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Trio Of Current Vikings Recognized By Rivals.com As Top College Players

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 25, 2011 – 11:37 am

While we’re waiting for more good news on the NFL labor front, let’s take a quick detour to look at a trio of Vikings players who were recognized for their football accomplishments in college.

The website www.rivals.com, which is well-known and respected in the realm of college sports coverage, has listed the Top 25 college football players since 2001. Three current Vikings – WR Percy Harvin, LB E.J. Henderson and RB Adrian Peterson – made the list.

Henderson, who played college football at the University of Maryland, made the list at #25. Henderson was the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) defensive player of the year in 2001 and 2002. The Vikings selected him in the 2nd round (#40 overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. Their 1st-round pick that year was DT Kevin Williams.

Coming in at #21 on rivals.com’s list was Harvin, who played at the University of Florida and won 2 BCS National Championships. Harvin was a big-time player, especially in big-time spots. He scored rushing TDs in the 2006 and ’08 national championship games and he ran for 122 yards in the ’08 title win over Oklahoma. Harvin was Southeastern Conference (SEC) freshman of the year, scored 32 career TDs at Florida and was chosen by the Vikings in the 1st round (#22 overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Peterson ranked 6th on the list and, as rivals.com points out, he “rushed for an NCAA-freshman-record 1,925 yards, was second in the Heisman voting and helped OU reach the BCS national championship game in his debut season.” Ankle and collar bone injuries slowed Peterson in college, so who knows how much better his career could’ve been. But it all worked out for Peterson and the Vikings, as he was selected in the 1st round (#7 overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

Thanks to former Vikings PR staffer and current University of Florida Athletics Association assistant communications director Dan Apple for pointing out the list on www.InsidetheGators.com.


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A Busy Monday Already Underway In The NFL

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 25, 2011 – 8:00 am

As many of you get to work on a Monday morning after a nice summer weekend, you might try and ease your way back into the work routine. When it comes to following your  favorite professional sport, however, you won’t have the luxury of being able to ease your way back into the flow of information.

Already this morning, the NFL world has been buzzing with word that the end of the work stoppage is only hours away. Whether that turns out to be the case or not, only time will tell. Nothing is official yet, but we’ll be keeping our ear to the ground here at vikings.com to provide you with updates.

So stay tuned for more updates and to pass the time for now, check out this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag.


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New Turf To Be Installed At Mall Of America Field

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 21, 2011 – 7:53 am

One of the notes included in last week’s blog entry about the inflation of a new roof at Mall of America Field was that the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) was in the process of determining whether or not new turf would have to be installed.

MSFC Chairman Ted Mondale told reporters that the process of collecting bids to replace the turf had commenced and that if new turf was necessary, the job would be done in time for the Vikings to host their first preseason game, scheduled for August 27 vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune reported on Wednesday what many expected; that new turf will indeed be installed before the Vikings play their first game. MSFC Executive Director Bill Lester told Olson that the turf spent too much time under water to remain viable.

“Because of the collapse and the aftermath of the collapse, there was an excessive amount of water on the field for an extended amount of time,” Lester said.

Mondale told Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio that the turf was “pretty nasty” and that it was contaminated by mold and bacteria.

This will hardly be the first time new turf will be installed in the stadium. When the stadium opened in 1982, a product called Superturf was installed. In the years following, products such as AstroTurf and FieldTurf were installed and then prior to the 2010 season a company called Sportexe installed another new surface.

MSFC officials did not disclose to Olson which company would be installing the new surface this time, but Olson did report the following:

– Lester indicated the recommended bid for the MSFC was $476,000
— the bid requires that completion of the project occur by August 18
— an open house will be planned for August 20 so that the public can see the new facility


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Raising The Roof! Mall Of America Field Roof Inflates

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 13, 2011 – 9:28 am

Click here to view a time-lapse video of the inflation.

Click here to view a photo gallery of the inflation.

So often we see construction projects – whether it be houses or roads or stadiums – ultimately fall behind schedule and/or go over budget because of unforeseen complications. But so far that hasn’t been the case with roof repairs at Mall of America Field at the Metrodome.

The latest landmark event in the construction project to resurrect the roof happened early this morning, as the roof was actually inflated. It was thought the roof inflation could take anywhere from 2-3 hours, but it actually took about 45 minutes for the crew to get the job done.

By all accounts, everything went off without a hitch, which has become a theme for the project.

Vikings Owner / President Mark Wilf issues the following statement:

We appreciate the efforts of the MSFC and the local unionized workforce who spent countless hours replacing the Metrodome roof since its collapse last December. Today’s roof inflation means the project is ahead of schedule and ensures that Mall of America Field will be the Vikings home during the 2011 season. We are excited about getting our home field advantage back and playing in front of Vikings fans this year. 

