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.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Let's just say that Heath Farwell didn't set the bar for his career quite as high as Super Bowl XLVIII.
"Going undrafted by the Vikings in 2005, just to make the practice squad as a rookie coming out of Mankato was a dream come true," said Farwell, the Seahawks' special teams leader. "I remember thinking, `What an unbelievable accomplishment that was."
Five weeks into his rookie season, Farwell was being considered for a promotion from the Vikings' practice squad.
"We had some injuries and some of the older guys, [linebackers] Sam Cowart and Keith Newman, were guys who kind of went into coach [Mike] Tice's office and said, `We should activate this kid. He can help us on special teams,'" Farwell said today during Seattle's media access period at The Westin hotel in Jersey City. "They did it on a one-week, trial basis. I survived the week and I've been active ever since. It's been an unbelievable ride."
It also reached the top of the football world when the Seahawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game two Sundays ago. For Farwell, that win was particularly gratifying because of how the Vikings turned the ball over five times while blowing the NFC title game in overtime at New Orleans during the 2009 season.
"We came so close in '09 and came up so short," Farwell said. "Myself, [quarterback] Tarvaris Jackson, [receiver] Percy Harvin, [receiver] Sidney Rice, even though he's on injured reserve, and [offensive coordinator] Darrell Bevell were all on that team. So when we beat San Francisco, yeah, I think it was a little extra special for us considering how tough that loss in '09 was. I think we all wondered then if we'd ever get another opportunity and here we are. Living the dream."
Farwell said both the '09 Vikings and '13 Seahawks have some similarities, but a lot of differences.
"On that team in 2009, there was a lot of star power, a lot of future Hall of Famers," Farwell said. "This is a younger group here. There are Pro Bowlers here and I'm sure there are future Hall of Famers, too. But we don't have Brett Favre, Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and some of those guys I played with in Minnesota. It's just a bunch of up and coming superstars who happen to play well together. Top to bottom, the roster is unbelieveable here. The 53rd guy is a heck of a player here."
Farwell isn't sure where he ranks among those 53 players, but he really doesn't care. He's a former Pro Bowl special teamer who is about to play in the Super Bowl.
"I never expected any of this," Farwell said. "I guess that's the beauty of it and why I enjoy it so much. I can't describe how unbelievable this feels."
Farwell also thinks at least one former Viking will have a significant say in what happens against the Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"To get Percy on our team is going to pay off, just wait," he said. "He's going to have a heck of a game and make a big impact on the game. I know he's only played two games all year. But Percy with fresh legs in the Super Bowl is going to be scary. Very scary."
NEW YORK -- Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman cast a wide net when he went in search of a head coach the day after Leslie Frazier was fired. At least three of the four coordinators in Super Bowl XLVIII were entangled in that net to some degree before the Vikings picked former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
We caught up with two of those coordinators -- Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio -- on Tuesday. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, like Bevell, interviewed with Spielman. Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase made it clear early on to all teams with coaching vacancies that he wouldn't be interviewing for or even discussing new jobs until after the Broncos' season was over.
Bevell and Del Rio have ties to the Vikings. Bevell was the team's offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010. Del Rio was a linebacker for the Vikings from 1992 to 1995.
Yes, both of them would have loved to get the Vikings' head coaching job. But neither one of them would exchange this week for that opportunity, so they're not too concerned about whether their teams' extended postseason success hurt their chances of getting a head coaching job. And, yes, assistants on Super Bowl teams are at a distinct disadvantage because not even the dysfunctional Browns were willing to wait to hire a head coach until after the Super Bowl.
"I wouldn't change this opportunity for anything," Bevell said. "This is a great opportunity for us. There is nothing to look back to. Just moving forward.
"Obviously, I know the place in Minnesota. I know the people who are there. I was excited about talking to them. But, beyond that, I don't know what else to say."
It was Bevell's fourth interview with a team. He's never been a head coach.
"You try to understand all the different interviews that you've done," he said. "The four interviews that I've done, they were all four different types of interviews. So you're able to learn and get better. I like to get some feedback as well. I haven't been able to do that this year because of what we've been doing.
"In Chicago [last year], they told me the biggest thing came down to having head coaching experience. That's something that I don't have. Sometimes, the timing isn't right. There wasn't anything I could do about not having been a head coach."
Del Rio didn't interview with the Vikings, but was on their radar. He has head coaching experience -- he went 69-73, including 1-2 in the postseason, as Jaguars coach for nine seasons -- and has now been an assistant on two Super Bowl teams, including the Ravens team that won a championship during the 2000 season. Del Rio also stepped in temporarily for Broncos head coach John Fox when he had his heart surgery this season.
"I don't worry too much about [not getting the Vikings job]," Del Rio said. "Would it have been a good opportunity? I don't want to sit here and get into hypotheticals. Obviously, I had a great time playing up there. It's a great organization. But, for me, I'm enjoying what I'm doing now. We're at the Super Bowl, which is what we're all after.
"Here it is at the end of the season and we're one of the last two teams with a chance to win a championship. I'm fired up for that. Down the road and in the future, who knows where it goes and what opportunities are out there. Would I love the opportunity again? Yes. Do I think it will come? Yes, I do. But right now, I am very excited to be here leading this defense, looking forward to all that I can do and we can do collectively to win a championship."
