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 Vikings

Vikings' Spencer Nealy suspended for four games

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: July 11, 2014 - 3:31 PM

Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy has been suspended for four games this season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances on Friday.

Nealy is eligible to return the Monday after the Vikings play the Falcons in Week 4. He can still participate in all offseason practices and preseason games.

The 24-year-old is in his second season out of Texas A&M. Nealy joined the Vikings for the final two weeks of the preseason last year before he was cut. He spent six of the final seven weeks of the regular season on the Vikings practice squad last year.

Here's the statement the NFL Players Association released on Nealy's behalf.

"Recently I learned from the NFL that I tested positive for a stimulant that is banned under the NFL policy. I worked with my agent and the union to investigate the test results, and I learned that a supplement I took contained a banned stimulant.  I understand that the NFL policy is very strict, and I take responsibility. I’m very sorry for the impact of this situation on my teammates, the Vikings organization and Vikings fans. I will work extremely hard during training camp, and during the suspension, I will stay in top shape and will be ready to contribute upon my return."

Vikings switching sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: June 27, 2014 - 4:30 PM

If you already bought your Vikings season tickets at TCF Bank Stadium behind the south sideline hoping to sit behind the home team, that won't happen.

The Vikings will use the north sideline during home games over the next two seasons. The change from the south sideline was made by the Vikings staff, including general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, after several visits to TCF Bank Stadium.  

The press box and club seating on the south end of the stadium creates a shadow over the south sideline late in the season for the Gophers, who occupy the south sideline during home games.

The shadow spills over to the field and eventually creeps over to the north sideline later in the game. This will create a more comfortable environment for the Vikings in their temporary home with the ability to stand in the sun longer during those cold home games late in the season. But the switch will likely disappoint season ticket holders that specifically wanted to sit behind the Vikings bench.

“We understand some fans may be concerned with the change, and we’re encouraging those fans to contact our ticket office with any questions or concerns,” Vikings Executive Director of Communications Jeff Anderson said. “We’ll be willing to work with them and be as accommodating as we can.”

The Vikings plan to return back to the south sideline when the new stadium opens in 2016.

Vikings release training camp practice schedule

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: June 24, 2014 - 4:42 PM

The Vikings released a detailed schedule of training camp on Tuesday with a month until the players report to Mankato on July 24.

Practice begins on July 25 and the team will break camp on Aug. 15. There will be three night practices at Blakeslee Stadium, including a Family Football Day on Aug. 2. Access to Vikings Village and all practices are free but parking on the Minnesota State University-Mankato costs $10. Times are subject to change, but here’s the tentative schedule:

Friday, July 25
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm        

Saturday, July 26
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm    

Sunday, July 27
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm    
                            
Monday, July 28
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 7:30 - 9:30 pm (Blakeslee Stadium)
                
Tuesday, July 29
Players Day Off            
                        
Wednesday, July 30
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Thursday, July 31
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm        

Friday, August 1
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm    

Saturday, August 2
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 7:30 - 9:30 pm (Blakeslee Stadium)

Sunday, August 3
Players Day Off

Monday, August 4
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Tuesday, August 5
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Wednesday, August 6
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Thursday, August 7
Travel back to Twin Cities
                        
Friday, August 8
Raiders @ Vikings - 7:00 pm

Saturday, August 9
Players Day Off

Sunday, August 10
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Monday, August 11
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 7:30 - 9:30 pm (Blakeslee Stadium)

Tuesday, August 12
Players Day Off

Wednesday, August 13
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Thursday, August 14
Walk-Thru: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Practice: 3:00 – 5:10 pm

Friday, August 15
Travel back to Twin Cities        

Saturday, August 16
Cardinals @ Vikings - 7:00 pm

Anthony Barr, Jerick McKinnon visit Target Field

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: June 23, 2014 - 7:42 AM

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr and running back Jerick McKinnon paid a visit to Target Field on Saturday.

Both participated in a home run derby with Twins mascot, T.C., and Barr threw out the first pitch.

