September 8, 2014

Vikings open season with big win over St. Louis

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:10

Flying into St. Louis, the Minnesota Vikings were three point underdogs — and that was after the Rams’ starting quarterback was lost for the season to an ACL tear in the preseason. With all the coaching changes, a weak draft, and the loss of key players like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Chris Cook, all the mainstream media have been predicting that the Vikings will end up with a worse record than the 5-10-1 of 2013. The defence that leaked touchdowns last year was predicted to be even worse this time around. The middle-of-the-pack offence (even with former league MVP Adrian Peterson) was going to be worse than last year as well, because … well, because.

Perhaps the Rams were taken in by the media reports, because they certainly didn’t seem to take the Vikings seriously. The Vikings long-standing woes on the road probably played into the Rams’ attitude: the Vikings have a terrible road record even in otherwise average years (they’d lost nine straight road games coming into Sunday’s game). Unfortunately for me, the game was not broadcast in the Toronto area, so I watched the Bills beat the Bears while obsessively checking my Twitter feed for game updates from St. Louis.

Daniel House sums up the game at Vikings Corner:

The Minnesota Vikings opened the season with a convincing 34-6 win on the road against the St. Louis Rams. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 102 yards on three carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run off of a pitch out of the backfield. The Vikings defense shut down the Rams offensive attack, helping Mike Zimmer pick up his first win as an NFL head coach. The Rams were able to handle running back Adrian Peterson, allowing him to rush for just 75 yards on 21 carries. They couldn’t handle Cordarrelle Patterson out of the backfield and it proved deadly on multiple occasions in today’s game. The Vikings defense surrendered just 72 rushing yards and prevented the St. Louis offense from reaching the end zone. Safety Harrison Smith added a 83-yard interception return touchdown later in the 4th quarter, capping the Vikings 34-6 win. Most importantly, the team won their first game on the road since the end of the 2012 season.


Matt Cassel didn’t play at an elite level by any stretch of the imagination, but he managed the game and didn’t make any critical mistakes. That is all he needs to do for this team to be successful and today was the perfect example. There were several communication issues between the coaches and Cassel early in the game, but these problems were slowly resolved as the game progressed. Cassel finished the day 17-for-25 with 170 yards passing and two touchdowns. He connected with Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph for scores and continually spread the ball around the entire game. Cassel connected with seven different receivers and most importantly, didn’t make mistakes that have plagued this team in the past. If Matt Cassel can manage the game, make the throws when necessary, and continue to play mistake free, the Vikings can be a formidable offense in this league.

At Vikings Journal, Arif Hasan points out the good and not-so-good on the Vikings defence:

Linval Joseph ended the day with five tackles, ranked third on the team, and all of them were “good” tackles that resulted in an offensive loss. To that, he added a sack and a literal tackle for loss and more than one quarterback pressure (and a hit). His first live action after a shooting injury that saw a bullet hit his calf, Joseph dominated the Rams offensive line, who felt appropriate to sub out Rodger Saffold after his terrible day to put in Greg Robinson.

It was Greg Robinson who gave up the pressure late that led to the final interception.

On the other side was Sharrif Floyd, who wasn’t as good as Joseph, but still a powerful defensive tackle that influenced much of the game through hurries and a tackle for loss in the run game. For someone who had struggled so much as a rookie the year before, Floyd is on track to change things, and he may have put together the best game of his career so far.


The biggest worry was at safety, with most of the tight end receptions given up (with an exception of one to Lance Kendricks) a result of safety play, almost entirely because of Blanton. There were times that Blanton showed well — he bracketed Jared Cook on the corner route that Josh Robinson jumped for the interception, and he also broke down his tackle against Tavon Austin excellently — but he also gave up several easy yards to tight ends despite the bodybags the Rams were trotting out at quarterback.

Harrison Smith, on the other hand, has been as advertised. He was all over the field, recording a pass deflection, a sack, a hit, a hurry, a tackle for loss, a standard tackle and the game-ending interception that he ran in for a score. Smith couldn’t be stopped and was lights out throughout the game, and did all of this without being targeted very often at all.