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission authorities explained on Wednesday that the roof construction project remains on time, on budget and has seen only one minor accident. It’s a far cry from delayed road construction projects or delays in home construction that that seem standard.

We were at Mall of America Field this morning, so photos and even video of the roof raising will be posted on vikings.com in the near future, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here are a few notes I jotted down in my notebook during this morning’s events…

– The budget for the construction project is just short of $23 million, with $18 million allocated for the roof. The new roof is made of teflon-coated fiber glass and is about 10 acres in size.

– MSFC Chairman Ted Mondale was on-hand for a press conference after the roof was inflated, and he expressed confidence that the project will be in its final stage by August 1, that the stadium will host its first community event on August 20 and that the stadium will be ready to host its first Vikings game on August 27, when the team is scheduled to play its first home preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

– Vikings VP of Public Affairs/Stadium Development Lester Bagley told reporters the team is grateful to the MSFC and the labor force working on the stadium for their work to replace the roof and that the team is excited to get its home-field advantage back. Bagley also said that the roof-raising is another symbol that the football season in nearing. Lastly, Bagley said that the team is still committed to working out a long-term stadium solution in Minnesota.

– Mondale said the MSFC is still unsure if the field surface will need to be replaced, but that the MSFC has already commenced the process of acquiring bids in the event that a new surface is required. Obviously the surface was exposed to damage not only by the roof’s collapse in December but also to weather conditions in the months after the collapse as well as damage by the construction equipment that was inside the stadium during roof repairs. If the field surface does need to be replaced, MSFC Director of Facilities/Engineering Steve Maki said the timeline for replacement would be August 1-18.

– Maki also pointed out the stadium’s roof will have a lower profile – meaning it will be less “poofy” – than the previous roof, largely because the material composing the roof is stronger this time around and also because of other engineering factors.

– MSFC Executive Director Bill Lester described the roof construction project as “a long, arduous journey,” but he also expressed gratitude to the construction crew and he said that Wednesday’s events were encouraging as the project continues to near its conclusion.


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Mall of America Field’s Roof Is Rising Today

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on July 13, 2011 – 7:52 am

For the first time since early December, the roof covering Mall of America Field at the Metrodome is being inflated today after being worked on and replaced by workers over the past several months thanks to the blizzard that took said roof down on December 10 and 11.

The process started at 7 a.m. today and will wrap up later the morning, if all goes well.

The Vikings are slated to take on the Dallas Cowboys in preseason play on Saturday, Aug. 27, which of course will be the first game at the Metrodome since the Vikings 38-14 win over the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 5, 2010.

We’ll have more coverage of the “roof inflation” in the coming days here on vikings.com, including a cool time-lapse video showing the start-to-finish process of the inflation.


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Analyzing Antoine Winfield’s Impact On Vikings Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 12, 2011 – 6:35 am

Over the last several seasons we’ve seen the Vikings add plenty of big names to the roster, whether through free agency (Berrian, Hutchinson, Leber, Longwell) or the draft (Greenway, Harvin, Peterson, Rice) or even trades (Jared Allen). For some reason, though, Antoine Winfield seems to slide under the radar when we look at some of the best player acquisitions by the Vikings over the years.

Thanks to Sam Monson of the website www.profootballfocus.com, as pointed out by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, we can get an in-depth look at just how much of an impact Winfield has truly had for the Vikings defense. Pro Football Focus (PFF) of course anyone who has paid attention to the Vikings lately surely has seen how well Winfield has played. But you might not realize just how effective he’s been.

According to Monson’s study, Winfield may just have been the most complete CB in the NFL during the 2010 season. Winfield was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded CB in 2010, a ranking that takes into account coverage, play against the run, penalties and even blitzing. Monson says Winfield was “one of only a few players to grade positively across the board, in all areas of play” and Monson also points out that Winfield “led the league in cornerback stops (a tackle that constituted an offensive failure on the play) with 42, a ratio that betters plenty of linebackers.”

Here are a few other interesting nuggets from Monson’s analysis of Winfield:
— Winfield was not penalized in 2010, making him one of just two unpenalized CBs with 1,000 snaps.
— In a bit of unofficial analysis – it’s unofficial because the folks at PFF don’t know for certain on a play-to-play basis what coverage responsibilities are – Winfield did not allow a TD reception in 2010. Also, the longest completion against Winfield was 27 yards.
— In 32 blitzes, Winfield recorded 2.0 sacks, 7 pressures and 1 fumble return for a TD (against the Philadelphia Eagles).

To be fair, Monson is not asserting that Winfield is actually the best CB in the NFL or that he’s a dominant player in coverage. Rather, Monson is pointing out that Winfield A) was the best all-around CB in 2010, B) “will allow receptions, but he makes you work for yardage, and he doesn’t make it easy for an offense” and C) “was a demonstration of impressive and consistent play in every area.”


