The Vikings finished 2012 with one of the great flourishes in team history. That squad started 4-1 before losing five of seven to stand at 6-6 with four games to play. The Vikings entered their final game of the season against Green Bay having won three straight and needing a win to reach the playoffs, which they did with a classic 37-34 victory.
When Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who was in the Twin Cities for the Vikings’ annual holiday party Tuesday, was asked how he views this season, he immediately thought of that year and said any talk about how he feels about the season is premature.
“The season is not over yet; we’re going through the same thing as we did back in 2012,” Wilf said. “We’re going to try our hardest to get into the playoffs. We still have a chance, and it starts with Jacksonville. We’ll see if we can repeat 2012.”
Wilf said he does feel some disappointment because of the high expectations of the season and how the season started with the team winning its first five games.
“Certainly starting off the way we did, coming close in so many games, we easily could have been 10-2 instead of 6-6,” Wilf said. “In some ways it’s disappointing, but we still have the season ahead of us. No one is quitting here.”
Last week, ESPN ran a list of the teams that have been hurt the most by injuries and the Vikings were a clear No. 1, having lost Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and starting offensive linemen Matt Kalil and Andre Smith. While Wilf agreed that injuries have been difficult, he said the biggest point of pride the Vikings should take is how well the team has played despite that.
“Yes, we have [been hurt], but even with injuries we have a great team out there,” Wilf said. “We showed that every week when we’re playing — be it this last week with Dallas or the wins we’ve had. We’re going to get back on track this week.”
Looking to 2017
One of the biggest issues facing the Vikings going forward is that the team has 15 free agents coming off the books next season — including Kalil, Smith, Captain Munnerlyn, Terence Newman and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Wilf was asked if the team is going to have to rebuild in the offseason.
“Well, I’ll leave that to [General Manager] Rick [Spielman],” Wilf said. “I know Rick, together with Coach [Mike Zimmer] will review everybody about free agents.”
On top of the free agents is the looming question of what to do about Peterson, who has been the face of the franchise but also is due $18 million next season after playing in only 19 of the team’s past 44 games.
Does Wilf expect him back?
“I certainly hope so; we’ll be talking about it, and Coach and Rick will be talking about all of our players for next season,” he said.
One thing that has been positive for Wilf and the Vikings is the gameday experience at U.S. Bank Stadium. Wilf said the stadium has been better than he could have imagined.
“Absolutely, it works out probably beyond our expectations,” he said. “Everyone is very happy with it. The fans certainly are very happy with the way it turned out, and the events we have here with the [Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority], it has been a great addition to the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota. We’re very happy with the way it turned out.”
Bradley’s first shot
The list of native Minnesotans to become NFL head coaches is a short one, and Gus Bradley, who will face the Vikings on Sunday as the head coach of the Jaguars, grew up and started his football career in Zumbrota, where his family has deep ties.
Bradley played at North Dakota State and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant in 1990. The Star Tribune reported in 2009, when he was in his first year as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, that he got that opportunity through Monte Kiffin, who had two coaching stints with the Vikings.
In fact Kiffin is now the assistant head coach for defense under Bradley. Kiffin’s son, Lane, is now the offensive coordinator for the incredible Alabama offense that will compete in the College Football Playoff.
This will be Bradley’s first game as a head coach against the Vikings, his favorite team growing up. The Jaguars started the season 2-3 but have fallen lately, losing seven consecutive.
• Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill will be signing copies of his book ‘‘Chasing Dreams: Living My Life One Yard at a Time’’ at two Barnes & Noble stores on Saturday: Edina at 1 p.m. and Roseville at 4 p.m.
• Anybody who believes that Peterson will play this year is out of their mind. And that’s for one big reason: If Peterson played and got hurt again, which is possible because he has had two knee operations, his career would be over. Nobody would take a chance on him. Furthermore, negotiations for his 2017 contract will be difficult even if he is 100 percent healthy because the Vikings, with quarterback Sam Bradford’s $18 million contract on the books, already will have tough negotiations.
• Although Bridgewater isn’t talking to the media, he has spoken positively with teammates regarding his recovery from a serious knee injury. His rehab reportedly is going very well, and he might have a chance of playing next season.
• Talk about Vikings players being in bad shape after a game: I have never seen a player look as beaten-up as Harrison Smith was after the Dallas game. There is no doubt that the best safety in the NFL and one of the great people in the league has been playing injured the past few weeks, and that is why he is not been playing like the Smith of old and likely won’t play the rest of the season.
• Former Gophers QB Philip Nelson, who played for East Carolina, has been invited to play in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 21 in Carson, Calif. As reported earlier, Gophers QB Mitch Leidner is also invited, as is Gophers offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig.
• The Gophers baseball team is expected to announce one of its best recruiting class once two players get accepted into school. Coach John Anderson never has been as excited as he is about this season because of the chance to play nonconference games in U.S. Bank Stadium. The seven players include: Easton Bertrand, an outfielder from Manteno, Ill.; Josh Culliver, a pitcher from Creighton Prep in Omaha; Ryan Duffy, a three-sport athlete from South St. Paul; Patrick Fredrickson, a pitcher from Gig Harbor, Wash.; Charlie “Bubba” Horton of Maple Grove; and infielders Max Meyer of Maple Grove and Jacob Hintz of Prior Lake.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com