Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
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.
In his 12-year career, outside linebacker Matt Blair was named to six straight Pro Bowls, was an all-Pro once. He played in two Super Bowls.
In honor of that career the Vikings will induct Blair into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime of Thursday’s game with Tampa Bay at Mall of America Field.
But when Vikings coach Leslie Frazier introduced Blair to reporters Monday, his main message was thanking Blair for helping the team win this year. Seems Frazier likes to have former Vikings standouts talk to the team before training camp starts. Last year it was Jim Marshall, this year Blair.
“He talked to players about visualizing success,” Frazier said of Blair. “And he talked to them about not getting caught up in the past, but just focusing on the moment. And that really was something that was a part of our approach with our team. And so, without me even talking to him about what direction I wanted to take our team in that first meeting, it was so apropos to listen to him talk about success and visualizing success.’’
Blair’s message was about players putting all their emphasis on preparation so that execution becomes nearly second nature. “It takes your entire heart to make it happen,” Blair said.
Blair related a story about a game against the St. Louis Cardinals during his rookie season. He made a few mistakes covering Cards tight end Jackie Smith and was benched. But coach Bud Grant put him back on the field to start the second half. “After the game Bud was asked ‘What did Matt Blair bring to the game?’ And Bud said, ‘Lack of experience.’ From that day on I decided I need to do a little bit more. And that’s what it’s all about.”
When asked what his induction into the Ring of Honor meant, Blair got a bit emotional.
“It’s very humbling to be put in with great players – the Tarkentons, the Ellers, the Carters, the Marshalls, the Grants, those guys are just legendary.’’
One of the highlights of Sunday’s defensive effort, according to Frazier, was the pressure the team was able to get from the front four without having to resort to blitzing. It was encouraging, even though the injury-plagued Arizona offensive line has struggled.
“I don’t know if we’ve done it that effectively without blitzing,” said Frazier of the Vikings seven-sack effort. Of those, a career-high three came from end Brian Robison, two from end Jared Allen and one from tackle Kevin Williams. “In the past we probably would have mixed in a little more pressure than we did (Sunday). That was our goal, to go into this game and be able to generate a pass rush without having to bring five or six guys, and our D-line stepped up to the challenge. They dominated just like we hoped they would and really took a lot of pressure off our secondary.”
Through Sunday’s games the Vikings ranked third in the NFC with 22 sacks, with Allen tied for eighth individually with six.
Frazier said not having to blitz allowed the rest of the defense to concentrate on slowing receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., who wound up with four catches.
ON SECOND THOUGHT…
Frazier admitted that he probably would do things differently if he had the final moments of Sunday’s first half to do over.
The Vikings decided to go for a field goal rather than take a knee late in the half. The result was a Christian Ponder interception. The Cardinals missed a field goal as the first half expired.
“Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do,” Frazier said. “We probably could have went in at the half and taken that 14-7 lead and say, ‘Hey, let’s just start the second half.’ ‘’
SMITH STAYS AGGRESSIVE
Vikings safety Harrison Smith is learning how to play aggressively without going over the line and incurring the fines he’s had to deal with this season.
“Sometimes when you get fined as often as he’s gotten fined in these first seven games, it can tip your emotions and make you start playing a little tentatively,” Frazier said. “That hasn’t been the case with him. He’s been aggressive. He’s still in tune with everything we’re trying to get done. He doesn’t seem to be sidetracked by anything that happened. … He’s a bright guy, and very, very athletic. But his maturity, not letting stuff hang onto him that can be negative, it’s impressive.”
Smith turned his first career interception into his first touchdown Sunday, a score that gave the Vikings a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter.
“That’s just how I’ve always tried to be on and off the field,” Smith said. “Just learn from your mistakes, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to try to slow down my play or play softer. I’m just going to try and play within the rules and play at a high tempo.”
NOT HIS CALL
Frazier was asked if the short turn-around time between Sunday’s victory and Thursday’s game with Tampa Bay put players at further risk for injury.
He was definitely not going there.
“Touchy area, there,” he said. “That’s a bigger call than coach Frazier standing here at the podium. We do what we’re told to do. We got a game on Thursday night, we’ve got to get prepared to play that game.”
Still, the short time to prepare will make this a different week. The players had the day off Monday. The team will get one full practice in Tuesday, then have the traditional walk-through on Wednesday. The coaches have to get the team ready to play while at the same time allowing players to get over the bumps and bruises of Sunday’s game.
“You have to really be smart in your preparation of how you’re going to get it done without overtaxing them mentally, but yet getting them where they need to be physically to go out and play,” Frazier said.
--Running back Adrian Peterson’s sore ankle came out of Sunday’s game OK. Frazier said Peterson was sore, but less so than he was a week ago. It remains to be seen how much Peterson will practice this week.
--Vikings tight end John Carlson, who left Sunday’s game with concussion-like symptoms, probably will not play Thursday, Frazier said. “We will have to take him through the protocol over the next few days, and in a short week, we don’t expect him make it,” he said. Other than that, there were various bumps and bruises, but nothing Frazier said would keep a player out of the game.
