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.
Meetings are taking place at Winter Park this week with the Vikings planning a detailed player-by-player evaluation of their current roster. As they perform their in-house review, we’re following suit and delivering our own snapshot evaluation of each position group.
Vikings cornerback Benny Sapp was cited for two misdemeanors Friday morning – fifth-degree assault and careless driving – after an altercation with security at Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis.
Police responded to a call shortly before 7 a.m. after Sapp and his 11-year-old son tried to enter the hospital through an entrance that was closed at that hour. A hospital security guard directed Sapp to another accessible entrance. But, according to public information officer Bill Palmer of the Minneapolis Police Department, Sapp soon returned with his son and stated his intent to enter the building through the closed entrance whether he was allowed to or not.
Denied again, Sapp left the 11-year-old with the hospital security guard, indicating the boy’s mother was inside and stating he had to go to work. According to Palmer, Sapp then returned to his car in a nearby parking deck, where a security officer attempted to detain him. A physical altercation ensued with Sapp allegedly pushing the security guard and then driving toward the exit of the ramp.
At the parking deck exit, another confrontation broke out in which Palmer says Sapp chest-bumped a security officer and later “used his vehicle to try to move the officer out of the way.” Police had no information on whether Sapp’s vehicle made contact with the security guard.
When police arrived, security was attempting to handcuff the Vikings cornerback. Palmer said Sapp complied and cooperated completely with the dispatched officers and was tagged in lieu of arrest for the two misdemeanors. He will face a court date that is yet to be scheduled.
Said Palmer: “In the state of Minnesota, you can only place someone in custodial arrest and book them into a jail facility if you have reason to believe they are lying about their identity, they indicate that their criminal conduct will continue or they’re a danger to themselves or others. As none of those three exceptions to the law applied, we had to issue a citation in lieu of arrest. So Mr. Sapp will have to call the court in the next couple of weeks and make a court date.”
A Vikings spokesman said Friday evening that the team was aware of the incident. But no additional details were available on whether the veteran cornerback would face team punishment.
It seems unlikely that Sapp will face any significant discipline for Sunday's regular season finale against the Bears. After starting three of the past four games, he was already slated to move back into a back-up role with the Vikings planning to use Asher Allen and Cedric Griffin as their starting corners against Chicago.
The Vikings’ inactive list has just been released at FedEx Field and as expected cornerback Asher Allen and Steve Hutchinson are on it, both sidelined by concussions they suffered last Sunday against New Orleans. Also inactive for the Vikings today: cornerback Chris Cook, defensive end D’Aundre Reed, offensive lineman DeMarcus Love, linebacker Xavier Adibi and tight end Allen Reisner.
Hutchinson will be replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Berger with rookie Brandon Fusco also available to see time at left guard. It remains to be seen how the Vikings will handle Allen's absence. Rookie Brandon Burton may see significant time in Allen's place. Benny Sapp will start at one cornerback position. Marcus Sherels will see time in nickel packages. And Cedric Griffin may be needed to some extent as well.
The Redskins, meanwhile, will be without running back Roy Helu, who is battling knee and toe injuries. Other inactives for Washington today are Markus White, Erik Cook, Rob Myers, Kentwan Balmer, David Anderson and Doug Worthington.
As expected, veteran left guard Steve Hutchinson will be home for Christmas (eve). He'll be joined in the Twin Cities by Asher Allen. Both have concussions and have not passed the league-mandated test to return to action. So they're a no-go for Saturday's game at Washington.
Considering the Vikings need to lose to stay in the hunt for the No. 1 overall draft pick, that's some bad news that could be good for the future of the team. In this pillow fight for the top pick, the more the merrier when it comes to backups playing.
Joe Berger will start at left guard. He's a capable backup who has started one game at center and four at right guard.
At corner, the Vikings probably will start Benny Sapp, who was out of work a month ago, and punt returner Marcus Sherels. The nickelback will be either benched-and-struggling starter Cedric Griffin or rookie Brandon Burton.
Coach Leslie Frazier hasn't announced his plans for the rotation at corner. But, let's face it, no matter what he does, it won't hurt the team's pursuit of the No. 1 pick.
In other injury news, RG Anthony Herrera (knee), S Jarrad Page (hamstring), DT Kevin Williams (knee) and LB Erin Henderson (illness) are probable.
The Vikings completed their final practice today in advance of Saturday's game at Washington. Only this one came with a little twist. For a portion of practice, head coach Leslie Frazier let his defensive starters and offensive starters go at it, a rarity for late December in the NFL.
It's clear Frazier is willing to try anything to keep his team's attention down the stretch of this discouraging season. And he called Thursday's practice "spirited."
"When we do a competitive practice, ordinarily we just, whoever the opponent is, work some of their plays," Frazier said. "But this time we decided to create a situation where it was Vikings vs. Vikings. I don't really want to get into the specifics. But it was good. It created a lot of fire and emotion. That was positive."
As for which unit won Thursday's battle?
"I can't pick sides," Frazier said. "So they both won. We achieved the goal. And that was to pep things up a little bit."
Hey, for a team that has gone eight weeks since recording its last victory, the Vikings will take wins anyway they can get them. And they should have a chance to record a real victory Saturday against a Redskins squad that has lost eight of its past 10 games.
Injury update: For the second straight day, cornerback Asher Allen and guard Steve Hutchinson both sat out practice as they continue recovering from concussions suffered against New Orleans last weekend. Joe Berger is in line to start for Hutchinson this weekend. Allen's spot would likely be filled by a rotation involving rookie cornerback Brandon Burton and Cedric Griffin with fellow corners Benny Sapp and Marcus Sherels figuring to see significant action as well.
Burton made his first career start last weekend against New Orleans. And while he has been out of sorts at time in the Vikings' oft-torched secondary, Frazier likes the progress Burton has been able to show when called into duty more regularly this past month.
"I think the most positive thing about Brandon getting a chance to play is the experience he's gaining," Frazier said. "There are some things technique-wise and fundamentally that he'll have to continue to work on. But I'd like to see him get a chance to make some plays if some balls are thrown his way. And I'm sure he'll have some opportunities again Saturday. Overall, I think he's done a good job of going out there and not allowing the game to be too big for him. He gives us some hope that we'll have a guy who will help us have some depth in the future."
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