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.
During what proved to be a crazy Thursday in the NFL lockout, Vikings center Jon Cooper took to his Twitter account. "I wish they would show the players, what the players are voting on," he wrote. "Or maybe I'm just crazy."
Cooper was asked to elaborate on his frustration Friday morning after going through workouts on the University of Minnesota campus that are led by Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
"Being in the dark on something that really affects your life, it’s tough to sit back and watch and have people criticize you for it," he said. " I wish I knew what to say or what was going on because I get all my information from the news basically. Hopefully when something is about to get done we’ll get informed a little bit before, but as of now we get sporadic e-mails from the union or our player rep. But most of the stuff we find out is on ESPN or any website or whatever. That’s our basis of information. Then people are like, ‘Why don’t you guys just play.’ It’s like, ‘It’s not that simple.’”
ESPN reported today that players still want owners to budge on two key issues: The first is an opt-out clause seven years into the proposed 10-year collective bargaining agreement; the second is the ability to report to team facilities and vote in person on recertifying as a union.
The issue, according to ESPN, is the owners believe the NFLPA could recertify as a union by allowing the estimated 1,900 players to use electronic signatures. The NFLPA wants to adhere to the same thorough process that led to decertification. The owners, of course, approved the deal Thursday but the players declined to vote on it.
While Cooper would like more information, Kansas City quarterback Tyler Palko has tuned out the various media reports that are all over the map.
"Honestly, to tell you the truth I don’t even pay any attention to that stuff," he said. "There’s just so many media outlets and rumors and twitter. That’s why I don’t get on that crap. You don’t know what to believe anymore. Honestly, when I’m done here [working out] I go home, watch the Golf Channel, go hit some golf balls and my cell phone is there."
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, the 12th pick in the April draft, finds himself in an interesting situation. On one hand, Ponder wants (and needs) to get on the field as soon as possible. But he also knows that once a 10-year CBA is signed that that will be it. Most of Ponder's career will be played under the agreement and if five years into it it no longer appears to be favorable, there will be nothing the NFLPA can do. Especially if there is no opt-out clause.
“I can wait as long as possible," Ponder said. "Obviously, I want to get on the field, but I know the importance of getting a deal that’s going to last 10 years exactly how we want it. So if it takes another month or so or we lose some games so be it. We definitely want the best deal we can get.”
Jackson bound for Seattle?
Tarvaris Jackson will be a former Vikings as soon as the lockout comes to an end. What remains to be seen is where the free agent will end up signing. One team that is believed to be interested is Seattle, which could lose quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in free agency.
Jackson could compete with Charlie Whitehurst, playing for Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell, of course, was Jackson's offensive coordinator with the Vikings for five seasons and that familiarity could be important considering how little time teams will have to get ready once the lockout ends.
"It seems like a pretty good opportunity," Jackson said when asked if Seattle would interest him. "I know the offense. That’s a plus. Coach Bevell, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him. So that’s always a plus."
Asked about his relationship with Bevell, Jackson said: "We always had a pretty good relationship. I worked more closely with [Kevin] Rogers because he was my quarterbacks coach. [Bevell] spent a lot of time in different guys’ rooms, our room, the offensive linemen’s room, always going back and forth. ... But we had a pretty good relationship, me and Bev did."
Jackson has been a regular at the Fitzgerald workouts but said that Friday was his last day. The sessions are expected to continue through Tuesday and maybe longer if the lockout isn't finished.
Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt and guard Chris DeGeare joined the Fitzgerald workouts on Friday. Loadholt appeared to be in very good shape after training in Oklahoma and then Eden Prairie.
"I’ve been working pretty hard," he said. "Me and Anthony Herrera worked together for a while. Most of the guys are doing as much as we can to stay in shape. We’ve got a playbook. We can study that as much as we can. But really, we need to get around the coaches and get to work, though."
Loadholt said he got a copy of the playbook from center John Sullivan, who was able to stop by Winter Park in late April when the lockout was briefly lifted.
DeGeare, meanwhile, said he weighs about 340 pounds right now. "Last year, they had me at 335 was my game weight," he said. "It’ll probably be somewhere in there. I was comfortable with it. In college, I played a lot bigger than that, but I like 335. You can move, feel great with it, and still bigger a lot of the defense out there."
DeGeare, who just arrived in the Twin Cities, has been training with someone who is more along the lines of a bodybuilder. "I'm just trying to get bigger, faster,stronger," DeGeare said.
He did run into a difficult challenge completing six 300-yard shuttles in the heat Friday morning. "Oh yeah [it's tough], especially when you’re expecting three and you run six," he said. "But it was all good. My legs need it. It felt good to get out moving like that."
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.
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