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 before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

Posts about Ben Leber

Leber being courted by Seahawks

Posted by: Updated: August 4, 2011 - 8:30 AM

MANKATO -- Linebacker Ben Leber has yet to sign as a free agent but that could happen soon.

According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Seattle Seahawks are one of four teams vying for Leber's services. It's not clear at this point if the Vikings are in that mix. The 32-year-old Leber, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 2006 after four years in San Diego, has been the Vikings starting weak-side linebacker.

Erin Henderson will get the first shot at that role in training camp.

Greenway extension talks have begun

Posted by: Updated: July 31, 2011 - 3:56 PM

By Mark Craig

MANKATO -- Some highlights from reporting day while melting away in Mankato (Zulgad saying he's now down to his eighth-grade weight) ...

Coach Leslie Frazier said:

  • The team is talking to franchise player Chad Greenway about a long-term deal. Greenway would make $10.1 million in a one-year deal as the franchise player.
  • The Vikings aren't talking to Adrian Peterson about a long-term deal, but will "eventually." Peterson is in the final year of a contract that would pay him more than $10 million. "We are in the process of trying to negotiate a long-term deal with Chad, and hopefully, that’s going to get done," Frazier said. "Adrian is a major part, as we’ve talked about many times, of our future. So, we’re going to eventually get to that point where we want to talk to he and his agent about a long-term deal as well."
  • Peterson reported at about 5 minutes to 4 p.m., so he is in Mankato.
  • The team isn't talking to Ben Leber about bringing the veteran outside linebacker back. "There still are some possibilities maybe here, but couldn't promise him anything. We just have to wait and see."
  • Erin Henderson will open training camp Monday as the starting weakside linebacker in Leber's place. Kenny Onatolu and and Jasper Brinkley will be given a chance to compete for the position. Brinkley's name was a surprise. He seems like strictly a middle linebacker, but we'll see.
  • RG Anthony Herrera (knee) likely will start the season on PUP. The coaches will discuss that tonight.
  • Second-year player Chris DeGeare would be the likely replacement if Herrera can't go.
  • CB Cedric Griffin, who's torn the ACL in both knees over the past two years, will not start on the PUP, but will be limited.
  • With Donovan McNabb unable to practice until Thursday per rules put in place at the end of the lockout, Joe Webb will work with the first team.
  • The team will "keep the door open" for NT Pat Williams.

Other highlights ...

  • McNabb, who turns 35 in November, said he didn't want to play until his was 41, a la Favre, but when asked how much longer he wanted to play and thought he could play, McNabb said, "five, six years." Let's see, 35 plus six is ...
  • Rookie first-round draft pick Christian Ponder was respectful of McNabb, but didn't just lie down when asked about McNabb being the starter and wanting to play another five, six years. Ponder said having McNabb is a "big advantage for me" and that it "takes the pressure off" having to start right away.
  • Ponder said obviously McNabb has certain qualities that have allowed him to be successful for most of his 12 NFL seasons. "Whatever it is, I'll try to copy it and use it against him," Ponder said with a smile.
  • LDE Brian Robison showed up at training camp as a starter for the first time. He replaces Ray Edwards, who went to Atlanta via free agency. "This is an opportunity that I've been waiting for a long time, and it's an opportunity that I plan on taking advantage of," Robison said.
  • Asked about the impact that McNabb will have on the team, Greenway said, "I think we can sneak up on people this season." He sounded more comfortable sneaking up on people than last year when the team was a Super Bowl favorite. "Last year humbled us," Greenway said.
  • Tyrell Johnson, who is in the mix to replace the released Madieu Williams at free safety, said, "This is the most crucial year that I've ever had playing football." Even he admits his career to this point has been a big disappointment.
  • Of playing alongside his brother, MLB E.J. Henderson, Erin said, "This is something the NFL has never seen."

Keep checking back. Judd could be bringing more highlights later on.

