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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Week #4 Recap

It's a day late, but nonetheless, here is some news, notes and quick hits about this last week of Vikings' action:

  • Vikings waived RB Derrick Coleman, LB Solomon Elimimian, WR Bryan Walters, WR A.J. Love, WR Kamar Jorden, WR Kerry Taylor, G/T Levi Horn, OT Bridger Buche, CB Corey Gatewood, DT Tydreke Powell, OG Grant Cook, LB Tyler Nielsen, CB Chris Stroud, DE Anthony Jacobs and DE Ernest Owusu. No no surprises here. Frankly, most Vikings' fans didn't realize that half of these players were on the roster even. The Vikings have to cut their roster from 75 to 53 players by 8 p.m. Friday.  
  • ESPN's Chris Mortensen reiterated that the Vikings' goal is for Adrian Peterson to play in Week 1. Peterson has been showing well without taking contact in practices. Although he didn't play in Friday's preseason game, the Vikes were quick to point out that it's just precautionary. "There are no setbacks. That's not the reason we're doing it," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We just feel like more time with him in practice with some of the things that we're doing and the progression of getting him ready for the season, it's the right thing to do." 
  • According to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, WR Stephen Burton hasn't done "anything" to separate himself so far in camp and preseason games. Burton saw limited snaps in Friday's regular season tuneup. "When I look at the tape, we'll see how he did blocking and he did running around, but as a whole, we never gathered any rhythm offensively, so that also means he wasn't a big factor in what we were trying to do offensively." Burton is out of the mix for the starting job during Jerome Simpson's suspension, and on the roster bubble.  
  • Jerome Simpson did not play in the game Friday night, as he was held out as the Vikings prepare to play the first three regular-season games without him. Simpson prepared himself for his three-week R&R by ordering from Netflix every Cheech and Chong movie on its selection list.  
  • Vikings NT Letroy Guion suffered a setback in his recovery from a sprained right PCL. He didn't suit up for Friday's game with the Chargers. It will be Guion's second straight exhibition absence after he hurt his knee in the opener, and has his Week 1 status in jeopardy. Veteran Fred Evans is started in his absence.  
  • Signed in the offseason, TE John Carlson has only now begun to practice with the team again after spraining his knee on July 31. Carlson, though, is not expected to play in the preaseason finale on Thursday. This means, of course, that the Vikings never got the opportunity to test-run the two-tight end offense which they plan on featuring during the regular season with Carlson and Kyle Rudolph. 
  • The Vikings haven't settled on who will be their third running back behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, notes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. 
  • Head Coach Leslie Frazier has confirmed that most starters will sit out the final preseason game against Houston on Thursday -- this coming off of a game on Friday against San Diego where most of them didn't bother showing up.  So, they ought to be plenty rested for the season opener, that's for sure.   

Hit of the Week

What would a week be without Vikings' punter Chris Kluwe not bringing attention to himself by way of a controversial statement or two.  Kluwe took to Twitter to call for an end to the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association after Friday night's game against the San Diego Chargers, referring to the replacement refs as 'horrible'.

Wake-up call for Mr. Kluwe:  Whenever the referees call more than twice as many penalties against your opponent than they do the Vikings, you probably should not complain about it.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen obviously doesn't share Kluwe's sentiments:  "Hey, that's not my concern. Everybody's got to play with the same refs. The league's going to do what the league needs to do and it'll work itself out.''

Kluwe is likely to be fined for his comment, which is likely what he wants since it will give him yet another opportunity to draw attention to himself via more inane and adolescent blog postings (see examples here, here and here). 

For years the quality of refs in the NFL has gone completely ignored. In fact, I would even argue that there has been no greater problem plaguing the league in recent years than the quality of its referees (and I'm hardly a blame-it-on-the-refs apologist). Disagree? Here's an article recapping the numerous blown calls/non-calls in the 2009 NFC Championship Game which arguably cost the Vikings a Super Bowl appearance. And the article doesn't even cover the most controversial non-call of the game: the unflagged high-low (bounty) hit on Favre which resulted in an interception.

And then there was last year's Packers and Giants divisional playoff match-up. The refereeing was so blatantly bad that there were respected journalists opining that the refs were trying to make it up to the Packers for having missed an obvious face-mask penalty in the Green Bay-Arizona divisional playoff game the previous year against Aaron Rodgers on the very play which ended Green Bay's season.

These are discussions that should never be had in the NFL regarding a group of individuals who now want the rest of us to feel that they're "under-appreciated."

Of course, Kluwe could care less about the referee hold-out and is merely trying once more to make headlines by being outspoken and "edgy."  (Matter of fact, Kluwe has now gotten to the point where he even comments on the controversy of his own remarks before he makes them.) Crying about the replacement referees after a freaking preseason lost just comes off as petty and juvenile, and that such gripes are being made by a punter of all players is just pathetic and embarrassing. It's time for Jared Allen or another veteran to "explain" to Mr. Kluwe exactly what his role is on the team, and how his shutting the hell up is considered an integral component of that role.

The Game

When you're on the losing end of a game that totaled 22 points, you have to know that the 'ole drawing board couldn't be gotten back to soon enough. It was ugly. What more needs to be said?  The starting offense came away with only three points on eight first-half possessions. Sacks allowed, dropped balls, no intensity and a confused QB were all factors in the offense's ineptitude on Friday night -- as they appeared more eager to begin their valet parking jobs at the State Fair than play football.

The defense wasn't sufficiently challenged with San Diego starters Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal and three-fifths of their starting offensive line sitting out of the game. And if the sloppy, lethargic play didn't make the game feel like an eternity on its own, 20 penalty flags were thrown by a replacement referee crew obviously feeling compelled to inject their own idea of a little excitement into the proceedings so to spare the viewing audience from the trauma induced by being exposed to the kind of horrid football which was on display Friday night at the Dome. In fact, it is still unclear whether Chargers' kicker Nick Novak was jumping around like Rocky Balboa atop the front entrance steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art after converting a 45-yard field-goal because he kicked the Chargers to a 12-10 victory or because he realized that it was the final play of a crap heap of a game. But when asked about kicking the winning last-second trifecta, Novak replied, "So it was good then?"    

