Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
The NFL’s annual meeting wraps up this afternoon from the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. This morning, all 16 NFC coaches held court for the conference’s coaches breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. Included: Seattle’s Pete Carroll, the proud new coach of standout receiver Percy Harvin, a Viking for his first four seasons in the league but now a Seahawks after last week’s blockbuster trade.
I had a chance to briefly pick Carroll’s brain on the move to land Harvin and how he hopes to wrap around his brain around the receiver’s fiery personality, which at times is both his greatest strength and most dangerous weakness.
Here’s a quick taste of Carroll’s thoughts ...
Before the trade occurred, when you were trying to do some background on Percy and familiarize yourself with his situation, what specifically did you want to glean from Darrell Bevell, who had obvious comfort with him? What was some of his feedback
Carroll: Darrell had nothing but the best things to say. He said he had had a great relationship with Percy, which I found out after talking to Percy, that it was reciprocated. They work together really well. Darrell raved about his competitiveness. He raved about his work ethic. He raved about his talent. And it was a total positive, supportive perspective that Darrel had. So we felt compelled that that was a perspective that we had to call on, what Darrell provided. That cemented the idea for us as we were looking into it.
In some ways, Percy’s personality can be a bit of a riddle. And people who know him well will tell you that his competitive fire is admirable but yet can get the best of him at times. How do you sense you’ll be able to manage that and channel that fire in the right direction.
Carroll: I think it’s that way with the greatest of the great athletes. I think that’s a positive. Sometimes they push the limits. But they’re like that because that’s who they are. You know what I mean? So I don’t have any problem with that. I have no problem with guys being highly, highly competitive. And so I think there’s an understanding there that’s needed. We’ve already talked about it. I want him to be as competitive as he can be, that way we make sure he’s always helping this football team. So that’s one thing I’ve had to learn, dealing with young kids. That nature has made him what he is. So if you think that that’s a problem, you’re missing the boat I think. So we’re going to figure out how to help him along the way so he can translate that competitiveness to great play and championships and all that kind of stuff. I’m not worried about that one bit.
He was glowing at his introductory press conference. Did you have an immediate sense of why specifically he was so excited for a new start and to join the offense you guys have?
Carroll: I think, from what Percy said, it first started when he began to hear about Russell. He loves Russell’s nature. He loves his approach to the game and his outlook about working hard and competing at all times. That resonated with Percy. And he started to check into it. And I think Russell wanted to see Percy. He came in and met with him when Percy was at our facility as well. Percy had a little background with me [from being recruited to USC]. He had tremendous background with Darrell. He knew that this was a young team coming up. So I think there were a lot of things that added up. So whatever he said, I know he felt very much in his heart.
Percy Harvin's time as a Viking has come to end. According to an NFL source, the Vikings have agreed in principle to a trade with Seattle, formally ending a rocky relationship with their ultra-talented yet mercurial receiver.
The NFL's free agency period will open at 3 p.m. Tuesday, which is also the opening of the new league year. That's the earliest a trade could be rubber-stamped and completed. But as of right now, the deal has been finalized and Harvin will simply have to pass a team physical in Seattle.
A Harvin trade has been rumored for more than a month. And while Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman repeatedly asserted that he had "no intent" to trade Harvin, the Vikings also had begun to run out of patience with trying to make Harvin happy. The moody receiver had pushed the team to deal him after his 2012 season ended with tension.
Harvin played his last game in a Week 9 loss to Seattle in early-November but suffered a severe ankle sprain in the second half of that game. He tried to come back from the injury but was unsuccessful in doing so and was put on injured reserve in Week 14, ending his season.
If the trade to Seattle doesn't hit any unforeseen snags and is indeed finalized, Harvin would reunite with Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator who held the same position with the Vikings during Harvin's first two seasons. Harvin would also join forced with Pete Carroll, who in his previous post at the University of Southern Cal, had recruited Harvin out of Landstown High School in Virginia.
Stay tuned for additional details as this story develops ...
When Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway puts on tape of the Seattle Seahawks offense, he sees a whole lot of what he sees on the Vikings’ practice field every day.
He sees an offense that mirrors what the Vikings do. He sees a scheme that is not overly complex from a formation standpoint. He sees a team determined to start by establishing the run, then working off of that with a play-action passing game. Familiar? Yes. Even more so because many of the Vikings’ vets were here when Darrell Bevell – the Seahawks offensive coordinator – was doing the same job here through the 2010 season.
But that doesn’t mean Seattle will be easy to stop.
“I don’t know if it gives us an advantage,” Greenway said. “You still have to go out and play and react. But we do have a better sense of what (Bevell) is trying to accomplish, having been around him so much – the type of scheme, the type of passing game he’s going to utilize off what he’s doing in the running game. And that play-action stuff. They’re going to throw some (bootleg plays) at you, try to suck the linebackers up and throw over the top of you. All these things we know. But we have to go out and play the game.”
Fellow linebacker Erin Henderson agreed. “You have a good idea of how they want to do things, what they want to get done,” Henderson said. “But you won’t know for sure until you go out and see their first 15 plays.”
Despite the good numbers Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has put up, the Seahawks have struggled to move the ball consistently and to score points; the team ranks 30th in the NFL in yards gained and 27th in scoring.
For the Vikings to make sure that continues they have to stop the Seahawks running game first. That’s a goal that, considering the problems Minnesota has had stopping the run of late, won’t be easy to reach.
But familiarity might breed defensive consistency.
“They are built very similarly to us,” Greenway said. “I mean, the biggest thing for us is going out and playing in a very tough environment. We’ll see if we can handle it or not. This will be a huge game for us.”
Thinking of home
Henderson is from Aberdeen, Maryland, which is about 45 minutes north of Baltimore. He has a lot of family there, as well as some family that lives in the New York area. So he has spent a lot of time the past few days keeping in contact with people back home to see how they’re dealing with Hurricane Sandy.
“They didn’t get hit to bad in Maryland,” Henderson said. “Just some high winds and a bit of rain, stuff like that. But I had some family in New York that got affected a little bit more. It was kind of devastating to see some of the pictures they sent us. Everybody made out OK, though.”
Still, Henderson said it hasn’t been easy to be in Minnesota while family out east dealt with the storm.
“You want to be there with them, and be there to support them as best as possible,” he said. “But you have a job to do. You have responsibilities you have to tend to here. It’s just a matter of trying to communicate as much as possible on the phone, make sure everything is OK.”
A game of inches
It’s not just last Thursday’s game that is bothering Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. Halfway through the season Kluwe ranks 11th in the NFC with a 43.5-yard punting average and eighth with a 39.9 net average. Both are down from his career averages.
“I’d say mediocre,” Kluwe said when asked to assess his season so far. “I'd like to, obviously, be leading the league in both gross and net. Unfortunately sometimes you don’t punt well.”
The difference between a good punt and a bad one? Less than you might think. Kluwe said he was rushing himself a little bit, trying to go a little too fast. “And my drop hasn’t been super consistent,” he said. “That’s something to hopefully hone in on and try to get corrected.”
Kluwe said a drop that is even an inch off can change a kick. "Or maybe the ball is tilted three or four degrees forward or three or four degrees back," he said. "That can change the entire outcome of the kick. It's a very small window that you have to hit in order to kick the ball well."
Sidney Rice said it was "a tough decision" for him to leave the Vikings in free agency during his introductory news conference with the Seattle media on Saturday. (A big thank you to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times for passing along these quotes.)
"It was a lot of things," the wide receiver said when asked why he was changing teams at such a young age (24). "It was a tough decision. I love those guys over in Minnesota - my teammates and everything like that. But unfortunately I had to move on. I'm here, I'm a Seahawk and I'm looking forward from here on out, no looking back."
Rice, who had a Pro Bowl season in 2009 but missed much of last season after having hip surgery, said nothing from what happened last season contributed to his decision to leave.