The fact that the Vikings have multiple defensive players — one at every level of the defense — worthy of the game ball (Joseph, Barr and Smith) as well as an offensive player that stole the show (Patterson) feels nearly unprecedented in recent Vikings history. With all of the work that Barr did off camera and away from the Ball I would award it to him, but it could just as easily have been awarded to any of the other four.

September 1, 2014

Vikings sign players to practice squad

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

Yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings added nine players they’d released from the team to the practice squad. The practice squad are ten players who draw a weekly salary during the regular season, but who are not eligible to play in games without being formally added to the 53-man roster. They are still considered free agents — they can be signed to the roster of any NFL team (although I believe there is a right for the current team to promote a player to their own roster rather than allowing another team to sign that player). These players were listed in the formal announcement:

  • RB Joe Banyard
  • WR Kain Colter
  • DT Isame Faciane
  • TE Chase Ford
  • WR Donte Foster
  • CB Kendall James
  • C Zac Kerin
  • T Mike Remmers
  • DE Justin Trattou

In addition to the practice squad signings, the Vikings made waiver claims on Cleveland Browns tight end (and former Gophers QB) MarQueis Gray and San Diego Chargers tackle Mike Harris. To make room on the 53-man roster, the Vikings released linebacker Larry Dean and tackle Austin Wentworth. As an undrafted free agent, Wentworth is eligible to be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers (which would fill the last spot on the squad).

Tenure on the practice squad is by no means secure: teams sign and release players from PS frequently through the season.

August 31, 2014

Vikings cut down to 53 players

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

All NFL teams had to report their final rosters to the league office by Saturday afternoon. The Vikings were among the last teams to confirm their roster and list the players who were released. With so many players back on the market, the bottom few spots on each team’s “final” roster are subject to change. For example, it seems likely that the Vikings will look to pick up another tight end to back up Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison, and there were a couple of marginal players who made the squad, but who are still at risk of being released to make room for players at other positions of need.

This is the Vikings roster as of yesterday evening:

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Released Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RT-Mike Remmers (FA)
RG-Jeff Baca
C-Zac Kerin (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) and LT-Antonio Richardson (UDFA) placed on injured reserve.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R)
Christian Ponder 7
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85 Alan Reisner (FA)
Chase Ford
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard
Dominique Williams (UDFA)
FB Jerome Felton 42 Zach Line 48    
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
(Jerome Simpson 81)
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter (UDFA)
Donte Foster (UDFA)
Jerome Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)
UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA)
NT-Fred Evans
UT-Isame Faciane (UDFA)
DE-Justin Trattou
NT-Chase Baker
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56
WLB-Larry Dean 51
MLB-Mike Zimmer (UDFA)
SLB Justin Jackson (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)
Shaun Prater 27
Josh Robinson 21
Julian Posey (FA)
Kendall James (R)
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
FS-Andrew Sendejo
SS-Anton Exum 32 (R)
SS-Kurt Coleman (FA)
Chris Crocker (FA)
SS-Mistral Raymond put on IR 26 August. SS-Jamarca Sanford put on short-term IR 30 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A   Locke is also the holder for field goal attempts.
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    

* Already listed on roster at main position.

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squads increase from 8 to 10 this year, and the two extra players do not have to meet the same strict criteria as the other 8. The Daily Norseman summarizes the practice squad eligibility rules here.

Generally speaking, any UDFA players are eligible for the practice squad. Likely signings include center Zac Kerin, cornerbacks Kendall James and Julian Posey, defensive tackles Isame Faciane and Chase Baker, running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams, and wide receiver Kain Colter.

Arif Hasan analyzes the cuts here. The Vikings have done well with depth in the last three drafts:

August 29, 2014

Vikings defeat Titans 19-3 to finish preseason undefeated

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:03

Queue the “Detroit Lions 2008″ jokes (the Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then lost 16 games in a row to become the first NFL team to lose every game since the schedule expanded to 16). Last night, the Vikings visited Nashville to play the least meaningful of the four preseason games: almost all the starters sit this one out, so the teams are composed of second-, third-, and fourth-string players desperate to make a positive impression on the coaches before the final cut to 53 players is due on Saturday.

