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Vikings In Good Shape With Frazier, Spielman Working Together

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2011 – 2:27 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman have worked together in the draft preparation process since Frazier was hired as defensive coordinator back in 2007. But their working relationship is much different this year because Frazier is now the club’s head coach and therefore will work much more closely with Spielman and his personnel staff.

And while this is the tandem’s first run-through with the draft, it seems as if everything is running smoothly. Spielman has been effusive in his praise of Frazier’s leadership and communication style in recent weeks and on Friday at the Combine Frazier was just as complimentary of Spielman’s style.

“It’s been good working with Rick and that six-week period helped me a lot, just to see how he goes about things and what his expectations are and for him to get a feel for me as well,” Frazier said.

The 6-week period Frazier referenced is the period of time in which Frazier served as interim head coach following Brad Childress’ departure. During that time, Frazier and Spielman worked together to manage the day-to-day operations of the Vikings roster as they closed out a disappointing 2010 season.

But even during that rough stretch for the franchise, Frazier’s message to everyone who was listening was that those tough times would ultimately be looked back upon as the beginning of something great. Frazier’s mantra is and was that at some point in the near future, when the team had accomplished its goals, the team would look back at the end of the 2010 season and say “That’s where this started.”

“That was very beneficial for both of us,” Frazier said of working with Spielman for the final 6 weeks of the 2010 season. “It’s probably helped us to be further along than we would’ve been if I had been hired in February coming from somewhere else.”

Frazier was asked on Friday if he would defer to Spielman during the draft process. It’s a fair question because Childress held final say over the 53-man roster, but the Vikings have no revealed if Frazier has final say over the roster as a part of his contract as head coach. Ultimately, the “final say” aspect that many people lament over doesn’t matter, and it’s because Frazier and Spielman enjoy a respectful, working relationship.

“I have trust in Rick and the scouts,” Frazier explained. “They’ve done the homework on these players. While we were out trying to win games on Sunday, they were on college campuses gathering information.

“Myself and the coaches, we’ll spend mid-January to April getting to know them (the players), but not nearly to the degree that our scouts will have or Rick. So we’re going to trust them.”

Frazier also explained that while he and his coaching staff will trust the scouts’ research, they also know the scouts will rely on the coaches in the process.

“One of the good things about our relationship is they’re relying heavily on the coaches’ opinions,” Frazier said. “They’re not saying, ‘Okay you’ve got to coach this defensive lineman. You’ve got to coach this offensive lineman’ without the coaches’ input.”

Frazier said the coaching staff has had a chance to explain to the personnel staff what they’re looking for from certain positions.

“That kind of communication gives you a chance to be successful to the point where you trust a Rick Spielman because he’s educated on what our staff wants on Sundays,” Frazier said. “I have no problem if Rick says ‘Hey, this guy is an A+ player versus this guy being a C player. He’s done the background check, he’s done the homework, so I have confidence that he’ll have a good recommendation.”


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Frazier, Spielman Discuss Greenway, Rice And The Franchise Tag

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2011 – 11:57 am

Despite the uncertainty the labor situation brings to the NFL and despite the fact that the franchise tag may or may not be relevant in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, nearly half of the NFL’s franchises have chosen to apply the franchise tag to one of their potential free agents.

The Vikings are one of the teams that have used their franchise tag and they applied it to LB Chad Greenway, ensuring that the 5-year veteran will remain a part of the team for at least one more season and increasing the likelihood that he’ll eventually sign a long-term contract with the Purple. As positive a development as that was for the Vikings, it did leave in question whether or not WR Sidney Rice will return to the club in 2010.

Depending on the rules of the next CBA, Rice could be an unrestricted free agent. If that happens, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams. With all of that said, both Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman were asked about the club’s decision to tag Greenway instead of Rice.

“Sidney is an outstanding player and he’s done a great job for us,” Frazier said on Friday. “But we really like where Chad is right now in his career and what he’s been able to do in staying on the field and getting better every single year, and what he’s done off the field in our community, that was the way to go.

