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 Chester Taylor

Favre has no comment; Booker signs

Posted by: Updated: December 6, 2010 - 2:29 PM

Brett Favre made a brief appearance in the Vikings' locker room today but declined to get into any specifics of how he was feeling. Favre then went into the trainer's room to get treatment on the sprained sternoclavicular joint he suffered in his throwing shoulder on Sunday against Buffalo.

Asked about the MRI he had, Favre joked, "What MRI?" Coach Leslie Frazier said that the MRI confirmed Favre has a sprain but there was no degree put on it. "They didn’t give me a degree, other than the fact that it’s an SC sprain and it’s more the neck area, along with in the sternum also," Frazier said.

Frazier said this will be a day-to-day situation, which is nothing new this season when it comes to Favre. Don't look for Favre to do much work if any in practice this week as the Vikings prepare for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

"From what I’ve been told, rest is probably key," Frazier said. "That’s going to be number one, and they’ll do some exercises with him to help him as well. But it’s not something that can surgically be attended to. It’s just a matter of rest and then the rehab that they’re going to put him through."
Favre has played in an NFL record 297 consecutive games and has overcome numerous injuries during that time, including breaks in his left ankle and heel this season.
"If the doctors say he’s fine, he’s functional, he’s not at risk and Brett feels good about it, it won’t be a hard decision," Frazier said. "The only thing that makes it difficult is if the doctors say he’s fine and he says, ‘I’m not ready to go’ -- then it’s still probably not a hard decision. So, between the two, between what the medical people tell me and what Brett tells me, we’ll make a decision based on that."
Frazier said, "No question," when asked if he expected Favre to play this weekend.
Booker comes to terms
The Vikings agreed to terms with running back Lorenzo Booker on Monday, a few weeks after initially working him out and days after the UFL lowered its transfer fee from $150,000 to $25,000.
The Vikings will have to make a roster move to get Booker on the 53-man unit. His presence would give them four running backs. They already have Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Albert Young.
"We’re just going through some different scenarios, just trying to figure out where we’re going to make that move, and we will over the course of this day," Frazier said.
Frazier expressed optimism that Booker can help the Vikings on third-down situations. "I think he can be a plus for us," Frazier said. "He’s done a good job over in the UFL, making some plays, and we’re going to try to see where we can utilize him during this season."
The Vikings, of course, lost their third-down running back over the offseason when Chester Taylor signed with Chicago. Booker was a third-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2007 after playing at Florida State. Booker also played for Philadelphia and most recently was with Hartford of the UFL.
Harvin progressing
A day after Percy Harvin missed his second career game because of a migraine headache, the wide receiver made an appearance at Winter Park on Monday.
"He’s doing better," Frazier said. "I did talk to him [Sunday] night. He was actually over here today. He’s in good spirits. As you know, those migraines can come and go at any time. He’s in good spirits, so we’ll get a chance to talk today and tomorrow, and we’ll just see where things are when we get to Wednesday."
The Vikings do not practice on Monday and will be off Tuesday before starting preparations for Sunday's game against the Giants.
Frazier confirmed Harvin's latest episode with migraines has passed. "He was fine this morning," Frazier said. "He met with our doctor. Everything was fine, but it’s day to day in that regard."
Injury updates
Running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns Sunday despite playing with a sprained ankle, came out of the game in "pretty good shape," according to Frazier. "We all had our fingers crossed, hoping that things would go well for him, and they did," Frazier said. "We were able to rest him in the fourth quarter, which was great."
Meanwhile, Frazier said running back Toby Gerhart suffered a strained hamstring but is expected to be fine. Safety Tyrell Johnson suffered a knee injury that might be related to his MCL. "[It's] nothing severe, just got banged up a little bit," Frazier said. "We're going to go in and have that checked out, but he should be fine."
As for left guard Steve Hutchinson, Frazier is hoping he can return from a broken thumb after missing a game. "We’ll learn more about Steve this week, we’ll try to get him out there and get him back going," Frazier said. "Hopefully, that’ll be the case."
Quarterback Joe Webb suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter and his status is uncertain. "We're going to try to get him out there if we can," Frazier said.
  • While Brian Robison gave a strong effort as the starting left defensive end on Sunday, Frazier said that Ray Edwards will be the starter when he is able to return. Edwards sat out Sunday because of a right high ankle sprain.
  • Frazier said that while running backs coach Eric Bieniemy will become the offensive coordinator at Colorado, Bieniemy will not be doing much if any work for Colorado throughout the remainder of the Vikings season.  "Actually, he’s spoke to the people at the University of Colorado and he has it cleared that he’ll be with us throughout and he’ll join them after the season," Frazier said. "But his duties will be primarily working for the Minnesota Vikings. No recruiting calls, no road visits. He’s going to be here with the Vikings."