At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski reports on the injuries highlights:

Teddy Bridgewater got in some work in the first half and threw another touchdown, hitting Adam Thielen with a nice touch pass in the corner of the end zone. Bridgewater finishes the preseason with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The defensive stars tonight, if there were any true defensive stars, were Shaun Prater and Corey Wootton, the latter of whom collected a strip sack against Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger.

In extended action, Christian Ponder did very little of consequence. If his appearance represented a trade showcase, it wasn’t much of a showcase.


The negatives were all injury-related. Adam Thielen left with a bad hip, Zach Line was felled by an ankle injury and Antone Exum seemed to jar his shoulder when making a big hit. We await status reports on all three men.

It was also announced that Justin Trattou injured his shoulder during the game. Exum could have returned to the game.

The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson also reported:

In honor of our very own Ted Glover, I’ll address his favorite Twitter question first: #HowDidTeddyLook? Teddy Bridgewater got the start on Thursday and led the Vikings to the game’s only touchdown on the first drive of the game. The Vikings traveled 80 yards in 12 plays thanks to a healthy dose of runs from Jerick McKinnon and Joe Banyard. The drive culminated with a gorgeous corner fade route pass from Bridgewater to Adam Thielen. Unfortunately Thielen went out later in the game with an apparent hip injury; let’s hope it isn’t anything major because Thielen has truly been a breakout player this preseason.


Holding your opponents to one meaningless fourth quarter field goal usually means your defense had a good day. The D looked good in a lot of areas, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered as the team takes on the St. Louis Rams next week.

For instance, who the heck is going to be playing linebacker? With a lot of injuries to the LB corps the Vikings fielded some weird personnel packages. At one time there were three middle linebackers on the field at once: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, and Mike Zimmer. After tonight’s up-and-down, mix-and-match performance from that unit, not many people outside of the Vikings coaching staff have much of a clue what the team is going to do with that part of the depth chart after Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway.

Deadspin – “Why Your Team Sucks 2014: Minnesota Vikings”

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

Deadspin‘s Drew Magary doesn’t have to troll very far at all to find unpleasant things to say about last year’s team. Three games into last season, I was making noises about how “creatively” the Vikings managed to lose their games, and they were looking as if they didn’t want to be in any of the games they played by midseason. A shift from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel meant that at least the team looked semi-respectable for the second half, but the end result was a 5-10-1 record and a high draft pick this year.

The standard narrative on Norv Turner is that he’s a shitty head coach and a great coordinator. Well, it turns out that’s a lie, and that Norv sucks at EVERYTHING! Be still my heart! Norv is still riding the coattails of the 1990s Cowboys, who could have flourished with Andy Dick calling the plays. It’s 2014. The offensive strategy of “run the ball 45 times and have Michael Irvin push off everyone” is now somewhat dated.

Your quarterback: Matt Cassel, who was clearly the best quarterback over Christian Ponder and Freeman last season, which is like being the tastiest option on a Guy Fieri menu. In the past three years, Cassel has thrown 27 TDs and 30 INTs. Oh yay. To make an inevitable 4-12 season look like the foundation of something better (it never is), the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round. Bridgewater has already openly worried that he’s overthinking every fucking play. You know who else worried about that? The last asshole QB we drafted in the first round. Great. Fucking great. Beautiful. Why can’t we draft an IDIOT? Is it really that hard? Johnny Manziel was there for the taking and he can’t even read unless you write stuff out in lines of coke. I want THAT guy. I want all balls and no brain, thank you.


What has always sucked: This is the shitty team and criminal organization that Vikings fans like me deserve. These people never get excited about anything except when they have a chance to whisper “I hear it’s very Jewish” under their breath to other people. They can’t get enough of that. Minnesotans are as fickle as Sun Belt-area fans, without the justifiable excuse of having better things to do. They hate everything and everyone, and if you aren’t from Minnesota they’ll treat you as if you aren’t even there. You may as well be a fucking ghost. It’s like you speak a whole other language if you didn’t grow up six blocks from the Hansenjohnsons in White Bear Lake. The most exciting thing about Minnesota is when people get shot there in various iterations of Fargo.

