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 NFL post-season

Vikings players reflect on season with Favre

Posted by: Updated: January 25, 2010 - 1:54 PM

The Vikings cleaned out their lockers and officially began their offseason Monday morning, which means Favre Watch 2010 is also underway.

There already has been speculation that Brett Favre won’t return for his second season. Of course, Favre could say ‘no’ soon and change his mind before training camp starts.
“It’s still early,” wide receiver Bernard Berrian said. “Way too early. Brett is liable to change his mind five, 10 times down the road.”
Favre’s impact on the team this season and plans for next season were a popular topic in the locker room.
“It was a fun season playing with a guy like Brett,” Berrian said. “Brett is a fun dude. He’s fun to be around. Playing with him, you find out why people gravitate towards him and why people love him.”
Count rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin in that group. Harvin became close to Favre this season and the two shared an emotional moment in the locker room after the game Sunday. Harvin said he talked to Favre briefly on the phone Monday morning but they didn’t discuss next season.
“I don’t want to hound him with that,” Harvin said. “I know he’s been hounded already about that. Mine was just appreciation for everything. I know everybody on this offense took something from him. Whether he comes back or not, he’s taught this team so much. The strides that this offense took I think a lot of the credit goes to No. 4. I felt bad that we couldn’t go out with him on top this year. I just wanted to tell him thank you. We’ll talk later on in the offseason and maybe I’ll start convincing him then.”
Harvin said he learned a lot about football from playing with Favre.
“Brett is going to be Brett regardless of what anybody says about him, regardless of anything he goes through,” Harvin said. “I just like the guts he has. He plays the game with a lot of passion. I don’t think there are too many people that care about this game more than he does. Just being able to play with him and witness that for myself, that’s something I can take and we all can take from him. Just the love he has for the game.
“He taught me so much. It’s kind of almost like a -- I wouldn’t say a father-son -- but like a brother type relationship. On the field and off the field. I think everybody wanted to send Brett out a better way.”
Favre’s interception with 19 seconds left in regulation cost the Vikings a chance to win the game in regulation. But his teammates praised his toughness for continuing to play despite an ankle injury and enduring a number of huge hits all game from the Saints defense. Favre had his ankle checked out Monday morning but the results were not immediately known.
“He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever been around,” kicker Ryan Longwell said. “The toughest football player I’ve ever seen and he happens to play quarterback. What he did after he hurt his leg gave us a chance to go to the Super Bowl.”
Said left guard Steve Hutchinson: “That’s the guy that I watched play when I was in high school. You can’t say enough about him. His toughness and everybody knew that going in. In a game like this you could just see it in his eyes when he came back out there. Everybody looked at him and said, ‘Hey, this guy is limping along. Let’s do it.’”
Said Harvin: “I don’t think many quarterbacks would have went out that way. A lot of them would have taken the easy way out and went to the sideline. Brett showed you why he’s a legend in the game.”
Harvin said he obviously wants to play with Favre another season but he understands if the 40-year-old decides to call it quits.
“Of course, if we could have him back that’s a no-brainer,” Harvin said. “But at the same time I haven’t played 20 years in the league. I played one and I can see how my body feels now. I commend him for the things he’s accomplished. I will be one of the ones trying to convince him [to return] but at the same time he’s put in numerous years. I don’t know how much of a beating a man can take, but we’ll see.”

Vikings postgame

Posted by: Updated: January 25, 2010 - 12:48 AM

NEW ORLEANS – Where to start.

