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Singletary, Brinkley Featured On Vikings Weekly

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 17, 2011 – 10:43 am

I caught a sneak peak of this week’s edition of Vikings Weekly, which is hosted by Ann Carroll and has been moved to vikings.com for the offseason. Each week we post a new show as Ann continues to keep Vikings fans plugged in to their favorite team during the offseason.

I thought this week’s edition was worth a special note here because Ann has a great conversation with new LBs Coach Mike Singletary and then also takes a close look at what LB Jasper Brinkley is up to this offseason. We all know by now that Singletary and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier were teammates with the Chicago Bears and won a Super Bowl together, so it was interesting to hear Singletary talk about what the opportunity to be a head coach means to Frazier and what it takes to build a Super Bowl winner.

“I think it means a lot,” Singletary said of Frazier’s opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. “He’s worked his tail off to try and put himself in a situation to be a head coach. Certainly not in this way, but being that it happened, you want to make the most of it.”

As for winning a Super Bowl, Singletary said: “I think the biggest thing is just building it. Having the time to build it. Having the personnel and getting the mentality of having guys understand what it takes to have that kind of team and the price that it takes to get it there. So it really is a mindset more than anything else and sometimes in today’s culture it just takes a little bit longer than normal to get it done.”

Singletary talks about a few other interesting topics, including what attracted him to Minnesota besides his relationship with Frazier, but I don’t want to put the quotes here because you should catch the Vikings Weekly episode.

As for Brinkley, Ann goes in-depth on his quest this offseason to accomplish a life-long goal: graduate from college. Brinkley headed back to the University of South Carolina this offseason to finish the task. He explains that he’ll be the first person in his family to earn a degree and he also discusses what he plans to do with that degree at some point down the line.

This week’s edition of Vikings Weekly will be posted first thing on Friday morning, so be sure to check it out.


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Vikings VPs To Be Featured On FSN March 12 and 23

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on March 11, 2011 – 9:00 am

A pair of Vikings Vice Presidents will be featured on Fox Sports North over the coming weeks in a pair of shows that are designed to give fans an inside look at how local sports franchises are run.

FOX Sports North will debut “Unscripted: Decision Makers” and “Unscripted: Team Executives” as part of the “Unscripted” mini-series on Saturday, March 12 beginning at 10:00 p.m. Moderated by Anthony LaPanta, the new series of specials was designed to bring together leaders and figures in the Minnesota sports landscape. The first special, “Unscripted: Coaches/Manager” debuted earlier this year.

The second special,  “Unscripted: Decision Makers” features Vikings Vice President of Player Development, Rick Spielman along with Twins Senior Vice President and General Manager, Bill Smith and Wild General Manager, Chuck Fletcher.

Episode one of “Unscripted: Decision Makers” debuts March 12 at 10:00 p.m. with a candid conversation about how the men rose to the top of their profession. They talk trades and free agent signing, relationships with managers and head coaches as well as what it’s like to have the final say on decisions.

Episode two, premiering March 23 at 9:00 p.m., will focus on handling media criticism, contract negotiations and the overall demands of the job.  Click here to view a video preview of the show.

The third special, “Unscripted: Team Executives,” features Vikings Vice President Sales/Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer, Steve LaCroix along with Twins President, Dave St. Peter; Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka and Timberwolves Team President, Chris Wright.

Episode one of “Unscripted: Team Executives” debuts on March 12 at 10:30 p.m. and addresses how the men got into their current positions, philosophies of running a pro team and the implementation of new media into business practices.

Episode two debuts on March 23 at 9:30 p.m. with a candid discussion on the approval process for new stadiums and arenas. The group also talks about handling criticism and balancing work and personal life.  Click here to view a video preview of the show.


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Submit Your Monday Morning Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2011 – 8:24 am

Collective Bargaining Agreement or not, there are still questions surrounding the Vikings as the offseason continues. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

To submit a comment or question to the mailbag, send an email to me at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net. You can also submit your comment or question in the comments section below this entry.

Remember to include your name and town on the email. We can’t post every comment and question, but we’ll try to answer each question.


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Let The Mock (Draft) Madness Begin!

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 10, 2011 – 8:00 am

The blitz of conference tournament and NCAA tournament games in March has allowed college basketball to cement the term “March Madness” into the collective minds of sports fans across America.

So for the 4th consecutive year, vikings.com will piggyback off that and run another “Mock Madness” series in the weeks leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft. Mock Madness is a mechanism by which we can keep up-to-date with the mock drafts of football observers from popular outlets such as NFL.com, ESPN.com and SportsIllustrated.com.

