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.


Posts about Jared Allen

Allen's ankle injury not serious

Posted by: Updated: August 7, 2013 - 12:44 PM

After rolling his ankle late in Tuesday afternoon's practice, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen returned to the field Wednesday morning for the team's walk-through, moving without much of a limp. Head coach Leslie Frazier said Allen's ankle injury was not serious. Nor was Harrison Smith's knee injury. The second-year safety twisted a knee on Tuesday.

That's big news for the Vikings, who will need both Allen and Smith to be major contributors on defense this season.

Meanwhile, both cornerback Xavier Rhodes and linebacker Desmond Bishop continue to ease back from hamstring injuries. Both players are expected to do some light work this afternoon, though neither figures to play Friday night in the first preseason game.

The Vikings will return to the field at 2:30 p.m. for their final practice of this week. Their preseason opener comes Friday night at Mall of America Field against Houston.

Jared Allen excited about Vikings' d-line depth, still not eager for rotation

Posted by: Updated: August 6, 2013 - 1:18 PM
Jared Allen has one predominant wish for Friday’s preseason opener against Houston at Mall of America Field.
 
“I’m hoping I’m not playing. I can have a day off,” Allen said.
 
In August, that’s status quo for the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end. But once September rolls around, Allen continues to make it clear he has little desire to come off the field unless absolutely necessary. So while chatter continues to swirl about the Vikings’ defensive line depth and the impressive rotation that might blossom because of it, Allen hopes all the in-and-out switching occurs elsewhere.
 
“For six years I’ve been facing this question: Am I rotating?” Allen said. “And I think I’ve won the battle most of the time. So we’ll see.”
 
In five seasons with the Vikings, Allen has averaged 15 sacks. Coming off a 2012 season in which he was slowed by injuries to his left shoulder and right knee, Allen feels refreshed and is eager to return to top form. So maybe Everson Griffen, whom the coaching staff believes has earned more playing time, will need to find his openings at left end behind Brian Robison or inside as a nickel rusher in pass situations.
 
“That’ll be up to the coaches to make that decision and guys to handle it how they handle it,” Allen said. “I think we have an ability to fill in and do some things pass rush-wise that are pretty special.”
 
Allen said the first Vikings’ defense he played on alongside Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Ray Edwards was special. But this unit, he believes, has the potential to be the best he’s ever been a part of because of all the quality depth. At present, Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Fred Evans and Lawrence Jackson are all back-ups.
 
“This is how good teams stay good and develop,” Allen said. “I always look at the Steelers. They seem to continue to create new guys in their system. And our defensive line in Minnesota has always been kind of a staple."
 
The Vikings’ depth up front should force opposing offenses into a “pick your poison” scenario, creating favorable one-on-one opportunities.
 
“You can’t focus on one person on this defensive line. I think everybody along that line is capable of making an impact on the game. That’s where our advantage is. So as far as who’s going to rush where, what, why, how, that to me isn’t a big thing. The advantage is the mismatches we can create when offenses choose to take one person away. And now another guy has to win. And we have the ability to.”
 
Still, Allen hopes the rotation concept on the d-line doesn’t become a rhythm disrupter.
 
“When you rotate too many people, if I don’t know where you’re going to be, I can’t rush the way I want to rush,” Allen said. “Half the time you’ll get a sack, because you’re playing off of somebody. For example, I know within the first couple steps where Kevin is going to be. So I can adjust my rush accordingly. … That’s the feel you get and that’s the complications you get when you put too many people in. And that’s where I think guys say I need this rhythm. I need to know where people are at.”

