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 Kevin Williams

Williams good to go for Sunday's game in Chicago

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 13, 2013 - 2:55 PM

Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams missed today's practice to tend to a personal matter, but his knee is good to go on Sunday in Chicago, coach Leslie Frazier said after practice.

"[Missing practice] has nothing to do with him physically," Frazier said. "He should be ready to go on Sunday."

Williams, who suffered a severely strained right knee in the third preseason game, missed the season opener at Detroit. The Lions won 34-24 and were able to run well between the tackles with running back Reggie Bush, who averaged 4.3 yards on 21 carries.

Williams was listed as probable. The Vikings listed six other players as probable. The only one with limited participation in today's practice was center John Sullivan (knee). Listed as probable with full participation were: LB Larry Dean (shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (heel), RT Phil Loadholt (knee), S Mistral Raymond (shoulder) and CB Josh Robinson (quadriceps).

For the Bears, CB Charles Tillman (knee) and DE Julius Peppers (illness) were listed as probable. Peppers was limited in practice. Tillman had full participation.

Kevin Williams says knee `feels great' after limited practice participation

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 11, 2013 - 4:16 PM

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams walked off the practice field after limited participation and gave a positive report on his first practice since suffering a severely strained right knee in the third preseason game at San Francisco.

"We went out to see how it felt," he said. "And it felt great."

But that's not the end of it. Not yet.

"Questions?" Williams said when asked if there were any questions that he would play on Sunday at Chicago. "I'll tell you tomorrow. Hopefully, it won't be sore tomorrow and we'll go from there."

If Williams gets up Thursday with unusual soreness, the Vikings are likely to back off and not practice him on Thursday. If he's not too sore, the Vikings will ramp up his work when they put the pads on for an afternoon practice. Either way, he'll only be limited in Thursday's practice.

"[Thursday morning] is pretty much the key," Williams said.

Also on today's injury report as being limited were cornerback Josh Robinson (quadriceps), center John Sullivan (knee) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee). Those three are expected to play on Sunday.

Two starters -- middle linebacker Erin Henderson (heel) and strong safety Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) -- are on the injury report but had full particpation in today's practice.

Frazier insists Vikings players aren't pointing fingers at Ponder

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: September 11, 2013 - 1:15 PM

Not only did Leslie Frazier reassert his faith in Christian Ponder, the Vikings coach made sure to point out that the rest of his players aren't pointing fingers at the starting quarterback after Sunday's four-turnover performance in a 34-24 season-opening loss at Detroit.

"On Sunday, it was not all about Christian," Frazier said Wednesday as the Vikings amped up their preparation for Sunday's game at Chicago. "He had his mistakes. But the fact is the quarterback position is much more magnified. He just happens to play the position with the most scrutiny. We had other guys, trust me, that when we watched the tape, the scrutiny that needed to be had in those moments, they are well aware that they have to play better. They're not looking only at our quarterback and saying, `If he had done this or that, we would have won that ballgame.' We need to play better across the board."

Those hoping for a quick hook on Ponder can fahgedaboutit, too.

"You don't want to say that you can't get this turned and going in the right direction after just one week," Frazier said. "I just don't think that would be wise."

Frazier also pointed to the team's 4-0 playoff push to end last season -- particularly the playoff-clinching 37-34 win over the Packers -- as proof that Ponder has gotten the job done before.

"That Green Bay game at the end of the year, that was a terrific performance by Christian," Frazier said. "So we've seen him do it on repeated occasions. Consistent play is what we're looking for. We need a good week this week.

"[Ponder's] body of work is somewhat limited. [Sunday] was his second start on opening day and his first on the road [on opening day] a week ago. I have seen him make throws on the run. I have seen him make plays in the pocket, out of the pocket. All you have to do is throw in a tape from last December. There were a number of moments like that. We need consistent good quarterback play for our offense to thrive and for our team to be successful. Christian knows that as well as anybody. There are certain things we can't do. Our margin of error is small. So if we're turning the ball over, it just shrinks our opportunity to win. But I have seen him him make those plays in and out of the pocket."

Frazier, however, did point out that Ponder has to improve his play when things break down around him.

"Not every pocket is going to be clean in the NFL," Frazier said.

Ponder opened his weekly press conference today by saying what 99.9999 percent of all players coming off a loss say to the media. Here's part of the opening statement:

"Well, the good thing about football, especially the NFL, is you got to move on quickly," Ponder said. "Watching the film Monday and Sunday night, a lot of things are easily correctable. We'll get them fixed. We're too good of a team to be making those mistakes. We have to establish the run better. ... And we can't turn the ball over.

"There are things I can do better. That everybody can do better. The running back, the receivers. It's something as an offense, we correct as a whole."

Ponder also subtly dropped in a reference to last year's season-opener in which he directed a long, game-tying drive as time expired against visiting Jacksonville. The Vikings went on to win in overtime.

Asked when he felt the Lions game got away from the Vikings, Ponder said, "The feeling that it got away from us never happened. it was just a couple of bad mistakes. ... We were into it until the very end. We still had time with a couple of minutes left to score two touchdowns. We won a game with 14 seconds left where we had to drive 80 yards or whatever to get a field goal and we did that. So I don't think a game is really ever out of our reach."

In other news, Frazier said everyone is expected to practice today. That includes defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who missed the opener because of a badly strained knee, and center John Sullivan, whose left knee was chopped by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh during an interception return. Sullivan finished the game. Suh did, too, but his wallet ultimately got lighter by 100 grand when the league fined him on Tuesday.

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

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