Arden Hills Rated Among “Best Places To Live”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 25, 2011 – 6:27 am

In May of 2011 the Vikings and Ramsey County announced a partnership to build a new multi-purpose stadium on the former Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant (TCAAP) property in Arden Hills. The site in Arden Hills is just 10 miles from both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and it offers tremendous benefits to the State, the County, the Vikings and the fans.

And, according to CNNMoney, Arden Hills is also among the best places to live in America in 2011. The website compiled a Top 100 places to live in 2011 list and Arden Hills came in ranked at #14, the second-highest ranking among all Minnesota towns (Chanhassen was ranked 10th).

On the page describing Arden Hills, it says families are attracted to Arden Hills by “a top-rated school district and a trail system that connects parks, playgrounds, and lakes.” It also says Arden Hills is known for strict tree preservation laws that even the newest developments “seem like long-established neighborhoods.”

The only negative CNNMoney listed with Arden Hills was the presence of a “Superfund” site, but the website also cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as saying the cleanup process at the site is “almost complete.”

Despite the Vikings partnership with Ramsey County and the team’s patience over the past several years, legislators chose not to address the stadium situation during the 2011 Legislative Session. The Vikings have done everything State leaders have asked, including finding a strong local partner, identifying the best stadium site and contributing significant private money into the project. The team continues to stand ready to complete the deal for a new stadium.

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McNabb Says Offense Is Coming Along; Practice Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 24, 2011 – 3:41 pm

Vikings QB Donovan McNabb met with reporters after practice on Wednesday, just three days before the Vikings suit up for preseason game #3. Typically the third preseason game is when starters see the most playing time, so Saturday night’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys should give us a pretty good glimpse into just how much progress the Vikings offense has made.

Remember, coming off a lockout that canceled all Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamps in addition to a new Offensive Coordinator and starting QB has the Vikings a bit behind the 8 ball. But the Vikings won’t use that as an excuse for poor play, largely because many other teams are enduring the same or similar disadvantages and also because there’s a sense among many on this team that the offense is making strides.

“We’re getting very close, we’re getting very close,” McNabb said about the chemistry developing between himself and the receivers. “I’m excited with where we’re at right now and those guys kind of have a feel of where I may place the ball [when] they come out of their routes. I have a feel of how they’re going to come out of their routes.

“But again, each game is different and it’s a learning process for all of us and hopefully once the whistle blows come Game One we’re right where we want to be.”

That’s the goal – to be ready to go once Week 1 rolls around and then to continue getting better from that point forward. It seemed as if the Vikings offense made a step forward in that effort on Wednesday. During one full team period of practice, I was standing just behind Musgrave and I heard him complement the Vikings offense a number of times on their spacing and timing.

“We had a good day today,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after practice, speaking about his entire team. “I really believe we got better in some areas. We worked a little bit of short yardage, some goal line and some two-minute. Great weather again for us to practice in, which really helps a lot as you’re trying to mold the team and get the team ready for our third preseason game.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Frazier continued. “This game on [Thursday] night will give us a better indication of where we are and how far we have to go to be ready for our first regular season game.”

Here are a few observations from practice…

– The Vikings worked for roughly two hours on Wednesday in full pads and in warm, breezy conditions.

– Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who returned to practice from a hamstring injury on Tuesday, was not out on the field taking part in practice on Wednesday. Frazier said Shiancoe incurred a setback, but said it was not a major setback. The Vikings ultimately decided to hold him back on Wednesday rather than risk further injury.

– With Shiancoe on the sidelines, rookie TE Kyle Rudolph saw a few more reps. He’s had a tremendous training camp so far and he was very good on Wednesday. The one aspect of Rudolph’s game that I notice the most is how sure-handed he is; you rarely, if ever, see him take his eye off the ball before he secures it and moves upfield. He also rarely traps the football against his body to catch it.