Vikings training camp snapshot: Defensive line

Posted by: Updated: July 26, 2013 - 12:41 AM

Aaaaand …. here we go! In many ways, the Vikings’ 2013 season officially gets underway Friday – first training camp walkthrough at 10:30 a.m., first practice at 2:45 in Mankato. And yes we know a lot can and will happen between now and Sept. 8, the day the Vikings open the regular season at Detroit. But taking the 90 players currently on the roster, we’re delivering our in-depth position-by-position report as a primer for the opening of camp.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Currently on roster: 16

Likely to make opening day roster: 9

Certain to make the team: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans

On the bubble: Christian Ballard, Lawrence Jackson, Everett Dawkins, D’Aundre Reed, George Johnson

Practice squad candidates: Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud

Camp depth: Collins Ukwu, Marquis Jackson

Biggest offseason developments: The Vikings were stunned when star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, widely projected as a top 5 pick for April’s draft, was still on the board when they came on the clock at No. 23. They didn’t hesitate a second in making Floyd their top pick, the first of three first-rounders they nabbed. … The Vikings also restructured the contract of defensive tackle Kevin Williams, reducing his 2013 pay by $2 million and eliminating the 2014 season from his current deal.

What we’ll be watching: Allen and Robison were each hampered significantly in 2012 by injuries. Allen dealt with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus issue in his left knee for most of the season. And Robison played through an elbow injury for most of the year before a severely sprained shoulder hindered his mobility even more for the final two regular season games and the playoffs.

Those physical setbacks were a partial reason the team’s sack total dipped from 50 in 2011 to 44 last season. But now both veteran ends feel as if they are back at full strength and aiming to stay as fresh as they can.

Allen’s disdain for the dog days of training camp are well documented. And he figures to add at least a couple of quips weekly to reinforce those sentiments. So it won’t be a surprise if the coaching staff ends up giving Allen several afternoons off during the stay in Mankato to keep him fresh physically and mentally.

On the interior, once the pads come on, we’ll be eager to see just how quickly Floyd adapts and excels in the middle of the defense. And it will also be a big camp for Guion, the incumbent starter at nose tackle who will have to fend off Evans to retain that role.

Star Tribune offseason excerpt:

All in all, Allen feels terrific. He’s re-energized. He’s dedicated. He’s eyeing a dominant 2013 and believes he has three or four more good seasons left.

But there is also an intriguing subplot lurking.

In April, Allen turned 31. Two months earlier, he had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus problem in his right knee. And, oh yeah, he has entered the final year in his six-year contract.

So with all factors considered, could this really be Jared Allen’s last season as a Minnesota Viking? A farewell tour?

To be clear, that’s not Allen’s desire. But it could be his reality. Which is why he refuses to spend much time thinking about life beyond January.

“I pray about it,” Allen said. “I talk to my wife. And we’ll end up going where the good Lord takes us. But I don’t know where that path is headed.”

-- May 24

Vikings QB Christian Ponder sharpening decision-making as OTAs wrap up

Posted by: Updated: June 12, 2013 - 3:48 PM

 The Vikings will hold their 10th and final Organized Team Activity on Thursday at Winter Park before reconvening next week for a three-day mini-camp. And as the offseason program enters the finishing stretch, third-year quarterback Christian Ponder continues zeroing in on making good reads more consistently.

On Wednesday afternoon, before teeing off at the team’s annual golf outing, an event that benefits the Vikings’ Children’s Fund, Ponder was asked how he’s measuring himself during this OTA stretch.“

The biggest thing is decision making,” he said. “Obviously you want to complete as many balls as possible, especially in things like 7-on-7. But we’re being put into some hard situations as well. Third-and-long. Blitz. A lot of blitz drills and everything. So it’s tough. I think the defense definitely has the upper hand in these drills. But it’s good for us to see that. And it makes the quarterback make smart decisions and get the ball out quick. So you want to see completions and the right decisions.”

Ponder knows the bar has been raised for him in his third year as a starter. And with back-up Matt Cassel now in the picture, his leash might not be quite as long in 2013 if his struggles are extreme. Still, the Vikings quarterback said the key in May and June is to feel things out within the offense without feeling exorbitant pressure.

“This is a time for us as an offense to just try a bunch of new stuff and see what sticks and see what we like,” Ponder said. “And there are a lot of new plays going in and everything. So it’s a fun time. It’s fun to try out quirky plays and see what the defense does. And the defense is doing the same thing, running funky coverages and everything. But our mindset is we want to get better every day and see a progression heading into training camp.”