Childress refuses to give reasons why Moss was cut

Posted by: Updated: November 3, 2010 - 1:10 PM

FIRST OFF SOME NEWS: Brad Childress said wide receiver Sidney Rice (hip surgery) would begin practicing today. The Vikings now have three weeks to make a decision on whether to place Rice on the 53-man roster or hold him out for the season. 



Brad Childress admitted Wednesday that the Vikings made a "poor decision" in acquiring Randy Moss and called putting him on waivers "probably the most unemotional decision I've made in this job here." Other than that, the Vikings coach was unwilling to explain why the organization decided to give up on the recalcitrant wide receiver after only four games.

In a press conference that lasted 13 minutes, 20 seconds, Childress, in his first comments since the news broke on Monday, fielded almost all Moss-related questions but would not say whether he bypassed ownership in making the move or get into any of the thinking that has left much of his team's fan base irate. Moss officially was waived on Tuesday.

"It didn't workout," Childress said in his opening statement. "I'm not going to get into any particulars. We have an internal process that we go through. I can understand that all of you have questions and I appreciate everybody's passion in knowing why. You hope all your personnel decisions workout for the best. Whether you talk about the Allen's or the Hutchinson's or the Shiancoe's or the Chester Taylor's or the Percy Harvin's.

"Some work out and some don't work out. And some end up being short term and some end up being long term. This didn't work out. Nobody is more disappointed than I am that it didn't work out. But it didn't work out. So we're casting our gaze forward here and I do wish Randy the best of luck in whatever the future holds for him down the line in football."

Asked why he took the podium on Monday afternoon and acted as if Moss was still very much part of the team when all he had to do was delay his press conference, Childress said:  “Because that’s when I usually have my 12:30 press conference. That’s from your standpoint, I get that. I’m going to get questions regardless whether they are on point or not on point. I can’t control that. I have a 1 o’clock meeting with my group so that’s what I end up going to.”

Shortly after talking to the media, Childress told his players that Moss would be waived. When pressed on why he wouldn't be more up front with the fan base, Childress said: “I think as long as the right people are contacted in the right order I think that that’s important. Obviously, it wouldn’t have served a purpose to come out here and tell you guys and have you go running with it before the dominoes start to go down.”

Here are some more of Childress' answers:

Q. What exactly didn't work out?

A. "I'm not going to get into a lot of the particulars. I'm not going to do that. It's done. It's over with. It was a decision that you don't take lightly, but it was a decision that I had to make and it's over."

Q. You asked the fans to embrace this guy. Why don't you think the fans deserve more?

A. "Because I wished and hoped that it would have worked out as well. But it was a programmatic non-fit, and it didn't work out. When things don't work out, you need to move quickly to take steps."

Q. Did you have the support of ownership?

A. "Without getting into all the internal dialogue we have a process that we kind of hold to here and I'm not going give you chapter and verse on the process. But I told my team right after I finished with you folks here. I thought it was important to paint a landscape of what Tuesday was going to be like for them, what the rest of the day was going to be like so that they didn't have to come back here Wednesday and deal with that. I owe that to those guys. We're at 52 right now pending any roster move that may occur, but I have faith and confidence in the games remaining and we're the only guys that are going to fix this thing right now."

Q. Why make players answer for your decision as Ben Leber had to do Monday afternoon?

A. "That's not why I put them in that situation, to have to answer for my decisions. I have to answer for my decisions. In the long run with ownership, obviously, my name is affixed to wins and losses in this program here. So, it's not an attempt to deceive, it's just a matter of letting the people know that need to know. And when we came out with the statement, that's when all that had been done. That's why he didn't show up on the waiver wire that day, just because there is a process that's involved."

Q. Did you see the same process in this decision? Did you notify ownership in the same way? 

A.  "I go through about the same process about all the time. I talk with Rick [Spielman, vice president of player personnel]. I talk with Rob [Brzezinski, vice president of football operations]. I let the owners know.  But the thing happened here. I talked to the team, then you let everybody else know what's going on. Actually, Rick was in a meeting."

