The Vikings 2011 regular season is now over, but the Monday Morning Mailbag still has work to do. Click here to read this week’s edition.
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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 241 Comments »
It will go down as a loss by a normal NFL score of 17-13, but the 2011 season finale between the Vikings and Chicago Bears at Mall of America Field on Sunday afternoon was certainly not short on drama or excitement. Jim Kleinsasser, a truly great all-time Viking and 13-year veteran, played the final game of his career. And DE Jared Allen capped off the best season of his career by chasing history.
Kleinsasser, never one to embrace pomp and circumstance, went through the emotions of game day one more time, with many family members and friends right by his side the entire time. His last task of the day was to meet with reporters at a post-game press conference, where he spoke eloquently and with perspective about his great career with the Vikings, the love and support from his family and friends along the way, and the camaraderie he enjoyed with life in the NFL.
Allen, who entered Sunday’s game with 18.5 sacks, needed 2.5 to tie the Vikings single-season record (21.0 by Chris Doleman) and 4.5 to set a new NFL single-season record (Michael Strahan had 22.5 in the 2001 season). As he’s done all season, Allen delivered big-time for the Vikings. He chased QB Josh McCown around the field all day, finishing the afternoon with 3.5 sacks, giving him the Vikings record but coming up excruciatingly short of the NFL record.
As for the game, the Vikings jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter behind a 26-yard Ryan Longwell FG and a 5-yard TD dash by Percy Harvin. Chicago came right back and answered in the 2nd quarter, though, scoring on a 22-yard McCown-to-Roy Williams pitch-and-catch and then on a 22-yard INT return by CB Charles Tillman just 2 plays into the Vikings next drive.
And it got worse for Ponder. On the Vikings first play following the Tillman pick 6, Ponder rolled to the right, threw a pass, and was brought to the ground by Bears DE Israel Idonije, re-injuring the hip that has bothered Ponder late in the season and forcing him from the game. Joe Webb replaced Ponder, and right before halftime he drove the Vikings down the field to set up Longwell for another FG, this one pulling the score to 14-13 in favor of Chicago right in front of halftime.
The 3rd quarter was dominated by defense. The Vikings had drives end in an INT and 2 punts, while the Bears were forced to punt 3 times in the quarter. Appropriately enough, it was in the 3rd quarter, on a 3rd-and-14 play from the Chicago 40, where Allen set the new Vikings single-season sack mark. After the sack, Allen raced to the sideline where he was embraced by many of his teammates, and the sold-out Mall of America Field crowd gave their favorite calf-roping DE a huge ovation.
Unfortunately, the Vikings were unable to cap Allen’s record-setting day and Kleinsasser’s emotional farewell with a come-from-behind effort in the 4th quarter. Webb gave a tremendous effort, repeatedly avoiding pressure from the Bears defense, but it just wasn’t enough to put points on the board. The Bears added a FG on the first possession of the quarter and their defense was able to keep Webb and Co. in check the rest of the way to hold onto the victory.
There was obviously plenty of other action and development in the game, and we’ll continue to bring you post-game reaction and thoughts throughout tonight and into tomorrow right here on vikings.com. But for now, the loss drops the Vikings to 3-13 for the season and keeps them winless in the NFC North. The team will gather at Winter Park on Monday for a final team meeting and then will meet with reporters in the locker room before heading out for the offseason. Leslie Frazier will have his end-of-the-year press conference on Tuesday.
Tags: Jared Allen, Jim Kleinsasser, Joe Webb, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin, Ryan Longwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 57 Comments »
Vikings DE Jared Allen has had a monster season in 2011, and he had a monster game on Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Allen has registered 3.5 sacks on the day, setting a new Vikings single-season record.
Allen finishes the 2011 season with 22.0 sacks, surpassing the previous team record of 21.0 by Chris Doleman.
Unfortunately, Allen was unable to notch one more on the afternoon, so he finishes just 1.0 sack shy of the NFL’s single-season mark, which is held by Michael Strahan (22.5 in 2001).
Congratulations to Jared Allen on another great season and on becoming the Vikings single-season record holder for QB sacks.
Click here to watch Jared’s postgame presser.
Click here to see the sack where he broke Doleman’s record.
Click here to view full highlights from Jared’s performance on Sunday.
Tags: Jared Allen
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 98 Comments »
Today is the last game of Jim Kleinsasser’s career, but it’s also the last game under the Vikings lease at the Metrodome. That means that after today, the Vikings are essentially stadium free agents, which adds even more importance to an already super-important stadium issue in Minnesota.
Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley took several moments before kickoff of today’s game to discuss the current state of affairs with members of the local media.
“Thirty great seasons at the Metrodome,” Bagley said. “This is the last season on our lease. It’s been thirty exciting seasons, and we appreciate our State leaders putting the stadium issue into play. Our lease expires after the game today and we’ll be the only NFL team without a lease. There’s urgency to resolve this issue, but we’re encouraged by out State leadership and where they are, and the business community and organized labor. We think we’re in position to get this resolved.”
That is good news to hear, and hopefully over the next several months there is more and more positive momentum generated to get the stadium issue resolved and to keep the Vikings where they belong – in Minnesota.
Click here to view a PDF version of an ad from today’s Vikings Playbook that touches on the stadium issue and the lease expiring.
Tags: Lester Bagley, New Stadium
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 62 Comments »
Here are today’s inactives for the Vikings:
RB Jordan Todman, CB Chris Cook, RB Caleb King, LB Xavier Adibi, OL DeMarcus Love, TE Mickey Shuler, and DE D’Aundre Reed.
