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 defensive end Ray Edwards has settled on an opponent for his second professional fight.
Edwards (1-0) will go against Larry Butler (1-0) in a heavyweight bout on June 24 at Grand Casino Hinckley. Edwards and Butler both won their fights on May 20, with Edwards beating T.J. Gibson and Butler defeating Van Goodman on the undercard.
Edwards’ fight will be the featured bout on a scheduled six-fight card promoted by Justin Seurer’s Midwest Sports Council in association with Bob Stein’s RDS Company.
Fights will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Casino Hinckley Event Center. Tickets are on sale and will range from $30 to $100. They can be purchased by going to www.ticketmaster.com.
The weigh-ins will be held on June 23 at Grand Casino Hinckley and will be open to the public.
Getting a read on how NFL players feel about the lockout is a bit difficult at this point.
Those who have said they are thoroughly enjoying the down time appear to be having their words used against them by a league that is trying to make a point that judge Susan Richard Nelson was in error when she said players were suffering irreparable harm because of the lockout.
The reality, however, is no games have been missed and most veteran players aren't going to complain about being "forced" to skip Organized Team Activities and minicamp. Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who attended Ray Edwards' professional boxing debut last Friday in Hinckley, Minn., said he has been able to travel much more than usual and also has enjoyed additional time with his family.
So when would Winfield like to see the lockout end?
"If we don’t miss any games, if we get this deal done right before Sept. 11 or whenever we play our first game, it would be perfect with me," said Winfield, who will turn 34 on June 24 and is a veteran of 12 NFL seasons. " ... After being in the league 10-plus years, this will be my 13th year, I wouldn’t mind missing training camp.”
Keep in mind, players don't begin to get their weekly checks until the regular season begins.
The well-conditioned Winfield certainly has not let himself go at all during the work stoppage. He has continued to train in the Twin Cities and is working out four days a week and running three of those days. If anything, he sees the break from actual on-the-field activity as an opportunity to give his body a bit of a rest.
Winfield does not seem concerned that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and some others aren't getting time to work in OTAs or minicamps.
“I think a lot of that is overrated," Winfield said. "You do a little at OTAs and then minicamp during the offseason, but once you get into training camp that’s when you get into the groove and you take that into the preseason. But if it starts to get into training camp and the preseason then I’ll be a little worried.”
As for the specifics of what's going on during the lockout, Winfield said he checks the Internet "every now and then" for updates but for the most part isn't paying much attention.
"I think they’ll get something done," he said. "We still have some time left. We haven’t missed any games. I would like to get it done after training camp, but we’ll see what happens.”
HINCKLEY, MINN. -- A running account of Ray Edwards four-round heavyweight fight against T.J. Gibson. Edwards is wearing red trunks with black trim and had a boxing robe that said "The Cincinnati Kid" on the back.
Edwards (6-foot-5) knocked down the much-shorter Gibson (5-9) with a right-left combo in the biggest development of the round. Both fighters exchanged punches early on. Edwards won that round on the Star Tribune card.
Tough to call that round but Gibson held his own. Gibson took a left hook to the jaw that appeared to hurt him. Hard to call that round but easily could have gone to Gibson. (Turns out, it didn't.)
That wasn't much of a round but Edwards scored more points and the round goes to him.
Edwards used a left hook to knock Gibson nearly out of the ring toward the end of the fight. Edwards and Gibson exchanged punches to end things.
Edwards wins in a unanimous decision by scores of 40-34, 39-35, 40-34.
I am certainly not a boxing expert, but it should come as no surprise that Edwards remains very much a work in progress as a boxer. It will be interesting to see who he ends up facing on June 24 in his next fight. That also is scheduled to be at Grand Casino Hinckley and if the opponent is a step up from Gibson (both in size and in quality) Edwards is going to need to be an improved boxer at that point.
Nonetheless, Edwards recorded two knock downs in this fight.
Edwards on what went well: "I definitely stayed behind my jab and just keep working. He got a couple of good shots off and [it was] a little rougher than I expected but I rush 300-pound guys all day so I'm used to it. Guys trying to be rough."
Edwards on seeing a number of his teammates: "I didn't see them really until after the fight. I tried to stay focused as I was heading into the ring."
Gibson on Edwards' height advantage: "His height advantage did make a difference. But I came in there to fight. Other than that, it was just like any other fight. The punches seemed like any other guy."
Gibson on Edwards' potential future in boxing: "He's a going to be a great fighter if he keeps it up."