Q. So you told the players before ownership?

A. "No, that's not the case. I'm not going to get into all the process stuff."

Q. Did you investigate Moss' background before trading for him?

A. "I feel like I do a decent job of looking into guys' backgrounds. People coming off the waiver wire, you attempt to be able to create pieces of the puzzle that you need to know. I think I talked to you guys about all the back channels, the conversations that end up happening in this league. And I'm grateful that we have an organization that has those type of back-channel conversations in place, because there are some that don't have those in place. Yeah, it was a poor decision. I've got to stand up and I have to make it right. When it's not right, you need to make it right."

Q. Does the Moss decision affect your job security?

A. "I wouldn't know that. I'd say that's up to everybody else to look at. I know that basically it's usually tied to how many wins you have and how many losses you have."

Q. Was the move made out of desperation?

A. "This is probably the most unemotional decision I've made in this job here. Just the matter of fact of what had to happen occurred."

Q. So how did you get duped?

A. "You know what, It's not worth getting into the particulars. I'm not going there"

Q. When did you talk with Moss?

A. "I didn't end up talking to Randy. I made a number of phone calls that went unanswered, I texted him a few times to get back in touch. In the end, Rick ended up finally getting a conversation with him."

Q. Why did you say he would be back here when you talked to us on Monday?

A.  "Because that was my intent. That was the plan for him to come back Tuesday night or Wednesday. Actually it was going to be Tuesday night. We talked about that, how he was traveling, how he was getting back."

Q. So you decided in between the press conference and the team meeting to cut him?

A. "No, I can't say that's when I decided. The wheels were in motion in my brain for what had to happen."

Q. Are you in danger of losing the team?

A. "I don't even know what that means. I really don't. Losing that football team. They're all in there. They're all to a man standing there this morning ready to shake the cobwebs off and get this thing right. That would be a better question to answer by them, not by me. But I'm not even sure what that means: Lose your football team. The Minnesota Vikings are in that locker room and we need to play better and I need to coach better."

Q. How are you doing through all of this?

A. "I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm really at peace. The decisions I make are for the best welfare of the Minnesota Vikings. I can look myself in mirror every night when I go to bed and know that in my heart of hearts."



Vikings hope to get Cook back Sunday

Posted by: Updated: October 21, 2010 - 1:34 PM

Vikings rookie cornerback Chris Cook hopes to play Sunday against Green Bay after missing two games following knee surgery, but he admitted it might be a challenge to play the entire game because of his conditioning.

"I want to [play]," Cook said. "I'm taking reps with the defense and the plan is to play on Sunday."
Cook has played only one game this season after tearing the meniscus in both knees. Cook was limited in practice Wednesday and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he's interested to see how much work Cook can do Thursday.
"Coming off the injury he just has some things to work through," Frazier said. "But it would great to have him out there."
It seems likely that Cook will play in nickel situations with Asher Allen getting the start. Veteran Lito Sheppard played in the nickel last week but he was in coverage on three touchdown passes and now has a hand injury.
"[Sheppard] just has to get more comfortable and now would be the right time to get confident in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it," Frazier said. "Hopefully if he’s able to play this week, he will go out and perform at the level he’s capable of performing at. We have a lot of confidence in him. We know he’s still a very good football player."
Here are other notes from media access and early practice update:
-- Safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) is the only player not taking part in practice. Tight end Jim Kleinsasser (groin) returned after misssing Wednesday's practice.
-- Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said last week that protection has been "up and down" and Brett Favre took several more big shots from the Cowboys. It doesn't get any easier this week against the Packers, who rank second in the NFL with 21 sacks.
"We always prepare for pressure," Bevell said. "It’s our job to be able to pick it up. We’ve had some struggles. It’s something we’re continuing to work on, continuing to improve and get it targeted it right. A lot goes into it. It’s not always just the offensive line. Sometimes the back is involved, sometimes your receiver has to shake open and the quarterback has to see it. But it’s still something we’re a work in progress with."
-- The Vikings had one of the NFL's best backup running backs in Chester Taylor the past few seasons. In his absence, rookie Toby Gerhart and Albert Young have combined for only 13 carries for 35 yards in the first five games.
"The two guys that we have behind Adrian, they’re still young, they’re still learning and we’re trying to get them up to speed as fast as we can," Bevell said. "We’ve kind of moved that around a little bit and given guys different opportunities to be in there. We’re still waiting for the guys to step up, take hold of it and say, ‘Hey, this is my job and I’m not giving it back.’ But we’re also trying to look at some different things as well."
-- Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy on the possibility of using Percy Harvin on punt returns: "It will come eventually. It will be the right place at the right time for him to be back there to return punts."