Click here to read Mock Madness 1.0.

Check back to vikings.com each week for an updated version of Mock Madness to see who everyone is projecting to be the Vikings 1st-round selection.

For those of you who don’t want to click over to the actual page and instead want the cliff notes version of Mock Madness 1.0 so you can continue reading the vikings.com Blog, here are the projections:

NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan: Nate Solder
NFL.com’s Charles Davis: Adrian Clayborn
ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper, Jr.: DE Robert Quinn
ESPN.com’s Todd McShay: DE Robert Quinn
Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks: QB Jake Locker
CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang: QB Ryan Mallet
CBSSports.com’s Chad Reuter: OT Tyron Smith
NFP.com’s Wes Bunting: QB Blaine Gabbert


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Who Needs A Barber?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2011 – 9:53 am

Ordinarily you’d think a story on the vikings.com Blog about a retired NFL player coming out of retirement would include the name Brett Favre. But not this time. Well, this entry includes Favre’s name but the discussion does not center on him.

Instead it centers on RB Tiki Barber, who retired after the 2006 season but has recently filed paper work to return to the NFL. The Giants released a statement saying they’ll release him from their retired/reserve list, indicating they intend to release his rights all together and allow him to become a free agent.

So, that begs the question: Where will he land?

I haven’t spoken with any Vikings brass and to my knowledge no one from the organization has disclosed an opinion on Barber’s chances of landing in Minnesota. My early thought is that he’s not a great fit here, but that can always change. As I thought more about it, there were 11 teams that came to mind as candidates to take a serious look at him. After drilling down further, I’ve eliminated 7 of those teams.

The 4 remaining teams are: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.

This is just me speculating and it provides fun discussion during a relatively slow time. Before we get to the teams, bear in mind the limitations associated with Barber. He’s going to turn 36 before the season starts, he doesn’t represent a realistic option as the feature or #1 RB and he probably has no special teams value. So he’s going to take up a roster spot but at the same time his contributions will be limited.

Let’s take a look at those 4 teams…

Detroit Lions
Obviously the Lions have a talented young RB in Jahvid Best, be we all know that teams need multiple backs on their roster. The RBs currently on the Lions roster are Aaron Brown, Ian Johnson, Maurice Morris and Kevin Smith. The uncertain climate caused by the CBA makes it difficult to gauge which of these RBs will return to Detroit for 2011, but either way I think Barber represents a potential upgrade at the position.

Pittsburgh Steelers
As is the case with the Lions, the Steelers have a young, talented feature back in Rashard Mendenhall. Pittsburgh also has a talented cast of complementary backs in Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman as well as youngsters Jonathan Dwyer and James Johnson. Even still, I wouldn’t put it past the Steelers organization to take a look at Barber and perhaps find a role for him. The way the Jerome Bettis era ended in the Steel City makes me realize that the franchise knows how to handle a situation such as Barber’s and perhaps an organization that is known for making all the right moves will deem giving Barber a flier the right move.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The obvious connection here is that Tiki’s twin brother Ronde plays for the Bucs. But there’s potential for a logical fit, too. LeGarrette Blount showed some promise last season plus Cadillac Williams is still there, but neither of those guys make it impossible for Barber to find a niche in Tampa. Kareem Huggins and Kregg Lampkin are also there, as is Earnest Graham. But again, none of those names make anyone think a job is unattainable. Keep an eye on this one, if not for the lone reason that Ronde is there.

Washington Redskins
The Redskins just dumped a veteran RB in Clinton Portis, so perhaps they have no interest in acquiring another one in Barber. But head coach Mike Shanahan knows offense and I wouldn’t put it past him to think he can squeeze the last little bit out of Barber. The biggest hurdle to Washington adding Barber, assuming they’d have an interest in him (big assumption), is that the RB stable is probably at capacity and there are actually talented players in that stable. Andre Brown, James Davis, Shawnbrey McNeal, Chad Simpson, Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams and Darrel Young are already on the roster, and I’m not sure that Barber represents enough of an upgrade over most of those names to displace a youthful runner with a bigger upside.

What do you all think?


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The QB Collection Grows Again

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 7, 2011 – 7:28 am

The QB Collection began last month with 5 names of potential starting QBs for the Vikings in 2011 (and hopefully beyond) and has since grown to a list of 26 names. The latest update added 5 names to the mix and the complete list can be seen by clicking here.

The names added to the list on Monday were: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Ben Chappell, Rex Grossman and Greg McElroy.