I can honestly say that was the wildest sporting event I have ever covered. It was one huge play after another. I’m sure the Vikings will look back at Sunday's 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints and see nothing but missed opportunities, from the five turnovers to the critical penalty for having 12 players in the huddle.
We have lots of analysis online and in the paper. Judd already did a blog on Brett Favre and the penalty for having 12 players in the huddle earlier so I won’t write about them here.
But here are some notes and quotes from the locker room.
Peterson’s fumbles
Adrian Peterson came out of the locker room -- still dressed in full uniform -- to watch the New Orleans Saints celebrate their first trip to the Super Bowl.
As fans cheered, confetti fell and the Saints gathered on a stage at midfield, Peterson stood silent and watched the scene from the tunnel.
“It was painful,” he said. “Especially the way the game ended. Our guys fought hard and I honestly feel like we just gave the game away. Too many turnovers. It came back at the end to bite us.”
Peterson had a hand in that. Though he finally rushed for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns, Peterson also fumbled two times and took responsibility for the botched handoff at the end of the first half.
Peterson finished with 122 yards rushing on 25 carries, ending a streak of eight games without reaching the 100-yard mark. But his performance was marred by his fumbles and he admitted afterward that he started thinking too much about his mistakes.
“After the first one close to the goal line, I let it play in my head too much,” he said. “I came out the second half and was thinking about it too much. I had to get my mind back focused and not thinking about it when I was out there.”
Peterson’s fumbling problem became a major issue in his third season. He fumbled seven times, losing six of them in the regular season. He said he will spend the offseason trying to solve it.
“With my running style, it will be something I’m thinking about as far as practice keeping the ball high,” he said. “The way I run the ball kind of gets loose. I have to be more conscious of keeping the ball high when I’m going down. Those are some little things I’ll definitely look to correct this offseason.”
Calls questioned
The Vikings were unhappy with the officiating, specifically the pass interference penalty on linebacker Ben Leber against tight end David Thomas in overtime.
The pass from Drew Brees was overthrown and appeared to be uncatchable, but Leber was called for pass interference after the two players fell to the ground.
“I don’t think it was catchable,” Leber said. “I don’t obviously agree with the call. But they made it. I hate using the phrase, but it is what it is. They called it. We have to deal with it. We have to play on.”
The penalty gave the Saints a first down at the Vikings 29-yard line. They kicked the game-winning field goal four plays later.
The Vikings also disagreed with an overturned call on Reggie Bush’s 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. The officials ruled that safety Tyrell Johnson knocked Bush out of bounds at the 1-yard line on third down and the score tied at 21-21.
New Orleans challenged the call, and the officials ruled that Bush reached the ball across the goal line before going out of bounds.
“I’ll have to see that replay again,” Leber said. “That’s another one I don’t really agree with. I thought TJ did a good job getting the guy out of bounds, but we’ll deal with it.”
Peterson wasn’t crazy about the result of the booth reviews in overtime either.
“I’m really not going to say too much about the two calls at the end that got reviewed,” he said. “If you got eyes you pretty much can make your own judgment on that.”
Big game for Berrian
Bernard Berrian finally got on the same page with Favre and finished with nine receptions for a season-high 102 yards.
Berrian’s season was hampered by two separate hamstring injuries. He finished fourth on the team in catches and third in receiving yards. But he was Favre’s favorite target Sunday night. "I think we’ve been looking for that all year," Berrian said. "You have to make your opportunities count."
Uncertain on future
Vikings nose Pat Williams told KFAN Radio after the game that it is "50-50" whether he returns for his 14th season. Williams has one year remaining on his contract. Williams said recently that he would retire if the Vikings won the Super Bowl.
Harvin plays
Rookie Percy Harvin said he wasn’t 100 percent after suffering a recurrence of migraines last week but he wanted to play. "Little bit but not enough to bring me out of the game," he said when asked if he had pain during the game. "I was well enough to play so I did."
Harvin caught five passes for 38 yards and had four carries for 15 yards. But he also had a critical fumble that set up a Saints go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I definitely fault myself," said Harvin, who had not lost a fumble all season. "I thrive on taking care of the ball, especially when I’m in the backfield. That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s eating at me. It’s just so sad that you don’t have a chance to correct it next week. It’s just something you have to swallow."
Harvin took the handoff at the Vikings 27-yard line and was trying to move the ball to his other hand but Saints defensive end Will Smith knocked it loose. The Saints advanced it to the 7-yard line and Reggie Bush scored on a 5-yard touchdown catch for a 28-21 lead.
"I saw the big man at the end so I was switching it to kind of stiff-arm him. Right as I was switching the ball he poked it out. They did a great job of ball stripping us all game."

Busy day at Winter Park

Posted by: Updated: January 20, 2010 - 9:33 AM

We're back at Winter Park and getting ready for what should be a pretty busy day. The Vikings return to practice and we will have plenty of media access. 

Coach Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson will hold individual press conferences starting at 11:45 a.m. We also have locker room access at the same time.

The Vikings also will issue their injury report later this afternoon so we'll see how much work, if any, defensive end Ray Edwards is able to do in practice. Edwards sprained his right knee against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Check back throughout the day for updates from the press conferences and locker room access.


Vikings respond to Brooking comments

Posted by: Updated: January 18, 2010 - 6:01 PM

Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking drew a lot of attention Sunday for his actions and postgame comments about the Vikings. 

Brooking ran over and screamed at the Vikings sideline and later called them “classless” after Brett Favre threw a touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe on fourth down with 1 minute 55 seconds left for a 34-3 lead.

Naturally, Vikings players were asked about his comments.

“I don’t like to speak too much but they ran up the scoreboard the previous week before [against the Eagles] and they were calling timeouts and everything,” cornerback Benny Sapp said. “So you want to keep playing and that’s what it looked like to me. He got upset for no reason. It is football and I think he was probably the one that got scored on.”
Shiancoe used sarcasm and mispronounced Brooking’s name in his rebuttal.
“I didn’t see it because I was soaking in my touchdown, but I heard he said it was classless and unprofessional, etc.,” Shiancoe said. “So I sincerely apologize to Brookings for doing that to him. We apologize, Brookings. If you don’t want us to score, stop us, right? It’s the NFL. You never know what could happen. We scored 24 points in, what, a quarter against the Giants. Who knows? I don’t want some fluke stuff to happen in a playoff game, a miracle.”


Back at Winter Park

Posted by: Updated: January 18, 2010 - 10:47 AM

Hello from Winter Park. Vikings coach Brad Childress will hold his press conference at 12:30 p.m. (central) to discuss his team's 34-3 thrashing of the Cowboys and look ahead to the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints.

Childress does not typically address injuries on Mondays but we'll see if he gives an update on defensive end Ray Edwards, who suffered a sprained right knee in the third quarter. Early indications are that the injury is not believed to be too serious.

We also should have access to players in the locker room after Childress' press conference.

The Vikings defensive line received plenty of media attention for its effort Sunday and deservedly so, but linebacker Ben Leber also played a strong game. Leber finished with nine tackles, one tackle for loss, an interception, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. 

Linebacker Erin Henderson, who was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is eligible to return today. Henderson tweeted this morning that he was on his way to Winter Park. We'll see if he addresses the media about his situation.

Check back throughout the day for updates. 


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