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t want Sidney as a Minnesota Viking, because we do.”

Spielman also talked about the value Greenway brings to the defense as a versatile and reliable defender.

“Chad is a valuable part of our organization,” Spielman said on Thursday. “When you look at that and look at what he brings to our defense, and you weigh in the fact that he is a three-down linebacker who is never off the field, he is very important to us. On first and second down, but what he brings to us on third down as well.”

So while Frazier and Spielman spoke highly of Greenway in the same manner, they were also on the same page in how they spoke highly of Rice and feel strongly that Rice is a player the team would like to keep for the long haul.

“He is a high, high priority,” Frazier said of Rice, “and I didn’t want him to be sensitive about the fact that it was Chad being franchised versus Sidney. That does not mean that we’re not going to do right by Sidney. It’s just we couldn’t franchise both of them. We want to get Sidney signed and take care of him because he’s been taking care of our football team.”

Spielman, who along with Vikings VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski spent time on Thursday afternoon meeting with agents of players on the Vikings roster, was clear in saying Rice is in the Vikings long-term plans.

“Our goal and objective is to continue to work with his agent,” Spielman said of Rice, “and get a long-term deal done with Chad.”


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Schedule For Day 2 Of Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2011 – 8:50 am

We’re in store for another busy day at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. Here’s a brief breakdown of what’s happening today…

– Today is Arrival Day for defensive linemen and linebackers. Meanwhile, the kickers and punters will workout on the field, offensive linemen and TEs will go through more exams and meetings, and the QBs, RBs and WRs will go through measurements, meetings, interviews and a media session.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier will go through a similar schedule to what VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman experienced on Thursday. He’ll be on with Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen at 9:15, then Sirius NFL Radio with Rich Gannon and Adam Schein at 9:45, then a press conference with national media at 10:15 and finally a meeting with local beat writers after the press conference (all times CST).

– While all of that is going on, vikings.com Videographer Jordan Struck and I will be chasing down players and NFL insiders for interviews and then I’ll also share thoughts and observations on the vikings.com Blog as the day moves along.

– Be sure to follow us on Twitter, either with the Vikings official account (@VikingsFootball) and/or my personal account (@wobby).

That’s it for now, but we’ll be back with much more as the day moves along.


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Emptying Out The Notebook From Thursday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2011 – 7:20 am

We’re all settled into the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium for Day 2 of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, but before we get rolling too quickly here today let’s empty out the notebook from yesterday’s action.

Specifically, I wanted to share a few more thoughts from Rick Spielman’s meeting with reporters. Here we go…

– Spielman said that he and Vikings VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski were schedule to meet with player agents on Thursday afternoon. On-field workouts don’t get rolling until later today, so Spielman and Brzezinski had time to talk business with the agents of players currently on the Vikings roster. NFL teams are prohibited from talking to agents about players from other teams, but there is enough to talk about regarding players on their own teams, especially with the current labor situation complicating matters.

– Speaking of the labor situation, Spielman was asked if reaching a contract extension with RB Adrian Peterson was a priority for the Vikings. Spielman said that the club and Peterson’s representatives would likely wait until a new CBA is reached before they talk turkey on a new contract. Spielman also said that Peterson is a crucial component of the team, indicating that indeed the Vikings will be interested in locking him up to an extension as soon as possible.

– Spielman has led an effort over the last few weeks to get the Vikings prepared not only for the draft at the end of April but also for restricted and unrestricted free agency, which will begin at a date to be determined later. Part of that process is also evaluating the current roster, which is a bit more complex this year because the Vikings have several new coaches on staff. Through it all, though, Spielman said it’s been great working with new head coach Leslie Frazier. With the way the Vikings are structured, communication between Spielman and the head coach is key. Spielman said Frazier has been a clear communicator and is doing a nice job leading the coaching staff in the offseason.