– There was some pretty good action in the goal line portion of Wednesday’s practice. On three straight plays, the Vikings defense made stops against the scout team. On the first play, DT Letroy Guion penetrated and stopped a run in the backfield. On the second play, the offense used a play-action fake to try and fool the defense but LB Erin Henderson did not bite and was able to tip the pass and cause an incompletion. On the third and final play of the series, DT Christian Ballard and CB Cedric Griffin combined to stop a run short of the goal line.

– WR Percy Harvin made the play of the day on a pass from rookie QB Christian Ponder. Harvin was flying down the left sideline and was able to catch up to and dive under a pass that Ponder had launched downfield. Harvin came up with the ball, secured it all the way to the ground and then quickly got to his feet and completed the play by dashing to the endzone. This was one of the plays when Musgrave complemented Ponder and Harvin on “great timing.” In fact, Musgrave made the “great timing” comment as Ponder’s pass was in the air and about 75% of the way to where Harvin ended up making the catch.

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Frazier, McNabb Excited To Play In Front Of Home Crowd

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 24, 2011 – 3:20 pm

The Vikings return to play a game in front of their home crowd at Mall of America Field this Saturday night when they host the Dallas Cowboys for preseason game #3. The Vikings last played a game at their home stadium on December 5, 2010 and after opening the preseason with consecutive road games, both Head Coach Leslie Frazier and new QB Donovan McNabb are looking forward to having the home crowd behind them.

“Excited,” Frazier said when asked for his thoughts on playing in front of Vikings fans again. “Excited to be back with our fans. Mall of America Field has been a good place for us to play our home games and our fans give us so much energy as a football team. It’s something I’m looking forward to, just lining up at our home stadium after being on the road these first two preseason games. Just to hear the roar of our crowd, I’m excited about it. I’m sure our players are also.”

Frazier is right, Mall of America Field has been kind to the Vikings. The Vikings are 18-4 at Mall of America Field since the start of the 2008 season, including an 8-0 finish in 2009 (4-2 in 2010, missing two games due to the roof collapse). The team now has a combined record of 156-81-0 (.657) all-time at Mall of America Field, which includes a 7-5 mark in postseason games.

As a 13-year veteran with NFC foes Philadelphia and Washington, Saturday certainly won’t be McNabb’s first experience at Mall of America Field. So he knows the environment that exists there because of the passionate fan base.

“I’m looking forward to coming out of a different locker room,” McNabb said. “I’m just looking forward to the fans’ reaction and for us going out and making plays and hearing them roar a little bit. The anticipation I’m sure is growing for the fans as well as for us.”

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Notes From Tuesday’s Practice, Coordinator Press Conferences

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 4:33 pm

The Vikings had a long, grueling practice on Tuesday afternoon as they continue their rigorous preparation for the 2011 regular season, which begins in just under 3 weeks. The team worked in full pads for the approximately 2-hour practice and they did so in humid, sticky conditions.

Coaches paused more frequently for extra water breaks and the tough work in even tougher conditions gave the squad an idea of their conditioning. All indications are the team’s conditioning is good, especially considering how well the first-team defense and offense played against the scout teams.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated after Saturday’s preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks that the team would do a little bit of game-planning for their next opponent – the Dallas Cowboys – to try and simulate a week of preparation in the regular season. The Vikings did so today, with both the first-team defense and offense working against a scout team that was presumably simulating looks the Cowboys have given opponents so far during the preseason.

Here are a few notes from Tuesday’s action…

– The Vikings secondary was the standout group in practice, with S Tyrell Johnson collecting on INT in 7-on-7 drills and CBs Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield grabbing INTs during full team periods of practice. Johnson showed great range on his INT, coming from the deep right side of the field to the middle. Sherels also had a tremendous pass break up (PBU) during 1-on-1 drills in the period right after his INT.

– CB Chris Cook also performed well in 1-on1 drills and drew praise from DBs coach Joe Woods when he locked rookie WR Stephen Burton up at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route. Cook made another nice play late in practice when he trailed WR Dominique Johnson all the way across the field on a drag route and extended his left arm to break up the pass.

– On the first play of the first period of full team work for the first-team defense, LB Erin Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it to the endzone. That marks the second consecutive day Henderson has grabbed an INT in practice.

