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Jared Allen: “We have their back”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 8:49 pm

Unless you’ve been stuck in a cave all day today, you’ve noticed that Vikings DE Jared Allen has made several apperances on various media outlets regarding the Brett Favre situation. His message has been clear: he doesn’t hold a grudge against Favre and he is fully confident in both Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.

“If you’ve got a chance to get a player at that caliber at any position, you take the chance,” Allen said. “It’s no disrespect to anybody on this team. When we set our offseason goals for this season, it was set with either Tarvaris or Sage as our quarterback. For me, we’re back to camp, it’s business as usual, let’s move forward, the hooplah is over, let’s go get to business.”

Although Allen spends most of his season chasing quarterbacks, he made it clear on Wednesday evening that when it comes to Vikings quarterbacks, they have his full support.

“We got their back, I’ll tell them right now, we have their back,” Allen said. “One of them is going to be our quarterback and we’re cool with that. It’s just one of those things where they need to go out there and play their game. It’s not like it was a bunch of people being brought in to try to replace them. We’re talking about a future Hall of Famer that came on the auction block and we had a shot at him and we didn’t get him.”


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Hutchinson Offers Interesting Perspective on Favre

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 7:52 pm

For the 1st time in over a decade, Matt Birk won’t be strolling through the front doors of Gage Hall to check into another Vikings training camp. The longtime Viking was a free agent this past offseason and signed with Baltimore.

But Birk’s good buddy, OG Steve Hutchinson, is still here and, in fact, arrived at training camp early Wednesday evening.  And he was sporting a thicker-than-usual beard (asked when he started growing the beard, Hutchinson comically responded “last night.”)

With Birk gone, Hutchinson becomes the most veteran member of the Vikings offensive line, with 8 seasons under his belt. As the veteran most lineman, Hutchinson will be relied upon as a leader at his position. This is an important role for the 6-time Pro Bowler because the offensive line will be in transition during training camp, as they break in a new center (John Sullivan) and entertain what will be a fierce position battle at RT between 2009 2nd round draft pick Phil Loadholt and incumbent starter Ryan Cook.

Going a step further, Hutchinson is also looked upon as a leader of the entire football team. He was a team captain last year and most likely will be again in 2009. So, as would happen to any team leader, Hutchinson was asked immediately upon his arrival about the most-talked about subject surrounding the Vikings – Brett Favre.

Hutchinson’s response was similar to what we’ve heard from head coach Brad Childress – that the opportunity to pursue a player like Brett Favre was unique and that any time you can improve your roster, you do it.

But Hutchinson also made an interesting comment on the matter, saying that he didn’t blame Favre for his decision and even acknowledging that he knows one day he might be in the same position.

“It’s a position I’m probably going to have to be in one day,” Hutchinson said. “Whether to continue playing or retire. It’s hard. For a guy like that, and all he’s done for this game, it’s probably hard for him on his own to walk away, so you’ve got to respect him.”

The reaction we’ll hear from many Vikings players and coaches will be on message, just as any sound organization would have it. So an interesting perspective, such as the one Hutchinson offered about some day being in a similar position as Favre, was interesting and definitely worth noting here.


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Childress: “We are going our way”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 6:00 pm

Players began arriving at Gage Hall on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, today as the Vikings are nearly set to open 2009 training camp. The team will have a series of meetings tomorrow and then the 1st practice of training camp will be held on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m.

It’s typical for a throng of media members to wait outside the main entrance to speak with players as they drive into the parking lot and begin the process of checking in. But today a larger-than-normal media contingent was present, and speaking to players wasn’t their primary objective.

In light of QB Brett Favre’s decision to remain retired and not join the Vikings, much of today’s focus was centered on Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress. After arriving in Mankato, parking his car and settling in for a moment, Childress came outside to address the media and his team’s current QB situation.

Childress began by reiterating the message he sent yesterday, acknowledging the rare opportunity of looking at adding a Hall of Fame QB who has a record that speaks for itself, knowledge of the Vikings offensive system and knowledge of the division. He also added that he owes it to his team and to the Vikings organization to continue and bring in the best possible players to help the team win. But Childress also said that both Favre and the Vikings have moved their separate ways and now his focus is on the Vikings QB competition.

“I’m more than content with these two guys (Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels) competing with each other and throwing JD Booty in the mix,” Childress said. “They’re going to go back and take the same turns that they took all spring. It’ll be a fun training camp from that standpoint.”

Childress said he had an opportunity today (Wednesday) to speak with both Jackson and Rosenfels in his office at Winter Park. He said he thought Jackson was excited to begin training camp (and added the he was told Jackson was the 1st player in Mankato Wednesday) and that from what he could tell, Rosenfels was also excited to compete for the starting job.

Childress was asked about a few other important topics…

On the prospects of looking at Michael Vick: “The guys we’ve got, we’re going to fashion the team around and go forward that way. It’s going to be Sage and Tarvaris, and we’ll see how JD Booty factors in.”