  • Percy Harvin caught two passes for 53 yards. He was targeted a game-high six times. Harvin sat out the exhibition opener, before playing in the final two and combining for 74 yards on three receptions. Harvin has flashed his big-play ability on catches of 21 and 40 yards this preseason. 
  • Kyle Rudolph caught three balls for 36 yards. Rudolph has been highly efficient through three August games, securing six of his seven targets for 65 yards. Rudolph is locked in as an every-down player in an offense desperately in need of a No. 2 pass catcher beyond Percy Harvin. 
  • Toby Gerhart rushed six times for 18 yards. Hardly an inspiring night for a player ticketed for a big early-season role as the Vikings ease in Adrian Peterson. If Gerhart doesn't suit up for the exhibition finale, he'll finish the preseason with 17 carries for 79 yards and one catch for 19 yards. Gerhart should be the Vikings' primary back in Week 1, but how touches are divvied up after that could be wholly dependent on AP's health.  
  • There was a Jarius Wright sighting, albeit it came on a 24-yard punt return in the second quarter while San Diego was backed up to their own endzone. Wright remains remarkably absent from the Vikings' passing game.  

Some Raptors and Dodos from the game:  

The Raptors

Jasper Brinkley 
J'Brink awoke from his preseason daze to record four tackles and two sacks (three total hits on the QB). Sure, one of his sacks was unblocked and he compiled his stats at a point where almost everyone on the field for San Diego was a backup; but the important thing was that he was reading and reacting while demonstrating some urgency to his game that we haven't seen since... well, have we ever seen it?  Brinkley was the topic of much discussion in the media during the course of the week, and perhaps he was feeling the pressure to perform. He still has a ways to go in order to make anyone feel confident with him manning the "Mike" in the Vikings' base-defense, but Friday night was a positive step in the right direction.  

Allen Reisner
The third or fourth or whatever -th tight end Reisner may be in the Vikings primary two-tight end offense kicked it into a high gear during a Friday night game populated with pedestrian drivers. Reisner caught four passes on five targets for 47 yards including a 20-yard grab which set up the Vikings go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. He was aggressive while blocking and was one player that seemingly wanted the football thrown his way.

Matt Asiata
He had nine rushes for 48 yards (5.3 average) to go along with two catches for six yards and a go ahead TD in the fourth quarter. Normally a player who fumbled the ball at the opponents five yard-line would have no place on this list, but considering how the rest of the team looked, Asiata should be commended for not falling down a well on his way back to the sideline. Asiata displays burst and hustle and an understanding of the offense. The Vikings let it be known that they want their number No. 3 RB to have the ability to play the fullback position as well; and therefore, the slot most likely will come down to either Asiata or free agent signee Lex Hilliard.

The Dodos

Christian Ponder
From the penthouse last week to the dog house this week, Ponder seemed to fall back into what he was doing at last season's end and the results were anything but pretty. His statline wasn't all that bad as he completed 9-of-16 throws for 115 yards with an interception (he also scrambled twice for 11 yards). But it was the between the numbers stuff which was most disconcerting about Ponder's play. He seemed jittery and lacked poise in the pocket, his indecisiveness costing his team at least three sacks as he either held on to the ball for too long or scrambled himself right into the arms of a defender. Ponder appears to have a proclivity to back-peddle while feeling pressure instead of stepping-up in the pocket in order to avoid it. Drew Brees did the same thing in his early years with the Chargers, so it is rectifiable. But Ponder looking utterly confused at times while at the line-of-scrimmage had even the broadcast commentators wondering whether San Diego's 3-4 defensive front was the source of Ponder's apparent apprehensions. Looking back at last season, Ponder faced but the archrival Green Bay Pat-a-Cakers whose primary defense utilizes a 3-4 scheme. In those two games, Ponder completed but 29 of his 66 pass attempts (43.9%) with three interceptions for a cumulative QB rating of just 55.7%. (For comparison sake, his QB rating against 4-3 defenses was 70.6%.) There is no way to say whether a 3-4 base front serves as a deterrent to Ponder's reading of a defense with such a small sample size, but with seven games this season against teams running a "34D" we'll likely know soon enough.

Matt Kalil
He gave up two sacks and his run-blocking looked as though it has not improved any. There's no need to panic, all young offensive tackles not named Tony Boselli or Orlando Pace have needed time to adjust their barometers to the pro game. Kalil's former teammate at USC, Tyron Smith, didn't begin to excel until the halfway point of his first season last year. Nevertheless, the number one reason for selecting Kalil with the fourth overall selection in this year's draft was to "aid the development of Christian Ponder."  If Kalil continues to be a step slow against outside speed rushes Ponder will either learn the hard way how to step up into the pocket under pressure (see above) or become an ESPN Sports Science experiment for the elite pass rushers of the NFC North. (One possible note of interest on this topic is that Kalil has been bulking up ever since he played his last game for USC at a reported 295 pounds. As recently as at training camp in Mankato, Kalil has stated that he is now over 310 pounds. Might Kalil's additional weight be slowing him down? It's too early to say, but nonetheless, it is worth keeping an eye on.)   

Blair Walsh
If Norv Turner and the Chargers are actually going to make an attempt to ice the kicker in the first-half of a preseason game, please be sure to make the kick so as to discourage other moronic coaches from spending time in meaningless preseason games trying to hone their timeout-calling skills.

 

Adrian Brody: Vikings' scapegoat.

Tweets of the Week:
John Sullivan:  An Obama Family recipe?
Joe Webb:  WR you say?
Trevor Guyton:  "Chargers"
Sage Rosenfels:  Adrian Brody?!?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vikings' Training Camp: Week 3 Recap

The Vikings broke training camp this week, and it has yet to be confirmed how many players received speeding tickets while departing Mankato like a bat out of Gage Hall. (Since the St. Peter tornado in 1998, players cited for breaking the sound barrier out of town has declined, theoretically, because there is still today less foilage along Highway 169 for State Patrol prowlers to hide behind.)

The fun isn't over yet, though, as "camp" has relocated from the campus of Minnesota State University to the installation of Winter Park in Eden Prairie. It's now time to get serious if team personnel was not so already. There's just two preseason games left before the start of the season -- technically but the one for the starters -- and decisions aplenty are in need of being made in the time between now and August 31 when the rosters need to be finalized.

The big story at camp this week was Adrian Peterson's active participation in team drills. He might as well have been wearing a quarterback "reddie," as the rest of the team was ordered by the coaches not to even look in his direction let alone touch him. Peterson did not care at all for the kid-gloves treatment, but what're you going to do? There's already talk circulating that Peterson could see action in next Friday night's preseason game against San Diego. Of course, there was that sort of talk about Adrian "getting some snaps" in last Friday's game versus Buffalo as well. No beating around the bush, the Vikings would have to be smoking crack through a Whizzinator to give him any preseason action. I say that realizing that he needs to get hit sooner rather than later. But considering that there are many already questioning whether Peterson is "rushing back" from a serious injury, if Peterson was re-injured in a meaningless preseason game it would be a public relations nightmare for the organization.