McNabb gets his number

Posted by: Updated: July 29, 2011 - 9:46 PM

By Judd Zulgad and Mark Craig

Donovan McNabb and Chris Kluwe negotiated the terms under which the quarterback will be given the No. 5 in a video you can find on the Vikings website (

Part of the deal was that McNabb mention the punter's band Tripping Icarus in five news conferences. Well, McNabb satisfied that number and then some on Friday during a conference call with reporters when asked about that part of the agreement.

In fact, McNabb said the band's name six times.

"Me and him have basically been selling some good rock music CDs out of the back of our trunk," McNabb joked. "There’s some group that he’s a part of, but I’ve been listening to them for a while. You guys should really check it out. I may be a member of it soon."

McNabb then added: "Tripping Icarus is a nice band that really has soothing music, it really changes the mood of things and it’s one that I enjoy. .. You talk about Tripping Icarus. Remember, you listen to Tripping Icarus, ease your mind, in your stores, Tripping Icarus and Triping Icarus."

Kluwe, not surprisingly, had drawn up a contract for his agreement with McNabb and in the video explains that the quarterback couldn't get away with just saying the band's name five times in one news conference. That means McNabb still has four more news conferences to figure out ways to work in Tripping Icarus.

Kluwe now plans to switch to the No. 4, which of course was worn by Brett Favre the past two seasons.

Berrian still around

In what could be a sign of the Vikings’ lack of depth at receiver, Bernard Berrian and his $6.3 million salary cap number are still on the roster on the eve of training camp. When asked who would be the team’s deep threat at receiver, Frazier said, "We’ve got Bernard Berrian here for a reason. He’s going step up and help us in that area."

Frazier said the Vikings might add a receiver eventually, but that wasn’t "our focus right now."

It's believed the Vikings are among three teams in the running for free agent wide receiver James Jones, who also is being pursued by the Jets and Packers. Jones played for Green Bay last season.

Shanahan reflects

McNabb made it clear during his conference call that he wanted to put his one season in Washington in the past and move on. The Redskins went 6-10 and McNabb was benched twice and threw a career-worst 15 interceptions.

Washington coach Mike Shanahan, asked about what happened with McNabb, said:

“We were hoping he would fit into our system. I told Donovan when he came in here, I said: ‘Hey, here are the reasons why I think Philly did not sign you’ _ they were going to go with (Kevin) Kolb _ ‘this is what you’re going to have to do to stay on our football team for a number of years. If you do that, I think you’ve got a chance to go to the Pro Bowl and do the things you’ve been doing throughout your career.’ It didn’t work out. …

“I think Donovan has a great future ahead of him -- if he decides to do the little things that he needs to do to get to the next level.”

Shanahan declined to go into detail about what those “little things” are.” 

Still waiting

The Vikings had not signed any of their 10 draft picks as of Friday night, but those deals should start getting done Saturday since there is only so much to go around in the pool of money for draft picks. Quarterback Christian Ponder, the Vikings' first-round pick, is hopeful his deal will be done Saturday.


"I know [vice president of football operations] Rob Brzezinski is working extremely hard on trying to get that done," Frazier said. "But like a lot of teams, we may end up where some guys aren’t on time but we’re hoping they’re all in on time."


See you later

The Vikings have lost three free agents, including defensive end Ray Edwards (Atlanta), quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle) and wide receiver Sidney Rice (Seattle). Rice was the only one the Vikings wanted back but the Seahawks gave him $18.5 million in guarantees in a five-year deal.


"I’m just happy for Sid and his family," Frazier said. "I’m glad things worked out the way they did for him. We would have loved to have him back, no question about it. But he got an offer that was satisfactory for his family."

On the market

Linebacker Ben Leber remains on the free-agent market and while he hopes to return to the Vikings he certainly has to be drawing interest from other teams. "He's a guy who's done a great job as well," Frazier said when asked about Leber. "I had a chance to speak to Ben on the phone and just explained where we were financially."

The Associated Press contributed to this report/blog.


Rice's departure has Vikings shopping for WR

Posted by: Updated: July 28, 2011 - 10:22 AM

Another busy day at Winter Park, so let's get right to it.