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Former Vikings QB Brad Johnson Talks About Ponder

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 11, 2011 – 10:39 am

One former Florida State Seminole and former Minnesota Vikings QB had flattering words for another former Florida State Seminole and current Vikings QB.

Brad Johnson, who played 9 total seasons with the Vikings (1992-98, 2005-06), recently told Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune that Christian Ponder “should be ready to go” for the Vikings.

Coming from a player such as Johnson, those words should not be taken lightly. Vikings fans who remember Johnson’s days with the Purple might reflect on mixed memories, but make no mistake that Johnson was an accomplished player in the NFL. He spent 9 seasons with the Vikings, but played 4 seasons in Tampa Bay and led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory following the 2002 season. Johnson also spent 2 seasons in both Dallas and Washington before retiring.

It’s been a while since Johnson was a mainstay on the Florida State campus, but it’s clear he still follows the program. Johnson said that current Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher “demands a lot from quarterbacks and makes them learn the game” and Johnson also intimated that Ponder might have a steadying influence that could benefit the Vikings.

“Obviously, Christian is a quick study and hard worker and led those guys to a lot of wins down there,” Johnson said. “The program went through a lot of change when he first got there, so he fought through some tough times. Hopefully he has a great career. He did a lot of good things for Florida State, really kind of stabilized the program. The program went through difficult times when he got there, and he kind of led them back to a winning tradition down there.”

Success, much less a starting job, is no sure thing for Ponder in the NFL. Second-year QB Joe Webb is on the roster with Ponder in Minnesota and Rhett Bomar will compete as well. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings add a veteran signal-caller along the way.

Those things aside, Johnson was confident when talking about Ponder and expects the rookie will be able to overcome the natural hurdles a young QB faces in the NFL.

“He’s got toughness about him, he’s got enough arm to complete whatever kind of ball needs to be completed at that level,” Johnson remarked. “Obviously it’s just being ready. It’s going to be tough on him without training camp and minicamp. What happens with this lockout? He’s been a quick study coming up, but any rookie is going to have a tough time adjusting.

“But he picks things up, and he should be ready to go.”


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Monday Morning Mailbag Extra: A Look At Defensive Draft Picks

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 11, 2011 – 7:03 am

In this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, a reader asked about the Vikings defensive draft picks and what we can expect from them in their rookie seasons. Because the Vikings chose 5 defensive players in the draft this year, the question was better-served to be answered in a blog entry than in the Monday Morning Mailbag.

So, here it goes… 

DL Christian Ballard: This is a player about whom Vikings fans should be excited. He measures in at 6-4, 283 pounds, which gives him the frame to play either DE or DT in the Vikings 4-3 defensive scheme. Conveniently, Ballard has the skill set as well as the frame to be a versatile lineman capable of playing multiple positions. Ballard spent the first 2 years of his career at left DE before moving inside and starting all 13 games of his junior season at DT. In his final season, Ballard rotated often at both spots, starting 8 contests on the outside and 5 more inside. Wherever the Vikings need an infusion of talent – DE or DT – Ballard looks able to provide it.

CB Brandon Burton: He was drafted in the 5th round (#150 overall) out of Utah and will compete for playing time on special teams and maybe even on defense right away. He’s got an uphill climb to get into the base defensive package and even nickel situations, but if he can display coverage ability and sound tackling technique, it’s not out of the question for him to earn playing time over Asher Allen and Chris Cook.

LB Ross Homan: A gritty LB from Ohio State, Homan comes to the Vikings with an outside shot to find playing time at LB but with a great chance to be a core special teams player. Homan was a leader on Ohio State’s defense and you can tell almost immediately after seeing him play that he’s a guy who gives 100% effort on every snap and is willing to do anything to help the team win. I think he can be a Heath Farwell-type of producer on special teams pretty quickly, which is saying a lot because Farwell is one of the best special teams players in the NFL.

DB Mistral Raymond: He’s 6-1, 191 pounds and played both CB and S at South Florida. The Vikings chose him with a 6th-round pick (#170 overall) and I’d love to see nothing more than for him to succeed in the NFL. His back story is incredible and is worth researching if you aren’t familiar with it. I expect that he’ll compete immediately for playing time on special teams and I’m optimistic that he can find a role on defense, whether it’s at CB or S.

DL D’Aundre Reed: This is the draft pick I know the least about. He stands at 6-4, 261 pounds and is listed as a DE. From what I can tell, he’ll play primarily on the right side, which means he’ll be behind Jared Allen. Because Allen obviously has the starting spot locked down, Reed will be in a good position to watch an established and talented veteran while honing his pass-rushing skills.


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Submit Your Monday Morning Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 8, 2011 – 10:06 am

What’s on your minds, Vikings fans? Let us know by submitting a comment or question to the Monday Morning Mailbag.