Everson Griffin was returned to his natural position of defensive end after he was tried at linebacker but was too often confused for Jasper Brinkley there. It was a long enough shot that Griffin would successfully make the transition to linebacker that it ought to be questioned whether the attempt should have been made at all. There's nothing wrong with having depth at any position, and if defensive coordinator Alan Williams wants to employ a "hockey rotation" with his defensive line (I'll believe it when I see it), then Griffin should have remained where he was at.
 
Michael Jenkins agreed to take a pay cut which should secure a spot on the roster for him. A veteran receiver not exactly fitting the part of a team "building with youth," Jenkins was considered on the proverbial bubble to make the roster. But following the significant injury to rookie Greg Childs, and with Cannabis Simpson suspended for the first three games of the regular season, the Vikings look remarkably thin at the wide receiver position.   

With that said, Vikings' wide receiver coach George Stewart feels confident that they "are going to have five quality receivers on the field against [opening opponent] Jacksonville." I guess it all depends on his definition of "quality."  QB Christian Ponder became animated on the final day of camp after four receivers dropped passes during individual drills. But with Stewart perhaps tipping his hand that the team intends to keep five wide receivers (which most likely amounts to six with Simpson suspension's in play), it appears that either Emmanuel Arceneaux or Devin Aromashodu will be making the roster — assuming that Harvin, Simpson, Wright, Burton and Jenkins have all secured a place on the final roster, which I believe they have. Other receivers currently on the training camp roster are realistically but candidates for the practice squad.

This past week, the highly-respected Pro Football Focus released its prognosis for the Vikings 2012 season.  Among other interesting data compiled, PFF notes that on average Christian Ponder hung onto the football longer than only three other quarterbacks. It also appears ever the proponent of DC Alan Williams's "hockey rotation" along the D-line — noting that in the past four years no defensive linemen have been on the field more at their respective positions than Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.

The Game

First home game of the year... victory ... some things looking better than others... question marks being answered?  Preseason football at its finest. 

The big story was that the starters saw more action and there were no significant injuries. Ponder was efficient, the run-defense much better from the previous week and rookie placekicker Blair Walsh demonstrated that he should have no problem kicking in the Dome.

~Audie Cole made history with back-to-back pick-6's in the fourth quarter to put the game away (not that Tyler Thigpen and/or Brad Smith had a chance of leading a comeback anyway). Having played on the kickoff unit between interceptions, you could see the Dome roof undulate as Cole sucked oxygen. He's clearly in the best shape of any player on the team now.

~A lot has been made about Cannabis Simpson's hurdling of a Buffalo D-back on his way to a 33-yard gain on a quick slant. I'm kind of bored already with the whole jumping-over-everybody routine. You have to wonder whether Simpson does the same thing in the privacy of his own home — jumping over the dog, the dinner table, doing a somersault onto the toilet?  For a guy that likes weed he sure seems awfully peppy.

~Jasper Brinkley, Mistral Raymond and Harrison Smith all played the entire first-half, on account that Frazier thought they needed the additional work. Along those lines, Frazier labeled Brinkley and fellow linebacker Erin Henderson as "quasi-starters" after the game. In the case of Brinkley that goes without saying.  Henderson has had an unremarkable camp so far, but nonetheless, he couldn't have been too pleased having heard this characterization from the head coach. During the offseason, Henderson felt disrespected when the Vikings didn't offer him a lucrative contract extension -- the Vikings as well as 31 other teams, that is -- and took to Twitter to voice his discontent. He eventually signed a one-year deal worth $2 million. So, its very much a prove it year for Henderson, and it appears that Frazier might be trying to motivate him.

~The Dome crowd on Friday night became embroiled in controversy making as they did all other fans having attended preseason games across the league this weekend look and sound like the background of an episode of  Antique Roadshow. Even while players like A.J. Love and Nick Reed were frolicking around on the field during garbage time, Mardi Gras was alive in the stadium seats. A wave erupted complete with the throwing of game programs in the air. Oh, yikes!  It is possible that Chuck Knoblauch was in attendance and consequently reduced to a whimpering and quivering marsupial balled-up in a fetal position at the sight of things being thrown inside of the Dome, but in all probability, everyone made it out of the stadium all right without any immediate concerns for finding an organ donor. The media trying to sensationalize what was the equivalent of a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's is indication enough that the profession is bored even with itself.

~During Friday night's game, both tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Chris Cook were taken out of the game because of "concussion symptoms."  Rudolph's "injury" is alleged to have occurred on the first play of the second quarter. On that play, Rudolph made his only catch of the night on a short pass over the middle for a gain of seven yards. The tackle looked innocuous enough and Rudolph went to the sideline on his own volition. Later in the game, Rudolph was shown on the sideline talking to teammates and in control of his faculties. Following the game, he indicated to reporters that he felt fine and passed all required concussion tests.
 
Unlike Rudolph, Cook received medical attention on the field after he went down to a knee while coming off the field. At the time, it was inconceivable what could possibly be wrong with him being how the replay clearly showed that he hadn't even been touched while going to the ground after stripping Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson of the football. If anything at all it it looked as though he may have gotten the wind knocked out of him. After seeing the replay twice, it was astounding to hear that Cook was undergoing an evaluation for a concussion. In fact, not only was Cook shown exuberantly sprinting onto the field to congratulate Audie Cole following his second pick-six, in an moment earlier in the quarter while Cook was seen chatting it up with Antoine Winfield on the bench, the camera caught the very moment when his attention was suddenly diverted by the sight and sound of the Vikings' cheerleaders capering past the bench area. Yeah, I'm pretty sure CC is all right.  

But even though Leslie Frazier acknowledged that Rudolph and Cook have hitherto passed all required concussion tests, both players remain "under observation" until the league clears them to participate in practice. It has not been confirmed whether the game-appointed league official responsible for monitoring head injuries adjured that Rudolph and Cook be taken out of the game, but based on the circumstances it does appear likely.