Injury update

On the injury front, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier reported that Chad Greenway’s Thursday morning arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left knee went well as expected. Greenway will be out of action until training camp begins in late July.

Fellow linebacker Nate Williams, signed in April as an undrafted free agent, has also undergone minor ankle surgery and, according to Frazier, will be sidelined until camp opens in Mankato as well.

The Vikings have their share of injuries to keep tabs on, especially with Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen continuing rehabilitation on his left shoulder in which he had a labrum tear repaired shortly after last season ended. Allen has been at Winter Park the past two weeks but not on the practice field. And he won’t be back in action during mini-camp next week either.

But Frazier said Wednesday he anticipated very few injury issues to still be a concern when the team reports to Mankato. The longest shot to be ready may be second-year receiver Greg Childs, who continues attacking his recovery from torn patellar tendons in both knees.

Frazier said after Tuesday’s practice that he isn’t certain how quickly Childs will receive medical clearance to return to full action but won’t rule out the receiver getting back to practice early in training camp.

"I have my fingers crossed, hoping that that will happen," Frazier said. "I'm waiting on [head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman and our medical staff to give us the green light. But that would be my hope. We'll see what happens. I'm not sure what direction it will go."

Center of attention

On Wednesday, Frazier also noted that the team is closely monitoring the progress of standout center John Sullivan, who had microfracture surgery on his left knee.

In Sullivan’s absence during OTAs, the Vikings have tinkered with back-up plans at center. Veteran Joe Berger has seen work there. In addition, Brandon Fusco, who started all 16 games at right guard and is the expected starter there for 2013, has also handled snaps.

“We don’t see any problems with Sully being ready to go,” Frazier said. “But you want to make sure that you have other guys prepared.”

Fusco was a center during his college career at Slippery Rock and could be an option at the position if Sullivan’s recovery was to hit an unforeseen snag or if he had any lingering knee issues that sidelined him during the season.

Sliding Fusco to center, of course, would then open up the competition at right guard where rookies Jeff Baca and Travis Bond as well as veteran Seth Olsen could figure into the mix.

Still, Frazier believes Sullivan’s recuperation will stay on track which would give the Vikings the luxury of opening training camp with the same starting offensive line that started all 16 games last year.

“We’ve still got to see a little more progress out of John Sullivan,” Frazier said. “He’s making progress. But we want to continue to see that. … You just want to see him continue to gain confidence and not be worried about the surgery but just move on. And he’s making progress. From everything that Eric Sugarman tells me, he’s on target. He’s moving in the right direction. And we’ve got enough time for him to continue to improve. Hopefully when we get started, he’ll be able to go full go right away.”

Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway will have minor knee surgery Wednesday

Posted by: Updated: June 11, 2013 - 1:39 PM
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway will be sidelined until the start of training camp as he prepares to have minor arthroscopic knee surgery. Greenway, who missed Tuesday's Organized Team Activities at Winter Park, will undergo the procedure on Wednesday and will miss the rest of this week’s OTAs as well as next week’s three-day mini-camp.
 
Said coach Leslie Frazier: “He had a little tension in his knee. ... Just some tenderness in the knee. And we ended up doing an MRI and saw some things in there that we thought we needed to go in and clean up.  And that’s what we’re going to do.”
 
The Vikings are due to report to Mankato for training camp on July 25 with practice opening the following day. All expectations are that Greenway will be back at full strength by then.
 
"We just wanted to get it done now," Frazier said, "rather than run into a situation when we get to camp where it continued to bother him and then there'd be some issues that we'd have to deal with there."
 
Among the other big names who missed Tuesday's OTA work:
  • Jared Allen was present at Winter Park but worked inside with the training staff as he continues rehabilitating his shoulder.
  • Adrian Peterson was also present but given the day off by the coaching staff. Peterson worked out inside the building.
  • Greg Jennings, who was absent and out of town Tuesday.

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