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.
The Vikings released linebacker Erin Henderson on Friday. The move, which will save the team $2.1 million in cap space next season, was inevitable, given Henderson's rocky end to last season.
Henderson, 27, was arrested twice on drunken driving charges in a little more than a month, first on Nov. 19 in Eden Prairie and next on New Year’s Day in Chanhassen. The first arrest caused Henderson to miss the Packers game in Week 12 because of “personal reasons.”
Henderson, who declined comment Friday, said after the first arrest that he needed the time away to self-reflect, sensing a change was needed ... until he made the same mistake again after the season ended.
The 2008 undrafted free agent out of Maryland spent six seasons with the Vikings. He played in 14 games last year and finished second on the team with 134 tackles.
Audie Cole made his first career start against Green Bay, replacing Henderson at middle linebacker, and had 11 tackles. Henderson’s reps decreased, with Cole receiving a larger role on defense until he was placed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle heading into the final game of the season.
Cole will be entering his third season. Second-year players Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are also expected to play larger roles next season.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is questionable to return due to an ankle injury suffered in the second quarter.
Peterson injured his ankle when he was tackled on a third down catch with 11:27 left in the first half. He was helped off the field and eventually carted into the locker room. Peterson had X-rays according to the broadcast and walked on his own power inside the tunnel.
Peterson had seven carries for 13 yards in the snowy conditions. Toby Gerhart replaced Peterson at running back on the next series.
Update: Peterson has been officially ruled out. The broadcast said Peterson has left the stadium to a nearby hospital for an MRI.
It'll be the Gerhart show in the backfield in the second half.
The Vikings finished their preseason with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night and now comes the hard part.
The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Leslie Frazier, his coaching staff and general manager Rick Spielman will meet today to begin setting the final roster.
The team could begin informing players today but the Vikings won't announce the moves officially until Saturday afternoon.
These two days are anxious times for players on the bubble.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said of releasing players. "When you sit down and realize that for a lot of the guys that played tonight, they will probably never wear an NFL uniform again and we have to sit down and discuss who those guys might be. When you sit down with them on that Saturday, or Friday, they come by the office and you explain to them their career in Minnesota for sure is going to be over, and there’s a possibility it may be over for good, it can get emotional."
Spielman has final say over roster decisions, but Frazier said personnel matters are a collaborative effort with the coaching staff.
"Rick is going to give his input and I’m going to share my input, but he is going to make that final decision," Frazier said. "One of the things that he’s learned and I’ve learned is that you don’t want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are totally against it. It’s hard if as a coach, you have to get this guy going and so on and then you don’t necessarily believe in it. It’s a tough deal, but we’ve been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk about what needs to be done and what’s best for our football team. Whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we have always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
Asked if he has a chip he can use if he wants a certain player, Frazier laughed.
Blair Walsh kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give the Vikings a 24-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at the Metrodome on Thursday night, helping the Vikings avoid a winless preseason.
Marcus Sherels' 109 yard kickoff return to start the second half was the game's highlight play.
Sherels' return gave the Vikings a 21-17 lead, but the Titans got field goals of 30 and 24 yards from Rob Bironas to take a 23-21 lead.
Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 7:36 remaining.
But led by quarterback Bethel McLeod-Thompson, the Vikings drove to set up Walsh's winning kick in the final minutes.
Tennessee got the ball back but a botched snap was recovered by the Vikings' Collins Ukwu with 53 seconds left.
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 halftime lead.
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 Vikings said Olsen had a neck injury.
Cornerback Bobby Felder also left the game because of an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Felder is in a battle with Sherels to make the team at both cornerback and punt returner.
The Titans scored in the first half on a 28-yard field goal by 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.
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