Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Geji McKinney will be taking plenty of hot sauce and Southern spices. Dennis Ryan is packing up 20,000 pounds of equipment. Luther Hippe has ensured every player has a passport and that ESPN will be available in the hotel.
It’s taken tremendous effort for the Vikings to prepare for their home-away-from-home game in London on Sept. 29. Friday, several members of the team’s staff—including food service director McKinney, equipment manager Ryan and director of operations/team travel Hippe—discussed some of the groundwork behind the NFL International Series game against Pittsburgh at Wembley Stadium.
The object, they said, is to keep the game-week experience as similar as possible to the normal routine. McKinney will ensure their food tastes the same, while Ryan will see that everyone has their favorite items, right down to the proper brand of coffee. Some staff members already have inspected the facilities and said everything from the hotel to the practice field is top-notch.
“I got an opportunity to fly over there in March, and the reception we got was just incredible,’’ Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “From the NFL and what they’ve put together, from the people of London and how supportive they were, from every venue we looked at, they just rolled out the red carpet. You can tell it’s a very important event.’’
The Vikings will take their entire staff, along with the cheerleaders and mascot. Because it is a home game, the team plans to turn Wembley into a transatlantic twin of the Metrodome, using the same banners, music and video they do at their usual home field.
Some of the special events revealed Friday include a fan rally on Regent Street, which corporate sales manager Tanya Dreesen said is expected to draw 600,000 people. There also will be a giant tailgate party at Wembley, and Gene Simmons of KISS will sing the American national anthem.
Several representatives of tourism and trade groups from Minnesota and the Twin Cities also will be on the trip, using it as a promotional opportunity.
Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs, said season-ticket holders are responding enthusiastically, and the team has sold more tickets than any other that has participated in the seven-year history of the event.
The NFL announced Tuesday that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $100,000 for his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan on Sunday.
Suh, who has a history of cheap shots, avoids a suspension. He was informed of his punishment by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks.
Suh dived at Sullivan's knees on an interception return in the second quarter. Sullivan was behind the play and had no chance of catching Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The penalty negated a touchdown. The league "prohibits blocks below the waist by players of either team after a change of possession."
Sullivan limped off the field but was able to return the next series. He escaped with only a knee contusion and is expected to play this week.
Suh apologized to Sullivan before the start of the season half.
"He said there was no intent to injure," Sullivan said Monday.
Asked if he believed Suh, Sullivan said, "I think guys get caught up in the play sometimes and sometimes things happen. It’s hard to even remember what you do when you get caught up in the moment. I appreciate the fact that he said something to me.”
Update: The Vikings made some practice squad changes, putting running back Joe Banyard back on the practice squad and releasing defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo and running back Bradley Randle from the practice squad.
The Vikings finished their preseason with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night and now comes the hard part.
The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Leslie Frazier, his coaching staff and general manager Rick Spielman will meet today to begin setting the final roster.
The team could begin informing players today but the Vikings won't announce the moves officially until Saturday afternoon.
These two days are anxious times for players on the bubble.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said of releasing players. "When you sit down and realize that for a lot of the guys that played tonight, they will probably never wear an NFL uniform again and we have to sit down and discuss who those guys might be. When you sit down with them on that Saturday, or Friday, they come by the office and you explain to them their career in Minnesota for sure is going to be over, and there’s a possibility it may be over for good, it can get emotional."
Spielman has final say over roster decisions, but Frazier said personnel matters are a collaborative effort with the coaching staff.
"Rick is going to give his input and I’m going to share my input, but he is going to make that final decision," Frazier said. "One of the things that he’s learned and I’ve learned is that you don’t want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are totally against it. It’s hard if as a coach, you have to get this guy going and so on and then you don’t necessarily believe in it. It’s a tough deal, but we’ve been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk about what needs to be done and what’s best for our football team. Whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we have always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
Asked if he has a chip he can use if he wants a certain player, Frazier laughed.
Blair Walsh kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give the Vikings a 24-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans at the Metrodome on Thursday night, helping the Vikings avoid a winless preseason.
Marcus Sherels' 109 yard kickoff return to start the second half was the game's highlight play.
Sherels' return gave the Vikings a 21-17 lead, but the Titans got field goals of 30 and 24 yards from Rob Bironas to take a 23-21 lead.
Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with 7:36 remaining.
But led by quarterback Bethel McLeod-Thompson, the Vikings drove to set up Walsh's winning kick in the final minutes.
Tennessee got the ball back but a botched snap was recovered by the Vikings' Collins Ukwu with 53 seconds left.
Rusty Smith hit Jack Doyle with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the first half to give Tennessee a 17-14 halftime lead.
Bethel-Thompson connected with Joe Banyard for an 11-yard scoring pass two minutes before Doyle's TD to give the Vikings a short-lived 14-10 lead.
The Banyard TD came shortly after Vikings guard Seth Olsen was taken off the field on a stretcher. Olsen appeared to hit his head on the knee of a Titans player while blocking, snapping his head back a bit. Olsen was strapped to a board before being wheeled off on the stretcher, but did give a thumbs up to the crowd. The Vikings said Olsen had a neck injury.
Cornerback Bobby Felder also left the game because of an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Felder is in a battle with Sherels to make the team at both cornerback and punt returner.
The Titans scored in the first half on a 28-yard field goal by Bironas and a 17-yard pass from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Justin Hunter. The Vikings' first touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Matt Asiata, who had eight carries for 32 yards in the opening drive.
The Vikings' offensive and defensive starters did not play. They wore their uniforms, but did not bring their helmets or shoulder pads.
The team must cut its roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 5 p.m. The regular season opens at Detroit on Sept. 8.
The Vikings, who have their final preseason game against Tennessee tonight at 7 at the Metrodome, will have to cut their roster to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The eight-man practice squad can be formed from eligible players after those players clear waivers. In general, practice squad-eligible players haven’t been active for more than eight NFL games and can’t be on the practice squad for more than two years. So, yeah, the Vikings can’t stash Joe Webb on that practice squad, folks.
Here is the Vikings’ unofficial depth chart. Feel free to make yourself part of the team’s staff and figure out which 22 players you can whack to get to 53. Keep in mind you will have the practice squad, which means there are 61 guys around, but it’s often hard for teams to sneak rookies through waivers, so be careful about your cuts.
VIKINGS DEPTH CHART
WR: Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson*, Joe Webb, Rodney Smith*
LT: Matt Kalil, Kevin Murphy, DeMarcus Love
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca*
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger
RG: Brandon Fusco, Seth Olsen, Travis Bond*
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith, Troy Kropog
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, Colin Anderson*
WR: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Adam Thielen*
QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
FB: Jerome Felton, Zach Line*
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard
LE: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud*
UT: Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd*, Everett Dawkins*, Spencer Nealy*
RE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, Collins Ukwu*
SLB: Chad Greenway, Larry Dean
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti*
WLB: Marvin Mitchell, Desmond Bishop, Tyrone McKenzie, Gerald Hodges*
LCB: Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes*, Marcus Sherels
RCB: Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Bobby Felder
SS: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Andrew Sendejo, Darius Eubanks*
FS: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Brandan Bishop*
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
P: Jeff Locke*
K: Blair Walsh
LS: Cullen Loeffler
KEEP IN MIND: RETURN DEPTH CHART
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson*, Marcus Sherels, Stephen Burton, A.J. Jefferson
PR: Marcus Sherels, Bobby Felder, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton
Note: DT Christian Ballard (Active/Left Squad) does not count on the current roster; Felton will start the season with a three-game suspension and will not count against the 53-man roster.
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