– The first-team offense looked just as impressive going against the scout team defense. QB Donovan McNabb found WRs Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin several times, with Berrian able to get over the top of the defense at least three times that I saw for long receptions all over the field.

– DT Kevin Williams (foot) is on the mend a bit, so Letroy Guion got first-team reps at the 3-technique.

– Harvin made the play of the day and it came early in practice. He was running a route deep down the right side of the field and McNabb launched a pass in Harvin’s direction. By the time the ball came down it was actually falling into bracketed coverage, but Harvin cut in front of the coverage, leaped off of one foot and grabbed the ball with one hand, hauling it in and controlling the ball all the way to the ground.

– Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac was asked a few times about the starting safety position opposite Husain Abdullah and he did not indicate whether Tyrell Johnson or Jamarca Sanford had an edge in the competition. In fact, Pagac said both players have played about the same number of snaps and the competition may not be decided soon. The coaching staff is still talking about how to split up playing time this week against the Cowboys, but look for Sanford to get the start because Johnson started last week in Seattle.

– Pagac did not have an update on Kevin Williams’ status and he said he expects the defensive starters to play roughly 20-25 plays before exiting the game on Saturday night.

– Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave did not give much indication as to how long the offensive starters would play on Saturday night and instead explained that the coaching staff still had to make those decisions.

– Here was Pagac’s response when asked to assess the defense’s performance against Seattle: “Improvement of tempo; I thought we were running to the ball a little bit better. Our tackling was better. We still had a couple missed tackles, but our tackling was much better. Just the attitude that we played with and obviously the sudden change situation when we had the turnover for the touchdown and then that goal line stance after a long series. That means a lot to us, is something that we preach about all the time and the kids responded.”

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Pagac Anticipates DT Guion Making Impact In 2011

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 3:51 pm

Marcus Sherels’ 64-yard INT return for a TD was the premier defensive highlight in last Saturday’s 20-7 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But the turning point in the game may have actually occurred on the following Seattle offensive series.

The Seahawks offense responded well to Sherels’ pick 6, driving the ball from their own 27-yardline to the Vikings 2 in 10 plays, setting up a 1st-and-goal situation just six feet from the endzone. But that’s where the Vikings defense bowed up and stopped Seattle RB Justin Forsett on four consecutive runs.

DT Letroy Guion was credited with 2 tackles on those four plays but his impact was even greater. He was a disruptive force in that series of plays and it did not go unnoticed by the Vikings coaching staff.

“One guy in particular, Letroy Guion, he lit it up in that situation,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac said on Tuesday. “He did a nice job for us.”

Pagac is a true throwback and is not one to shower praise on his players. But he made a point to specifically mention Guion’s role in the goal-line stand and he also indicated Guion is expected to make an impact on the Vikings defense this season.

“We think Letroy is going to be a heck of a football player for us,” Pagac commented. “We’re anticipating him being a big part of our defense this year. He’s coming along and he has the athletic ability. He’s strong, has quickness and has toughness.”

Guion stands at 6-4, 303 pounds and plays primarily the 3-technique behind starter Kevin Williams in the Vikings defense. The Vikings drafted him in the 5th round (#152 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft and he was inactive for 15 of the Vikings 17 games that season. But in 2009 he took a step forward by playing in 7 games and then he became a regular in the DT rotation last year.

Speaking of the rotation, Pagac was asked if he took extra pride in the goal line stand from Saturday because it was his second-team defense that was in the game taking on Seattle’s first-team offense. As I said earlier, Pagac is a throwback and is not one to provide much hyperbole. He made it clear that while the goal line stand was a feather in the defense’s cap, it’s also something that he expects his players to accomplish.

“Again, as far as our front’s concerned,” Pagac said, “we’re planning on rolling those guys all year long, so in my mind they’re a part of our ones so they’ve got to play hard all the time, too.”