Edwards' trainer, Jeff Warner, on the potential the boxer will face one-time street fighter Kimbo Slice: "I have no idea [if that will happen]. I don't know if they want to fight MMA or fight in a back alley. I have no idea. But whatever they want to do, we're just going to keep training right now and just keep going forward. We want to fight boxers because Ray is going to be a boxer. Bottom line is he's a great football player and he's a great boxer. He's going to do both. I just want him boxing, I want him working off his jab and moving. There were times out there he looked incredible tonight and there were times he looked rough. I'm goinng to be honest with you. I'm not happy. We're going to go back and we're going to work hard on Monday, we're going to work on some things. But overall I was happy. He did about 75 percent of his ability."
Warner said he has not been approached by anybody from the Kimbo Slice camp. There was an earlier report that Slice's promoter had issued a challenge to the Edwards camp. "If they want to call me, give me a holler, we'll sit down and the bottom line is you put some numbers together we'll do it," Warner said.
As for Edwards' next opponent, Warner said it would be good to have that set a few weeks in advance. "Just in case it's a southpaw or something different so we can train for it," Warner said. "But we train for everything."
HINCKLEY, MINN -- Ray Edwards has not gotten into the ring yet this evening at Grand Casino, but he will find he has plenty of support from Vikings players when he does.
Edwards, who has made it clear he has no intention of returning to the Vikings next season, will be making his pro boxing debut in front of many current and potential former Vikings. That list includes defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams and Fred Evans, linebackers E.J. Henderson and Jasper Brinkley, cornerback Antoine Winfield, safety Eric Frampton, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and former Vikings defensive end Jayme Mitchell.
The NFL lockout has brought league activity to a halt and means all of these players have been left to work out on their own. Guys like Edwards don't know if they will be unrestricted or restricted free agents when a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
Kevin Williams is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery and Pat Williams had a torn left triceps repaired after the season. Both said they are doing well in their rehab and Pat Williams said he was cleared to begin lifting weights last Friday.
Pat Williams, who will be a free agent and reportedly said earlier this offseason that he did not plan to return because he lacked trust in the team, said it's now 50-50 if he will be back. That comes after coach Leslie Frazier made it clear to Williams during the brief time the lockout was lifted that he wants him to return.
"It’s just guys up in the office, man," Pat Williams said when asked whom he doesn't trust with the Vikings. "You know how the front office is. It’s just certain guys up in the office. I don’t have a problem with Coach Frazier. Me and Coach Frazier talked. We talked a lot of times. It’s just people up in the office, man. With a lockout going on now, it’s all the same. Business."
Kevin and Pat Williams, meanwhile, could face four-game suspensions after the NFL prevailed in the long-running StarCaps case.
'With all this [lockout stuff] going on maybe they’ll forget about it and we can go on with our regular work," Kevin Williams joked. "If it happens, it happens. I found a great place to work out in Little Rock. I’ll be there getting ready and see you in Week 5 if that’s the case.”
Said Pat Williams: "We’re hoping everything gets solved and everything we did, so we don’t get suspended, but if we do, we do."
Kevin Williams said he has been working out in Little Rock, Ark., with NFL offensive lineman Stacy Andrews. “[The] knee is good, knee is good," Kevin Williams said. "Coming along. Training and getting ready whenever we’re going to play.”
And if the lockout continues would Kevin Williams consider following Edwards' lead and boxing?
“I don’t want to get hit," he said. "I can watch it but I ain’t into taking the licks outside of pads.”
HINCKLEY, MINN. -- I guess if I hadn't covered the 2010 Vikings season I might find it odd that I'm sitting at a table in Grand Casino Hinckley getting ready to watch a fight card that will involve Ray Edwards.
However, given all the strange things we saw last season, this almost strikes me as normal. Almost.
For those who aren't making the trip to Hinckley, tonight's card will start at 7:30 p.m. There are five fights scheduled before Edwards takes on 34-year-old T.J. Gibson of Duluth in the main event.
Actually, there is a co-main event listed between Tim Taggart and Cerresso Fort.
I have yet to see what Internet access will be like inside the room in which the boxing matches will be held, but my plan is to provide updates on Twitter. You can follow me at www.twitter.com/juddzulgad if you're interested in finding out what happens when a football player takes up the Sweet Science.
Internet access and set up appears to be excellent in ballroom so tweeting and blogging should not be an issue for those of you who want to follow tonight's events.
5:48 p.m. Ray Edwards has entered the building. Wearing a red outfit, he seems very relaxed for a guy about to fight in 4 1/2 hours.
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