We are a fake people. That includes me, too. Imagine a state populated entirely by real estate agents. That’s Minnesota. If I see a Packers fan in a bar, I’m courteous and jokey, and then I run to my computer five minutes later to be like I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST DIPSHIT AT THE BAR. That’s me. Fake as shit. Minnesota did this to me. And now you know.

August 26, 2014

Vikings announce first round of roster cuts

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:57

All NFL teams begin their training camps with up to 90 players, but begin the regular season with only 53 players on the roster (and up to 10 players on their practice squads). Yesterday, the Vikings announced 14 of the required 15 cuts, including a couple of surprising moves. Inline update: today, the team announced they’d released tight end Mike Higgins, leaving 75 players on the roster. The final cut-down is due by Saturday afternoon.

Safety Mistral Raymond and cornerback Derek Cox had both been starters in earlier seasons, but Raymond had struggled to stay healthy, while Cox was unable to regain his earlier high standard of play. Raymond was waived with an injury settlement, but Cox was just released. Here is the current roster (pending one final move), with rough first, second, and third team designations (this isn’t official, but it’s based on the unofficial roster from the team).

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Third/Fourth string: On the bubble Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LT-Antonio Richardson 78 (UDFA)
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Mike Remmers 67 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RG-Jeff Baca 60
C-Zac Kerin 59 (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) was waived due to injury in an organized team activity and then placed on injured reserve.
RT-Matt Hall (UDFA), waived 25 July.
LT-Kevin Murphy, LG-Pierce Burton (UDFA) cut 25 August.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R) Christian Ponder 7  
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85, Alan Reisner 87 (FA), Chase Ford 86   Chase Ford activated off PUP, 25 August.
A.C. Leonard (UDFA) waived 6 August.
Kory Sperry (FA) cut 25 August.
Mike Higgins (FA) cut 26 August.
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard 23, Dominique Williams 43 (UDFA)  
FB Jerome Felton 42   Zach Line 48 Line and even Felton may be on the bubble, as Norv Turner’s offence usually doesn’t have much role for traditional fullbacks.
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
Jerome Simpson 81
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter 13 (UDFA), Donte Foster 2 (UDFA), Jerome Simpson may be facing a multi-game suspension from the league.
Lestar Jean (FA) waived (injured) 12 June. Waived from IR, 5 August.
Kamar Jorden (FA), Eric Lora (UDFA), Ty Walker (FA), Andy Cruse (FA) cut 25 August.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
NT-Fred Evans 90
UT-Isame Faciane 76 (UDFA)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA), DE-Justin Trattou 94,
NT-Chase Baker 91
DE-Spencer Nealy waived 23 July.
DE-Rakim Cox (UDFA) waived 4 August.
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
UT-Kheeston Randall (FA), DE-Jake Snyder (UDFA), DE-Tyler Scott (UDFA) cut 25 August.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56, WLB-Larry Dean 51,
MLB-Mike Zimmer 59 (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR and SLB Justin Jackson claimed off waivers from Detroit.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)

Shaun Prater 27

Josh Robinson 21, Kendall James 40 (R), Julian Posey 38 (FA) Kip Edwards waived 2 June.
Derek Cox (FA), Robert Steeples cut 25 August.
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
SS-Kurt Coleman 20 (FA)
SS-Jamarca Sanford 33
FS-Andrew Sendejo, Chris Crocker 25 (FA), SS-Anton Exum 32 (R) Chris Crocker signed 4 August. SS-Mistral Raymond waived/injured 25 August. FS-Brandan Bishop (FA) cut 25 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A    
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*, Kain Colter 13* (UDFA)    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
Practice Squad        

Cut-down dates are 26 August (to 75) and 30 August (to 53). Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squad increases from 8 to 10 this year.

* Already listed on the roster at main position.

Coach Mike Zimmer also confirmed that Matt Cassel had won the quarterback competition and would be the starter in the regular season. This was pretty clearly the way the coaching staff expected it to be, as Cassel had taken almost all the first-team snaps through training camp and had started each of the first three preseason games. Teddy Bridgewater did well, but not well enough to unseat the veteran.

