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 Ray Edwards

Jared Allen, Ray Edwards still friends despite Allen's shot to the crotch

Posted by: Updated: December 7, 2011 - 9:56 AM

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."
 

 

Behind Enemy Lines: Falcons confidence and no-huddle offense could fluster Vikings

Posted by: Updated: November 24, 2011 - 12:16 PM

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 …

1)      The Falcons had a lot of success using their no-huddle offense in last Sunday’s 23-17 win over Tennessee, ultimately piling up 432 yards of offense.
Needless to say, an Atlanta offense with Matt Ryan at quarterback, Michael Turner in the backfield, Roddy White at wide receiver and Tony Gonzalez at tight end will give the Vikings plenty to worry about. But last Sunday’s win over the Titans may have been catalyzed by Harry Douglas, who started in place of Julio Jones.
 
“Harry can play both the edge and also in the slot,” Durham said. “And that allows them essentially to put one guy on the field who can do both things depending on how they want to line it up.”
 
That flexibility allows the Falcons to go no-huddle with a chance to create mismatches.
 
Furthermore, Turner is becoming more trusted as a pass-catcher. And Ryan, while not lighting things up, is still having a solid season and has thrown for 942 yards with six TD tosses in the past three games.
 
2)      After a heartbreaking and highly-scrutinized 26-23 overtime loss to New Orleans in Week 10, the Falcons didn’t let their disappointment linger.
After Mike Smith’s questionable overtime call to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 29 backfired against the Saints, the Falcons moved on. Proof: they scored on their first series Sunday against Tennessee and built an early 13-0 lead, pushing the pace on offense and trying to seize momentum early.
 
“I think given the way they had lost to the Saints, they had a mindset where they wanted to build confidence quickly and from within rather than sitting back and letting the game come to them,” Durham said. “I think that showed this coaching staff understood not only the Xs and Os piece of the puzzle but the mental aspect as well.”
 
The Falcons have been a resilient bunch. They started 2-3 with losses to Chicago, Tampa Bay and Green Bay but have now won four of five. And that high-profile letdown against New Orleans didn’t seem to faze them.
 
“The perception nationally and the perception within the locker room were two different things,” Durham said. “The national perception was ‘How could the guy go for it?’ The perception inside the locker room was ‘That’s the kind of confidence Mike has in his football team.’ I don’t think that side was well known because Mike Smith is not Rex Ryan. He’s not one of these guys who’s out on the media line all the time. … Mike is only a football coach with no interest in being a media darling. So on a national level, not enough people understood the confidence level this football team has in their coach and vice versa.”
 
3)      Ray Edwards is not having the kind of year Atlanta was hoping for.
The Vikings let Edwards walk during free agency, casting a vote of confidence that Brian Robison would be a capable replacement. Through 10 games, Robison has 5.5 sacks; Edwards has just two.
 
Edwards had offseason knee surgery, which Durham believes has held him back some.
 
“He’s been a step slow and has just missed [getting to the quarterback a handful of times,” Durham said. “Look, I think he’s going to be a great player here. His best football here is a head of him.”
 
Across the defensive front, John Abraham is still a force, now with 106.5 career sacks. And tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters are starting to come on some as well.
 
4)      Just like every Vikings opponent, the Falcons are worried about containing Jared Allen.
Allen’s sack streak ended Sunday at 11 games. But now he gets an opportunity to attack a team with question marks at left tackle. Sam Baker was the opening day starter. But a back injury has kept him out of Atlanta’s past four games. Baker is back at practice this week but may not be able to leapfrog Will Svitek, who has been solid in his place.
 
Durham said he won’t be surprised if the Falcons use several two tight end sets with Michael Palmer called on to help wall off Allen. Fullback Mike Cox may be used similarly.
 
“It takes a village to hold a child down as they say,” Durham said. “And Jared Allen is a handful. At times in the past, Atlanta has been frustrated by big pass rushers. But outside of what Julius Peppers did in Week 1, they’ve done a pretty good job this season.”
 
Atlanta allowed 13 sacks in the first three games this season, but has surrendered only seven since.

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 (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.

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.


 

Edwards agrees to five-year deal with Falcons

Posted by: Updated: July 29, 2011 - 12:58 PM

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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