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Vikings Sign RB Caleb King, Release OL Huntley

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 8:58 am

The NFL held the 2011 Supplemental Draft on Monday, but the Vikings elected not to select any players. On Tuesday morning, however, the Vikings signed a player who was eligible for the supplemental draft but was not selected.

The Vikings signed rookie free agent RB Caleb King, who played college football at the University of Georgia and will join a backfield in Minnesota that includes Lorenzo Booker, Tristan Davis, Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson and Alexander Robinson.

To make room for King, the Vikings waived OL Rod Huntley.

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Frazier Sees Progress, But Also Knows Work Remains; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 22, 2011 – 2:23 pm

After a day off on Sunday following their preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night, the Vikings returned to the practice fields at Winter Park on Monday for an abbreviated workout. The Vikings conducted what they call a 10-10-10 practice, which lasted for approximately an hour.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters after practice and said that after watching the tape from Saturday night’s win over Seattle he saw his team was making progress. But he also acknowledged there is still work to be done before the team is prepared to open the regular season on September 11 in San Diego.

“There were some good things that we really felt good about,” Frazier said. “There was some improvement in some key areas, really across the board. But there’s also a lot of work to be done, we realize that. That’s one of the reasons we’re in the preseason, to try to improve and identify what we are going to be as a football team.”

Monday’s practice saw the return of a few key offensive players, with TE Visanthe Shiancoe and WRs Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin back in the action. Frazier seemed please with his team’s effort in practice on Monday and said the team is poised for another solid week of practice leading up to Saturday night’s contest with the Dallas Cowboys at Mall of America Field.

“Really appreciative of the effort that our guys displayed and the desire to want to be good,” Frazier said. “Today’s practice we wanted to make sure they were focused, they were in tune with what we were trying to get done, and that was the case so it was a good way start to the week.”

Here are a few notes from Monday’s practice and Frazier’s press conference…

– The Vikings practiced in helmets, shells and shorts on Monday in warm temperatures and under a sunny sky. They worked on both kickoff and punt return and also had a period of no-huddle offense/defense against the 40-second play clock.

– Devin Aromashodu and Harvin logged highlight-caliber catches during practice. Harvin ran a corner route and hauled in a long pass before falling to the ground and out of bounds with Antoine Winfield covering him like a blanket. Aromashodu’s catch came on a quick out route in which spun out of his break, briefly lost his footing, regained his footing and turned to look for the football just as it arrived. Aromashodu is climbing up the depth chart in a crowded WR stable and is doing so in large part because of his ability to contribute on special teams.

– LB Erin Henderson, who is still the favorite to win a starting outside LB position, intercepted a pass from Donovan McNabb. But McNabb turned around and hit WR Bernard Berrian on the next play and then found WR Michael Jenkins deep down the field just a few plays later.

– Among those who did not practice today were RB Toby Gerhart (ankle), LB Ross Homan (concussion) and LB Mark Washington (stinger). LB Heath Farwell, who missed much of last week’s practice, was back on the field. Frazier Homan will not play in this weekend’s game against the Cowboys.

– Frazier said he was unsure if starting RG Anthony Herrera would make his preseason debut this weekend and he also said that Ryan Cook would be the likely replacement if Herrera was unable to go.

– In what will hopefully be a minor issue but could turn into a major one, DT Kevin Williams was held out of practice today because of a foot injury that’s been bothering him since training camp. Frazier said Williams was having trouble pushing off on the foot during last Saturday’s game. Williams will see a foot specialist today and Frazier said the team could hear the results from those tests as early as tomorrow. Also, Frazier said he hasn’t heard a word from the NFL regarding Williams’ possible four-game suspension.

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Vikings Make Roster Moves, Sign DE Stylez G White

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 22, 2011 – 1:56 pm

The Vikings made a pair of roster moves on Monday.

Offensive lineman Scott Kooistra injured his neck in Saturday’s preseason game against Seattle and has been placed on the Reserve/Injured list. With the roster opening, the Vikings tried out and signed DE Stylez G White.