The Bridgewater Underground reacts to the setback:

It was a fitful sleep, the kind where you fall asleep and then awaken; 20 minutes here, 45 minutes there. There was a feeling of uneasiness across the land, and plans were in motion should the Thing We Feared Most come to pass. At times like this, when a man is alone with his thoughts, it’s tough to not play events in your mind again, over and over. Am I doing the right thing? How will history remember us? Can I make it until morning before I have to get out of bed to pee?

Just as I was falling back to sleep, the phone rang. A phone call this late at night/early in the morning was rarely good news, and as the phone reached five…six…now seven rings, I knew that there was nothing left to do but answer it.

“Please, let this not be what I think”, I thought to myself as the word hello passed my lips.

For a moment, just enough time to make me think that this was a wrong number, or even a butt dial, there was silence on the other end. But then, just as hope began to rise in me, it was dashed. Dashed like a Brett Favre pass over the middle in the NFC Championship game.

“The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.”

Click. I didn’t even get a chance to acknowledge.

No. It’s happened. They did it, didn’t they?

I waited for a second to let the phrase that would key the revolution sink in.

The long sobs of Spergeon Wynn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.

No. Please, no.

It happened. Matt Cassel is the starter, and Teddy Bridgewater will ride the pine. The great thing about the Teddy Bridgewater Underground is that no underground cell can be traced back to another. My phone, as were all of the phones in The Underground, was encrypted to the point that even the NSA would have problems locating and tracing it. As long as calls were kept under a minute, and code words were used, messages could be passed freely, almost defiantly, to the rest of The Underground.

August 24, 2014

Vikings beat Chiefs 30-12 in third preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:41

The Vikings haven’t won a road game in over a year, so last night’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs was a good test of the new coaching staff and how well they had prepared the team for the new season. Matt Cassel once again started for the Vikings at quarterback, and played all of the first half and most of the third quarter with the starters. It was a very hot night in Kansas City, so both teams had to watch their players carefully for heat-related issues. Adrian Peterson once again didn’t play (no reason to risk injury in meaningless games: we know he’s automatically on the 53-man roster).

Coming into the game, the starting offensive players are pretty much set (assuming that Matt Cassel has won the quarterback competition over rookie Teddy Bridgewater), but there were still battles going on for starting defensive roles at safety, corner, and middle linebacker. One player saw his chances of winning a starting position go way down was cornerback Josh Robinson, who was flagged for pass interference early in the game.

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover takes us through the start of the game:

The Minnesota Vikings started strong, floundered for a little bit, and then ran away from the Kansas City Chiefs on a hot and humid night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Vikings won the toss and deferred to the second half, and the Chiefs offense couldn’t get much going, other than a 16 yard pass to RB Knile Davis. A Dustin Colquitt punt pinned the Vikings back to their own three, where they took the ball on their first possession.

And all the Vikings did was march 97 yards on five plays. QB Matt Cassel hit RB Matt Asiata for 31 yards on a short swing pass, and after a couple of non-descript Asiata runs, Cassel uncorked the deep ball and hit Cordarrelle Patterson for 53 yards and a score, putting the Vikings up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.


August 17, 2014

Vikings beat Cardinals 30-28 in second preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:39

The second preseason game for an NFL team tends to be a pretty pedestrian affair, as neither team likely has figured out their first and second strings completely, they’re still trying to integrate new draft picks and undrafted free agents, and they don’t game plan for the opponent. Despite that, you can occasionally get an entertaining, competitive game this early, and last night’s Vikings-Cardinals matchup at the University of Minnesota was quite entertaining.

The Star Tribune‘s Jim Souhan says one thing that has been settled for the Vikings is that Matt Cassel has won the starting quarterback job over first round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater:

Saturday night, Matt Cassel made the Arizona Cardinals defense look about as effective as the security team at 400 Soundbar.

Cassel hit Kyle Rudolph in stride on a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. He threw a pass from the Arizona 3-yard line that Rudolph should have caught in the back of the end zone. He even ran effectively, picking up 23 yards on one play in what might have been homage to Joe Webb.

