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.
The Vikings got back on the field Tuesday -- or at least a few of them did.
With the NFL lockout heading toward its third month, seven players got together for a workout at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The list of participants was supposed to be around a dozen, but veteran wide receivers Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and running back Lorenzo Booker are now not expected until Wednesday.
Working with quarterback Christian Ponder, who played a key role in organizing these sessions, were quarterbacks Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar, wide receivers Greg Camarillo and Emmanuel Arceneaux, tight end Kyle Rudolph and center Brandon Fusco. Fusco was a sixth-round pick by the Vikings in April.
Ponder and his teammates went through one on-the-field session Tuesday afternoon after working on agility and other skills in the morning. There are supposed to be two on-the-field practices on Wednesday, along with more weight room and class room work. It sounds as if now there won't be a practice Thursday morning before things break up but there could be some meetings.
Former Cretin-Derham Hall and Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, who works for IMG and already had been working with Ponder and Webb, is serving to help with the install of the offense that is part of the Vikings playbook that Ponder got from offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave during the brief time when the lockout was lifted in late April.
Ponder is now getting copies of that playbook (he is literally making copies) to his teammates that show up in Bradenton. Ponder has been working with Weinke on learning the passing plays in the Vikings offense and next the focus will shift to the run game.
Camarillo said the same thing Webb told Chip last week and that's that the verbiage in Musgrave's offense has been pared way down from what the Vikings did under former coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
As far as setting up the workouts, Ponder said: "You see all these other teams doing workouts, and we were one of the few teams that wasn't doing anything. Somebody had to get the ball rolling I thought as a quarterback it was up to me to do it. A lot of the veteran guys I reached out to were all gung-ho and excited about it. Everyone was good to me."
(Hat tip to the St. Pete Times' Greg Auman, who is serving as a stringer for the Star Tribune in Bradenton and will have a full story on this website later today.)
As we mentioned in a story and blog post on Monday, Vikings quarterbacks Joe Webb and rookie Christian Ponder are training together at IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The two quarterbacks met for the first time on Tuesday.
"A real cool guy," Webb said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "We’re just trying to get to know each other on a personal level. It was fun meeting him for the first time."
The two also are digesting the Vikings playbook with the help of former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, director of the football academy. The two quarterbacks normally would be learning the new system during OTAs and minicamps but they're forced to take a different approach because of the lockout.
Webb said he's happy that he gets to spend time training with Ponder and getting to know him before the NFL returns to business.
"You can build that chemistry and the relationship," Webb said. "No matter who wins the job, both of us are going to need one another during the season. If I win the job, he’ll be on the sideline looking at things. If he wins the job, then I’ll be looking at the defenses. No matter what, it’s good for us to be down here working together and getting in the playbook together."
Webb said he likes Musgrave's system in part because it features much less verbiage than the West Coast offense used by Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell. In a story late last season, Bevell joked about the extensive verbiage in West Coast play calls.
"The best thing about the West Coast offense is we tell everybody where to go and everybody what to do [in the play call]," he said. "The worst thing about the West Coast offense is we tell everybody where to go and everybody what to do."
Webb said Musgrave's system is easier to process.
"The verbiage is a lot shorter," he said. "With Coach Musgrave’s, it allows you to play fast. You just call at the most three, four words and you have a whole play. It just allows you to not worry about calling the play but worry about executing the play. Last year I was more worried about getting the play called right in the huddle so everyone knew what to do. It also affected my game on the field."
Webb hopes to have a pretty good grasp of the playbook when the NFL opens for business again. He appreciates the work he's getting at IMG, but he knows it's not ideal.
"I’m working with Chris Weinke and he’s a great coach," he said. "He’s helping me. But at the same time, it would be better if I were working with Craig Johnson, my quarterback coach in Minnesota. He can be showing me some things that I can relate to. [The lockout] is kind of frustrating but you just try and stay positive and get the most of out this offseason."
Darrell Bevell will be running an NFL offense next season, it just won't be in Minnesota.
The Vikings offensive coordinator since 2006, Bevell accepted the same position with the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. ESPN's John Clayton reported Bevell agreed to a two-year contract with an additional option year.
Bevell was left in coaching limbo shortly after the season ended when new Vikings coach Leslie Frazier informed him that while he was not being fired he also might be replaced. The Vikings then interviewed Josh McDaniels to become their offensive coordinator on Jan. 7.
When McDaniels took the Rams job this week, the Vikings brought in Atlanta quarterback coach Bill Musgrave and hired him on Wednesday. Bevell, meanwhile, went to Seattle to interview and will replace the recently fired Jeremy Bates on Pete Carroll's coaching staff.
Admitting his strengh lies on the defensive side of the ball, coach Leslie Frazier expressed confidence this morning that new coordinator Bill Musgrave will bring new ideas to the Vikings version of the West Coast offense.
"The fact Bill was in a variety of systems, to be able to combine things he learned in the West Coast system along with things he picked up with some other coaches that he has been around," will be a positive, Frazier said during a news conference at Winter Park. "The fact he wasn't just tied to one system but could see globally, that was important to me.
"We have a multitude of weapons on our offense and sometimes you get so tied up in a system that you don't see the forest for the trees. He was able to exemplify [his ideas] in our conversation and I've seen him do it in Atlanta. Once we sat down and talked about it, I was convinced he's the right man for the job."
Frazier made it clear that Musgrave's hiring means the Vikings won't have to overhaul their offense. That's important because if the expected NFL lockout goes through the offseason, there will be very little time to alter schemes. The hope also will be that Musgrave's success with the Falcons and young quarterback Matt Ryan, will mean he will be able to help develop a quarterback in Minnesota.
Frazier hasn't hired a running backs coach yet, but it's believed he is waiting to hear from Gene Huey. Huey was fired by the Colts and is trying to decide whether to retire or join the Vikings.
Frazier also confirmed that new coordinator Fred Pagac will continue to run a 4-3 defense with the Vikings.
We have confirmed that Bill Musgrave has been hired as the Vikings offensive coordinator. ESPN first reported the news.
Musgrave is the Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach/assistant head coach. He has experience as an offensive coordinator in the NFL and college level.
The Vikings also announced three other staff moves. As expected and previously reported, Fred Pagac takes over as defensive coordinator, Mike Singletary will coach linebackers and serve as special assistant to the head coach and Mike Priefer is the new special teams coordinator.
Musgrave interviewed for the offensive coordinator position with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday. He met with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on Wednesday.
The Vikings have not announced officially what this means for Darrell Bevell, who remained on Frazier's staff but was told he was free to pursue other jobs. Bevell is in Seattle today interviewing for the Seahawks offensive coordinator job.
Musgrave has some history in the West Coast offense but he's also experienced in other systems. The former NFL quarterback also has worked with quarterbacks throughout his coaching tenure, most recently with Atlanta's Matt Ryan. That likely was appealing to Frazier, who wants to establish a long-term plan at quarterback this offseason.
Frazier has not publicly declared his preferred offensive system but he said he wants the offense to revolve around the running game and fit the personnel.
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