The injury to Kooistra comes at a time when he was moving up the depth chart and playing multiple positions along the offensive line. He was taking reps with the first-team offense at RG and even started in that spot against the Seahawks. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier described Kooistra’s injury as serious.

White was at Winter Park today and if his names sounds familiar it’s probably because you remember him from his time playing at the University of Minnesota. White was a 7th-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2002 and has played for the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Orlando Predators and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Kluwe To Give Away Vikings Preseason Tickets On Twitter, Facebook Today

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 22, 2011 – 1:00 pm

Chris Kluwe is one of the biggest personalities in the Vikings locker room, so it should be no surprise that he’s behind a big Vikings ticket giveaway on Twitter and Facebook this afternoon.

Kluwe will use the social networking sites to conduct a contest that will lead fans to a downtown location where Kluwe will be waiting. The first 100 fans to meet Kluwe will receive a pair of tickets to the Vikings final preseason game, which is on September 1 at Mall of America Field against the Houston Texans.

The contest will begin after the Vikings afternoon practice. As Kluwe leaves Winter Park, he’ll announce the contest on his Twitter account (@chriswarcraft) as well as on the Vikings Twitter account (@VikingsFootball) and official Facebook page. Fans who show up will also have the opportunity to visit and take photos with Kluwe and post them to their Twitter and Facebook pages.

 The Vikings return to Mall of America Field this Saturday night for a preseason contest against the Dallas Cowboys, which will mark the team’s first home game at the stadium since December 5, 2010. Tickets still remain for both of the Vikings home preseason games as well as all home regular season games. To purchase tickets, visit the Tickets page by clicking here.

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Vikings Special Teams Strong Again Saturday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 22, 2011 – 8:42 am

The Vikings special teams unit is going through a period of transition right now, partly because of some roster turnover but largely because there is a new coordinator in charge. Mike Priefer is now on the job and he’s making significant changes to some of the fundamental aspects of each special teams phase.

We’ll spare the detail of those changes for now, but suffice it to say Priefer has had a lot to teach in a short amount of time, especially considering he didn’t have the minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) usually afforded to teams in the offseason.

Despite all of that, early results are outstanding for Priefer and Co. The special teams were probably the strongest part of the Vikings preseason debut in Tennessee a week ago and then last Saturday in Tennessee the special teams gave another strong showing.

Let’s go over some of the highlights…

– Ryan Longwell has been solid on kickoffs all preseason. On Saturday night he was hitting his kicks into the endzone, with one going as deep as 6 yards. That combined with terrific effort from the coverage team is helping the Vikings win the field position battle. Here is Seattle’s starting field position after Longwell’s four kickoffs: SEA 11, SEA 27, SEA 9, SEA 15. The Vikings defense will enjoy life quite a bit this season if opponents are starting drives inside the 20 with regularity.

– P Chris Kluwe is doing his part to help the Vikings win the field position battle, too. On Saturday night he had 4 punts, with a gross average of 39.8 and a net average of 38.5. When the gross average and net average are similar, you know the opponents aren’t doing much in the return game. Seattle averaged just 1.7 yards per return on 3 tries and Kluwe landed 2 of his 4 punts inside the 20.

– S Eric Frampton continues to be a standout in kick coverage. He had another open-field tackle on Saturday night.

– Longwell was also solid in the place kicking department, nailing FGs from 34 and 36 yards and also hitting his lone PAT try. The battery of long snapper Cullen Loeffler to Kluwe also improved on Saturday night.

– Lorenzo Booker, who is my choice to be the Vikings kickoff returner this season, registered another impressive return on Saturday night with a 26-yard scamper. Marcus Sherels, who returned an INT 64 yards for a score in the game, also had 2 punt returns for a 10.0-yard average, but he did lose a fumble and that won’t be tolerated by Priefer and special teams assistant coach Chris White.

– Outside of Frampton, the other players credited with special teams tackles on Saturday were: Tony Carter, Loeffler, Sherels, Devon Torrence and Mark Washington. Devin Aromashodu (1), Jasper Brinkley (2),  Booker (1) and Larry Dean (1) were all credited with assists.

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