Although all this sounds routine and hardly worth mentioning (particularly in the preseason), the situation is actually an indicator of what might be a controversy lurking during the regular season:  What if Rudolph and Cook had been held out of a regular season game under the same circumstances?  What if by order of the league a crucial player is removed from a close game because of "concussion-like symptoms," his team loses and it is later determined that there was nothing wrong with the player?  What if a player the caliber of a Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Troy Polamalu or Ray Rice after merely getting the wind knocked out of him are held out of a half or a series in a game that is to decide a postseason birth because of concussion concerns? 

Because of how Cleveland misdiagnosed an obviously concussed Colt McCoy in last year's final game, the league intends to be very involved this upcoming season in evaluating players for concussion-related symptoms during the games. We already know the ending to this movie:  to make its case that it is doing everything it can to protect players from head injuries, the league will indubitably err on the side of caution every time even the remotest possibility exists that a player may have been concussed:
"Yes, Mr. League Official, he's alert, coherent and unimpaired. Matter of fact, he completed the New York Times crossword puzzle during that last series."  

"Well, I don't know, he still looks a little groggy from way up here in the booth. You better keep him out of the game pending further evaluation."  
Of course, all this will inevitably lead to the league holding players out of games for injuries not related at all to concussion symptoms, as well as for other "precautionary measures":  A player comes off the field with an ankle injury -- he better be checked to see whether he has a concussion as well ... A player's helmet comes off during the play -- now he has to go to the sideline to be tested for a concussion ... A player has been found to be related to someone having once had a concussion -- he needs to be held out of all team activities until genetics is officially ruled out as a possible cause of concussions ... steam is coming off the bald head of a player having just come to the sideline and removed his helmet on a cold, below-zero night at Lambeau Field -- does it need to be said?

Soon enough, like Jimmy Stewart's character in the movie Rear Window, all league officials appointed to monitor concussion symptoms during the games will be staring through binoculars down at the sidelines looking for anything that might imply a player might be susceptible to concussions. If the league official doesn't like the way a player is slurping on his Gatorade or stretching his hammies during pre-game, he'll radio down to the field and have a emissary go over and tap the player on the shoulder. Nothing even will need to be said; the player will just know that he has been diagnosed with a concussion while, for example, giving a pre-game interview with Suzy Kolber and needs to leave the playing field immediately.

~The starters will get their most preseason action next Friday against San Diego.  The first cuts come three days later, and final cuts four days after that. It will be interesting to see how well the starters play against a formidable Chargers team.  The game will be played again at the Dome (aka "Mall of America Field/ Stadium"). For all of you planning on attending it, please consider taking out an insurance policy protecting both yourself and your loved ones from flung game programs and airborne paper planes. Such insurance policies aren't going to be cheap but they're well worth it since the Dome is Ground Zero for such atrocities.  Let's be safe, people.  

Some Does and Bucks from the game:  

The Does

Offensive lineI am perhaps being a little picky with this one, as the starting offensive unit did score on all three of its possessions (one TD, two FG's). But the first drive in particular the O-line had some difficulty keeping a talented Buffalo front four out of their backfield, giving up a couple of sacks. On the third play of the Vikings opening drive, Buffalo DT Marcal Dareus blew-up the pocket by knocking center John Sullivan right back into Christian Ponder. Ponder was flushed which resulted in the 330-pound Dareus landing right on top of him. That's not what you want to see happen to your starting QB during a preseason game. The Vikings were able to overcome the sacks allowed by responding with big plays of their own, but this isn't a luxury they're always going to have at their disposal. Playing in a division of pass-rushing provocateurs like they do, it's imperative to Ponder's development that the Vikings' offensive line gel ASAP.
 
Chris Carr 
Carr looks like a liability in coverage.  He's been picked on by opposing offenses two games in a row now, and at times he looks like he's playing a different coverage from the rest of the secondary. It will be interesting to see how many CB's the Vikings keep on their 53-man roster. With the team pinning high hopes onto rookie Josh Robinson contributing immediately, and with Zack Bowman, Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels all having youth and/or return ability going for them, Carr -- who signed but a one-year contract this offseason -- might be the odd man out since he hasn't made a case as of yet how his veteran experience might equate to a more productive secondary this year.

Devin Aromashodu
Aromashodu still doesn't have a preseason catch, and it isn't because of a lack of targets — he had a game high six against Buffalo. In fairness, most passes thrown his way have been courtesy of the long ball and he did manage to haul one in amid tight coverage but he was ruled out of bounds. When a player is on the bubble he needs to seize the opportunities that are given and go out and make a play. Aromashodu appears more committed to shooting the referees with gestures of indignation for not calling pass interference than going all out to come down with the catch. 

Jennifer Sanfilippo-Smith 
She had no part in the game itself, but her asinine comment at 9:16 PM following the aforecited NFL.com article regarding the festive atmosphere at the Dome Friday night has more than earned a spot on this list:  "Its pre season [sic] boys. We party hard and are complete die hard fans in Bills town. But we are also smart enough to recognize the stakes and importance of each game. And save our excessive celebrations for the appropriate times."  Bills town? Your profile, Jennifer, states that you reside in El Paso, Texas! That's like saying Honaunau-Napoopoo, Hawaii is the nerve center for Skol Nation. And considering the Bills haven't made the playoffs since falling to the Music City Miracle in 1999, your "excessive celebrations" can hardly find an "appropriate time" soon enough.  

The Bucks

Christian Ponder
Ponder was 10-of-13 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown and added six yards on three scrambles. Ponder racked up his numbers in just three drives, and completed passes to eight different receivers. Ponder's decision-making appears improved. He's 14-of-22 for 216 yards and a score thus far this preseason. Ponder missed Kyle Rudolph in the corner of the endzone, but he had a man in his face. That was about the only missed opportunity in the game. In fact, he even made a perfectly under-thrown deep ball to Michael Jenkins down the right sideline for a 35-yard gain. It cannot be stressed enough how ridiculously good one must be to actually get something positive out of underthrowing Michael Jenkins.
 
Josh Robinson
Robinson had two pass break-ups to go along with two tackles -- it was a case where quality certainly exceeded quantity. The broadcast commentators ridiculed Robinson for not picking off the first of his PBU's, and the Vikings definitely cannot afford any more dropped INT's this year. But watching the replay, one can appreciate what a great play it was for Robinson to even get a hand on it. Robinson was covering the flat in a Cover-2 scheme when he noticed WR Derek Hagan, who technically wasn't even occupying his zone, working his way back towards a soft spot in the coverage. Robinson read the QB and reacted by back-tracking while the ball was in the air, spun around while leaping at least a good three feet and deflected it away from the receiver. Robinson's play forced a Buffalo punt. Then, with time winding down in the second quarter, Robinson made a crucial stop of RB Tashard Choice forcing the Bills into a fourth-down play they would fail to convert. Not at all bad for playing in his first professional game.  

