McCollum Brings Ramsey Co. and Vikings Together with U.S. Army to Advance Transfer and Clean-up of TCAAP Site in Arden Hills

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 19, 2011 – 3:59 pm

Washington, DC – Today in the Cannon House Office Building, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) hosted a meeting to bring representatives from Ramsey County and the Minnesota Vikings together with the U.S. Army and the General Services Administration (GSA) to address outstanding issues and enable to the transfer and clean-up of 430 acres at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) site in Arden Hills.  In addition to a Viking’s stadium and future commercial development, the no-fee public conveyance of 108 acres of clean TCAAP property to Ramsey County for a wildlife corridor, park and recreation space and trails was discussed.

Following the three and a half hour meeting, Congresswoman McCollum issued the following statement:

“I called this meeting of key stakeholders together because the Ramsey County – Vikings plan is the last, best chance for TCAAP to be cleaned-up and put into productive use for taxpayers,” McCollum said. “During the meeting it became immediately clear that all parties around the table are highly motivated to achieve a positive outcome and move TCAAP from the Army to Ramsey County and the Vikings. All stakeholders agreed to a timeline that will allow for a final deal to be reached next week.

“In this challenging economy, I applaud Ramsey County and the Minnesota Vikings for making such a significant commitment to creating jobs for Minnesotans, cleaning up this polluted land, and returning this site to our region’s tax base.  When this project advances, the investments made will go a long way to secure the long-term economic well-being of the entire Twin Cities Metropolitan area.”

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Vikings, Packers Release Initial Injury Reports

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 2:35 pm

We are to the point in the season where injuries typically begin to add up, and both the Vikings and Packers initial injury reports for the week reflect that reality. Neither team is decimated by injury, but several starters and key players for both teams are listed.

We’ll begin with the Vikings, where WR Percy Harvin (ribs), RT Phil Loadholt (knee), S Jamarca Sanford (concussion) and C John Sullivan (concussion) were all held out of practice. CB Antoine Winfield (neck) and LBs E.J. Henderson (knee) and Kenny Onatolu (hamstring) were limited in practice. G Steve Hutchinson (knee) was also on the injury report, but he was listed as a full participant. It’s far too early to speculate on the potential availability of any of these players, so we’ll save that for later in the week.

For the Packers, LT Chad Clifton (knee/hamstring), DE Mike Neal (knee) and LB Frank Zombo (knee) have already been declared out for Sunday’s game. LB Jamari Lattimore (shoulder), LB Clay Matthews (quad), CB Sam Shields (concussion) and G Josh Sitton were held out of practice. S Morgan Burnett (hand) and CB Charles Woodson (foot/knee) were limited, while TE Andrew Quarless (knee) was on the injury report but was also a full participant.

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Peering Into The Future With Ponder At The Helm

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 11:05 am

When the Vikings selected Christian Ponder with their first-round pick (No. 12 overall) in last April’s draft, the thinking was he’d be the quarterback of the future. Fast-forward to Week 7 of the 2011 season, and the future is here.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier announced on Wednesday that Ponder will make his first NFL start on Sunday, with the defender Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers coming to town for their annual visit to Mall of America Field.

Ponder saw his first regular season action last Sunday night in the Vikings loss to Chicago, as he came on in relief for Donovan McNabb in the second half. In one quarter of action, Ponder was 9 of 17 or 99 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions; he also had one rushing attempt for eight yards. On Sunday, though, Ponder will take the field from the start and try to energize a Vikings team that has battled through a rough start to the season and a Vikings fan base that is starving for a young, franchise-caliber QB to emerge.

Questions about McNabb’s standing as the starting quarterback surfaced early in the season after the Vikings stumbled out of the gate to a 0-4 start. McNabb’s subpar outings early in the season were certainly not the only deficiency for the Vikings, but in the NFL it’s the quarterbacks who receive most of the credit in times of prosperity and most of the blame in times of adversity.

Ultimately, with the Vikings slipping to 1-5 after last week’s loss to the Bears, the time came for Frazier and the Vikings to make a switch. Will the switch to Ponder set the stage times of prosperity in the future? The first step in the long process of making that determination begins on Sunday.

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Frazier Explains Decision To Play Ponder

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 11:03 am

It’s easy for those who don’t sit in meeting rooms or cross paths in the hallways with players to shout out from the mountain top that changes need to be made after a slow start to the season. When you’re the one in the corner office at the end of the hallway and in charge of leading an NFL team to victory, it’s not as easy to make those changes.

But that’s the position Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier found himself in this week, and he announced on Wednesday morning that he will indeed make a change at the QB position. Christian Ponder will replace Donovan McNabb as the team’s starting QB starting this Sunday, and the expectation is that Ponder will remain the starter for the balance of the 2011 season, and hopefully well beyond.

Frazier said he informed those involved of his decision on Tuesday, and then addressed the team as a whole on Wednesday morning.