“I’ve never really caught a ball in this type of distance in front of you,” said Barr, who didn’t play baseball growing up but went to a handful of Dodgers games.

They got a chance before the game to talk to Tony Oliva, who has his No. 6 retired by the Twins and now serves as a personal assistant/ambassador.

Barr didn’t want to practice, stating, “I’m a natural athlete, and I’ll let the ability take over.” But the Vikings won’t have to worry about MLB teams drafting him anytime soon. He struggled to locate the ball while playing catch, went 0-for-7 during the home run derby (whiffing on a few underhand softball tosses) and lobbed in the first pitch standing in front of the mound.

McKinnon, who was a late addition to the pregame festivites (that's why he doesn't have his name and number on the back of his jersey), ended up tying T.C. with two home runs. The running back launched two softballs into the upper deck in left center field from the center field grass.

Before the event, Barr said he had more home run power than McKinnon, who responded, “I’m not even going to acknowledge his comments. …I have a little bit [of experience] and will make him feel bad when it comes that time. But right now I’m focused on my gameplan for winning the home run derby.

“I’m not even worried about [T.C.] either.”

The two will head to Aurora, Ohio for the Rookie Symposium on Sunday and will last all week. Barr plans to return to California and McKinnon to Georgia over the next month until they report to training camp on July 24.

Zimmer's Vikings stay dry as minicamp wraps up

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: June 19, 2014 - 4:57 PM

Unable to build an ark big enough to contain a football field, the Vikings stayed indoors today for the last day of the team’s mandatory minicamp and the final practice of Mike Zimmer’s first offseason workout program. The indoor facility isn’t ideal for a roster of 90 players, but Zimmer and his coaching staff used the time to focus on individual technique and drill the group in situational drills.

At one point when the players were broken up by positions, Zimmer stood in the middle of a triangle of defensive position groups. He watched the linebackers and barked out something at middle linebacker Michael Mauti. Then he walked over to the defensive linemen and gave a quick pointer to defensive end Brian Robison. He turned his attention to the defensive backs, and passed along a coaching point to one of his assistants to relay to the players. It’s clear that Zimmer loves the teaching aspect of the game, and it has been fun watching him educate his players.

The final drill of the day was the two-minute offense -- in which they needed seven points, not a field goal -- and two of the three quarterbacks were able to lead their respective offenses to touchdowns.

Veteran Matt Cassel went first, but despite completing seven of his 10 attempts and converting on a 4th-and-4 play early in the drive, he was unable to get the starters into the end zone.

Teddy Bridgewater was with the second-stringers and he completed eight of his nine attempts (not including spikes to stop the clock). The lone incompletion was a drop by rookie running back Dominique Williams. With the defense backing off to avoid giving up the big play, Bridgewater gradually moved the offense across midfield with short passes, including a fourth-down completion to wide receiver Adam Thielen. With nine seconds on the clock and the ball near the 30-yard line, Bridgewater had one final shot at the end zone, and he arched a beautiful ball to rookie wide receiver Kain Colter, who made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.

Christian Ponder was the last to go. He was sharp, too, completing seven of his eight attempts, including a short pass to wide receiver Kamar Jorden in the end zone with plenty of time to spare.

After practice, Zimmer called his players to midfield. They were joined by more than a dozen former Vikings players, including Mick Tingelhoff and Rich Gannon. After Zimmer finally broke the huddle ending the camp, the current Vikings players gave the old guys a round of applause.

Zimmer then began his press conference, and he told us that he thought he might actually miss all of his players over the next five weeks -- not that he actually shared that sentiment with them.

Zimmer talked about how he was awed with running back Adrian Peterson’s cutting ability and had some praise for Robison. But the highlight was that he said he has a date in mind by which he would like to name a starting quarterback. Sorry, guys, but he wasn’t sharing that with us today.

I’d say he was saving it for a rainy day, but, well, my shoes are still soaked from this morning.

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