Tomlinson: Jets offered a bigger role

Posted by: Updated: October 6, 2010 - 1:45 PM

Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson just held a conference call with Twin Cities media and naturally the most popular subject was the Vikings trade for Randy Moss. Our colleague Mark Craig has that reaction on his blog but Tomlinson joked that he wishes the trade would have happened a week later.

Tomlinson also was asked about his decision to sign with the Jets instead of the Vikings after visiting both teams in March as a free agent. Tomlinson admitted a big factor was that the Jets offered him a more significant role in the offense.

Tomlinson would have served as Adrian Peterson's backup and third-down specialist with the Vikings. The Jets had Shonn Greene, but Tomlinson realized the potential for a more important role in that offense.

"I'm not going to lie, that was also a factor," Tomlinson said. "I knew that I would have a bigger role here because you've got a stud like Adrian Peterson in the backfield there in Minnesota. My sense was when I came there that they needed more for a Chester Taylor-type role. When I came here for the Jets [visit] it seemed to me that they needed me in a bigger role. Obviously that was a no-brainer for me."

Tomlinson said another factor was that the Jets system is similar to what he played in at San Diego for nine seasons. He has never played in the West Coast offense so he would have faced a bigger adjustment had he signed with the Vikings.

"I just felt I knew this offense," he said. "I felt like going to Minnesota would put me behind the eight-ball a little bit because I would have to learn that offense. So that pretty much came to my decision. One place I had been in the offense for nine years and the other place I would have been learning the offense for the first time."

Tomlinson also was familiar with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who served as the quarterbacks coach in San Diego previously.

"I knew him very well," he said. "I knew his philosophies. I knew what he wanted to get accomplished with this offense and I knew kind of how he would use me. That was very important."

Favre speaks

Brett Favre gave a quote to about the Moss trade. Here is the link and what he said.

"This is an exciting move, I think everybody feels that in the locker room," Favre said. "It’s rare you get to play with a future Hall of Famer and get to appreciate their talents up close. Randy Moss is a great player and his career speaks for itself. I’ve admired him from a distance for a long time and you can’t help but be impressed by the guy. I’ve seen him light our teams up plenty of times in those Vikings-Packers games and I’m excited to be on the same team now.”


Looking forward to Saturday

Posted by: Updated: August 23, 2010 - 1:06 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- The best thing about the Vikings' 15-10 preseason loss Sunday night to the 49ers is that it means the third exhibition game soon will be played.

Coach Brad Childress confirmed he plans to handle that game as he usually does, meaning most of the Vikings starters are likely to play into the third quater on Saturday night against Seattle at the Metrodome. That includes quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings are going to need to use that tune-up to sharpen things up as they prepare for their Sept. 9 regular-season opener in New Orleans. (Keep in mind, starters don't play in the final preseason game so Saturday night will be of real importance.)

Here are a few observations and notes from tonight. I'm not going to go heavy on Favre because he's a big part of the daily coverage in the Monday paper.