  • With Sidney Rice gone, the Vikings have turned their attention toward the wide receivers on the free-agent market. One player we're hearing they are making a serious run at is 27-year-old James Jones, who has been with the Packers. Jones caught a career-high 50 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns last season. A deal with Jones is not yet in place (as of 10 this morning) but it appears to be inching closer to getting done.
  • Other potential wide receiver targets include Braylon Edwards (Jets, 28 years old) and Malcom Floyd (Chargers, 29). Certainly there are more on the list, but the Vikings must add some quality depth at this position. As I said, Jones appears to be the target right now.
  • The Vikings can officially sign any free agents they come to terms with at 5 p.m. Friday. That means wide receiver Devin Aromashodu will sign on the dotted line at Winter Park around that time.
  • The Vikings can begin releasing players today, which means that defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy and wide receiver Freddie Brown are likely to be officially let go. The only question is are there others? Kennedy and Brown are the two players we know have been told they won't be back.
  • The Vikings kept one of their top free-agent targets by agreeing to terms with kicker Ryan Longwell on a contract (four years, $12 million, $3.5 million signing bonus) and lost another when Rice decided to take Seattle's guarantee of $18.5 million. Now, it's expected the team will begin talks with more of its free agents. That list should include linebacker Ben Leber, who might get more elsewhere but would like to stay in Minnesota. There have been no real contract talks with Leber so far. Some in the organization also want to bring back nose tackle Pat Williams, so talks could take place with his agent as well.
  • The Vikings have yet to announce the signing of any of their draft picks and quarterback Christian Ponder likely won't sign until Saturday at the earliest. I don't think there is any big issue here but teams are still trying to understand the rules for signing picks and there is a lot of business to take care of in short order. A lot.
  • Defensive end Jared Allen, appearing on ESPN, on the loss of Rice: "He was a big playmaker for us. He had injury issues last year, so we didn't get  the same Sidney as the year before. But I think as part of this league you're going to lose guys to free agency and injuries and somebody else has to step up and get the job done. We can't lose any sleep over it. We have to move forward."
  • Don't know when the Donovan McNabb to Minnesota trade is going to be announced. Sounds like it's supposed to be official today, but I heard the Vikings might not announce it until Friday. That might mean that's when McNabb is introduced to the media.
  • Finally, Mark Craig will be hosting a live chat on the Star Tribune website at noon today so join in with your free-agency questions as we get set to go to training camp on Sunday.

Longwell agrees to terms with Vikings

Posted by: Updated: July 27, 2011 - 6:40 PM

Kicker Ryan Longwell has agreed to terms on a four-year contract to return to the Vikings after being on the free-agent market, according to NFL sources.

The veteran won't be able to sign the deal until Friday and can't practice until Aug. 4 because that's when the NFL Players Association will recertify. Longwell's new deal is worth $12 milion and includes a $3.5 million in guarantees.

Longwell, 36, joined the Vikings as a free agent in 2006 after nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Last season, he made 17 of 18 field goals and 30 of 31 point-after attempts. Longwell has made 113 of 129 field-goal attempts since joining the Vikings and was 26 of 28 in 2009 as the team went to the NFC title game. With kickoffs being moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season Longwell becomes more valuable because his touchbacks will increase.

Longwell is the first of the Vikings' free agents that the team has retained. Given that Longwell signed quickly it's clear the team put a priority on keeping him.

The Vikings also are known to be trying to keep wide receiver Sidney Rice, who has drawn strong interest from Seattle and reportedly also is on the Rams radar. On Tuesday, the Vikings came to terms on an agreement with free-agent wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who had been with the Chicago Bears.

Starting weak-side linebacker Ben Leber is another of the of the Vikings free agents but he said in a text message this afternoon that there is nothing new to report about his situation. It's also believed that talks have not started with veteran nose tackle Pat Williams, whose chances of returning appeared to increase when Jimmy Kennedy was told he would be released on Thursday.



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