– Every draft has a different identity. Some years the draft is very top heavy, with several elite-level players but not much depth in the later rounds. Some years the draft is stocked with offensive talent but is low on defensive stars. It sounds like this year’s draft is an especially deep one at many positions. This could play into the Vikings hands because Spielman is known for a propensity to trade back in order to accumulate additional picks and collect talented pieces.

This could be a strategy the Vikings employ this year, especially because they hold a relatively high 1st-round pick (#12 overall) that has high trade value and because the Vikings don’t have a 3rd-round pick (Randy Moss trade); Spielman has been vocal in saying he wants to get a 3rd-round pick back somehow.

“We want to have depth everywhere, especially with the roster turnover we’re probably going to have,” Spielman said on Thursday. “And that’s why when you look at the draft and look at the potential of moving out of the 12th pick and accumulating more picks, because I think it’s a really good draft, very deep draft. There are some positions in this draft that are extremely intriguing to say the least and that position (defensive line) is pretty intriguing.”

– Lastly, Spielman was asked about the status of the Vikings offensive line, a unit that endured much scrutiny last season. He spoke very highly of 3 young players in particular, saying RT Phil Loadholt has a lot of promise and C John Sullivan is poised to bounce back in 2011 after a tumultuous and injury-plagued season in 2010. Spielman also had a lot to say about G Chris DeGeare, the team’s 5th-round pick last year. We’ll have more on what Spielman said about DeGeare later this weekend.

Ultimately, Spielman said the Vikings have good, young talent along their offensive line but he also acknowledged the Vikings must continue to add youth and depth to the position.


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Spielman Talks QBs At Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 1:12 pm

Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman spent much of the late morning and early afternoon in the media center meeting with reporters, appearing on radio shows and speaking at the podium. He addressed a number of topics and we’ll try to touch on a few of them right here on the vikings.com Blog throughout the next day or so.

We’ll start with a hot-button topic for the Vikings this offseason – the QB position. Many of the questions Spielman fielded were QB-related and he did a good job of speaking in general terms about the topic without giving away any specific opinions on players or strategies the Vikings have with regard to addressing the position.

Spielman said he feels this is a strong QB draft class that is deep not just in the 1st round but also in later rounds. He was also asked about the difficulty in evaluating QBs who didn’t play in “pro style” offenses in colleges. One example is the QB who many regard as the best in this year’s class – Blaine Gabbert. He took most of his snaps in college from the gun formation. Another example is Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, who played in the “pistol” offense in college.

“What happens with a lot of these guys,” Spielman explained, “just knowing the agents these guys have, is after their season they go to these training centers and they start taking snaps under center, they’re working on drops (drop backs), they hire ex-coaches and things like that to work with these kids. By the time they get to your facility, it’s not the first time they’ve taken a snap.”

Another factor to consider is the learning curve college QBs face when entering the NFL. Whether a QB was in a pro style offense or not in college, he has a lot to learn at the NFL level. Let’s look at 2 examples from last year’s draft in Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy. It was Clausen who came from a “pro style” offense in college and McCoy who came from a spread attack. Yet by most accounts, McCoy had the better rookie season. Neither player was anything to write home about, but McCoy fared a touch better than Clausen despite not coming from a supposed pro style offense.

Ultimately, though, the question is “How will the Vikings address the QB position this offseason.” Only time will tell that answer, but clearly the Vikings are committed to addressing the issue.

“We’re going to look at all avenues when it comes to quarterback,” Spielman said. “Whether it’s a trade, whether it’s a UFA (unrestricted free agent), whether it’s the draft or whether it’s Joe Webb. We’re excited about what Joe Webb brings to the table, too.”


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Interview Process A Key Aspect To The Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 11:58 am

The NFL Scouting Combine is an event that’s seen significant changes over the years, not the least of which has been how big of a media spectacle it has become. Originally designed to be an exclusive event born from the idea of convenience, the Combine is now must-see TV for avid and even casual football fans alike.