Saturday, Cassel completed 12 of 16 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, and ran for 30 yards in a 30-28 Vikings victory. For the preseason, he is 17-for-22 for 215 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

For this, he received golf claps. When Teddy Bridgewater completed a few passes in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead score with 18 seconds left, against a defense comprised of future baristas, he received the full “Teddy! Teddy!” chant.

Despite public opinion, the competition that was never really a competition is now over: Cassel will begin the regular season as the Vikings starter, and Bridgewater will enjoy being one Cassel interception from becoming the most popular man in Minnesota.

Footnote: the joke about 400 Soundbar refers to the nightclub where Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph was slightly wounded as a bystander after the first preseason game.


August 9, 2014

Vikings win in Zimmer’s head coaching debut

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:30

I listened to the KFAN game commentary last night, but that’s a big difference from actually watching the action. Matt Cassel and the first team offence put in a creditworthy opening, then Teddy Bridgewater took over. Bridgewater got some time with most of the first team still in the game, then worked with more of the second team through the rest of the first half. Christian Ponder took the field in the second series after halftime.

It was the first time that new head coach Mike Zimmer’s team faced an opponent, so it was re-assuring that the team did fairly well. Especially hopeful was that the defence managed to hold the Raiders out of the end zone until the final few minutes of the game (last year’s defence was historically bad). That is quite clearly showing the impact of Zimmer and his new coaching staff: if they can manage to coax even a league average performance out of the defence this year, the Vikings have a chance to be playing meaningful games in December.


August 3, 2014

A promise of stability for the Vikings

Filed under: Business, Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:49

In the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan looks back at the Minnesota Vikings long, tattered history of leadership struggles, coups d’etat, backstabbings, legal battles, and instability that would embarrass a banana republic in the 1930s:

In the beginning, there was Norm Van Brocklin, and he was angry. So angry that he would scream at Fran Tarkenton when Tarkenton scrambled. So angry that Van Brocklin unwittingly became the Vikings’ cussing precursor to their current coach, Mike “Bleep” Zimmer.

That Norm couldn’t get along with a future Hall of Fame quarterback foretold decades of Vikings history, in which owners, coaches, star players and team executives would scheme to seize influence within the organization.

Today, the Vikings appear to have all of their key decisionmakers on the same page and, for once, that page is not a legal brief.

There have been good times, and calm times, in Vikings history, but rarely were the Vikings good and calm at the same time when anyone other than Bud Grant was in charge.

Grant employed problem players and his team lost big games, but with ol’ Steely Eyes in charge, the Vikings took on the appearance of a lake unruffled by whitecaps.

Since Grant retired, the Vikings have not been the same. They have not returned to a Super Bowl. They have not enjoyed a multiple-season stretch of anything that could be labeled as tranquil.

Les Steckel replaced Grant, and quickly got himself fired by mistaking the NFL for a special forces training center. Grant returned for one season, but finished 7-9. Grant’s longtime protégé, Jerry Burns, another coach who could swear with creativity and stamina, took over and advanced to the brink of a Super Bowl, but retired before new executive Roger Headrick could push him out.

Headrick had replaced Mike Lynn, whose time as the team’s top football executive included feuds between him and the ownership group known as the Gang of 10, members of which spent more time suing one another than watching football. Headrick, a corporate type who mistakenly showed up for a practice in coaching shorts and wearing a whistle, replaced Burns with Denny Green.

Green won right away and for a long time, but by the end of his first season he was the subject of reports about numerous non-football allegations, and soon he would be writing a book threatening to sue for ownership of the team.

Here’s hoping that the Mike Zimmer years will be as calm as the Bud Grant years… oh, and at least as successful.

July 31, 2014

NFL to test player tracking RFID system this year

Filed under: Football, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:01

Tom Pelissero talks about the new system which will be installed at 17 NFL stadiums this season:

The NFL partnered with Zebra Technologies, which is applying the same radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology that it has used the past 15 years to monitor everything from supplies on automotive assembly lines to dairy cows’ milk production.