“I had a chance to talk with both Christian and Donovan on Tuesday and just went through some of my thinking and why myself and the coaching staff came to this conclusion,” Frazier said. “Donovan was terrific, he’s a class individual, as all of you know if you’ve had a chance to speak with him. A true pro in every sense of the word. He’s a competitor. He wanted to be able to finish things, but he understood why we were doing what we were doing. Christian is as excited as you can imagine. He’s extremely excited about this opportunity. He’s looking forward to his first start in the National Football League.”

Frazier stressed several times during the press conference that struggles at the QB position were not the only reason the Vikings have just 1 win in their first 6 games. He said the team must play better around Ponder in order for the rookie to play effectively. Ultimately, though, Frazier said the decision of whom to start at QB this week was based on who gave the team the best chance to win.

“When I talked with our team, I expressed to them that some of the things that went into this decision,” Frazier said. “We’re 1-5. I think there’s a lot of football left to be played. It does not mean that I am giving up on the 2011 season. The decision was made purely based on what will give us the best chance to win on Sunday. That’s why the decision was made. I didn’t feel or sense that staying status quo was going to get us a win on Sunday. Based on that, along with some other things that I looked at, just decided that this is the direction we need to go at this point in our season.”

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Ponder Will Start On Sunday vs. Green Bay

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 10:31 am

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier announced on Wednesday that Christian Ponder will be the team’s starting QB on Sunday when the Green Bay Packers visit Mall of America Field.

Ponder, who was chosen by the Vikings in the 1st round (#12 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft, saw his first regular season action on Sunday in a loss to Chicago when he replaced Donovan McNabb in the 2nd half. In one quarter of action, Ponder was 9 of 17 for 99 yard with no TDs or INTs; he also had one carry for 8 yards.

Questions about McNabb’s standing as the starting QB surfaced early in the season after the Vikings stumbled out of the gate to a 0-4 start.

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Peterson Approaches Historical Mark vs. Packers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 9:47 am

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is to the point now where he breaks so many different rushing/scoring records that it’s hard to discern which are worthy of mention and which should serve only as footnotes. It’s a fun problem to have for a team website, especially at a time such as this when the team is struggling to string together wins.

But there is a record Peterson is approaching this week that is worth mentioning. And if he surpasses the record, it will go a long way toward helping the Vikings win more games.

Back in 2008, Peterson set the Vikings-Packers series record for single-game rushing yards by running for 192 yards (and 1 TD) on 30 carries. In fact, Peterson has had success rushing against Green Bay during his career, notching three 100-yard rushing games and scoring TDs in 5 of 8 games (he has 6 total TDs against Green Bay). Last season against Green Bay, Peterson rushed for 131 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries in an effort that nearly paced the Vikings to an upset win over the eventual Super Bowl champions.

All of Peterson’s individual game success against Green Bay is starting to add up, and now he’s just 55 yards away from surpassing Bill “Boom Boom” Brown for the franchise record for career rushing yards vs. the Packers. Brown had 862 rushing yards against Green Bay, and right now Peterson sits at 807.

Now, will 55 rushing yards for Peterson ensure a Vikings victory over Green Bay? Definitely not. But if Peterson can surpass his career average against the Packers – 100.9 yards per game – then we’re getting closer to victory. Since Peterson is such a big goal-setter, let’s set a goal for him to break Boom Boom’s record by halftime, setting the stage for another 100-yard game for #28 against the Packers.

Peterson vs. the Packers
2010: 28 carries, 131 yards, 2 TDs; 14 carries, 72 yards, 0 TDs
2009: 25 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD; 25 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD
2008: 19 carries, 103 yards, 1 TD; 30 carries, 192 yards, 1 TD
2007: 12 carries, 112 yards, 0 TDs; 11 carries, 45 yards, 0 TDs

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Poking and Prodding The Packers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 19, 2011 – 6:06 am

We typically dedicate the first blog entry every Wednesday morning to a general introduction of the Vikings upcoming opponent. This Sunday, the Vikings return to the friendly confines of Mall of America Field and they’ll play a team that needs little introduction: the Green Bay Packers.

They’re the defending Super Bowl champions, they’re undefeated and they’re widely considered the best team in the NFL. Sunday will present the Vikings with a stiff challenge.

We all know how the Packers make their money – an explosive passing offense and a playmaking defense. There aren’t many QBs playing better than Aaron Rodgers right now and there aren’t many LBs making more plays than Clay Matthews right now.

On Offense
Rodgers is the NFL’s highest rated passer (122.5) largely because he leads the NFL in TD passes (17) and completion percentage (69.9%). No, that’s not a typo. Rodgers is completing a ridiculous 69.9% of his passes. The Packers have the 3rd-ranked passing offense, they’re averaging a League-best 9.7 yards per passing attempt and they have more touchdown passes of 20+ yards (8) than any other team.

