed last season playing through two broken bones in his wrist for most of the season. Greenway, 31, was graded 34th among 35 qualifying 4-3 outside linebackers by Pro Football Focus. Greenway is expected make a base salary of $6.4 million next season, which trails just running back Adrian Peterson on the roster. It might benefit the franchise to restructure his contract this offseason if it needs more cap space.
“He is as tough an hombre as there is for him to play linebacker with a broken wrist through a lot of the season,” Spielman said on Friday. “I know that is healed and healthy now. He would never make an excuse for that either.”
The Vikings have announced two roster moves this morning, waiving offensive lineman Kevin Murphy and cornerback C.C. Whitlock.
Murphy? Well, the Vikings had just claimed him off waivers on Tuesday atfer the 49ers let him go. Apparently his work with the team Wednesday must not have been too impressive.
Whitlock, meanwhile, is a 5-foot-10, 181-pound defensive back who played his college ball at South Carolina. He was one of 15 undrafted free agents the Vikings signed immediately after the draft ended.
Rick Spielman? As Michael Corleone? Take a look and we’ll explain.
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