Work is underway to install receivers in 17 NFL stadiums, each connected with cables to a hub and server that logs players’ locations in real time. In less than a second, the server can spit out data that can be enhanced graphically for TV broadcasts with the press of a button.


TV networks have experimented in recent years with route maps and other visual enhancements of players’ movements. But league-wide deployment of the sensors and all the data they produce could be the most significant innovation since the yellow first-down line.

The data also will go to the NFL “cloud,” where it can be turned around in seconds for in-stadium use and, eventually, a variety of apps and other visual and second-screen experiences. Producing a set of proprietary statistics on players and teams is another goal, Shah said.

NFL teams — many already using GPS technology to track players’ movements, workload and efficiency in practice — won’t have access to the in-game information in 2014 because of competitive considerations while the league measures the sustainability and integrity of the data.

“But as you imagine, longer-term, that is the vision,” Shah said. “Ultimately, we’re going to have a whole bunch of location-based data that’s coming out of live-game environment, and we want teams to be able to marry that up to what they’re doing in practice facilities themselves.”

Zebra’s sensors are oblong, less than the circumference of a quarter and installed under the top cup of the shoulder pad, Stelfox said. They blink with a signal 25 times a second and run on a watch battery. The San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions and their opponents wore them for each of the two teams home games in last season as part of a trial run.

About 20 receivers will be placed around the bands between the upper and lower decks of the 17 stadiums that were selected for use this year. They’ll provide a cross-section of environments and make sure the technology is operational across competitive settings before full deployment.

July 27, 2014

Teddy Bridgewater as the “anti-Manziel”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:49

The Vikings traded back into the bottom of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft to take Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as their second pick in the first round (after linebacker Anthony Barr). Many Vikings fans wanted the team to take Johnny Manziel as the team’s quarterback of the future (I wasn’t among them … I thought Manziel would be too much of a media circus attraction for the Vikings). 1500ESPN‘s Judd Zulgad says that Bridgewater has been almost the exact opposite of the ongoing media extravaganza that is Johnny Manziel:

Johnny Manziel has spent much of his time since being selected in the first round of the NFL draft this spring fetching himself as many drinks as possible and calling attention to himself at every turn.

Teddy Bridgewater, meanwhile, has done everything in his power to maintain a low profile and hasn’t been photographed once with an alcoholic beverage near him. But Bridgewater might have left himself open for a photo op at one point Friday when he did have a drink in hand, although it was not of the alcoholic variety.

“He actually got me a Gatorade today, which I was really thankful for,” veteran quarterback Matt Cassel said of his rookie teammate.

Bridgewater would qualify as the anti-Manziel.

Manziel is cocky to a fault and before he’s even neared NFL stardom, or played in a regular-season game, he’s allowed his celebrity to continue to go to his head. It sounds as if this has left the Cleveland Browns wondering exactly what they have gotten themselves into.

Bridgewater, whom the Vikings took with the final pick in the first round of the May draft after making a trade with Seattle, not only doesn’t come across as brash, he’s getting sports drinks for the guy he ultimately would like to beat out of a spot for the starting job.

“Right now, my main focus is just getting better each and every day,” Bridgewater said Friday after completing the first training camp practice of his NFL career. “I’m going to continue to just push Matt and Coach Zim (Mike Zimmer) is going to make the best decision for the team. If the coaching staff feels that (I’m ready), that’s when my number will be called. But until then my role is just to continue to push Matt and make the quarterback room a better room.”


July 26, 2014

First day of Vikings training camp

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:06

By the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement, NFL teams are not allowed to put on the pads and run contact drills until after the first two days of training camp. This is probably intended to allow players to come up to speed in those two days and reduce the chances of early injuries. Despite that, the first day of Vikings training camp saw three players added to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, two players cut between morning and afternoon sessions (WR Josh Cooper and T Matt Hall), and two new wide receivers added to the roster (Ty Walker and Andy Cruse).

Arriving on Thursday, reporters saw that tight end Chase Ford was in a walking boot and discovered that he’d had foot surgery earlier this month and may not be fit to play until the start of the regular season. Ford also announced this on social media, which got him into some hot water with coach Mike Zimmer. Free agent pickup Captain Munnerlyn is on PUP with a hamstring issue and safety Andrew Sendejo is on PUP with a back issue. More disturbing to the fans at training camp was the news that Cordarrelle Patterson is also hobbled with a minor injury and won’t be cleared to practice for a while.