"No sir," he said. "[I] came in around the 10th or 11th game off of my injury, was able to get in and make a couple plays. There's no bad blood between Minnesota. I just want to put that out there right now. It's a great organization. I'm still good friends with a lot of people around there. Like I said, it was just time for me to move on."
It was no secret that Rice wanted a contract extension after his outstanding 2009 season and was not happy when he did not get it. Rice reportedly signed a five-year deal with Seattle that could be worth $44 million and includes $18.5 million guaranteed.
Rice's news conference came on the same day that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said former Viking Tarvaris Jackson was his starting quarterback. Jackson also joined Seattle this week, agreeing to an $8 million, two-year contract. Rice and Jackson are good friends and Rice said the situation in Seattle will be better for the quarterback.
"It's going to be great for Tarvaris," Rice said. "I felt like in Minnesota, he was never let loose. He was never allowed to play comfortably like I know he can play, and I feel like he'll get that opportunity out here to prove all those guys that think he's not an NFL quarterback wrong."
Asked why Jackson wasn't comfortable, Rice said: "Just certain things. He was never relaxed. He was always uptight, afraid to make mistakes and things like that. But as I said, I'm looking forward to him getting out here and letting it loose."
Rice also said the fact that former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell now holds the same job in Seattle will help.
"It's great," Rice said. "It's always good to be around familiar people that you know well. Tarvaris is one of my closest friends ever since I came into the league. I used to hang out at his place all the time and vice versa, he used to come over to my place and it was like that. So I feel comfortable around him. Also, Bevell. I know the offense and didn't have to learn anything new. Made a couple of tweaks in the playbook but nothing I can't pick up right away so when I'm able to get out here, I'm ready to step right on the field and be effective."
Sidney Rice's days as a Viking are over and that likely means the team will be looking for a No. 1 wide receiver.
After being courted by the Vikings and Seattle the past two days, Rice has agreed to a five-year deal with the Seahawks according to multiple outlets. He can not sign the contract until Friday evening.
Rice's contract is reportedly for $41 million and includes $18.5 million in guarantees. The bidding for his services might have been limited but clearly he cashed in on the guaranteed money.
That was the big question when it came to the Vikings because Rice has only played one full season since entering the NFL as Minnesota's second-round pick in 2007. After appearing in 13 games in each of his first two seasons, Rice put together a Pro Bowl performance playing with Brett Favre in 2009.
Rice, who is 6-foot-4, 202 pounds, caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season and added 10 receptions for 184 yards and four touchdowns in two playoff games. Rice, however, injured his hip in the NFC Championship Game at New Orleans.
He elected to put off surgery, hoping he would recover, but ended up needing a procedure just before the regular season began. Rice missed the first half of last season and was limited to a career-low six regular-season games. He caught only 17 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, missing the final game because of a concussion.
Rice's decision to leave Minnesota does not come as a big surprise. Not only did Seattle likely offer more guaranteed money, but Rice also was unhappy last offseason when the Vikings declined to give him a contract extension. Rice will be reunited with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Seattle.
Jackson agreed to terms with the Seahawks on Tuesday and Bevell was named the team's offensive coordinator this offseason after having the same job in Minnesota for the past five seasons.
The Vikings agreed to a one-year deal with Bears free-agent wide receiver Devin Aromashodu on Tuesday but he is a journeyman player looking for an opportunity and can't be considered a replacement for Rice. With Rice gone, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin are left as the Vikings' top two wide receivers. Others at the position on the current roster include Emmanuel Arceneaux; Stephen Burton; Greg Camarillo; Juaquin Iglesias; and Jaymar Johnson.
The Vikings have been busy trying to complete a deal for quarterback Donovan McNabb, but now might have to take a long look at the free-agent market to upgrade at receiver.
Plaxico Burress, who has missed the past two seasons while serving a jail sentence, is on the market but ESPN reports he likely will end up with the Giants or Steelers. An NFL source said this summer that the Vikings were not interested in Burress.
The New York Jets already have retained wide receiver Santonio Holmes but Braylon Edwards remains on the market.
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