To submit a comment or question, 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 comment/email. We can’t post every comment/question, but we’ll try to answer each question.


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Frazier: Peterson Is Top RB In NFL, “Bar None”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 7, 2011 – 7:35 am

When you’re in the business of generating content to keep viewers/readers interested, there’s no better fail-safe option than lists. Top 10 plays of the year, top 5 free agents, top 10 draft busts, etc. These lists always generate great dialogue and debate and the best recent example is the NFL Network’s ranking of the Top 100 Players from 2010.

The series, which was very well done by NFL Network, concluded this week with the top 10 players and one of Minnesota’s very own was included. RB Adrian Peterson was ranked as the 3rd-best current NFL player in a poll of his peers according to NFL Network’s series.

I must admit that I was quite pleased to learn of Peterson’s ranking in this series. I typically don’t get too invested in these types of projects, but I do feel adamant about Peterson’s place among current NFL players. Although he plays perhaps the most fungible position in football, I think Peterson has tremendous value in today’s game because he is SO much better than the average player at his position. Peterson is a special, once-in-a-generation player in my view and I believe his ranking in NFL Network’s series is appropriate.

In a QB-dominant league, only Tom Brady (#1) and Peyton Manning (#2) were ranked ahead of Peterson. Again, RB can be a fungible position in the NFL, so I’ll hear arguments that Peterson is ranked too high. But I won’t agree with those arguments. Peterson is a true game-changer and is on pace to be a Hall of Famer as well. I don’t need to list his credentials or past results here because you are surely aware of them; he’s virtually re-written the Vikings rushing record book.

We’ve posted on the front page of vikings.com the 7-minute video segment that introduces Peterson as the #3 player in the Top 100 Players of 2010 series, but I wanted to point out just a few things from the clip right here on the vikings.com Blog. I recommend watching the video when you’re done reading this entry.

The segment begins by showing a few of Peterson’s highlight-caliber runs, with Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier speaking about his superstar RB. Frazier describes 2 particular runs that stand out to him and then has some flattering remarks about Peterson.

“He reminds me so much of a great running back that I played with. Arguably the greatest of all-time, Walter Payton,” Frazier said. “Just the way tacklers wince when Adrian comes. And this is the National Football League we’re talking about. Guys get paid to hit you. But when it’s Adrian Peterson barreling down, I mean you know it’s going to be a vicious moment for the defender.”

One of Peterson’s fellow NFL players, Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, is also part of the segment. Vilma is a top LB in the NFL who has played against Peterson a few times in recent seasons. He also had flattering comments for #28.

“Whew, man. He’s tough,” Vilma said. “He’s not going to go out of bounds, he’s not going to give you the easy out. He wants the contact, he’ll look for the contact and at the same time he’ll look for the home run. He can do both, that’s the thing that makes him special.

“I always worry about running backs that can run away from me. He’s one of those guys where I can be tracking him the whole way and all of a sudden he puts his foot in the ground and he’s out of the gate for 60 yards. You know, that worries me.”

The segment then moves on to point out that 6 teams passed on Peterson during the 2007 NFL Draft before the Vikings pounced on him at #7.

“When we drafted him, and just watched how he moved, how he attacked the line of scrimmage, and we’re not in pads, it’s our first practices for rookies, and he approached it like it’s a game,” Frazier recalled. “And I said, ‘this guy is different.’ And it’s never stopped. He’s trying to score every time he touches the football. What should be a two-yard run, could be a 98-yard gain.”

Vilma then goes on to talk about a defensive meeting he was in just before playing the Vikings in which a Saints defensive coach showed a film clip of a touchdown run by Peterson against the Tennessee Titans.

“When we were about to play him, about two years ago, our coach put one film of him, one cut up of him,” Vilma recalled. “And he said ‘I just want you guys to watch this so you understand who you’re playing.’ It was (the film clip) against the Tennessee Titans, (the Vikings offense) was on the far hash and he (Peterson) was cutting it back to the field. He must have been top speed in his third or fourth step and he wanted us to watch the safety, who couldn’t catch him who had the angle on him; (Peterson) burned the angle on him and scored the touchdown.”

Later the video shows a clip of QB Brett Favre telling Peterson that he’s never played with a player like Peterson. It’s a notable moment because Favre, one of the best QBs of all-time, is describing to Peterson how good he is, how good he could be and how he’s glad to finally play with him after playing against him for 2 seasons.

The clip also gets into the fumbling issues Peterson experienced early in his career, pointing out that Peterson fumbled 20 times in his first 3 seasons. But the clip also points out that he fumbled just once in 2010.

Ultimately, though, the entire segment can be summed up in one comment that Frazier made toward the end.

“He, in my mind, is the best running back in the National Football League today,” Frazier said. “Bar none.”


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