QB Nate Enderle, RB Marion Barber, OL Mansfield Wrotto, TE Andrew Smith, DE Corey Woottton, OL Levi Horn, and DT Jordan Miller.
Posted in All | 234 Comments »
In the era of free agency, where professional athletes change teams more often than Chris Kluwe tweets, it’s not often you see a player drafted by, play with and retire from the same team. There are instances every now and then, but for the most part it’s a feat that has gone by the wayside. Coaching changes are another factor that prevent this from happening, as new coaches bring new philosophies that require substantial personnel changes.
But somehow, through 13 NFL seasons and 4 different head coaches, Jim Kleinsasser has remained with the Vikings and has been an integral part of the franchise since he was selected with a 2nd-round pick in 1999.
Today, Kleinsasser’s remarkable run comes to an end.
Given Kleinsasser’s background, it should come as no surprise that the burly-but-affable character has been able to maintain his spot on an NFL roster in three separate decades. A Carrington, North Dakota native who grew up on a crop and beef farm that his family owns to this day, Kleinsasser revels and excels while working in the trenches.
And it’s when Kleinsasser has worked in the trenches that the Vikings have exceled. The 6-3, 272-pound tight end with a Paul Bunyan-type frame and hard-nosed nature has helped pave the way for 7 of the top 8 single-season rushing marks in Vikings history, including Adrian Peterson’s team record and NFL-leading 1,760 yards in 2008. He’s also helped 10 different players rush for 100 yards in a game 62 times.
“Jimmy’s one of those players that, as an organization, you take for granted,” former LB and current Vikings Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell said. “The reliability factor in being a good pro gets overlooked at times by the skill sets and the flash of certain players and positions. He’s a guy who has been one of the best, if not the best, blockers in the entire league for his entire career. Even in his thirteenth year, he’s still one of the best blockers in the league.”
Studwell has a great perspective to offer on the matter because he, too, was known as a gritty player and because he was largely responsible for the scouting and drafting of Kleinsasser. The longest-tenured pro athlete in the Twin Cities who was retained in 2003 by the Vikings via the Franchise Tag, Kleinsasser was selected in the 2nd round (44th overall) of the 1999 NFL draft after the Vikings traded picks 59, 73 and 163 to the Steelers in order to acquire him. At the University of North Dakota, Kleinsasser was a consensus All-American and unanimous All-NCC First-Team selection.
“Back when we drafted Jimmy, I think people had kind of lost sight of the fact that Jim could run,” Studwell explained. “He wasn’t the most flexible athlete in the world and never will be, but Jim could run in the 4.7s and had tremendous ball skills. But for a guy of his size, he was a better athlete than people gave him credit for. We certainly got our money’s worth with him.
“The thing that really kind of solidified his value for the league was the way he played in the Senior Bowl. He went down to the Senior Bowl and certainly did not look out of place. He held his own, he did what he did at North Dakota and did it against the best players in the country. He’s been a valuable asset to this organization and to this team since he got here.”
Since Kleinsasser arrived in Minnesota, he’s done nothing but work hard and produce results. He’s played on 5 different playoff teams, ranks 2nd in team history for starts by a TE with 128, has played in 181 games for his career and hasn’t missed a game since 2005. Whether you talk to Head Coach Leslie Frazier, Studwell or Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman, one description showered upon Kleinsasser is that of consistency.
“He’s the consummate pro who shows up to work every day,” Spielman said. “He sets a great example for all the young kids as they come in. You know what you’re getting week-in and week-out when you line up on Sundays. He’s as consistent a performer as we’ve had since I walked in until now. He’s a unique player because of all those attributes.”
The versatile TE’s path to the Vikings is one not often traveled, but it suits him perfectly. One of just 3 players (Dave Osborn, Ron Green) drafted by the Vikings from the University of North Dakota, Kleinsasser is an avid outdoorsman and thoroughly enjoys the ambience of the Gopher State. From the facial hair, to grit and toughness, to Upper Midwest culture and way of life, Kleinsasser personifies the Vikings mascot that adorns his helmet and he feels right at home living in Minnesota.
“I love the Minnesota area and the people here are great,” he says. “I really enjoy the outdoors and this is just a great place to live. My wife is from here, so it’s just perfect because it’s close to my family and hers.”
Kleinsasser’s love for the area extends beyond than the outdoors and into the local community. He has worked extensively with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, serving with his wife to host the annual fundraising ball in the Twin Cities. He participates annually in the Epilepsy Foundation Clothing Drive, has participated at the North Dakota Special Olympics Games, took part in the 2008 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener and has also worked with D.A.R.E., the United Way and Vikings Victory Hospital Visits.
Today Kleinsasser will complete his 13th season in the NFL. Entering today’s game, Kleinsasser has 192 receptions for 1,684 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also has 43 rushing attempts for 147 yards and 1 touchdown. But the true measure of Kleinsasser’s impact on the Vikings over the last 13 years is not necessarily found in a box score or stats packet. It’s found within the trenches where he’s battled defensive linemen and linebackers, inside the locker room where he’s been a friend and leader to countless teammates and staff members, and around the Upper Midwest community where he’s made a positive impact on many lives.
Kleinsasser is Minnesota’s definition of what it means to be a Viking, and he’s truly a great Norseman from the Northland.
Here’s a picture of Jim and his family prior to today’s game:
Tags: Jim Kleinsasser, Rick Spielman, Scott Studwell
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 29 Comments »