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.
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s Week 6 game with Chicago at Soldier Field, here’s a look at five eye-opening numbers.
The inactive list has been released here at Mall of America Field. And for the Vikings, the quest to stop Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald has just gotten a little tougher. After not practicing all week, cornerback Antoine Winfield will not play this afternoon, held out as he deals with a neck injury he suffered last weekend in Kansas City. Winfield's injury is said to be muscular in nature. The cornerback had significant stiffness in his neck all week. And while it improved throughout the week, it hasn't healed to the point where he will play this afternoon.
As for punter Chris Kluwe, his hamstring injury isn't bothersome enough to keep him out of action this afternoon. Kluwe hasn't missed a game since 2005.
And then there's Berrian, a surprise addition to the inactive list today. The struggling wideout has only two catches this season and last week found himself in the middle of a Twitter controversy after he engaged in a feisty back-and-forth with state representative John Kriesel. It is unclear yet whether today's move to keep him inactive is due to disciplinary action.
Michael Jenkins should likely start in Berrian's place today against a vulnerable Cardinals secondary. Berrian played in all 16 games for the Vikings in 2009 and missed two games in 2010 with a groin injury. Today, however, appears to be the first time he will be inactive as a healthy scratch.
Other inactives for the Vikings are Mistral Raymond, Xavier Adibi, Brandon Fusco, DeMarcus Love and D'Aundre Reed.
Ah, yes. Twitter controversies.
Let’s be honest. They’re always a little entertaining, a bit awkward and mostly nonsensical. And today’s case of Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian vs. state representative John Kriesel fits all the above criteria.
It started Sunday night when, through the Tweetosphere, Kriesel openly mocked Berrian’s self-evaluation that his lack of production the past four seasons hasn’t been the result of getting open. Tweeted Kriesel: “If you want to follow a hilarious twitter account, try @B_Twice who says that he’s open a lot and should get the ball more.”
When Berrian snapped back, thinking that Kriesel was just another negative fan and not realizing he was a state legislator with his hands in the Vikings’ efforts to get a new stadium, the media machine of 2011 had all the requisite pieces to assemble a fun-to-talk-about (if certainly overblown) controversy.
This afternoon, in a phone call with the Star Tribune, Kriesel didn’t seem offended by the edgy back-and-forth with Berrian and expressed amazement at how big of a deal the story had quickly become. Later, Berrian met with reporters in the Vikings locker room. And while amused by the hullabaloo, he also grew quite testy at times when discussing the Twitter war.
“I wouldn’t really say it was a war,” Berrian said. “Nobody got shot. Just some friendly words going back and forth between two people.”
Among the highlights of Berrian’s Monday afternoon address:
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier sees a mixed bag with his team, an 0-4 squad Frazier feels is "on the verge of getting things turned" but which needs to clean up its effort in several key areas to do so. Yet while Frazier said Monday afternoon at his press conference that he was considering some personnel changes, no shake-up was on the itinerary at quarterback where Donovan McNabb will be the starter Sunday at Mall of America Field against Arizona.
Said Frazier: "Based on these four games we've had this season, we're not at a point where we're making a quarterback change. There are a lot of things that we need to correct on our football team based on the fact that we're 0-4. But at this point, a quarterback change isn't one of those changes."
Frazier said he liked some of the progress McNabb made in Sunday's 22-17 loss at Kansas City. McNabb was 18-for-30 for 202 yards with two TD passes and an interception. McNabb connected in the first quarter on a 34-yard scoring strike to Devin Aromashodu and added a 1-yard touchdown toss to Michael Jenkins in the fourth quarter.
"If you look at Donovan's performance on Sunday, there was much more consistency in some of his throws," Frazier said. "Plus, he hit that play with Devin. That was a big play for us, something we've been hoping to do from the beginning of the season. We finally got one and hope to see more of that to come."
Translation: for this week anyway, the Christian Ponder Watch across the Twin Cities will remain on hold.
Berrian apologizes for Twiter exchange, Kriesel 'over it': Frazier said wide receiver Bernard Berrian reached out to state Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove) after the two had an uncomfortable war of words on Twitter on Sunday evening. According to Frazier, Bernard called Kriesel with a formal apology for the exchange, a wise move considering that Kriesel is a co-sponsor of the Vikings stadium bill.
"That was encouraging," Frazier said. "We want to make sure that our focus is on football and trying to win football games. And I think going forward, [Bernard] will handle things the right way."
When reached by the Star Tribune on his cell phone about the tiff, Kriesel said he had gotten a voice message from Berrian and thought the whole thing had gotten blown out of proportion.
"I'm shocked that this is one of the bigger stories of the day," said Kriesel, a proponent of a new Vikings stadium. "But that be life in Minnesota with the Vikings, just one of those things."
Johnson dealing with triceps injury:
Left tackle Charlie Johnson missed the final series of Sunday's loss in Kansas City but, according to Frazier, should be clear for practice this week. Johnson was injured on Minnesota's fourth quarter touchdown drive, saying after the game that he had hurt his elbow. Frazier said Monday it was a triceps issue that shouldn't limit the veteran tackle this week.
Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian doubled his season reception total Sunday. His second catch of the year came in the fourth quarter of a 22-17 loss at Kansas City, a key 20-yard grab on fourth down that kept the Vikings’ final touchdown drive alive. But to hear Berrian tell it, his unimpressive numbers for the 2011 season (two catches, 37 yards) are misleading and not a true indication of how often he has gotten open this season.
But then when a Vikings fan on Twitter – and not just any fan, but John Kriesel, a state representative – laughed at Berrian’s assertion, the veteran wide receiver did little to change the perception that he can be exceptionally thin-skinned, firing back from his @B_Twice Twitter account.
Tweeted Kriesel from his @johnkriesel account: “If you want to follow a hilarious twitter account, try @B_Twice (Bernard Berrian) who says that he’s open a lot and should get the ball more.”
Responded Berrian: "@johnkriesel Anytime u wanna watch the film with me. Not just one game but all of them. And if not sit down n shut up!!”
Turns out Kriesel is a veteran of the Iraq war and has had both of his legs amputated. So needless to say Berrian has drawn significant heat for the exchange already, not only for the insensitivity of his comments but even more so for his petulance and inability to block out outside criticism.
Late last week, Berrian had told the Star Tribune that the criticism was “getting easier and easier to deal with.”
“I hate to say this,” Berrian explained. "But it’s almost like you get used to it. Look, I can only control what I can do. And I can’t let myself get stressed out over things that I can’t control.”
This most reason Twitter outburst however seems to indicate otherwise. And it’s yet another sign that the frustrations of the Vikings’ 0-4 start are beginning to boil over.
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