The players had Monday off. But the team was required to post an injury report given the proximity to the game. So, had the Vikings practiced today, Peterson (ankle), Allen (groin), CB Antoine Winfield (knee) Carlson (concussion) and T Matt Kalil (low back) would not have participated; S Mistral Raymond (ankle) and Smith (calf) would have had limited participation; and S Robert Blanton (hamstring), LB Marvin Mitchell (calf), QB Christian Ponder (knee), RB Matt Asiata (knee) and DT Fred Evans (knee) would have fully participated.
Matt Blair will be the 2012 inductee into the Vikings Ring of Honor, it was announced today.
Blair will go in at halftime of the Vikings-Tampa Bay game on Thursday, Oct. 25.
A linebacker, Blair ranks second in team history (behind Scott Studwell) in career tackles.
Here is the Vikings' release:
BLAIR TO BE INDUCTED INTO
VIKINGS RING OF HONOR
Former Minnesota Vikings LB Matt Blair will be inducted as the 20th member of the Vikings Ring of Honor on Thursday, October 25, 2012, at halftime of the Vikings-Buccaneers game at Mall of America Field.
Originally a second round draft pick (#51) in 1974, Blair played in 160 career games (130 starts) for the Vikings and still ranks 2nd in team history with 1,452 career tackles. Only Scott Studwell and Roy Winston played in more games as a linebacker than Blair.
Regarded as a highly productive player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Blair holds the Vikings record with 20 blocked kicks, notching two blocks in a single game three different times. His 23.0 sacks and 16 interceptions also rank as the most by a Vikings linebacker.
The Iowa State grad was a part of Vikings playoff teams in six of his opening seven seasons with the team and played on the Vikings Super Bowl IX and XI teams. He was named to the Pro Bowl in six straight seasons from 1977-82, tying him for the fifth-most Pro Bowl berths by a Viking in club history, and was named All-Pro in 1980. Among Vikings defensive players, only Alan Page had more Pro Bowl honors (9) than Blair.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS RING OF HONOR
Fran Tarkenton 1998
Alan Page 1998
Jim Finks 1998
Bud Grant 1998
Paul Krause 1998
Fred Zamberletti 1998
Jim Marshall 1999
Ron Yary 2001
Korey Stringer 2001
Mick Tinglehoff 2001
Carl Eller 2002
Cris Carter 2003
Bill Brown 2004
Jerry Burns 2005
Randall McDaniel 2006
Chuck Foreman 2007
John Randle 2008
Scott Studwell 2009
Chris Doleman 2011
Matt Blair 2012
The Vikings announced their training camp schedule today.
The team reports to Mankato on Thursday, July 26, and the first practice will be the following day on the Minnesota State campus.
Camp lasts three weeks, ending Wednesday Aug. 15.
For the most part, the team will have a morning walk-through practice at 10:30, and a more intense afternoon practice, daily.
The scrimmage open to fans is on Saturday, Aug. 4 at Blakeslee Stadium.
Days off are Sunday July 29, Sunday Aug. 5, and a three-day stretch from Aug. 9-11 when the Vikings have a preseason game in San Francisco.
The Vikings also made one player move today, adding defensive end Jeff Charleston, 29, and waiving rookie defensive tackle Terrell Resonno of Missouri.
Charleston, a six-year veteran, played the past four seasons for the Saints.
And the team also announced some radio and television plans. The radio crew will be heard simulcasting the games on television (Ch. 11) for the preseason games, and ex-Vikings linebacker Ben Leber will join as a sideline interview man.
The KFAN crew, of course, includes play-by-play guy Paul Allen and color commentator Pete Bercich and veteran sideline reporter Greg Coleman.
Here's the team's release on that matter ...
VIKINGS TO SIMULCAST PRESEASON TELEVISION AND RADIO, UNVEIL NEW TV SHOW LINEUP
Eden Prairie, MN (June 28, 2012) – During a fan forum with Vikings Season Ticket Owners today, the team announced the Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) will use the Vikings Radio Network broadcast team of Paul Allen and Pete Bercich for the 2012 Vikings preseason television broadcasts. The preseason games, aired on KARE 11 (on WUCW August 10 at San Francisco), will be simulcast over the Vikings Radio Network and its flagship station KFAN 100.3 FM.
“Hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans enjoy listening to PA’s exciting calls and thorough analysis from Pete and Greg on the radio during Vikings games,” said Vikings Vice President of Sales & Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. “This is a unique opportunity to incorporate our voices of the Vikings with our television viewers."
Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman will continue his sideline reporting role, while former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber will be added to handle sideline interviews during the preseason TV broadcasts. To hear from the members of the broadcast team, click here.
The addition of Leber unveils him as part of the 2012 VEN team. Leber will serve as video talent on Vikings.com and will have regular appearances on the Vikings pregame TV show, Vikings GamePlan. Vikings preseason TV is co-produced by VEN and PKO Productions and airs live on KARE 11.
