This is the first Vikings training camp in which former Gophers defensive back Marcus Sherels doesn’t have to worry about being cut.
The Vikings had long offered Sherels one-year deals, but he finally got a two-year contract in March of 2014, rewarding his tremendous overall contributions on defense and especially on special teams.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer said there’s no question Sherels earned it.
“He’s a young man that has a great work ethic, a great attitude, he knows he has to come to work every day to win his job,” Priefer said. “He’s a fantastic punt returner, an outstanding gunner, he plays well on the kickoff team, he can help us on the kickoff return team. I know the defensive coaches like him because he can line up anywhere and help them out when they need him. He’s a fine young man, humble and hardworking, and is the type of guy you want to be around.”
One of the long-standing arguments against Sherels, 28, was he was too small for the NFL at 5-10, but Priefer said there’s just no merit to that thinking.
“Everyone wants to say his size is an issue, and maybe it is for certain things, but when you use a guy like him the right way, which I like to think we do, you can get a lot out of him,” he said. “He plays bigger than he does, but he can do everything we ask him to do. I think the way we use him is the right way to use him and he has been very successful the last few years doing that.”
Sherels could claim the top career punt return yardage record for the Vikings this season. He’s third with 1,507 yards, only 103 yards behind David Palmer and 305 yards behind Leo Lewis in first.
Sherels first signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Priefer talked about what makes Sherels so dynamic.
“He has great quickness, great awareness, very high football IQ,” he said. “He studies a lot of tape so he prepares very well for special teams and for defense. He’s got great speed. He has a good burst once he gets going. His quickness and his attitude and effort and he’s fearless. Knock on wood, the guy has taken every punt return for the past five years.
“I think he’s one of the best punt returners in the league because of his quickness, has great ball security, his attitude and effort, his decisionmaking has gotten better and better over the years. I trust him.”
Sherels’ skill set is one reason the Vikings signed him to a two-year deal, but a bigger reason might have been when the New York Giants started showing interest in him and even had him visit as a free agent.
“I was a little worried there, to be honest,” Priefer said. “I thought he might go for greener pastures or whatever, but he wanted to stay in Minnesota. The guys love him in the locker room, the coaches love him, I know our fans love him, and I’m glad he stayed. As far as the special teams coach, I know he has done everything we asked him to do and I’m glad he stayed.”
What’s in a name?
Richard Davis, the CEO of U.S. Bank, said when the company came up with the idea to purchase the naming rights to the new Vikings stadium for $220 million over 20 years, it was about more than just advertising.
One of the main reasons the bank purchased the naming rights to U.S. Bank Stadium was so people in Minneapolis and across Minnesota would understand that the bank plans to stay in the community for the long term.
“We named the stadium in part because we wanted the community to know that we’re headquartered here and we’re going to stay here,” Davis said. “I also thought the employees would find this a really good use of our marketing financial support, to let it be known in this community that U.S. Bank Stadium is going to be part of the Vikings and part of every other thing that happens in this community over the entire year. It’s really the people’s stadium. It’s nice to be part of something that important.”
For Davis, though, the commitment was clearly bigger than just naming rights. He was part of the behind-the-scenes work to get stadium construction underway, and he also was on the planning committee that landed the 2018 Super Bowl at the stadium.
“This is a big dream for this community and having been part of the stadium development to get the stadium approved and then coming all the way through to naming it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to making ourselves part of this community for the rest of eternity and this is the best way to do it, put your name on the Vikings stadium. I’m proud of this city, and I’m proud we’re part of it.”
U.S. Bank Stadium displayed its versatility Tuesday night when the Purple Gala event was held, with a stage set up for entertainment and television views from any seat. But one underpublicized feature of the stadium is the ability to stage high school, college or NHL hockey games inside the stadium.
The building can handle all sorts of events, such as monster trucks shows, which drew capacity crowds at the Metrodome. Another big draw will be Wednesday’s soccer game between European teams Chelsea and AC Milan, for which more than 55,000 tickets already have been sold and could approach a capacity crowd of 66,200.
Davis said when the Twins were looking to sell the naming rights for Target Field before it opened in 2010, he approached late owner Carl Pohlad about it. He was too late by several decades.
“We tried years ago to name Target Field but as it turned out, Carl Pohlad had a commitment with [Target] 30 years before I came in and asked,” Davis said.
• Groundbreaking for the Vikings’ new practice facility and business offices in Eagan will take place at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
• Rem Pitlick, who was signed by the Gophers and drafted in the third round by Nashville, will play in the USHL this upcoming season. … Charlie Lawrence, a redshirt junior from Foley, Minn., will serve as captain of the 2016 Gophers cross-country team.
• JD Spielman, son of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, played all positions for the Eden Prairie football team, but Nebraska is using him as a wide receiver. The word is he might start as a freshman.
• One of the best stories in baseball has to be the return of former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who will play for the White Sox against the Twins this weekend. Morneau played eight games in the minors before joining the White Sox, and in 10 games he is hitting .233 with a .324 on-base percentage, a double, a home run and four RBI.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com