  • First-team defense: The Vikings won the toss but elected to defer, putting their defense on the field first. It didn't work out too well as San Francisco drove 70 yards on 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Anthony Dixon's 4-yard touchdown run in which he was able to bounce outside and beat cornerback Asher Allen to the end zone. Part of the issue was safety Madieu Williams played the run inside. "I thought it took us just a second to warm up," Childress said. "I thought we played better in the second series. We didn't make that guy [quarterback Alex Smith] particularly uncomfortable back there." The 49ers converted three of three third-down chances on the first drive, including a third-and-11 from the Vikings 15 on which Smith found tight end Delanie Walker, who beat E.J. Henderson. The 49ers ended up going 6-for-16 on third downs.
  • Sanford winning the battle?  On Friday, Childress went through much of what he planned to do when it came to playing time. One thing he elected not to mention was that Jamarca Sanford would start at strong safety in place of Tyrell Johnson. In fact, Johnson did not get on the field until the third quarter -- something that I found surprising. Because of how locker room access worked -- essentially players were available at the same time Childress and Favre were speaking -- and the fact we only have one reporter on the road for the preseason, I was unable to talk to Johnson. Sanford downplayed the fact he appears to be edging ahead of Johnson in the battle for the starting job, but the playing time he saw Sunday night really told the story. Johnson did get to take out his frustrations in the third quarter when he put a big hit on 49ers tight end Nate Byham. Byham failed to hang onto the ball and ended up down on the turf.
  • Peterson in pass protection: The good news for Peterson on Sunday is I did not see a play in which he appeared to have any problem holding onto the football. The bad news was that linebacker Patrick Willis went by him much too easily to sack Favre. Peterson has to be better in this area -- no questions asked. Chester Taylor is gone and Peterson needs to be able to stay in on third down and provide pass protection to a guy who isn't mobile. This isn't up for debate. If Peterson struggles with this area it's going to be a major issue. "That was my fault," Peterson said. "I stepped up in the 'A' gap and I got out tempoed. Willis being the great backer tht he is got underneath me and pushed me right into him. That is something that I will have to clean up."
  • Offensive line must show more: Yes, center John Sullivan is out and the Vikings are trying some different things with the line, such as having Anthony Herrera take some snaps at center in the second series. But this line has to do a better job of protecting its quarterback on a consistent basis. This includes the starters. A few times Sunday night it appeared left tackle Bryant McKinnie had his struggles. Tarvaris Jackson, who isn't an immobile quarterback, took a pounding. Much of it came from linebacker Travis LaBoy, who sacked Jackson once and threw him to the ground two other times. The line took some heat last season -- at times for its running blocking -- but this unit is going to need to prove its pass protection is better than it was Sunday or the Saints might make Favre's life extremely difficult. 
  • Tackle a real concern: I asked Childress after tonight's game, "Who is your backup left tackle?" It was a legit question considering that Chris Clark has done nothing to impress in his two preseason games. He struggled again in protection tonight after taking four penalties in the preseason opener in St. Louis. Right now, Pat Brown and Clark are listed as McKinnie's backup and there appears a chance Ryan Cook could end up in that spot if it comes to that. If something happens to McKinnie, the Vikings could be in big trouble at this point. Artis Hicks is already missed.
  • Mr. Excitement: I've gone back and forth on whether I think the Vikings could get quarterback Joe Webb through waivers and onto the practice squad. Webb, a sixth-round pick who originally was going to be moved to wide receiver, is extremely raw, but I have a feeling he would be claimed. That's based on what teams will see from his game film. Playing the fourth quarter on Sunday, he completed seven of 14 passes for 47 yards and rushed for 53 yards on three carries, including a 48-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Webb also showed his inexperience by taking a sack for a safety to end the game. The thing with Webb is that with all the offensive gimmicks used by teams these days I think a club would claim him and then try to design some situations for him. The Vikings actually might have hurt themselves by playing this kid at all in the preseason. If Webb is kept on the 53, odds are Sage Rosenfels' days in Minnesota are numbered.
  • Here's the catch: The Vikings offense doesn't appear to be all that sharp but there is a real issue here. With Sidney Rice (hip) and Percy Harvin (migraines) out, Bernard Berrian is the only clear-cut real starting receiver on this team. Greg Lewis is a solid veteran and a good guy to have around but he isn't a guy you would peg as a starter. Logan Payne has impressed this camp but once again isn't starter material. He had only one reception and one ball thrown his way on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings decide to sign Javon Walker. He might not be what he used to but if Rice and Harvin are out for any period -- and with Harvin you just don't know -- Walker might find himself in the mix. Harvin is expected to practice this week, potentially as early as Tuesday.
  • OK, I lied: One Favre related item. I asked him about calling a meeting Thursday to address the Yahoo! Sports report that he had disdain for Childress and almost didn't return for that reason. "I would say at times we disagreed on certain things, but our relationship is fine," Favre said. "It really is. I think any successful team, really any team generally, there's going to be a difference between coaches and players. I would say more so on a successful team because everyeone thinks they're right." Favre said he and Childress were fine the next day after they had words on the sideline last December in Carolina. "Every coach that's ever coached me, I would say we've had differences at times, and I would say they were right," Favre said. "I can be a little hard-headed at times, but that's the competitive nature that I have."
  • Sunday's scratches: Those who did not play the Vikings Sunday night included Harvin, cornerback DeAndre Wright, linebacker J Leman, Sullivan and defensive tackle Pat Williams. Wright appeared to injure his knee in practice last week and Leman has been battling turf toe. Williams simply doesn't play much in the preseason. He is 37-years-old and doesn't really need the reps. That gives Jimmy Kennedy more time at nose tackle.
  • A final thought: Am I the only one who finds Candlestick Park to be a pretty cool place. The press box isn't in great shape, the stadium as a whole is beyond outdated but when you consider the history of this place it's pretty cool. The Beatles played their final concert here, Willie McCovey's line drive with two runners on base was caught by Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson with two outs in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series to end it and the 49ers had some magical seasons here with Joe Montana. Heck, this place survived the 1989 World Series earthquake. It might be old and run down now but this stadium is still worth appreciating.


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