For those of you who are visiting the QB Collection for the first time, here’s a brief explanation of what we’re doing here. There are many names that will be mentioned in connection with the Vikings QB position this offseason, from draft-eligible players to potential free agents or trade acquisitions. In order to keep up with the speculation and stay up-to-date on the names, we’ve created The QB Collection, a page on vikings.com that contains a running list of names tied to the Vikings by NFL observers in the media and by fans who correspond with vikings.com.

The QBs will be listed in alphabetical order and this list will continue to grow as the NFL draft draws closer.

Do you have a name you’d like to add? Or do you have a comment/question about a name already on the list? If so, let us hear it by either posting your thoughts in the comments section below this entry or by sending in an email to me (wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net).


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Vikings Sign Robison To Extension

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on March 3, 2011 – 7:42 pm

The Vikings have come to terms on a contact extension with DE Brian Robison.

The Vikings fourth round pick out of Texas in 2007 had 15 tackles in 2010 to go along with 2.0 sacks and a pass defended.  He has a total of 13.5 sacks over his four-year career.


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Vikings Tender Qualifying Offers To 7 Players

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 3, 2011 – 1:54 pm

The Vikings have tendered qualifying offers to 7 players. They are…

S Husain Abdullah
OL Ryan Cook
DE Ray Edwards
S Eric Frampton
LB Erin Henderson
WR Sidney Rice
DE Brian Robison.

 


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A Look At Rounds 2 Through 7 Under Spielman And Co.

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 2, 2011 – 5:18 pm

In the previous blog entry about G Chris DeGeare, we made the point that: “There’s no doubt that hitting home runs with 1st-round picks is key to success in the NFL. But if you do some research, you’ll see that selections in rounds 2-7 and also the signing of undrafted rookie free agents are just as important.”

In the previous blog entry, we also said we’d take a closer look at some of those 2nd- through 7th-round picks in the next posting. While the group isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or future Hall of Famers (yet), it is a group of players that represent at least a part of the core of the current roster. There are 10 players who’ve started games for the Vikings on the list and obviously there will be many, many more starts from this list in the years to come.

Here we go…

CB Asher Allen - A 3rd-round pick in 2009, Allen struggled at times as a starter in 2010. But over his 2 Vikings seasons, Allen has flashed some potential. With the return of Cedric Griffin in 2011, Allen will be in a position to contribute in the nickel and dime packages where he’ll be more successful.

LB Jasper Brinkley - A 5th-round pick in 2009, Brinkley stepped in as the starter when E.J. Henderson went down to injury at the end of the 2009 season. It’s easy to take this for granted, but keep in mind the Vikings had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and Brinkley was a rookie starting in the middle of the defense. The Vikings defense missed Henderson, but Brinkley was solid in his place and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game. On top of that, Brinkley has been a solid special teams contributor during his career in Minnesota.

CB Chris Cook - A 2nd-round pick in 2010, Cook had a tremendous offseason and training camp heading into his rookie season. But then a pair of knee injuries that both required surgery slowed and eventually halted his rookie season. Cook is a big, physical CB who fits what head coach Leslie Frazier wants his defense to do. The upside on Cook is big and the Vikings defense will benefit from his return.

FB Ryan D’Imperio - A lot of factors were working against D’Imperio during his rookie season in 2010. He was a 7th-round pick (#237 overall), he switched positions from college LB to NFL FB and he had an established starter in front of him on the depth chart. But D’Imperio impressed enough to stick around and was a member of the practice squad in 2010. During the offseason and training camp this year he’ll have a chance to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

G Chris DeGeare - The blog entry below this one tells DeGeare’s story.

RB Toby Gerhart - At first I think Vikings fans are quick to point out disappointment in Gerhart’s rookie season, but I don’t see it that way. He had a tough go during training camp and the early part of the season, but he continued to improve as the season went along and he had an impressive showing in a start against the Bears in Week 15 when he rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries. For the season, Gerhart average 4.0 yards per carry. Given how productive he was in college and how aggressive the Vikings were in trading up to select him in the 2nd round last year, I’m willing to give Gerhart more time to develop into a productive NFL RB.

DE Everson Griffen - A prospect with 1st-round talent who dropped to the 4th round because of off-field concerns, Griffen flashed potential on defense and productivity on special teams as a rookie. He’s in line to get more playing time on defense in 2011, especially if the Vikings are unable to reach contract agreements with either Ray Edwards or Brian Robison.

DT Letroy Guion - When the Vikings used a 5th-round pick on Letroy Guion in 2008, he was only 20 years old. He came in and didn’t produce right away, but now he’s progressed into a member of the defensive line rotation. As is the case with Griffen, Guion may be in line for even more playing time depending on what happens with potential free agents ahead of him on the depth chart.

