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 coach Leslie Frazier talked to NFL officials about the low hit that injured veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams and said the league agreed that Joe Looney's actions were unnecessary and dangerous.
“I have talked to the league about it; they concur,” Frazier said. “It's not the type of play they want in the game for player safety reasons. There's a big emphasis regarding player safety and that play really endangers our players' safety. It's not something that the league wants. It's not something that any of us want as we are trying to make the game safer for our players.”
Looney, a 49ers backup lineman, hit Williams in the knees away from the play when he wasn't looking. Williams escaped ligament damage, but he suffered a hyperextended knee, a significant bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain.
Looney told reporters in San Francisco that he didn’t intend to injure Williams and was just trying to finish his block. Vikings players weren’t buying it.
“I think the hit was uncalled for,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Really quite ridiculous. It’s something we specifically talked about in our meetings with the league, with the refs, before the preseason games started. It was just unnecessary. He wasn't going to make the play. He wasn’t going to be a part of the play.
“You can say what you want, you didn't mean to hurt him, didn't mean to, but the reality is you did that, and you didn't have to. And now you have a guy who's been one of the best at his position for a long time dealing with an injury he shouldn't have to deal with. I think the reality is, if the roles were reversed, and the defensive guy was going into a quarterback or a receiver, or a high-profile player, you tell me what would happen.”
Frazier reiterated that the team hopes Williams will be available to play in the season opener Sept. 8.
With Williams sidelined, depth at defensive tackle has become a concern. Frazier said rookie Sharrif Floyd (knee) was expected to do some work in practice Tuesday but will not play in the final preseason game Thursday night. Christian Ballard remains on the active/left team list. Frazier did not give a timetable for his return.
Frazier said the team knew Jerome Felton’s three-game suspension was always a possibility when they re-signed the Pro Bowl fullback this offseason. Felton’s suspension is the result of his DUI charge last year, which was later reduced to careless driving.
“You always knew that there was potential,” Frazier said. “You didn’t know if it would happen. His incident was some time ago. But it was always looming that this could possibly happen.”
In Felton’s absence, Frazier said the team will look to tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison and possibly rookie Zach Line to fill the void.
On Ellison, Frazier said: “He’s one of the hardest working players on our team. It’s hard to outwork Rhett. He comes prepared every single day. Seeing his work ethic his rookie year, I was so impressed. You just don’t see very many rookies with his maturity and just understanding the time that you have to put in to be good at your craft. He has not let up from his rookie season. I don’t think we can overwork him. He’ll be ready when we line up against Detroit. But yes, we could add more to his plate and we probably will have to now.”
** Frazier said cornerback Chris Cook is OK after leaving the game because of a groin injury.
** Linebacker Erin Henderson is still bothered by a heel injury.
** Safety Mistral Raymond suffered an AC joint sprain of his shoulder and is doubtful for Thursday night.
** Wideout Greg Childs was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable To Perform list. He has been on the PUP list since camp started while trying to recover from surgery on both knees. The move means he won't be eligible to play through the first six weeks of the season.
Vikings backup defensive end Everson Griffen, who has four sacks this season, faces his first Thanksgiving without his mother. Sabrina Scott passed away in early October while visiting her son in Minnesota.
“With my mom being passed away, I’m just thankful for having had a strong woman like that in my life to come as far as I have,” Griffen said. “I’m thankful for my fiancée and my child on the way, and thankful to have family like that to keep me going."
The due date for Griffen’s child is Jan. 27.
“My mom, she’s right here with me, right now,” he said. “With her guidance, it’s just going to make [Thanksgiving] all that much easier, and with all the support I got from the guys on the team when all that happened, it was fantastic.”
Offensive tackle Matt Kalil is looking forward to his first game against the Bears. He knows All Pro defensive end Julius Peppers, who played with Matt’s brother Ryan in Carolina, and knows the other Bears defensive stars the way the rest of us do – through television.
“It’s kind of surreal seeing all these players I’ve watched all through high school and college and actually going against them now,” Kalil said. “It’s just going to be a pretty cool game.”
Kalil will be matched against Peppers, who has 106 sacks in 11 NFL seasons.
“I know about Julius, especially since he was on the same team as my brother,” Kalil said. “He’s probably one of the greatest d-ends to play the game. He’s an athletic freak, so I definitely have my hands full. He’s good on run, good on pass rushing. He’s a big guy, too. He’s got a lot of power to him. So [I have to] just play a consistent game. Stay steady in my approach.”