Del Rio was asked how serious the interest was from the Vikings, but that was a pitch he wasn't going to take a cut at.
"I'm not going to sit here and get into who reached out and didn't reach out and all those types of things," he said. "I would just say I'm here and fired up to be here."
NEW YORK -- Michael Irvin admits he’s biased when it comes to Norv Turner because Turner did, after all, help him win two of the three Super Bowl rings he collected during a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think the world of Norv,” Irvin, the former receiver turned NFL Network analyst, said of his former offensive coordinator with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.
And now Irvin thinks the world of the Vikings’ decision to hire Turner as new head coach Mike Zimmer’s offensive coordinator. As for the Cleveland Browns, who allowed Turner to walk when head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired after just one season, Irvin is anything but impressed.
“I’m absolutely blown away with Cleveland allowing what they’ve allowed to transpire with Norv,:” Irvin said today during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. “They had a guy like [receiver] Josh Gordon in Norv’s system, and I think he had the best year by a wide receiver after missing two games and playing with four different quarterbacks this season. To say, `OK, we’re changing up everything.’ That blows my mind.”
Gordon led the league in receiving and was an instrumental part of the Browns’ upset of the Vikings at the Metrodome in Week 3.
“Norv, with a guy like Adrian Peterson, will help the Vikings,” Irvin said. “A guy like Norv knows how to orchestrate an up-the-field passing game. The Vikings are usually playing defenses that stack the line of scrimmage because of the fear of Adrian Peterson. Norv is going to put defenses in some real binds. He’s going to develop an up-the-field passing game along with Adrian Peterson. To develop that down-the-field attack and then hand the ball off? It will be a dangerous combination.”
And, yes, Irvin believes Turner can do all of this with Matt Cassel or whichever quarterback the Vikings end up setting on in 2014.
“I watched Norv do it with four different quarterbacks with Josh Gordon last season, sSo he’ll find his quarterback,” Irvin said. “I don’t know if Cassel is his guy. But he’ll find his quarterback and he’ll find his passing system. I promise you that.”
NEW YORK -- So how should we view former Vikings receiver/returner/pain-in-management's-backside Percy Harvin and his potential impact on Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII?
Is he an overpaid, injury-prone superstar who will make a cameo, get hurt and be forgotten as Vikings fans continue to enjoy the three draft picks their team received in return last offseason? Or is he a semi-secret weapon who will perform like an explosive playmaker, using fresh legs and a fierce attitude to elevate Seattle's OK passing attack while being remembered forever in Super Bowl history?
Seahawks teammate and fellow receiver Golden Tate voted for the latter Monday evening when asked what it means for Harvin to return after missing 15 regular-season games and the NFC Championship game.
“I think it's huge," Golden Tate said. "I really admire the way he plays the game. He’s had some tough breaks this year, but at the end of the day he’s had a positive attitude, staying positive. He’s ready to go. I’m excited to have him back on the field. He brings another whole dimension to this offense and to special teams. (He is) just another weapon on this offense, another playmaker (and) another guy who can break the game at any point.
"I feel like on this team, we have playmakers all over the place: (quarterback) Russell (Wilson), myself, “Beast Mode” (running back Marshawn Lynch), (wide receiver) Percy (Harvin) (and tight end) Zach (Miller). On the other side of the ball, you’ve got (strong safety) Cam (Chancellor), (free safety) Earl (Thomas), (cornerback) Richard (Sherman), (cornerback) Byron Maxwell is showing up, (linebacker) Bobby Wagner. We have guys that can make plays all day.”"
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Harvin is good to go and will can do everything asked of him. That means Harvin should be returning kickoffs as well as playing receiver. In his only regular-season game in 2013, which, naturally, was against the Vikings, Harvin's 58-yard kickoff return right before halftime was a turning point in a close contest that became a 40-21 Seahawks rout.
Heading over to Super Bowl media day soon. Will have more updates later in the day.
Well, you had to figure the weather worrywarts would start to think in worst-case, mother-of-all-storms scenarios with regard to Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a cold-weather site.
It didn't help that New Jersey governor Chris Christie just called a state of emergency on Tuesday. Or that 1,000 workers had to clear 13 inches of snow out of MetLife Stadium.
With that storm came the focus on the NFL's contingency plans, which include playing the game anywhere from Friday, Jan. 31 to Monday, Feb. 3. Unless this happens, you can count on the Super Bowl being played, as expected, on Sunday, Feb. 2.
The forecast for the game, by the way, is for a high of 40 degrees with a 30 percent chance of snow or rain. The game starts at 6:25 ET, so, yeah, it's going to be cold.
But don't worry about those poor souls paying hundreds of dollars for face-value tickets and thousands of dollars from scalpers. According to the NFL, each ticket-holder will get (be patient, this will take a while) ear muffs, a hat, a scarf, mittens, lip balm, a cup holder, a radio, a seat cushion, a waist-wrap thing like quarterbacks wear and tissues. No word on whether fans will have to apply the tissues themselves.
It appears the snow-removal team passed in its dress rehearsal this week. So bring on the cold, says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"We are embracing the weather," he said this week. "Football is played in the elements."
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