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 Football on TV

Vikings give the lowdown on London trip

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: September 13, 2013 - 4:33 PM

Geji McKinney will be taking plenty of hot sauce and Southern spices. Dennis Ryan is packing up 20,000 pounds of equipment. Luther Hippe has ensured every player has a passport and that ESPN will be available in the hotel.

It’s taken tremendous effort for the Vikings to prepare for their home-away-from-home game in London on Sept. 29. Friday, several members of the team’s staff—including food service director McKinney, equipment manager Ryan and director of operations/team travel Hippe—discussed some of the groundwork behind the NFL International Series game against Pittsburgh at Wembley Stadium.

The object, they said, is to keep the game-week experience as similar as possible to the normal routine. McKinney will ensure their food tastes the same, while Ryan will see that everyone has their favorite items, right down to the proper brand of coffee. Some staff members already have inspected the facilities and said everything from the hotel to the practice field is top-notch.

“I got an opportunity to fly over there in March, and the reception we got was just incredible,’’ Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “From the NFL and what they’ve put together, from the people of London and how supportive they were, from every venue we looked at, they just rolled out the red carpet. You can tell it’s a very important event.’’

The Vikings will take their entire staff, along with the cheerleaders and mascot. Because it is a home game, the team plans to turn Wembley into a transatlantic twin of the Metrodome, using the same banners, music and video they do at their usual home field.

Some of the special events revealed Friday include a fan rally on Regent Street, which corporate sales manager Tanya Dreesen said is expected to draw 600,000 people. There also will be a giant tailgate party at Wembley, and Gene Simmons of KISS will sing the American national anthem.

Several representatives of tourism and trade groups from Minnesota and the Twin Cities also will be on the trip, using it as a promotional opportunity.  

Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs, said season-ticket holders are responding enthusiastically, and the team has sold more tickets than any other that has participated in the seven-year history of the event.    

RACHEL BLOUNT

Titans lead Vikings 17-14 at halftime

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated: August 29, 2013 - 8:23 PM

Rusty Smith hit Jack Doyle with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the first half to give Tennessee a 17-14 lead over the Vikings at the Metrodome in the teams' final preseason game tonight.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson connected with Joe Banyard for an 11-yard scoring pass two minutes before Doyle's TD to give the Vikings a short-lived 14-10 lead.

The Banyard TD came shortly after Vikings guard Seth Olsen was taken off the field on a stretcher.  Olsen appeared to hit his head on the knee of a Titans player while blocking, snapping his head back a bit.  Olsen was strapped to a board before being wheeled off on the stretcher, but did give a thumbs up to the crowd.

The Titans scored in the first half on a 28-yard field goal by Rob Bironas and a 17-yard pass from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Justin Hunter. The Vikings' first touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Matt Asiata, who had eight carries for 32 yards in the opening drive.

The Vikings' offensive and defensive starters did not play.  They wore their uniforms, but did not bring their helmets or shoulder pads.

The team must cut its roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 5 p.m. The regular season opens at Detroit on Sept. 8.

Vikings land defensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: April 25, 2013 - 10:58 PM

The Vikings made the biggest splash on the first night of the NFL Draft, landing defensive help with their own picks and then making a shocking trade to pick up a wide receiver.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd of Florida was taken at No. 23, cornerback Xavier Rhodes of Florida State was taken at No. 25, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee was landed at No. 29.

Still, the circus isn't coming to town. The Vikings, in desperate need of a middle linebacker and completely in love with Notre Dame, opted not to take Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o, who you might have heard, was entangled in a bit of an embarrassing internet girlfriend hoax.

The Vikings had to trade both their Friday picks, the second and third rounders, in the Patterson deal. They also sent a fourth and seventh to New England for the talented, but troubled, wideout.

Floyd, who is 6-2 1/2, 305 pounds, can play nose tackle this year and move to under tackle next year, when Kevin Williams is expected to be done as a Viking. Williams turns 33 this August and will make a guaranteed $4.9 million in the final year of his restructured contract.

Floyd is the first defensive linemen taken by the Vikings in the first round since Williams was taken ninth overall in 2003.  Floyd also is the first defensive tackle taken above the fourth round since Williams was taken 10 years ago.

Vikings GM Rick Spielman didn't wait long to replace Antoine Winfield, taking Rhodes two picks later. A big corner who some thought would go earlier seems like a decent pick that should start or at least be among the top three corners.

Spielman was holding a news conference to discuss the team's first two first-rounders when he sprinted out of the room and the trade with New England was announced a short time later.