Punter Chris Kluwe has engaged in another internet battle, this time in an effort to promote the Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy of Ray Guy. Kluwe believes Guy revolutionized the position enough to merit being the first punter to enter the Hall and has engaged Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King in a e-mail/blog debate on the matter.
“Everyone knows that Ray Guy was THE punter,” said Kluwe. “He’s in the college football hall of fame. He’s got an award named after him. He’s in every other hall of fame except the NFL. It does a disservice to the game by not acknowledging that fact.”
Guy’s statistics pale in comparison to other punters, but his champions have argued that he introduced hang time and pinning opponents inside the 20, sacrificing statistics. Hall of Fame selectors are limited to five modern inductees each season, and Kluwe feels the Hall should change its process to allow for a special teams selection.
Jan Stenerud is the only pure kicker in the Hall, which has no punters. And, it should be pointed out, Stenerud’s statistics also pale in comparison to most modern kickers. Arguments against Guy had used his relatively unimpressive stats as a reason against his inclusion.
“This to me speaks to a fundamental problem in society in that people feel they can denigrate something they don’t understand,” said Kluwe, who was outspoken in his opposition to the recently failed marriage amendment in the Minnesota election. “The Hall of Fame shouldn’t be all punters … but I think there should be at least one. It’s a team sport.”
Linebacker Chad Greenway, on whether the team’s victory against Detroit put it on the right track: “We’ve just played one game back where we sort of wanted to be, so I don’t think we’re back there yet.”
Younger Wilf promoted
Zygi Wilf's son, Jonathan, has been named a team vice president. Here is the Vikings' release:
The Minnesota Vikings have named Jonathan Wilf as the team’s Vice President of Strategic Planning and Business Initiatives.
In his new position, Wilf will serve on the Vikings management team and focus on developing short and long-range revenue-generating initiatives for the organization. Wilf will explore the latest technology trends and their applications within the Vikings and at the new stadium set to open in 2016. As part of the stadium development team, he will also be involved with stadium plaza design elements and enhancements to the fan experience at the new facility.
Wilf is a partner in Garden Homes, a family-owned real estate development company in Short Hills, N.J. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he went on to receive his law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University.
The Vikings fell to the Redskins 38-26 at FedEx Field on Sunday, and here are the links to the Star Tribune's coverage:
Robert Griffin III's long scoring run was the final blow, as detailed in Dan's game story.
Mark's Five Thoughts about the game are here.
Jim Souhan wrote about the Vikings defense's reaction to Griffin.
Mark had a story on Christian Ponder's rough day.
Adrian Peterson returned to the scene of last year's injury.
Brian Peterson and Jerry Holt shot all the action.
McKenna Ewen had the postgame video.
The Vikings have promoted George Paton from director of player personnel to assistant general manager, the team revealed on its website today.
Paton was the front-runner for the general manager's job with the St. Louis Rams, but decided on Friday to stay with the Vikings. Profootballtalk.com reported Paton had been offered the Rams' job, which apparently now will go to Atlanta director of player personnel Les Snead. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported contract talks with Snead have been started by the Rams.
Paton has been with the Vikings since 2007. General manager Rick Spielman said, on the team's website: "His work ethic, leadership, professionalism and keen eye for identifying talented football players will continute to be a major asset for our organization."
The Vikings and Minnesota State University have delayed today's decision on whether the team will hold training camp in Mankato.
The team set a deadline of July 18 about a month ago to make the call on whether it would hold training camp in Mankato, because of uncertainty with the NFL lockout.
With progress being made on the collective bargaining agreement, the decision to scotch that deadline was reached.
It appears the end of the lockout is possible as soon as this week, with negotiations on the CBA continuing. Jeff Anderson, the Vikings assistant director of public affairs, said no new deadline has been established because the situation is so fluid.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in June that if the lockout ends the team will report to camp on July 31. If the Vikings don't hold training camp in Mankato, all preseason workouts would likely be at Winter Park.
This would be the Vikings 46th year of conducting camp in Mankato.
"We have a strong tradition of having camp in Mankato and we have a great relationship with Minnesota State University and the Mankato community," Anderson said. "Coach Frazier and the Wilfs want to do everything possible to be in Mankato. They are really committed to this and trying to get down there."
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