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 Vikings management

Vikings: New roof doesn't equal stadium solution

Posted by: Updated: February 10, 2011 - 3:52 PM
The Vikings issued a statement today following the announcement by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that a decision has been made to replace the roof of the Metrodome. The roof collapsed in December under the weight of a 17-inch snowfall.
The Vikings, of course, continue to pursue a new stadium and are entering the final season of their lease in the Metrodome in 2011.
The goal of the MSFC will be to have the new roof in place by early August. That would mean the Vikings could play their two preseason games in the stadium, assuming a new CBA is in place and there isn't a work stoppage at that point.
Here is the statement from the Vikings:
"The Minnesota Vikings support the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission’s (MSFC) decision to replace the Metrodome’s damaged roof. We appreciate the MSFC’s efforts to ensure a safe environment for all year-round users of the publicly-owned stadium, and we are pleased the Vikings will be able to play in front of our fans at Mall of America Field during the final season of the team’s lease agreement.
"The Vikings also want to be clear that the MSFC’s decision to replace the roof is not a long-term stadium solution and does not change the urgency to build a new multi-purpose stadium for the State and the Vikings. The Metrodome still ranks at the bottom of the NFL in terms of revenue and fan experience. It is our intent to pursue the final passage of legislation during this year’s legislative session to finance and construct a new stadium, and we are encouraged by the progress on that front." 

Vikings won't raise season-ticket prices

Posted by: Updated: February 9, 2011 - 6:48 PM
The Vikings won’t raise season-ticket prices for the second time in three years.
The decision was made with the team coming off a disappointing 6-10 finish and after the Metrodome roof collapsed in December under the weight of 17 inches of snow, causing one “home” game to be moved to Detroit and another to TCF Bank Stadium.
“There were multiple factors,” said Steve LaCroix, the Vikings Chief Marketing Officer. “We wanted to acknowledge our fan base for their patience during the process of some definite inconveniences toward the end of last season. ... We wanted to make that gesture and make sure we put them in the best spot possible to renew their tickets.”
The Vikings also did not raise season-ticket prices during tough economic times in 2009 and last year increased them by an average of 3 percent. Seats will continue to cost between $29 and $128 per game.
With the NFL’s labor deal set to expire on March 4, the Vikings also informed season-ticket holders in a letter recently sent out that they will provide a full refund if there are any preseason or regular-season home games cancelled. This is in line with a policy established by the NFL.
As for what will be done with the Dome’s roof, a recommendation on how to fix it is expected to be announced Thursday, according to officials with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The Vikings don’t want to stay in the facility long-term -- their lease expires after 2011 -- but their letter did read, “we also continue to monitor the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission’s efforts to safely repair the Metrodome roof and ensure Mall of America Field remains the team’s home stadium in 2011.”
The Vikings likely won’t announce single-game ticket prices until late spring or summer.

Frazier: Vikings considering options at QB

Posted by: Updated: February 7, 2011 - 12:14 AM

Coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings brass continues to consider its options for replacing Brett Favre and finding a potential long-term solution at quarterback. During an appearance on Mark Rosen's "Sports Sunday" show, Frazier made it clear that it hasn't been decided whether that might include looking to the free-agent market or the April draft.

"We have some time between now and the draft to kind of look at some things from a free-agent standpoint and then we'll look at some college players as well to try to make a determination: Is it better to draft a guy or is it better to maybe bring in a veteran guy to compete in training camp?" Frazier said. " ... We do not have our mind made up at all."

Frazier also indicated that Joe Webb could get a chance to compete for the job.

The QB situation was one of a variety of topics Frazier discussed with Rosen during his appearance that came on the same night Green Bay won the Super Bowl. "You have to take your hat off to them," Frazier said of the Packers. "They did a great job, had a terrific season, overcame a lot of adversity with injuries and now they are world champions."

Here are some more questions and answers from the interview.

Q. How are you and the Vikings front office approaching the offseason with so many unknowns, including the lack of a collective bargaining agreement?