Patterson addresses another big need after the team traded star Percy Harvin to Seattle in the offseason. He will give quarterback Christian Ponder the big, outside receiver he's been missing

 

Mock Mania: Vikings' options could be all over the place

Posted by: Updated: April 25, 2013 - 2:34 PM
Finally. Draft weekend has arrived. Now months of speculation and analysis and confusing conjecture ends. With actual picks being made. For real this time. Imagine that.
And yet with the first round beginning at 7 tonight, there’s still little certainty on what the Vikings might do tonight with picks 23 and 25.
Will they look to upgrade one of the league’s worst passing attacks by finding a difference-making receiver that fits their system? That’s certainly a logical possibility. But there may also be valid reasons to wait.
Will General Manager Rick Spielman opt to fill the team’s vacancy at middle linebacker with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o? That’s a topic that has sparked plenty of debate.
Or maybe the Vikings won’t use both of their picks tonight after all, opting to trade one of them in an effort to move back in the draft and stockpile an additional pick or two.
If the number of possibilities seems endless at this point, there’s a reason for that. Even Spielman admits the Vikings have staged a number of mocks behind closed doors at Winter Park and been as intrigued as the rest of us at the complexity of it all.
"It was kind of like putting a Rubik's Cube together,” Spielman said.
So many options. And the Vikings won’t have a decision to make until more than two hours of picking has been done Thursday with each of the first 22 picks changing the matrix. No wonder there have been approximately 4,197 mock drafts posted in the past month with very few having the identical combination of picks for the Vikings at both 23 and 25.
Don’t believe us? Here are 20 mock drafts with 14 different players, six positions and 15 combinations projected for the Vikings.

MOCK DRAFT
PICK 23
PICK 25
Mark Craig, Star Tribune
Manti Te’o, LB
Justin Hunter, WR
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
Robert Woods, WR
Alec Ogletree, LB
Todd McShay, ESPN
Sylvester Williams, DT
Alec Ogletree, LB
Peter King, Sports Illustrated
Manti Te’o, LB
Justin Hunter, WR
Mike Mayock, NFL.com
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Sylvester Williams, DT
Gil Brandt, NFL.com
Justin Hunter, WR
Sheldon Richardson, DT
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
Sylvester Williams, DT
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Jason LaCanfora, CBSSports.com
Robert Woods, WR
Manti Te’o, LB
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
Traded to Buffalo
Desmond Trufant, CB
Pat Kirwan, CBSSports.com
Sheldon Richardson, DT
Justin Hunter, WR
Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com
Robert Woods, WR
Sylvester Williams, DT
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
Tank Carradine, DE
Kevin Minter, LB
Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Arthur Brown, LB
Desmond Trufant, CB
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free press
Bjoern Werner, DE
Manti Te’o, LB
Scott Wright, DraftCountdown.com
Sylvester Williams, DT
Manti Te’o, LB
Greg Cosell, Yahoo! Sports
Justin Hunter, WR
Arthur Brown, LB
Sam Farmer, L.A. Times
Eric Reid, S
Robert Woods, WR
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
D.J. Hayden, CB
Traded to Jacksonville
Greg Bedard, Boston Globe
Manti Te’o, LB
Justin Hunter, WR
Sporting News
Manti Te’o, LB
Robert Woods, WR

 
The most popular picks: Te’o (with seven votes), Hunter (six) and Williams and Woods (five each).
The most popular combo: Te’o-Hunter (three votes).
Yeah, not even sure the Rubik’s Cube was this difficult to solve.

Vikings schedule set, with three prime-time games

Posted by: Updated: April 18, 2013 - 9:06 PM
The Vikings are back in prime-time.
 
After playing only one regular season night game in 2012 – a mandatory Thursday nighter – the team is again registering as a strong draw for the under-the-lights TV slots. Last season’s surprising 10-6 surge into the playoffs and the presence of MVP Adrian Peterson helps. And with the full NFL schedule released Tuesday evening, the Vikings have been slotted to play three night games in a span of 18 days during the middle of the season. They’ll have an appearance on Monday Night Football (at the New York Giants in Week 7); a Sunday nighter (home vs. Green Bay in Week 8); and a Thursday night cameo against the Redskins at Mall of America Field in Week 10.
 
So just how does the 2013 campaign set up overall? Here’s your quick look at what’s ahead …
 
WEEK 1
Sunday, Sept. 8
at Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Highlight reel potential. Set the DVR. The NFL’s reigning rushing champ (Adrian Peterson) against the league’s current receiving king (Calvin Johnson).
 
WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 15
at Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The quest to halt the Soldier Field slump continues. The Vikings are 1-10 there since 2000 and have lost their past three in the Windy City by a combined 61 points.
 
WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 22
vs. Cleveland, Noon (CBS, KFAN)
A later-than-usual home opener appears favorable against the Browns, who have finished above .500 just twice in the 21st century.
 
WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 29
vs. Pittsburgh (in London), Noon (CBS, KFAN)
For fans and the media, this may be the most appealing road getaway of the year. For the Vikings, it’s a critical business trip with more attention devoted to Big Ben the quarterback than Big Ben the clock.
 
WEEK 5
BYE WEEK
In conjunction with the trip overseas, this will be an early week off just a quarter of the way into the season. Will it mark a good regrouping point or come too soon?
 
WEEK 6
Sunday, Oct. 13
vs. Carolina, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Vikings bested Cam Newton during his rookie year but will have to be sharp again defensively to repeat that result. The Panthers, like the Vikings, rallied to win their final four regular season games last year.
 
WEEK 7
Monday, Oct. 21
at New York Giants, 7:40 p.m. (ESPN, KFAN)
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will play the role of host on the Vikings’ return to Monday Night Football.
 
WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 27
vs. Green Bay, 7:30 p.m. (NBC, KFAN)
We can only hope for a game as entertaining as the 2012 season finale when Peterson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on quite the show during the Vikings’ 37-34 playoff-clinching win.
 
WEEK 9
Sunday, Nov. 3
at Dallas, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
A field trip to Jerry World should be a fun way to conclude the season’s first half. The Vikings have won the last two meetings against the Cowboys, including a 34-3 blowout in the 2009 playoffs.
 
WEEK 10
Thursday, Nov. 7
vs. Washington, 7:25 p.m. (NFLN, KFAN)
The Vikings may still be having nightmares over the game-sealing 76-yard touchdown run Robert Griffin III delivered last October. RG3’s recovery from major knee surgery will be worth monitoring in the lead up to this game.
 
WEEK 11
Sunday, Nov. 17
at Seattle, 3:25 p.m. (FOX, KFAN)
Should be a warm and fuzzy reunion with receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Antoine Winfield, no? The former Vikings have joined a loaded Seahawks team with its eyes on the Super Bowl.
 
WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 24
at Green Bay, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Christian Ponder’s Lambeau Field history: two starts, 28-for-59, 309 yards, one TD, three interceptions. In losses by a combined 68-21 count. Then came a DNP in a playoff game due to a severely bruised triceps.
 
WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 1
vs. Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
New Bears coach Marc Trestman (a St. Louis Park native) comes back to the Twin Cities. Trestman’s offensive intelligence is supposed to energize an attack led by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. By this point, we’ll know whether the anticipation was justified.
 
WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 8
at Baltimore, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Ravens lost a ton of key cogs from last year’s Super Bowl run, most notably Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk and Paul Kruger. They still, however, have the league’s highest paid man in QB Joe Flacco.
 
WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 15
vs. Philadelphia, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
No one knows quite what to expect from the union of Eagles coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Michael Vick. If things click, the Philly offense – which also features LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson – could be scary.
 
WEEK 16
Sunday, Dec. 22
at Cincinnati, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Expect something lopsided. These teams’ past three meetings have been decided by an average of 23 points. The Vikings last trip to Cinci was a 37-8 loss in 2005 during which they were torched by Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson.
 
WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 29
vs. Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
In what could be the final game ever at Mall of America Field, the Vikings and Lions reunite 112 days after their first meeting.
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
  • The Vikings hit the skids last November, dropping three of four in a disconcerting slide that raised anxiety levels. This November seems equally imposing with road trips to Dallas, Seattle and Green Bay and the lone home game coming on Thursday night against the Redskins, the reigning champs of the NFC East.
  • The Vikings don’t face a team that made the 2012 playoffs until Oct. 27. That should provide an opening for another fast start.
  • The season’s tone may be set right out of the gates with back-to-back division games on the road. The Vikings took care of business in the NFC North last season, posting a 4-2 mark. They also regrouped late last season to salvage a 3-5 road record. Finding a way to stand strong against division rivals in Weeks 1 and 2 will be a must for a team looking to replicate last season’s superb September.
  • Starting with the return to Monday Night Football in Week 7, the Vikings will have three night games in a span of 18 days. They will also begin a critical stretch there of playing four out of six games on the road.
  • For the third straight year, the regular season finale comes at Mall of America Field. In 2011, that contest was meaningless. Last year, it meant everything. What will the ramifications be this time around, especially for a contest that could well be the Vikings’ last ever at the Metrodome?

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