Toby Gerhart
Simply put, knowing that his inevitable role is as Adrian Peterson's back-up, it's easy to undervalue Gerhart as a runner. But take a close look at what you get: a physical specimen at over 230-pounds who accelerates quickly, hits the hole decisively, is faster than he's given credit for and will not go down on first contact. The more you watch Gerhart, the more you appreciate him. He carried the ball six times for 30 yards against the Bills, including a 16-yard surge on 3rd-and-18 which led to the Vikings first TD of the preseason. Gerhart could be a starting running back for many teams, and he's the reason why there's no need to be rushing Adrian Peterson back into action.

Tweets of the week:

Jake Reed:  Can you suit up?
Christian Ballard:  With seafood only.
Erin Henderson:  When was that again?
Kyle Rudolph:  Thank you and welcome home!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Viking DB Pioneer to Medical Breakthrough?

According to a study released last week, the number of concussions suffered by NFL players on kickoffs dropped sharply last season after the league changed its kickoff rule, contributing to a small decline in the overall number of such injuries.

Players suffered 266 concussions last season, including 20 on kickoffs. That was down from 270 concussions suffered by NFL players during the 2010 season, 35 of them on kickoffs.

There has been a great deal of handwringing over the last few years over the frequency and long-term consequences of players concussed in the NFL. Measures have been taken by the league meant to minimize the risk of players obtaining a head-related injury in light of a bevy of lawsuits being filed by former players accusing the NFL of having not taken enough steps in years past to prevent such.

Moving kickoffs up five yards in an attempt to increase the number of touchbacks, as the cited study specifically analyzed, was but one way the league sought to improve player safety.

The league has also dished out a heavy dose of player fines for hits made—whether intentional or not—that the league now considers dangerous.

Helmets have been designed and redesigned that may or may not improve player safety—no one really knows since crash test dummies have a tendency to be less than forthright in discussing symptoms induced by a crash-test experience. And now, there is discussion about putting sensors inside of helmets capable of tracking and detecting concussion symptoms before they escalate; which makes you wonder how the football-industrial complex is able to do that, but not design a helmet which preempts concussions altogether.

Effforts are being made also to make leg/knee pads mandatory so as to lessen the impact of knee-to-head collisions which tend to happen every now and again in a contact sport such as football (apparently the NFL doesn't care about knees, just heads).

NFL Lite is upon us, people. But might there be an easier and more logical approach to deal with all this concussion-related controversy?

Enter Reggie Jones.

The Vikings signed CB Reggie Jones off the Redskins practice squad in 2011, and if media reports are accurate, he has had a productive training camp so far. But his greatest contribution to this sport may only now be realized. Reggie has never had a concussion, and by clicking here you will understand why.

Technically, folks, that mushroom cloud sprouting from Mr. Jones's skull is referred to as an afro (or 'fro for short). But to a safety, biomedical and/or clinical research engineer, it's what is known as a "cutting-edge" solution to the concussion problem: an advanced, high-density, lightweight, Tempur-Pedic-Kevlar blend, inboard airbag capable of absorbing even the most serious of blows. It is built for comfort, flexibility and thermodynamics. It is a simpler, less controversial upgrade to anything the league has to this point concocted in an attempt to get concussions under control and it costs the league absolutely nothing to implement. And the best part about it is that there's no chance it can malfunction being how it is already fully deployed. 

The performance ratings of these Improvised Anti-Concussive Devices are second to none, and in previous non-sanctioned studies the evidence corroborating their effectiveness appears tenable as well as impressive:

Jim Marshall. The Purple People Eater Great played in a then record 270 consecutive games as a defensive lineman. Total number of concussions in that time: 0.

Three of the most physical running backs in the history of the NFL never had (or at least reported) a concussion. Besides Franco Harris, John Riggins and Earl Campbell all being in the Hall of Fame, do you want to venture a guess as to their other shared attribute?

Despite merely sporting a Jules Winnfield-style 'fro, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' QB Josh Freeman has never had a concussion. So, you can extrapolate how much protection a full-blown Moochie Norris provides a player with.

Mean Joe Greene never had a concussion. Nor did Lester "The Molester" Hayes.

Jonathan Ogden? Nope. Adrian Ross? Nada. Kenny Bell? So far, so good.


What does Randy Moss have in common...


... with a troll doll ...



... and three-fifths of the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter?
Answer:  No concussions.
 


Oscar Gamble played 17 years in the majors without a single concussion. Just ask Justin Morneau how difficult that is.

Coco Crisp isn't exactly a spring chicken either, but his melon has been mush-free.

The great Ogie Oglethorpe of the movie Slap Shot, didn't only play without a helmet in a minor-league hockey federation that doubled for a gladiator school, he was a brawler who invited adversaries to knuckle his noggin' knowing that the disco ball grown atop of it made him impervious to even the best haymakers thrown at him.



Ogie Oglethorpe: Poster-child for a concussion-free life-style?

There has to be a reason why Napolean Dynamite has never been concussed in spite of all those Evel Knievel-like bike stunts of his. 

For that matter, Foxxy Cleopatra, Sideshow Bob, and Strawberry Shortcake have never been approached about taking a CT scan.

So what is to be made of this?

There is no need on kickoffs to place the ball on the return team's half of the field in order to insure a touchback.

Why bother implementing rule changes intended to re-program players to hit in a manner antithetical to the way they were taught their entire lives?

And what good does it do to manufacture helmets equipped with better insulation and improved "shock absorbing" technology if the players refuse to wear them on account they make their head feel as though bubble-wrapped by a overzealous Kinko's-Fedex employee, and makes them look a lot like a bobblehead figurine given away to the first 5,000 fans of a game which no one would attend otherwise?