Frazier: "We're trying to approach it as if things are going to get worked out. We'll find out on March 4 if that's going to be the case. [That's the day the CBA is set to expire and a lockout could begin.] If it turns out that we're able to continue on because there is an agreement in place, then we are ready to go. If that's not the case, then we'll have to be able to deal with whatever the circumstances say they are."

Q. You have a number of free agents that are going to be out there, including Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and Sidney Rice. Do you prioritize those things?

Frazier: "With our own free agents, we're able to sign our free agents [right now]. ... With our guys we're trying to put together a plan for some of them. The hard part is, without there being a CBA, you really don't know what you can talk about from a dollars and cents standpoint, so you have to be very careful."

Q. Is Joe Webb's future clearly at quarterback or is there a possibility you could move him to wide receiver?

Frazier: "Joe did some very good things for us down the stretch. Was pressed into a position of having to start in some key games. The Philadelphia game was a big game for him and for our team. We want to give him a chance to play quarterback and let him prove that he's not a quarterback. He showed some things in those two starts at the end of the season that he's capable of being a quarterback."

Q. How do you know as a coach how much time and money you want to invest in a young guy like Webb at the quarterback position? Because there are a lot of guys in the same boat around the NFL.

Frazier: "There are a lot of guys similar to Joe. But Joe has a unique skill set. The things he's able to do out of the pocket and the poise that he showed down the stretch ... you don't always see that. Especially in a rookie quarterback. So there's something there. We've just got to determine: Is it enough to help us to be in the hunt next season?"

Q. The NFC North is loaded with top quarterbacks and you are the only team that has uncertainty at the position.

Frazier: "That's one of the issues that we're dealing with. Our division is arguably now the toughest division in the league. The NFC North. When you're talking about Chicago and Green Bay playing for the NFC Championship, that tells you how tough are division is. We've got our work cut out for us and we're the one team in our division that has an unsettled quarterback situation. So we want to be able to get that fixed."

Q. Does Adrian Peterson fit the offensive philosophy that you and new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave want to install for this team as you put your stamp on this offense?

Frazier: "Without question. I think every team in our league would love to have an Adrian Peterson in their backfield. We're fortunate. We feel like he's the best running back in the National Football League. There's no greater place to start your offense than with an Adrian Peterson."

Q. Are the top flight running backs getting devalued by everyone except the coaches because this has turned into such a passing league?

Frazier: "In our situation, it's unique. I don't think there's another Adrian Peterson in the league. If Green Bay or Pittsburgh had an Adrian Peterson I'm sure they would try to feature him. But it just so happens a lot more wide receivers are available and it's tougher to find enough defensive backs sometimes to cover these wide receivers. The rules being so liberal the way they are now it kind of favors the passing game. It has made it a lot tougher to defend the pass."

Q. Is it the intention of the Vikings management to have Adrian Peterson retire as a Minnesota Viking and sign a long-term contract? Peterson's deal will void after the 2011 season.

Frazier: "I think everybody in the organization would love to see Adrian retire a Minnesota Viking. That would be ideal."

Q. How about the offensive line?

Frazier: "That's an area we'll need to address, as well as what we're doing at quarterback. We want to take a look at our offensive line as well. We had some injuries, we're getting a little bit older. That's an area we'll want to take a look at also."

Q. What's on your agenda right now? Are you meeting with the scouting department, are you looking at draft choices, are you forming the board?

Frazier: "Yeah, we're actually meeting with Rick Spielman [the Vikings' vice president of player personnel] and Scott Studwell [the Vikings' director of college scouting] and their staff and just being able to get a good handle on the college players. Most recently at the Senior Bowl, being able to watch the college players and get a feel for them and start the evaluation process. As coaches we've been kind of out of the loop on that because of what we had to do in our season. So now we get a chance to prepare for the combine [later this month in Indianapolis]. We've got to go there and be able to scout players. Eventually we'll be going to college campuses to prepare for the draft and then try to identify the guys that can help us next season."