In addition to the preseason plans, a new TV show will debut this season. “Vikings: Beyond the Gridiron” will feature a documentary-style format and will focus on the rare inside access that a team network can provide. Beyond the Gridiron will use voice narration as well as the topic interview subjects to tell each story rather than a traditional show “host.” The new show replaces Vikings Weekly, which completed a successful six-year run at the end of the 2011 season. Vikings: Beyond the Gridiron will be co-produced by VEN and Elite Edge Productions and will air Saturdays on KARE 11 and Sundays on FSN.
Vikings GamePlan, presented by Sports Authority, will return for its sixth season as the team’s pregame TV show. Hosted by Paul Allen, GamePlan features interviews with current players, game film review with Head Coach Leslie Frazier, expert analysis and more. Vikings GamePlan is co-produced by VEN and FSN and airs Sundays on KARE 11 and FSN.
Former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer is part of the 2012 class of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Kramer was a standout at Rice University from 1973-76.
Dave Casper of Notre Dame and Hal Bedsole of USC, both of whom played briefly for the Vikings, are also in the 2012 class.
The complete list of players:
• CHARLES ALEXANDER - TB, LSU (1975-78)
• OTIS ARMSTRONG - HB, Purdue (1970-72)
• STEVE BARTKOWSKI - QB, California (1972-74)
• HAL BEDSOLE - SE, Southern California (1961-63)
• DAVE CASPER - TE, Notre Dame (1971-73)
• TY DETMER - QB, BYU (1988-91)
• TOMMY KRAMER - QB, Rice (1973-76)
• ART MONK - WR, Syracuse (1976-79)
• GREG MYERS - DB, Colorado State (1992-95)
• JONATHAN OGDEN - OT, UCLA (1992-95)
• GABE RIVERA - DT, Texas Tech (1979-82)
• MARK SIMONEAU - LB, Kansas State (1996-99)
• SCOTT THOMAS - S, Air Force (1982-85)
• JOHN WOOTEN* - OG, Colorado (1956-58)
* Selection from the FBS Veterans Committee
• PHILLIP FULMER - 152-52-0 (74.5%); Tennessee (1992-08)
• JIMMY JOHNSON - 81-34-3 (70.0%); Oklahoma State (1979-83) and Miami (Fla.) (1984-88)
• R.C. SLOCUM - 123-47-2 (72.1%); Texas A&M (1989-02)
The press release had this to say about Kramer's college career:
One of only two quarterbacks in college football history to earn consensus All-America honors for a sub-.500 team since 1970, Tommy Kramer proved his worth by finishing fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in 1976. Kramer becomes the sixth Owl to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A consensus All-American in 1976, Kramer led the nation with 3,317 passing yards and 3,272 yards of total offense. Both marks ranked second in NCAA single-season history at the time. The 1976 Southwest Conference Player of the Year became the first player in league history to top 3,000 yards of total offense in a single season while also recording four of the top eight passing performances in SWC history. The San Antonio native held every career and single-season school record for passing and total offense for more than 30 years, and he led the Owls in passing all four years on campus.
Chosen by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 1977 NFL Draft, Kramer compiled nearly 25,000 career passing and 159 touchdowns yards during 14 NFL seasons. He was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and earned his only Pro Bowl berth during the 1986 campaign.
Kramer was chosen to the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame and also the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He earned the nickname "Two-Minute Tommy" for executing multiple late-game comebacks. A Kiwanis Club member, Kramer is still active with the Rice football program, returning to campus annually for the Huddle Up football reunion and serving as the Owls' honorary captain on numerous occasions.
George Schwartz, a 25-year-old guard-tackle who played under Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson in Carolina, will visit the Vikings on Monday.
No, it's not a move that's likely to make Peyton Manning change his mind. But, hey, when a team whacks both starting guards like the Vikings did a week ago, it doesn't hurt to take a look at a 6-6, 331-pounder with 32 games and 19 starts under his belt.
Schwartz is likely earmarked for the veteran backup job that Joe Berger held last season. Berger played well as a backup at all three interior positions last year and almost certainly will end up as a starter at one of the guard positions. If the team drafts Matt Kalil third overall, Kalil would play left tackle, while Charlie Johnson probably would slide in to left guard. Berger would be the right guard.
And Schwartz, a seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2008, would be provide young depth at guard and tackle. And, who knows, he could end up at right tackle if he plays well and Phil Loadholt continues to be inconsistent.
Update: Cedric Griffin has agreed to a one-year deal with the Redskins that could be worth up to $2.5 million, according to his agent. The ex-Vikings cornerback was hampered because of knee injuries the past couple of seasons.
Update II: Former Vikings special teamer Kenny Onatolu is now current Panthers special teamer Kenny Onatolu. NFL.com reported that Onatolu signed a three-year deal. It reunites Onatolu with former Vikings special teams coach and current Panthers special teams coach Brian Murphy.
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