WR Jaymar Johnson - Another 7th-round pick (2008) who remains on the roster, Johnson was in the midst of another solid offseason and training camp when he injured his wrist and was put on Injured Reserve before the 2010 season got going. Johnson will be in another battle to make the roster this offseason, but his return capabilities will help him.

S Tyrell Johnson - A 2nd-round pick in 2008, Johnson has moved in and out of the starting lineup during his 3 seasons in Minnesota. With the safety position still a bit in flux, Johnson has a chance to reclaim a starting spot if he can perform well in the offseason and in training camp. He’s a tremendous athlete who needs to polish his skills in coverage.

RT Phil Loadholt - Another 2nd-round pick, Loadholt stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2009 and was one of the team’s best offensive linemen. The Vikings offense averaged 29.4 points per game during Loadholt’s rookie seasan and the 6-8, 343-pound mauler showed that he could be a talented player in this league for a long time.

WR Sidney Rice - The 2nd-round picks keep rolling in. Rice was a 2nd-rounder in 2007 and exploded for a career season in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. A hip injury slowed his 2010 season and now Rice will look to bounce back in 2011 with another strong showing. His leaping ability and sure hands are his best qualities, and they’re qualities a rookie QB would love to have in a starting WR.

DE Brian Robison – An All-Rookie honoree who was 3rd among all NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks in 2007, Robison has been a productive player for the Vikings and figures to be an important member of the defensive line rotation in 2011. He was a 4th-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas and one of the great aspects of his game is that he can slide inside to play DT in certain situations.

S Jamarca Sanford – With Heath Farwell, Sanford is one of the most valuable special teams contributors for the Vikings, specifically in the kick and punt coverage units. He has also logged playing time on defense and has also been a starter at safety. Considering Sanford was the SEC’s leading tackler during his 4 years at Ole Miss, it’s hard to believe Rick Spielman and Co. found him in the 7th round. But that’s what they did, and that makes Sanford one of the more under-rated Vikings draft picks in recent years.

C John Sullivan – Sullivan’s 2nd year was better than his 3rd, but I’m guessing his 4th year will be the best yet. He sat behind Matt Birk as a rookie in 2008, then stepped into the starting lineup at center for the 2009 season and helped the Vikings offense to a 29.4 points-per-game average. In 2010 Sullivan’s season was disrupted by injuries and he dealt with the passing of his father. Certainly Sullivan won’t use those as excuses, but you have to think it impacted him in some form or another.  Sullivan should enter the 2011 season in full health and he’ll have a shot to solidify his standing as the team’s anchor in the middle.


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Spielman Excited About Potential Of G Chris DeGeare

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 2, 2011 – 8:40 am

Over the last week, the NFL’s 32 teams were in Indianapolis for the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in an effort to continue their analysis of this year’s class of draft-eligible players. While much of the attention from fans and the media is focused on the top-rated prospects who will be selected in the early stages of the draft, NFL teams must also concentrate on prospects who will be available in later rounds.

There’s no doubt that hitting home runs with 1st-round picks is key to success in the NFL. But if you do some research, you’ll see that selections in rounds 2-7 and also the signing of undrafted rookie free agents are just as important. We’ll have more on this in the next blog entry.

For now, though, I wanted to focus on one of those later-round selections who made an impact with the Vikings in 2010. G Chris DeGeare was a 5th-round pick (#161 overall) in 2010 and Spielman was quite complimentary of his performance as a rookie. DeGeare had a terrific offseason and training camp last year, but then dealt with an injury early in the season. Eventually, though, DeGeare got to full strength and found himself playing significant minutes in the second half of the season.

“Last year Chris DeGeare stepped in and after he got his feet wet and got his feet underneath him and started working,” Spielman said. “You’ve seen him start to move up the ladder a little bit and progress each game.”

Spielman went on to point out that DeGeare’s play was even more impressive when you consider that he switched positions after being drafted. DeGeare played a lot of OT in college, but he showed no hesitancy or resistance in making the change with Minnesota. Once he adjust to the speed of the game, Spielman said, DeGeare progressed well game-after-game.

“What I always look for,” Spielman explained, “is when you sit there and evaluate these young guys, ‘Are they continuing to grow? Are they continuing to get better? Are they going down?’ They’re going to have their ups and downs. They’re going to have some good games and some bad games. But as long as you see the progress there you can get pretty excited about what they potentially could bring.

“We felt very strongly with how he played at the end of the season.”


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