The WR corps is one of the NFL’s best and deepest, with Greg Jennings leading the way. Jennings has 35 receptions on the season, which is 12 more than the next guy, TE Jermichael Finley. Jordy Nelson (20) and James Jones (15) are next in receptions, with James Starks (15) and Donald Driver (12) also contributors. It’s not so much that any one of these receivers are game-changers, it’s more about Rodgers’ ability to get the right guy the ball at the right time. This is a dangerous, deep group.

As good as Green Bay is at passing the ball, they surprisingly aren’t prone to neglecting the run. They have the NFL’s 14th ranked rushing attack and they have the 12th most rushing attempts. No, those numbers aren’t great, but they’re good enough to keep defenses honest. Green Bay features a two-headed attack at RB, with Ryan Grant and James Starks sharing the load. Grant is the steady veteran, and Starks is the guy who tends to be more explosive.

Green Bay’s offensive line is not loaded with All-Pros or Pro Bowlers, but they’re gritty enough to get the job done. The Vikings defense had its way with the Packers offensive line in 2008 and 2009, sacking Rodgers a total of 18 times in 8 games, including an incredible 14 times in two ‘09 contests. It’s a different story now, though. This group has been bothered by injuries constantly, yet they tough it out and protect Rodgers enough to allow him to shred opposing secondaries. Chad Clifton is the usual starting LT, but he has a hamstring injury and won’t play. Derek Sherrod will take his place, and will join LG T.J. Lang, C Scott Wells, RG Josh Sitton and RT Bryan Bulaga in the starting lineup. [UPDATE: As a reader has pointed out, it was Marshall Newhouse who replaced Clifton last week at LT, not Sherrod. But on their website, the Packers have Sherrod listed as the backup at LT, with Newhouse listed as the backup at RG and RT.] The three interior linemen are experienced, so the spotlight in this week’s contest will be on Sherrod and Bulaga, who will go against the NFL’s most productive DE tandem in Jared Allen and Brian Robison (14.0 sacks between them). The Packers chose these two OTs in back-to-back seasons, and right now they’re finding out if they were worth the investment.

On Defense
If there’s a vulnerability on Green Bay’s team it might be defensively, where they rank 23rd overall (allowing 383.7 yards per game) and 31st against the pass (299.7). The problem is, Green Bay is pretty good against the run (rank 5th and allow just 84.0 yards per game), which makes it hard to maintain possession. And even when you can maintain possession against them, eventually they’re going to force a mistake. The Packers are +7 in turnover margin and are tied for the 2nd most takeaways with 14 and the 2nd most INTs with 11.

From a personnel standpoint, Matthews is the brightest star. He plays outside LB in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme, lining up primarily on offense’s right side and rushing the passer on most snaps. Other prominent playmakers on this defense are DT B.J. Raji, who plays over the nose, and ball-hawking CBs Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson, who are enemy No. 1 and No. 2 for opposing QBs. Also, don’t sleep on active left DE Ryan Pickett and inside LB Desmond Bishop, who is tied for 3rd in NFL with 57 tackles and has 3.0 sacks. One remarkable aspect of the Packers defense is that they rank 10th with 15 sacks, but no one player has more than Bishop’s 3.0.

The Vikings offense vs. the Packers defense will be a strength vs. strength matchup, as the Vikings rank 3rd in rushing yards per game (142.2) and Green Bay ranks 6th in rushing defense. And while Green Bay’s defense struggles against the pass when they’re not taking the ball away, the Vikings offense struggles to move the ball through the air.

A couple of final stats that could be important in this Sunday’s game:
— The Vikings offense has struggled on 3rd downs this season, but this week is a good week to get it going on 3rd down because the Packers rank 20th in 3rd down defense and are allowing a 40.5% conversion rate.
— Green Bay has the NFL’s 7th ranked scoring defense, allowing 19.0 points per game.
— Green Bay’s defense ranks 10th with an opposing passer rating of 81.8.
— The Packers are tied for 4th in red zone defense.

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Reminder: “Vikings Country” Featuring Jared Allen Is Live At Mall Of America Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on October 19, 2011 – 3:39 am

As is the case each Wednesday during the NFL season, fans can head to Mall of America tonight from 6:30 to 7 to check out “Vikings Country,” a weekly radio show hosted by Mike Mussman and co-hosted by either Jared Allen or Chad Greenway.  Tonight, Jared Allen is the co-host.

The show will be broadcast live from the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar at Mall of America – located on the fourth floor, east side – every Wednesday during the regular season and will air on KFAN (FM 100.3); the show will also be aired on Fox Sports North at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. Allen and Greenway will alternate weeks as co-hosts of the show with Mussman, and the Vikings Street Team will be at each broadcast giving away great prizes.

Fans are encouraged to attend the live broadcast each week at the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar, where they will enjoy a state-of-the-art restaurant and entertainment facility that features high definition TV’s, quality billiards, 12 lanes of bowling and a great menu of beverages and food.

Allen will co-host on the following dates: tonight, November 16, November 30, December 14 and December 28. Greenway will co-host on the following dates: October 26, November 9, November 25, December 7 and December 21.

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