If the NFL truly cares about player safety, it need only mandate all players gro' a 'fro.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vikings' Training Camp: Week Two Recap

Week two of Vikings' training camp is in the books. Here's a recap: 
 
With the first preseason game of the year on Friday, much of the news coming out of training camp during week two pertained to it. As for camp itself, the biggest story was a couple of confrontations had between Vikings' mercurial wide receiver Percy Harvin and rookie safety Harrison Smith. As was reported by ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero and Judd Zulgad, the commotion began on Tuesday when during drills "Harvin caught a touchdown pass against Smith and briefly stood over the rookie, prompting Smith to say something that brought an unfavorable response from Harvin...."  There were previous reports of Smith practicing aggressively and a minor exchange between he and backup tight end Mickey Shuler having transpired during drills last week after Smith put a hit on Shuler. There were no previous reports involving any issues between Harvin and Smith; and therefore, if indeed that is the case, Harvin appears to be the instigator here.

Training camp is a time in which a player is supposed to prepare himself physically, mentally and emotionally for the upcoming season. During an actual game, standing over someone following a play draws a fifteen-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting. Why Harvin would feel it necessary to resort to that sort of conduct against a teammate on a practice field is suspect no matter which way you wish to look at it.

And what is more, following the second incident in question, for someone within the organization to have deemed it necessary to have a member of its media relations department chaperone Harvin off the field ought to embarrass both he and the team. Can a time be recalled when Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, or Wes Welker needed an escort off the field so as to evade having to answer questions from the media?  Why wasn't such a courtesy extended to Harrison Smith?  Like a man, Smith faced the media and answered its questions about the incident:  "It's not a passive sport. It's an aggressive sport played by aggressive people, so that stuff happens."

You have to tip your hat to Smith for not taking any shit just because he's a rookie. There was an absence of physicality on the Vikings defense too many times last year, as they were often shoved around and about with little or no resistance or effort to reciprocate. And if the offense can't handle his aggressive style of play, how are they ever going to handle the physicality of Ndamukong Suh, Patrick Willis, Julius Peppers, The Claymaker, Adrian Wilson and J.J. Watt this season?  Time to take the pampers off, girls. Orange Julius kiosks all across America are currently hiring if the pigskin profession is too tough for you.

Some other news and notes: 
  • Adrian Peterson has been removed from the active/PUP list and resumed practicing in 11-on-11 team drills at Vikings camp. It means he cannot start the regular season on reserve/PUP. Peterson is already working with the first team at Vikings practice and figures to play in a game at some point this preseason. It's clear that Peterson has not suffered a setback since his ACL surgery in December and, although he could still miss a game or two, he's on track to return in time for Week 1 against Jacksonville.    
  • Vikings starting NT Letroy Guion will miss a "week or two" after spraining his right PCL in Friday's preseason opener. Guion is in danger of missing the Vikings' next two preseason games. Coach Leslie Frazier fully expects him to be ready for Week 1. Guion is backed up by veteran Fred Evans and seventh-round rookie Trevor Guyton. 
  • John Carlson was spotted lightly jogging Monday for the first time since sustaining his knee injury on July 31. It's a minor step in the right direction. Carlson was wearing a large brace on his knee and had a hitch in his stride. He's still not close to returning from that Grade 2 MCL sprain. 
  • OC Bill Musgrave explains that Christian Ponder has made improvement in checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage. Too often last season, Ponder locked in on his primary read and left the pocket quickly because he wasn't reading the defense before the snap

Friday's Game: 

Injuries aside, the Vikings didn't suit up Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield or Percy Harvin. It has been custom in recent years for the Vikings to sit 30+ year-old players in the first preseason game. But why Harvin? The starters only played a couple series, so it wouldn't have killed him to have gotten some reps. After all, if he had the "spunk" during the week to spar with rookie safety Harrison Smith, then he should have had the energy to play some snaps. If the coaching staff was concerned about the possibility of injury, then don't play him at all during the preseason since a threat of injury doesn't differentiate one week from the next. Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, were among the receivers who all played in this week's preseason games. On the surface, this just looks like more cuddling of Percy and it sends a mixed message to the rest of the players particularly after Harvin's offseason antics. 

Christian Ponder completed 4-of-9 passes for 80 yards and scrambled twice for seven yards. Ponder got no help from his teammates, as three of his incompletions were dropped by receivers. The other two were thrown away under pressure.

Matt Kalil was beaten badly on an outside speed-rush on third-and-nine during the Vikings' opening drive, causing Ponder to flee the pocket and get rid of the ball.  Welcome to the NFL!  The play resulted in Blair Walsh's first professional field goal to get the Vikings on the board.

WR Stephen Burton caught a 52-yard post pattern on the second play of the Vikings first possession, but later had an ugly drop on a timed curl route where he obviously felt the heat of an incoming defender and took his eyes off the ball.

There were two other Christian Ponder passes dropped in the first two possessions: one by Jerome "Cannabis" Simpson on the third play of the game, and another by veteran Michael Jenkins. The Cannabis drop was particularly slapstick considering the play was obviously designed specifically for him. It worked well considering he was wide open but he let the ball into his body, and while trying to collect the rebound, he looked like someone trying to defend himself against a wedgie attack.

Here are some noted Mutts and Beasts from the game:

Mutts

The Run Defense
Honestly, did you get the license plate of that armored Humvee that just ran roughshod over the Vikings' defense to the tune of 260 yards on 42 carries for an average of 6.8 per rush. Ouch!  The fact that Kevin Williams didn't play and Letroy Guion left the game with a knee injury is offset by the likes of Anthony Dixon and Rock Cartwright being responsible for doing the majority of the damage (save 49ers' back-up QB Colin Kaepernick's long TD run made on a read-option play which he was hardly even touched during). Yeah, that's right, a 32 year-old journeyman Rock Cartwright for one game in his career looked like Eric Dickerson!  Now, if we could only allure Elvis Peacock and Jarvis Redwine to come out of retirement and do the same, the Vikings will have the distinct pleasure of being the first team in NFL history to have been bulldozed by three different Hanna-Barbera characters. Which segues to...

Jasper Brinkley
Watching the game for a second-time, it is mind-numbing how utterly incompetent Brinkley looked. It was like he was always a good second-and-a-half behind everyone else on his reactions. Moreover, he seemingly wanted to negotiate with blockers rather than shed them and often was simply overwhelmed as the ball-carrier practically waved a "See ya" while running past him. On the 49ers touchdown drive in the first quarter, there's a play where Brinkley encroached the line of scrimmage off the snap before pirouetting thinking it was a pass—only in fact it was a run. The effect was reminiscent of the classic arcade game Frogger, with Brinkley heading in the direction of incoming traffic looking around like a deer in headlights. Upon realizing it was a run, he pirouetted yet again but was facing the opposite sideline from where the action was taking place. Eventually, J'Brink entered the camera shot once more—after the play had been over for four seconds and other players were already heading back to the huddle—clapping his hands together and shaking his head to himself as though he just missed making the play. It goes without saying that Jasper's going to have to pick-up his game a notch.