Spielman talks QBs, free agents and more

Posted by: Updated: February 3, 2011 - 1:42 PM

Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, did an in-studio interview with KFAN's Paul Allen on Thursday morning and touched on a number of subjects.

Spielman said the personnel department and coaching staff conducted 93 interviews at the Senior Bowl recently as part of their evaluation process in preparation for the draft. Here are some of the highlights from Spielman's interview.

On whether the team has started building its draft board:
Spielman: Our scouts will be coming in a week from Sunday after the Super Bowl and we’ll go through eight days of draft meetings and that will be our first official meeting on getting that board kind of etched in oatmeal as we like to say. … It will be the first time we start laying out our game plan as we get ready for April.
On the status of negotiations with linebacker Chad Greenway:
Spielman: Chad Greenway is a very important part of our football team. Until we know what the CBA is -- if there are any rule changes, how you can structure deals – we do have 19 unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents up this year. We’re not going to be able to keep everybody. There are guys that we specifically targeted that we want to keep.
Chad Greenway is in the prime of his career and has played very well for us. But it has to fit into the piece of the puzzle and how you fit that contract into potentially having another cap. It’s not going to be an uncapped year. If there is a CBA that is put in place, it’s going to be a cap. Well, what is that cap number? How do you work it out? [Vice president of football operations] Rob Brzezinski is excellent at [knowing] how to figure it out and how to fit it into the cap but still trying to get these deals done. But right now it’s such an unknown. But we are very focused on keeping Chad Greenway with the Minnesota Vikings.
On whether the team will put franchise tag on Greenway or Sidney Rice:
Spielman: Let’s get the CBA taken care of first.
On using the franchise tag to bind unrestricted free agents for one year:
Spielman: Usually the players don’t like the franchise tag. They would rather get the long-term deal. So it’s more from their end of it, they would rather work out the long-term solution than just a one-year franchise tag even though it’s a pretty hefty number depending on the position.
On the Vikings uncertain quarterback situation:
Spielman: You have to decide, do you want to just go ahead and get a rookie if you feel that strongly about a rookie and build your foundation like some of these other teams have done? Or do you continue the process of going out and trying to get an immediate fix? Those are some of the things you have to weigh in on. But it seems like in the long run you’ll hopefully be able to take a player in the draft that you can build your franchise on and that’s going to be the foundation that you can build everything else around.
On the possibility the team drafts two quarterbacks:
Spielman: The one thing I don’t think people have talked about is some of the positive things that Joe Webb did toward the end of the season and some of the things Joe Webb did in that Philadelphia game. You see some things that are pretty unique. So you’re asking yourself if you do draft a quarterback, is Joe Webb your No. 2 quarterback going in or does he come in and compete? Will he continue to progress and utilize all the natural athletic talent that he has because he’s a very interesting prospect too.
So we’re going to have to get X amount of quarterbacks in here to compete. It’s just a matter of which direction we go. And we won’t know that until we’ve been through that total process so you can actually layout the game plan. It doesn’t mean we’re going to draft one with the 12th overall pick. This is a very deep class of rookie quarterbacks. There are some very good senior quarterbacks that are going to go in the second and third round too. You don’t want to take a quarterback if he is not valued at that 12th overall pick.
On his philosophy with the quarterback position:
Spielman: In the past four or five years, we’ve always kind of went with the philosophy of ‘getting a veteran and plugging him in, getting a veteran and plugging him in.’ You see a lot of these successful teams now, the guys that are in the Super Bowl and in the playoffs, all those guys except for [Seattle’s Matt] Hasselbeck, but most of those guys were drafted by those teams. They built that foundation. They have that rock and that foundation so you can build around that foundation.
But you don’t sprinkle holy water on a guy and he’s going to be Peyton Manning his first year. You have to go through that growing process and there are going to be some pains just like with any other rookie when you grow but especially at that position.
On defensive end Everson Griffen, who was arrested twice in three days in Los Angeles this past weekend.
Spielman: We’re well aware of the situation. I know we’re handling all of that internally and will deal with that internally. Sometimes a lot of these young kids that come out will make some poor decisions off the field. Hopefully, we’re going to handle all that internally, Leslie will handle that with the player and we’ll move forward.
On the addition of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave:
Spielman: I don’t want to get into the Xs and Os from scheme standpoint because our coaches right now are going through that process as they build the system and they understand what our personnel is and how to tailor the system to what we have from a personnel standpoint. … You have to have some kind of system in place when you call this protection, what are you going to call this run, what are you going to call this pass? But then you kind of tailor it to the type of personnel you have. Why would you have a receiver that struggles to run a slant route keep running the slant route? Utilize what he does best. I think that’s what Bill Musgrave is going to bring to the table.
On whether trading for Randy Moss was a mistake:
Spielman: I’ll keep what happened internally. But once you make an organizational decision, you have to go ahead and move on if it is a mistake. I’ll leave it at that. Could it have been handled differently? Sure. But there are a lot of things internally that will never be known publicly. But again, you look at the scenario too, if you’re built or trying to say, ‘OK, we’re all in this year,’ you’re going to do some things that you normally wouldn’t do outside the box to try and go all in this year and that ended up being a mistake.
On the possibility of an 18-game schedule:
Spielman: I know the fans would like that. There’s more meaningful games. I think the biggest thing is if we do go to an 18-game schedule, what has to be considered is do you expand the roster? Do you expand the practice squad? How do you get 53 guys – it’s hard enough getting them through a 16-game schedule. I think it would be great for the NFL, great for the league and great for the fans. But you’re also going to have to make some adjustments to have enough bodies to get you through that length of the season.

