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.
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.
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.
Here's Chris Kluwe from his appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" :
Here's Kluwe on "The Colbert Report":
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.
-- 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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