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.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier hopes to have running back Matt Asiata available for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, but Asiata was thankful on Monday to just be around his second family following a difficult two weeks.
Asiata departed to Utah last Monday to attend the funeral of his father, Pita, who passed away on Oct. 28 in a bus accident. Matt returned to the team on last Wednesday and continued to rehab his shoulder injury during Monday’s walkthrough and said it was a blessing to be back on the field.
”After my dad’s passing, it’s been hard,” Asiata said. “It’s been hard on my family, especially on my mom. I just got to be strong for them and be that son to take over my dad’s spot. I’m trying to be strong. I’m not trying to show my emotions or feelings out here on the field. I’m just trying to stay happy. When I get time to myself that’s when I start getting emotional and stuff. I’ll be good though. Being around the players, I’ll be fine.”
Asiata said he’s struggling mentally, but he feels he can’t for his family’s sake. He said he has to remained focused and be his family’s provider including in time of need. He echoed a saying his father always told him, “Family first.”
“It’s a good thing being around his second family, his teammates and the coaches in this organization,” Fraizer said. “I think that help to kind of ease some of the pain even though it’s very, very difficult.”
Asiata was one of the last players on the field after the walkthrough working with a staff member on catching passes and different blocking techniques against a punching bag as part of his rehab. He said it was the most work he’s done with the injury that has caused Asiata to miss the last three games.
He didn’t feel as gassed on Monday, but Asiata expects to regain his conditioning over time. Frazier said on Monday he’ll see if Asiata can practice on Wednesday following the off day.
Asiata doesn’t want to reinjure the shoulder and has taken precautious with the injury, but his father’s death has pushed him to return to the field.
“Before my dad’s incident, I’ve been pushing but it pushed me a lot more seeing my kids and my wife, especially my mom seeing her down,” Asiata said. “Every son hates to see their mom down like that, so I’m trying to take a big step for my family and be that older guy and be that dad.”
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson spoke to the media Monday following his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving Saturday morning, apologizing to his teammates and fans.
“I sincerely apologize for the attention that I have brought to the fans, community and myself,” Simpson said.
Simpson couldn't speak on the situation, nor on any future disciplinary action from the NFL. The team’s leader in receiving yards (491) said he spoke to the entire team on the distraction
“I’ve just got great support with this team, and they’re going to help with whatever arises,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he expects to play Sunday against the Seahawks in Seattle. He didn't give a reason when asked, and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier wasn't certain if Simpson would suit up.
"There is a point as you’re putting together the game plan you like to have some idea of a guy’s availability, so we’ll wrestle with that here in the next day or so, try to figure that out,” Frazier said.
If Simpson doesn't play Sunday, rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson would likely start and see an increase in snaps at the "X" receiver position.
"It’s not how we would have planned it, but he would have to be ready to take more snaps and contribute both on special teams as well as what we’d ask him to do on offense,” Frazier said.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested Saturday morning on probable cause DWI.
Simpson was booked into the Hennepin County Jail at 5:39 a.m.
The Vikings issued a brief statement acknowleding Simpson's arrest: "The Vikings are aware of the matter involving Jerome Simpson. We are continuing to gather information and will have further comment at the appropriate time."
An NFL spokesman said the league will review Simpson's case. The 27-year-old receiver faces possible additional punishment from the league because he was suspended for three games last year as a result of a felony drug case in Kentucky.
Simpson was sentenced to 15 days in jail plus three years probation in that case.
What's not clear is if this latest arrest might affect his probation.
The Vikings re-signed Simpson to another one-year contract this past offseason after a disappointing debut with the team in 2012. Simpson currently leads the team in receiving yards (491) and is second in catches (33).
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier gave his players three days off following Thursday's 34-27 victory against the Washington Redskins.
Simpson served 15 days last summer at the Kenton County Detention Center in Kentucky.
Simpson's punishment stemmed from a September, 2011, incident in which authorities intercepted a package containing 2.5 pounds of marijuana on its way to his Kentucky home. Police later searched Simpson's residence and found an additional 6 pounds of marijuana plus drug paraphernalia.
Originally indicted on a trafficking charge, Simpson eventually entered a guilty plea to a lesser felony charge of "being involved in a prohibited act relating to controlled substances."
Vikings players have options when they drink too much, as Kent Youngblood detailed in this story last year.
The Vikings and Redskins will take part in one of the NFL's 32 “Salute to Service” military appreciation games this season at Mall of America Field dedicated to all branches of the United States Armed Forces and current and former military personnel serving the country.
Players will have a decal representing one branch of the military on their helmets. They’ll also wear camouflage gloves and towels while the coaches wear special ribbons. All game used items will be auctioned with the proceeds donated to the league’s core military non-profit partners (USO, the Pat Tillman Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project) and also donate $100 for every point scored in all 32 “Salute to Service” games.
The Vikings will be proclaimed as a Yellow Ribbon company before the game, which unites key areas within the organization for the purpose of proactively supporting servicemembers, veterans and military families in the workplace, according to a release. They're the first professional team and the 32nd Minnesota organization to be named as a Yellow Ribbon company.
The pregame festivities also will include a cool card stunt during the national anthem to send a military appreciate message. USAA has engineered the message and assigned 50,000 cards in the seats so fans hold them up to display a patriotic message with stars and stripes.
The Vikings and USAA ask that fans be in their seats 15 minutes before kickoff to ensure full-stadium participation during the national anthem. Vikings fans can see images of the card stunt or show support for their local military with a salute at millionfansalute.com.
If pulled off properly, the message should look like this:
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said he gets nostalgic with 11-year veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams on how the NFL used to be when they started their careers.
Allen, in his 10th season in the league, said "hazing" has changed significantly since he started his career with the Chiefs in 2004 and feels the rite of passage message in having veterans establish the atmosphere in the locker room has been lost to a degree.
"From a player’s standpoint, I think some of the younger guys come in and there’s a sense of entitlement, and you lose that work ethic, you lose that true veteran-led locker room sometimes," Allen said. "You got to know who you’re dealing with. You can’t treat everyone the same. You can’t treat every rookie the same. Some guys are more sensitive than others, but it’s a sign of respect."
Allen said he knows Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who has been suspended by the team as the NFL reviews a harassment complaint from tackle Jonathan Martin, but he doesn't know the details of the situation in Miami. He said it's a terrible situation for Martin, Incognito and the team that's down two offensive linemen.
"Richie has a good heart, he really does," Allen said. "I know he's catching some heat right now, but from what I know of Richie, we've always had a good relationship. He's always been cool with my family. We have mutual friends, so it's a bad deal."
Reports on the hazing issues in Miami mention an instance where the rookies were stuck paying a $30,000 team dinner. Allen recalled during his rookie year driving 20 miles to pick up Popeyes chicken before every team flight with the Chiefs and has heard of first-round picks picking up $50,000-$60,000 tabs at the "rookie dinners" before the NFL implemented a rookie wage scale.
“It just depends on when you came in," Allen said. "Reasonable back in the day? Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard of worse. I’ve heard of less. It depends. That’s usually how it is. But usually it’s a rite of passage you go through, so as a rookie from a football standpoint you go through stuff and that’s what kind of brings you together as a team."
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has a policy against hazing with the players, and players have to tread lightly with a rookie.
"We do little things like, ‘Go get me coffee,’" Allen said. "Nothing too crazy, but I appreciate it going through that because I had the respect of the vets. Then when it’s your turn, you don’t feel so bad giving it to someone else."
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