On the chances of alienating Jackson and Rosenfels by pursuing Favre: “The National Football League is extremely, extremely, extremely competitive. (Bringing in Favre is) [N]o more (alienating) than bringing in Jared Allen has a chance to alienate the defensive line or the defensive ends. You say ‘QBs are a different animal…’ from the standpoint that they compete to play, I don’t know that they are different. I don’t worry about trust being an issue. They trust the fact that we’re going to get the best players we can to surround the rest of the football team.”

On the Percy Harvin contract situation: “I just talked to Rob (Brzezinski) a little while ago and they’re in the middle of negotiations and they both take time (to go) back and forth. It’s important for him to get in here, especially at his position and with the different things he has to learn. Not to mention getting here and getting in pads.”


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Loadholt Signs and Moving Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 12:38 pm

Good news out of Winter Park today – Vikings 2nd round draft pick OT Phil Loadholt has signed his rookie contract and will report to training camp on time. The only draft choice who remains unsigned is WR Percy Harvin, and I don’t expect that he’ll miss any time during training camp because of his contract. I’m sure his agent and Vikings VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski are working hard to hammer out an agreement.

I am just about to pack up and head down to Mankato for a couple of weeks. I’ve been anxious to get to camp during this offseason and I’m even more excited for the season to finally roll around. The time has come to finish preparations for the 2009 season and set out to defend last year’s division championship.

While in Mankato for camp, I will have several entries on the blog per day, especially once practices begin on Friday. In addition to blog entries, we’ll also have headline stories, coverage of press conferences, exclusive video content from practices, and much more.

Also, don’t forget to submit your questions to me at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net for our Monday Morning Mailbag feature. We’ll be bringing the mailbag with us to camp.


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Analyzing Training Camp Battles – Backup Defensive Tackle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 8:30 am

Training camp continues to creep closer, as we are now only about 48 hours from the 1st practice (as of this posting). Players have begun to arrive back in Minnesota, much of the Vikings football staff has migrated to Mankato and Brett Favre has made his decision. So now we just have to finish up our “Analyzing Training Camp Battles” series here in the vikings.com Blog.

So far, we’ve taken a look at RT, nickel back and WR in this series. Next up is the backup DT position, followed in the next 2 days by the backup LB spot and QB.

The Vikings have led the league in rushing defense the past 3 seasons, a feat that has not been accomplished in the modern day NFL (since the 1970 merger). And the anchor of this dominant run defense is the Vikings excellent DT tandem of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Since Pat Williams signed with the Vikings in 2005, the tandem has appeared in 3 Pro Bowls together.

Given how important the Williams Wall is to the Vikings defense, it’s also important for the Vikings to have solid backup options in the event that the Williams Wall suddenly becomes the William Wall or no wall at all. This happened last year, when Pat Williams was injured and was forced to miss the final 2 games of the regular season.

As the team opens camp, there are 3 veterans who will be the primary candidates to backup the Williams Wall – Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy. As it stands right now, Evans is probably the most reliable option, given his presence in the DL rotation over the past 2 seasons. Kennedy, a former 1st round pick, was added as a free agent last year and Guion was a 5th round pick in the 2008 draft.

Guion is the wild card in this position battle because although he hasn’t played in many games since being drafted, he continues to be included in the team’s plans. He was inactive for 15 of the Vikings 17 games in 2008, seeing action at Tennessee in Week 4 and then also at Detroit in Week 14. Guion stands at 6-4, 303 pounds, so on paper he appears to have the physical stature to hold up in the trenches. Now, he must go to work during camp and prove that he can hold up on the field, too.

Aside from those 3 veterans, the Vikings also have a couple of undrafted rookies who will be added to this competition.  They are Antoine Holmes (NC State) and Tremaine Johnson (LSU). Both players are 6-2 and weigh in a roughly 290 pounds, and both players will look to learn behind a pair of Pro Bowlers. Holmes, who was a junior college transfer, played both DE and DT at NC State. Johnson played behind Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, a pair of 1st round DTs, during his career at LSU. As a freshman at LSU, Johnson was coached by Karl Dunbar, who is now the Vikings DL coach.

It’s always a numbers game for the coaching staff when it’s time to decide how many DL to keep on the 53-man roster. Given his past with the Vikings, look for Evans to be a favorite to get one backup spot. But any other spots that become available are wide open as the team is nearly set to open training camp.


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Peterson Confident, Anxious to Begin Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 28, 2009 – 5:08 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress confirmed to vikings.com that QB Brett Favre has decided to stay retired, ending an offseason-long string of speculation that the former Packer would join the Vikings in 2009.

In a statement released by Childress following Favre’s decision, the Vikings head coach said it was a unique opportunity to pursue a player such as Favre, but also that he feels good about his team and is looking forward to opening training camp in Mankato later this week.

One of the players who will be with the team when it opens camp on Friday is superstar RB Adrian Peterson.   Peterson is excited to begin the season and also very confident in the teammates he has.

