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.
Having spent three seasons together on the Vikings' defensive line, Jared Allen and Ray Edwards consider themselves friends. And sometimes friends have to remind each other of their camaraderie by, well, popping one other where it hurts most.
At least that’s how the Allen-Edwards reunion went down in Atlanta two weeks ago. Called into duty as the emergency long snapper after an injury to Cullen Loeffler, Allen wasn’t about to let Edwards steamroll him without punishment on an extra point attempt.So when Edwards tried to do so, Allen jabbed him in the crotch.
As Allen told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk: "He’s known for just blowing up the long snapper. As I told him, 'Man, you run me over here, I’m going to punch you square in your wiener, dude.' We were laughing and joking about it. And so he ran me clean over. So I just gave him a little tap just to let him know I could have done it if I wanted to. We had a good laugh about it. But nothing done maliciously."
It's worth a good laugh now. And Allen's antics are often quite amusing. But in truth, the veteran defensive end has shown great maturity this season. He became a father in late-October. He's one sack away from matching his career-high. And throughout a dismal campaign, Allen has tried to keep the locker room upbeat.
In his phone interview with Florio, Allen insisted that he hasn't let all the losing get him down.
"I’ll be honest. This is probably more fun than I’ve had in a season in a while," he said. "I think after last season with all the drama and stuff that went on, I had some time to reflect back this offseason on ways I can improve myself as a teammate and as a leader. One thing I decided was that I can always bring a positive attitude into work."
Allen hopes ultimately, his positive energy is contagious.
"I’ve never been a big cheerleader," he said. "I think the best way to lead is by example. I figure when things get down, guys are going to look toward somebody to see who’s doing [what]. There are guys I look to and stuff like that. So if they see me out practicing, they see me having fun, they see me giving it my all, I think it’s infectious. There are times I’ve been like, ‘Oh, man.’ It starts weighing on you a little bit. And I’m able to turn to guys like Kevin [Williams] or something like that.
"We have a good locker room where guys are there to pick you up. Obviously this season is miserable from a win-loss standpoint. And that’s really what it’s about. But I think the character of our team still shows that guys go out and fight. And the core group of guys in here, we still have fun together, we still pick each other up and try to move forward."
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game with the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, we asked Wes Durham, the team’s play-by-play broadcaster for STAR 94 and 790 the Zone, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report on Atlanta. Here are four things you need to know …
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:
Other highlights ...
Keep checking back. Judd could be bringing more highlights later on.
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 (www.vikings.com).
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.
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.”
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.
Ray Edwards has found a job.
After being on the market for three days, the defensive end agreed to a five-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, according to Fox's Jay Glazer. ESPN reported the deal is worth $30 million with $11 million in guarantees.
That Edwards will land in Atlanta doesn't come as a surprise. Edwards was rumored to be headed to the Falcons during the lockout. However, this week a report surfaced that the team might look elsewhere and Edwards could end up in Philadelphia. Edwards said Monday he had no idea where the rumors of him going to Philadelphia had started.
Atlanta released former first-round defensive end Jamaal Anderson and also let go of wide receiver Michael Jenkins on Friday, clearing $7.8 million in salary cap space.
Edwards, 26, was a a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2006. He had 8.5 sacks in 2009 as the starting left end and last season was second on the team with 8 sacks, three behind right end Jared Allen. Edwards had 29.5 sacks in five seasons with Minnesota.
Despite his ability to get to the quarterback, Edwards and the Vikings seemed to be on the same page about ending their relationship. Edwards was upset last offseason that the final year of the collective bargaining agreement meant that instead of him becoming an unresetricted free agent he was restricted. The Vikings put a restricted tag on him, giving him a first-round tender of $2.5 million.
Edwards made it clear he would not be returning to Minnesota and even launched a boxing career during the lockout. He won his only bout this spring, and in the press release he was referred to as a former Viking. The Vikings, meanwhile, made no apparent attempt to change Edwards' mind about leaving and signed backup end Brian Robison to a three-year, $14.1 million deal just before the lockout started.
If Edwards thought he was in line for a huge payday, he didn't get it. The Carolina Panthers, for instance, signed end Charles Johnson to a six-year, $72 million contract that included a $30 million signing bonus.
Edwards can sign his contract at 5 p.m. today, when the signings of veteran free agents will become official.
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