Jarius Wright
The rookie WR selected in the fourth-round of the draft has not had a very good camp if reports are accurate. If so, he only compounded it all the more with a performance in Friday's game that could be considered lacking in energy and awareness. Perhaps he doesn't know the playbook like he should, but there was one play which he obviously didn't know whether he ought to be going out on a pass route or staying home and blocking. Wright didn't catch a pass on three targets and didn't come back to the ball on a late fourth-quarter pass from McLeod Bethel-Thompson resulting in an interception. The Vikings' look very shaky at the wide receiver position. 

Broadcaster Paul Allen
For those of you who have ever listened to a Vikings' radio broadcast, you're cognizant of play-by-play man Paul Allen's propensity for proffering the preposterously ill-informed aper├žu every now and again. The KFAN radio personality and his always uninsightful game-analyst—career bench-player and back-up linebacker Pete Bercich—were calling the game during Friday night's locally televised broadcast. While offering a compendium of rookie offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Allen demonstrated once more how very little he actually knows about college players and prospects by commenting that Kalil played right-tackle at Southern Cal and had only made the move to left-tackle after Tyron Smith left school early for the draft (he was taken by the Dallas Cowboys with the ninth overall pick in 2011). The truth of the matter is, Kalil had always played the left-tackle position at USC and, in fact, he beat out Tyron Smith for said honor. That was one of the reasons the pundits accredited Kalil for being a unique left-tackle prospect.  

The Beasts

Kerry Taylor
WR Taylor had a strong preseason last year for the Packers, catching seven passes for 56 yards and a score, but couldn't crack the Packers' loaded receiver corps. He spent time on the practice squad of four different teams during the course of the year including the Vikings, so he's considered a long shot to make the final roster. But, for this game anyways, Taylor caught both passes thrown his way for 35 yards, including an absolute laser from third/fourth-string QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson which he had to go to the ground in order to cradle and of which went for 28 yards on a 3rd-and-14. A second watching of the game showed a kid that was quick and decisive out of his cuts, and an absolute irritant while blocking. In fact, several 49er DB's were visibly perturbed at his manhandling of them. With the Vikings receiver corp a work-in-progress, there's a chance a no-namer like Kerry could sneak onto the final roster with an impressive preseason. 

Audie Cole
If you have the opportunity to watch the game again, keep your eyes on #57 in the second-half.  The rookie linebacker was advertised as a strongside prospect coming out of the draft, but manned the middle last night. The broadcast had Cole miked, resulting in possibly the most boring sound bites ever recorded during an NFL game with the rookie but uttering approximately six words. As it turns out, he was letting his play do the talking: exhibiting high intensity, a willingness to take on and shed blockers, covering tight ends on pass patterns, and looking indefatigable in pursuit. In fact, I counted only two plays total with Cole on the field in which he wasn't either involved in or around the ball at the conclusion of the play. He finished the night with three solo tackles and sacked the crap out of back-up 49ers' QB (and former Wisconsin Badger) Scott Tolzien, but his statline really doesn't due his play justice. If Jasper Brinkley continues to look like a new-born gazelle trying to get its footing for the first time, Cole might be an attractive alternative to man the middle of the Vikings' base-D. 

Blair Walsh
Eyes were on the rookie placekicker to see how well he could handle an actual game experience in the NFL and he didn't disappoint. He went two-for-two on field goal attempts to go along with two touchbacks on kickoffs. Despite his range not being all that tested—his FG's were from 39 and 26 yards—he demonstrated poise and seemed unfazed by the spotlight. There are those nitpicking that the wind was at his back for both his touchbacks, but since he was kicking into the endzone in Mankato as well he deserves some benefit of the doubt. Next week will be Walsh's first opportunity to kick on the homefield. Since division-rival Detroit plays on the same field-turf as the Vikings do, Walsh is guaranteed at least nine games in which he'll be kicking off the same surface. If he kicks well enough on it the Vikings might feel compelled to bring it along with them to their new stadium in a few years.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Within the harsh elements of wind and chill that are synonymous with the City by the Bay, McLBT's (sounds like a McDonald's sandwich, doesn't it?) arm strength and quick release were nonetheless on display. His performance wasn't as good as some are giving him credit for; but regardless, he demonstrated poise, a command of the huddle and did enough to generate some chatter about himself which is exactly what a bubble-player trying to beat out a veteran for the QB3 position needs more than anything.

Now for the tweets of the week:  

Trevor Guyton:  Did you try Sid's wardrobe?
Stephen Burton: A deep league?    
Geoff Schwartz: And did you see Jasper Brinkley during Friday's game?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vikings vs. San Francisco: Keys to the "Game"

A big one tonight, folks. The Vikings travel to the City by the Bay to face the 49ers in what is sure to be a rampaging, knock-down-drag-out, hide-the-women-and-children, slugfest-in-the-middle-of-a-mosh pit, barnburner of a football spectacle!  It's the first of too many preseason games and the Vikings will have their hands full with a 49ers club entering the season with high expectations, and therefore, just trying their best to avoid any unnecessary injuries in a meaningless game.

Here are the keys to tonight's game for the Vikings:

1.  Get off to a quick start and take the "crowd" out of the game. Unless, that is, no one bothers to show up for the game — in which case, the Vikings should still try to get off to a quick start in hopes that it gets the game over with that much sooner.

2.  Redefine "Vanilla."  Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has already intimated that since these two teams play again in week three of the regular season we can expect the offensive schemes to be vanilla.  This revelation is rather confounding since it was always assumed that this was the very type of offense Musgrave prefers to run regardless. How does one go about making vanilla more vanilla-intensive?  Well, Ben & Jerry need to pay attention tonight: Musgrave's just the man capable of taking vanilla to the next stratosphere of ordinariness. There's no doubt a patent will be pending as a result.

3.  Keep the D-line fresh. This can be accomplished easily enough by rotating players like in... basketball. I almost said hockey there for a second. What was I thinking? Since everyone knows that hockey players don't really "rotate" but rather "shift lines"— and do so the vast majority of the time while the action is on-going — that would have been embarrassing to have made that comparison!