Labor uncertainty concerns CFL star

Posted by: Updated: January 27, 2011 - 8:34 AM

The Vikings have interest in signing CFL sacks leader Phillip Hunt but that doesn't mean a deal is going to get done.

Among the factors for the defensive end is the threat of an NFL work stoppage. Hunt led the CFL with 16 sacks this past season and does not want to put himself in a position where he signs a deal but then doesn't get paid when the season begins because of a lockout. At this point, a lockout stands to start in early March.

"I want a signing bonus worth enough that me and my family could live off it for the season just in case the NFL goes into a lockout or if things don't pan out and I come back to the CFL during the season," Hunt told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I want to have enough so that my family has some stability. The Bombers are a great safety net for me right now but I can't see myself putting that in jeopardy for an NFL tryout without a signing bonus.

"Me and [Bombers GM] Joe Mack have a good relationship and I know they'll take care of me in Winnipeg. I don't want to put that stress on myself where I have to go to the NFL just to make a practice roster when I've got the situation I have in Winnipeg."
Hunt, who just turned 25 and attended the University of Houston, worked out for a handful of NFL teams and has a few  interested in him. There is little doubt the success of Cameron Wake with the Miami Dolphins has helped Hunt.
Wake wasn't drafted coming out of Penn State and spent a brief time with the New York Giants before going to the CFL to play for the B.C. Lions. Moved from linebacker to defensive end, he became the two time CFL Defensive Player of the Year as he accounted for 39 sacks in two years with that team. Wake was the CFL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

He drew interest from many teams but signed a four-year, $4.9 million deal that included a $1 million signing bonus with the Dolphins in January 2009. Wake, who has moved to outside linebacker in the NFL, had 5.5 sacks in 2009 with the Dolphins but finished third in the NFL this season with 14.

The Vikings likely will need to add depth at defensive end with Ray Edwards and Brian Robison potentially headed  for unrestricted free agency, depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement.

Asked about the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Hunt at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told Viking Update: “We liked his burst and the way he gets off the football. As you know, one of the things that we’re trying to find all the time is pass rushers. He showed a propensity to be able to do that. Not that he’ll be – everybody wants to compare the Canadian guys to Cameron Wake -- but he has some qualities that we think really fit our scheme."



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