When you think of the Combine, you think of the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump and position-specific drills conducted by actual NFL coaches. All of those aspects of the Combine are important, but perhaps the most valuable part of the Combine for NFL teams is what happens when the cameras are not around.

Part of the Combine regimen is the team interview process, where the players cycle through a series of interviews with NFL teams. Most of the interviews are conducted in the player hotel just a block or so away from Lucas Oil Stadium. Each team has a private room and then a list of players who are scheduled to visit. What transpires in those interviews has every bit as much impact on the NFL draft as a 40-yard dash time or impressive display on the bench press.

The task for NFL teams is to get to know the players on a personal level, and that’s a challenge because player agents do such a good job of “coaching up” their clients to interview well. It’s really no different than a typical job interview for a college graduate or someone else looking for work.

“It’s just to get the kids to get their guard down and make them feel comfortable,” Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said of the interview process. “Knowing what you need to find out about that kid, you can kind of get into that area and get his guard down so he’ll open up and discuss it freely. These guys are pretty polished up when they come into the room.”

One illustration of how important these interviews are is the amount of time teams dedicate to the process. Again, the images most people see of the Combine are of coaches sitting in the stands and players running around cones. But coaches and scouts spend just as much, if not more, time in the interview rooms with players.

“We’ll start on Friday and go through our last [interviews] on Monday evening,” Spielman said. “As you would guess, we have pretty much every position coming through.”

No doubt the QB position is a key one this offseason for the Vikings. Spielman said the team will focus on junior QBs in the interview process at the Combine because Vikings coaches and scouts haven’t had much exposure to that group of players. They don’t participate in many post-season all-star games and many of them don’t declare for the draft until January.

I’ve had the opportunity to see some of these interviews take place first-hand and I can attest to how critically teams look at them in the overall evaluation process. While a single interview that lasts 15 minutes in a random Indianapolis hotel room won’t necessarily make or break the average prospect, there’s no doubt it’s a key piece of the evaluation process for all 32 of the NFL teams.


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Day 1 Of The Scouting Combine Is Underway

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2011 – 9:00 am

I’ve made the trek from my hotel room to the Lucas Oil Stadium media center and am ready to get rolling on Day 1 of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. We have a lot on the docket for today, let’s break it down.

– We’re set up in the media center near the other teams who send their websites to cover the event. The media center is located in the East Club of Lucas Oil Stadium and the room is complete with tables for media members to set up the computers and equipment, podiums for NFL coaches and executives to use during press conferences and then round tables for reporters and players to use for interviews.

– The Combine is a week-long event and it’s invitation-only for the players. So about 330 of the top college prospects will shuffle though Indianapolis this week.

– But not all the players are here at the same time. The players are broken up into position groups and then those position groups go through the various stages of the Combine on a staggered schedule. For example, the first groups to arrive here were the OL, kickers, punters, long snappers and TEs. They arrived yesterday, went through an orientation process and then today they’ll go through measurements, medical examinations, psychological examinations, interviews with teams and a media session. The second groups are QBs, RBs and WRs. They’ll go through the orientation process today, then tomorrow they’ll do what the first group is doing today. So on and so on.

– At 11:30 a.m. CT Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman will have a press conference today at one of the podiums in the media center. We’ll record that and have on vikings.com for you as soon as possible. Then Spielman will meet with Twin Cities beat writers and I’ll sit in for that and report back to you.

– Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will host his radio show from Lucas Oil Stadium today and tomorrow. He’ll have both Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier on, but he’ll also chase down players, NFL personnel and national media members.

That’s it for now. I’ll have much more for you later, so be sure to check back in with us frequently.