And make sure you fans keep an eye on... someone or another tonight. With rosters currently having close to 800 players on it, we don't know who's even going to be playing and for how long. Therefore, I strongly suggest playing the "license plate game" but with the numbers of players instead. Awarding bonus points to the person who first spots two different players with the same number from the same team makes it so much more compelling.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Training Camp: Week One Recap

With the first week of Vikings' training camp wrapped up in Mankato, here are some quick hits, impressions and tidbits:

With the exception of injuries starting to pile up, Vikings training camp so far has not exactly made for an AMC television series in terms of its drama — which, of course, is exactly how they prefer it.

As for the injuries, it is a bit unusual that a team suffer so many in but the first week of training camp; especially when hitting has been limited. Aside from the most recent injury to rookie WR Greg Childs, John Carlson was the first to go down. Signed this offseason as a free agent, the tight end is expected to miss anywhere from 1-4 weeks with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. This should hardly come as a shock to anyone:  Carlson has been a durability lightning rod since entering the league in 2008. In fact, here's a look at what Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman brought with him to Mankato in anticipation of treating Carlson's numerous inevitable injuries.

Another free agent signing of the Vikings in the offseason, offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is out indefinitely with a sports hernia. If Schwartz needs surgery, he'll be out 4-6 weeks, putting his status for Week 1 into jeopardy. The unfortunate injury likely locks Brandon Fusco into the starting job at right guard.

The strangest sojournment at the infirmary came courtesy of Adrian Peterson, who ate some bad jambalaya in the team's training camp cafeteria on Monday. It resulted in shortness of breath and swelling in his face, leading to a trip to the hospital. But he was already back at camp and in high spirits Tuesday, talking about how he wants to play in a preseason game. For those wondering, jambalaya is a Cajun dish consisting of rice with shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Peterson's allergic reaction to it doesn't exactly ameliorate its chances of being added to Perkins's Fall Menu.  

CB Josh Robinson, the Vikings third-round draft pick, continues to be limited at practice as he nurses a sore hamstring.

Receiver Stephen Burton (jammed toe) had been day-to-day until returning later in the week. In the case that Greg Childs is sidelined for an extended period of time, the Vikings certainly will give Burton an opportunity to impress.

Robert Blanton (hamstring), Pat Brown (knee), Jeff Charleston (ankle), Eric Frampton (chest), Kamar Jorden (wrist), DeMarcus Love (shoulder), Kevin Murphy (heat illness) and Jordan Todman (ankle) were all treated for non-serious injuries this week.

In other news...

Coach Leslie Frazier indicated that Adrian Peterson (knee) is getting closer to coming off the camp PUP list, but is "still not quite ready to put him out there." Peterson was fighting hard to avoid the PUP list entering camp, so it's no surprise that the Vikes are already talking about letting him practice. All signs continue to be positive in Peterson's recovery.

The "Blair Walsh Project" has looked good so far in camp. Not only has he consistently driven the ball into the endzone on kickoffs, he was 17 of 18 on field-goal attempts during 11-on-11 drills through Friday. His conversions included a 55-yarder. Speaking of which...

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer offered a remarkably candid recap of the way rookie placekicker Blair Walsh took the job from stalwart Ryan Longwell. Priefer said he made the recommendation to Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman that the team release Longwell, believing Walsh would be a better option. “Rick and Leslie, we were all on the same page,” Priefer said. “It was a tough deal, because he’s been a great kicker in this league for a long time. I just thought for the future of this team, kickoff-wise and even field goal-wise, it was the best move.”

The Vikings say they plan on reducing Jared Allen's snaps this season. Allen annually plays more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps. He racked up 22 sacks last year and just turned 30 years old in April. Allen told reporters that he will get angry if he's approached on a plan for reduced snaps, but he also said: "I'm going to do what's asked of me."  No matter how Allen feels about his workload, the question remains whether the Vikings have a reserve player worthy of getting more snaps if Allen's are reduced.

Speaking of Jared Allen, he insists that this year's training camp heretofore has been the toughest he's participated in since 2005 in Kansas City. 

Coach Leslie Frazier believes TE Kyle Rudolph, who has shined in camp, has "a chance to be special." Frazier stated:  "The way he can catch the football is second-to-none. His catching radius is amazing ... If Christian gets it close to him, he knows that Kyle is going to come up with the football." Ponder has indicated that he's confident throwing to Rudolph even if he's just "barely" open. Which takes us to the "stat" of the week:  Rudolph's hands are 10 3/4-inches; which are larger than Matt Kalil's (10 3/8 inches).

Might there be a roster battle for the number three quarterback between veteran Sage Rosenfels and camp invite and former Miami Dolphin practice squadee McLeod Bethel-Thompson?  It has been reported that Rosenfels has looked awful throwing the football so far in camp. McLBT, on the other hand, has displayed a strong arm which might interest other teams if the Vikings should cut him.

In an interview with ESPN 1500's Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey, QB Christian Ponder acknowledged that he weighs 233 lbs. and has gained 21 pounds since last February when he weighed 212 lbs. Here's his secret

Veteran CB Antoine Winfield was given two days off this week as the Vikings try to keep him fresh and injury-free for the upcoming season. After hearing from 23 year-old Chris Cook about how refreshed he felt after missing virtually all of the 2011 season due to off-the-field troubles, the Vikings decided to implement a similar modus operandi for the 35 year-old Winfield—though they have concerns that it won't be nearly as effective for Winfield being how he has always been a model citizen and consummate professional.

And finally, the Tweets of the week:

Blair Walsh:  Big Easy-bound?
Brandon Fusco:  May you have many more! 
Christian Ponder:  Oh, you'll be back.
Chris Kluwe:  Cue drum roll...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Greg Childs Injured

Rookie wide receiver Greg Childs was carted off with an apparent leg injury in Saturday's practice.

The Vikings have yet to provide an update on his status, but it doesn't sound like there's any chance this isn't a significant injury. According to ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero, Childs became awkwardly twisted with a defensive back while extending to make a downfield catch. It's not yet clear whether this is related to the leg injury that shortened his junior season. His return to the team is not considered imminent. 

Pelissero reported earlier in the week that Childs "has always been the in-house favorite" to start opposite Percy Harvin during Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension. Childs dropped several balls early on in camp, but he made the play of camp in Thursday's practice.

It was believed that the drafting of Childs made veteran WR Michael Jenkins expendable. Jenkins, who is due $2.5 million coming off knee surgery, was considered to be on the proverbial bubble in terms of making the final roster. The Vikings might now be forced to reconsider their options.