And that was just the first day of camp, with no contact.


July 25, 2014

Time capsule from the future – the end of the 2014 NFL season

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:37

I’ll admit that I’m optimistic about this year’s edition of the Minnesota Vikings, but I’m expecting the team to end up with a record somewhere in the region of 7-9, 8-8, or even 9-7 in head coach Mike Zimmer’s first season leading the team. I’m apparently among the minority of fans in this regard, as Vikefans.com have got their hands on a video that clearly just fell through a rip in spacetime, as it’s the pre-game show for this season’s SuperBowl game:

Somebody’s been drinking the acid-laced purple Kool Aid again…

H/T to Vikings Territory for the link.

July 19, 2014

The moment the Chris Kluwe saga went surreal

Filed under: Football, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

For the few of you who care, the Minnesota Vikings released a summary of the full report on Mike Priefer’s homophobic comments yesterday (you can read the PDF here). The conclusion is pretty anodyne:

In sum, our review of RKMC’s investigative materials you provided fails to establish that Kluwe’s activism in support of marriage equality and other equal rights motivated his release from the team in May of 2013. We also did not find sufficient evidence to establish that members of the Vikings organization attempted to discourage Kluwe from engaging in marriage equality or equal rights activism or that the Vikings harbored a homophobic hostile work environment. The record does, however, support the conclusion that the distractions caused by the level, but not the nature, of Kluwe’s activism did create some discomfort in the organization during the 2012 season in which Kluwe’s punting performance was unsatisfactory to the team. The investigation materials support that the Vikings released Kluwe for football performance reasons and not his views on marriage equality.

The report includes comments that are not complimentary to Kluwe himself:

The record does not support the claim that the Vikings released Kluwe because of his activism on behalf of marriage equality, but instead because of his declining punting performance in 2012 and potentially because of the distraction caused by Kluwe’s activism, as opposed to the substance of such.

Throughout the independent investigation, interviewees characterized Kluwe in similar ways: someone who is highly intelligent, reads a lot, a prankster or jokester, comfortable with the media and seems to enjoy attention. Walsh stated that Kluwe spent much of his free time in the locker room doing interviews. Walsh also said that Kluwe “loves the attention,” “was focused on everything but football,” and wanted to be in the spotlight.

Kluwe’s locker room behavior stood out to some interviewees and included stories about Kluwe dropping his pants in front of 20-25 business people as they were being escorted through the locker room on a tour. Interviewees also recalled Kluwe making fun of the coaches’ speeches on the white board in the locker room and leaving it there even when the press came in. Kluwe also made fun of the Vikings’ then Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Kanavy, an alumnus of ‒ and former coach at ‒ Penn State University, concerning the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation. In his interview, Kanavy explained that Kluwe cut the seat out of his pants and then put them on to imitate a victim of the Penn State child-abuse scandal. According to Kanavy, Kluwe said that he was a “Penn State victim” and to “stay away” from him while his buttocks were exposed.

There is consistent and weighty evidence from the record, mostly from Kluwe himself, that he viewed his performance as a member of the Vikings in an inflated manner. For instance, Kluwe, in at least one article, described himself as a very good punter. In another he stated that his performance in 2012 was consistent with his previous years’ performance with the Vikings. He also stated that he believed he had a good year in 2012.

It should be no surprise to anyone that Kluwe was not satisfied with the results, and set off to rally the troops on Twitter:

And that’s the point where I stopped thinking Chris Kluwe was just trying to ensure that justice was done. If he himself knew of a sex crime and didn’t report it, it rather pales in importance to the situation he found himself in, yet he doesn’t seem to recognize it. Perhaps it really all is about him after all.

The team has suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer for three games and is requiring that he take additional sensitivity training. Priefer has apologized for his remarks, while Kluwe said he will be filing his suit as soon as possible. Priefer’s statement:

“I owe an apology to many people — the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark,” he said. “I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.”

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