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vikings.com Arrives In Indianapolis

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2011 – 1:34 pm

The vikings.com team that consists of yours truly and videographer extraordinaire Jordan Struck has arrived in Indianapolis and we’re getting settled in to start bringing you non-stop and comprehensive coverage of the 2011 Scouting Combine from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Traveling from Minneapolis to Indianapolis on Delta Airlines was excellent and we arrived to our hotel, which is located just a few minutes walk from the stadium, right on schedule. Several Vikings personnel were on this morning’s flight, including special assistant to the head coach/LBs coach Mike Singletary, OL coach Jeff Davidson and assistant offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield, TEs coach Jimmie Johnson and a few others. The rest of the Vikings contingent has either already arrived or will be arriving over the next day or two.

Remember, not every player invited to the Combine arrives at the same time. The players are divided into their position groups and then those position groups come to the Combine on a staggered schedule. So that obviously impacts when certain assistant coaches arrive to do their work at the event.

I also spent quite a while visiting at the airport and in the cab ride to the hotel with former Vikings assistant coach Dean Dalton. A guy who spent a long time in the coaching profession, Dalton now takes his expertise to the air waves and is a host on Sirius NFL Radio. It’s chats with guys such as Dalton that really makes the Combine fun over the span of a few days. It’s routine to run into local and especially national football media members and it’s fun to get their opinions on certain matters.

That’s about it for now. Jordan and I are going to head to the stadium to film a quick segment and that will be made available to you for viewing in some form or another over then next 24 hours. We’ll have that and much, much more from the Combine so be sure to constantly check back to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog for more.


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vikings.com Is Off To Indianapolis To Kickoff Combine Coverage

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2011 – 6:05 am

It’s an early morning for vikings.com as we are set to head to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport for a mid-morning flight to Indianapolis, IN for the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. Our coverage live from Indianapolis begins on Wednesday and will go through Sunday. Then from Monday through March 1 we’ll provide coverage of the event but will do so from Winter Park.

We are slated to arrive in Indianapolis around 1:00 p.m. ET. Assuming all goes according to plan, I’ll be settled into the hotel room and will then begin to provide updates via the blog on a regular basis. Aside from the blog, though, I’ll also provide updates via my personal Twitter account (@wobby) and via the Vikings official Twitter account (@VikingsFootball).

So for now we’re off to the airport. But in the meantime, you can refresh your memory on what the athletes will be doing on the field at the Combine in front of NFL coaches, executives and scouts by clicking here to watch NFL Network draft analyst – and Vikings preseason TV analyst – Mike Mayock demonstrate the drills.

That’s it for now. Next time we check in it’ll be live from Indianapolis at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.


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Catch Our Coverage Of The 2011 NFL Scouting Combine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 22, 2011 – 7:10 pm

For the 4th consecutive year vikings.com will have a presence at the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN, and we encourage you to check out all the different ways we’ll be bringing you the action. I’ll be handling the writing portion of our coverage as usual, but for the first time we’ll also have a camera at the event, so be sure to check out all the cool video coverage provided by vikings.com Videographer Jordan Struck.

The 2011 NFL Scouting Combine will be held from February 24 to March 1, and vikings.com will be in Indianapolis from Wednesday through Sunday. But our coverage of the Combine will continue throughout the duration of the event. Beginning on Wednesday, I’ll provide written content from Indianapolis and then Jordan and I will combine for video coverage that will include: Rick Spielman’s press conference on Thursday, Leslie Frazier’s press conference on Friday and on-camera interviews with both Frazier and Spielman as well as interviews of college players, Vikings coordinators and assistant coaches, national media members and potentially other NFL personalities that are typically found roaming near and around the event.

In addition to all of that, voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen will be broadcasting his radio show from the Combine on Thursday and Friday, so we’ll be sure to stop by and say hello.

All of that is a lot to remember, but don’t worry because you can always visit our convenient Combine Central hub page to stay up-to-date on the latest coverage. The hub page is your one-stop shop for the latest interviews, videos, blog entries and stories from Indianapolis.

We’re looking forward to another exciting NFL Scouting Combine and our best coverage of the event ever. Be sure to catch it all right here on vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog.


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