“It doesn’t make sense to worry about things that are out of my control,” Peterson said today. “My entire focus this offseason has been to recharge my body and prepare myself for the 2009 season. I am confident in every player we have on our roster and I believe our front office has done everything in its power to keep improving our team. Now, as players, it’s our job to go out there and defend our division championship, get back to the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl.”


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Vikings and Delta Announce Partnership

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 28, 2009 – 10:28 am

The Delta-Northwest Airlines merger earlier this year had a significant impact locally on travelers and businesses alike. The Minnesota Vikings were included in the group of impacted entities.

As a result, the Vikings have announced that Delta Air Lines will assume Northwest Airlines’ long-standing status as the “Official Airline of the Minnesota Vikings” for the 2009 NFL season. The Vikings had flown Northwest for every charter in team history, but now Delta will serve as the Vikings team charter airline for all away games in 2009. There will also be several other marketing initiatives between the Vikings and Delta.

“The Vikings are excited about our continuing partnership with the new Delta Air Lines,” said Vikings Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. “The team enjoyed a solid relationship with Northwest Airlines over the past several years, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with Delta during the 2009 season.”

Minneapolis was formerly a hub for Northwest Airlines, but now the Twin Cities will be a hub under the Delta Air Lines umbrella along with Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, New York-JFK, Salt Lake City, Amsterdam and Tokyo-Narita. Delta Airlines is the world’s number one airline and along with its Northwest subsidiary and Delta Connection carriers, Delta will offer service to 368 destinations in 66 countries and serve more than 170 million passengers each year.

Added to that substantial list of passengers is the Vikings organization, beginning with the team’s 1st preseason game at Indianapolis on August 14.


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Analyzing Position Battles – Wide Receiver

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2009 – 1:53 pm

If you look back to when Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress first took over the team, and then you look at Childress’ current Vikings roster, the one position that has seen arguably the most improvement is WR.

In 2006 the Vikings WRs included players such as Bethel Johnson, Billy McMullen, Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson. Now, players such as Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade comprise the WR corps.

None of those players are necessarily knocking on the front door of the Hall of Fame in Canton, but the improvement from 2006 to now is quite notable. And the process of continually improving in this position will continue during training camp.

With the 4 above-mentioned players, 7 other players will be running routes on the practice fields of Minnesota State University, Mankato for the next 2 weeks. Returning from last year are Aundrae Allison, Darius Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson. Newcomers include Glenn Holt, Nick Moore, Vinny Perretta and Bobby Williams.

As NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan points out, the WR position battle will center around Wade, who will be pushed for snaps by Harvin and Rice. Wade is a quality player – the kind of player who not only always knows his assignment, but also knows the assignments of other players. He’s also sure-handed and knows how to get open and stay open.

Rice is coming off a season that was hampered by injury and Harvin comes in with 1st round credentials and a highlight reel longer than a Tiger Woods tee shot. Add in guys such as Allison, Johnson and Reynaud, who possess shiftiness and an ability to perform on special teams, and you can see why the WR position battle is a full one.

Bobby Williams was a late addition during the OTA season, but he showed great hands when he was on the field. Moore and Perretta are both hard workers who will need to battle their way into the rotation.


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Vikings Waive CB Charles Gordon

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2009 – 11:17 am

The Vikings moved on Monday to waive CB Charles Gordon because of a failed physical. The move leaves the Vikings with 81 players on the roster and 15 total DBs.

Gordon originally joined the Vikings as an undrafted rookie in 2006, where he initially was on practice squad but eventually moved up to the active roster and was 1 of just 4 rookies and the lone undrafted rookie to start a game during the season. In 2007 he grabbed his 1st career INT against the Chargers and had a career best 7 tackles against the 49ers.

Aside from contributing to the Vikings defense as a nickel back, Gordon was also a standout special teams player for the Puprle. He was a shifty kick returner, which added value to his role with the team. But it was on a special teams play that an ankle injury eventually ended his season in 2008. Gordon suffered the injury while returning a punt against the Packers in Week 10 of last season and was later placed on injured reserve.


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Vikings to Host USA FB Coaching School on Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 24, 2009 – 3:10 pm

The Vikings will partner with USA Football to host a coaching clinic at Winter Park this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Approximately 180 Minnesota Youth Football Coaches, representing more than 3,600 players, will attend the event.

Saturday’s coaching clinic is one of 48 similar events that will be held in 35 states during 2009. The contingent of youth coaches gathered at Winter Park this weekend will gain insight from keynote speaker Heath Farwell and receive instruction from top high school coaches from throughout Minnesota.

The event will be broken down into individual sessions, and the range of topics covered will include coaching philosophy and best practices, responsible coaching, teaching proper fundamentals, executing drills, and communicating with players, parents and other coaches.

USA Football, which was started by the NFL and the NFLPA in 2002, is based near Washington D.C. and serves as the national governing body of America’s favorite sport on youth and amateur levels.


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