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Senior Bowl Update: Getting Settled In Mobile

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2012 – 6:12 am

As I sat at my gate inside the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport early Monday morning, a blizzard was pounding the Twin Cities, a band of thunderstorms was battering Atlanta (where I was to pick-up a connecting flight) and parts of Alabama (my final destination) were under a tornado warning.

Now, about 24 hours after escaping another Minnesota blizzard and heading to the Deep South, all has calmed down. I’ve settled in at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and I’m set for an exciting week with the North squad. Here are a few observations and thoughts from my first day at the Senior Bowl…

– After a delayed departure from Minnesota, I arrived a touch behind schedule in Atlanta and then patiently waited out another delay before boarding a puddle-jumper to Mobile. After arriving in Mobile, I hopped into a cab and made my way to the North team hotel – the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza. Accommodations are great here, there is plenty of space for both the North and South teams, and I had no trouble getting a fast sleep after a long day of travel.

– Before I went to bed, though, I wandered up to the 2nd floor of the hotel, where the nation’s top senior football players mingled with representatives from nearly every NFL team. It was like an NFL convention, with coaches and scouts wearing their official team apparel while trying to track down players to conduct what is essentially a job interview. Coaches and scouts consider these private sit-downs with players as important as practice tape and game performance.

– The players loaded into buses at about 6:00 p.m. and headed to a mandatory media dinner, while at the same time a Senior Bowl Kickoff Reception was held at a neighboring hotel. Following those events, teams continued to meet with players at the hotel.

– While that was going on, I took a seat at the hotel bar and enjoyed dinner and drinks while watching some college basketball. New Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams swung by to grab a quick dinner on his way to meetings, so I introduced myself to him and also welcomed him to the team. Vikings TEs coach Jimmie Johnson also pulled up a chair next to me for a quick bite to eat before heading to meetings.

– Finally, after a long day of travel and the hectic environment inside the hotel, the day was over and it was time for rest. I retired to my hotel room, flipped back and forth between the Republican debate in Florida and a rerun of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines (Tiger Woods won in a playoff over Rocco Mediate), and eventually fell asleep while the endless cycle of SportsCenter played on the television.

Practice #2 for the North squad – being coached by the Vikings coaching staff – is set for 9:30-11:00 a.m. this morning. I’ll be sure to watch, take careful notes and report back to you later this afternoon.

Following practice, the North squad will have lunch back at the hotel and then will break out into defense, offense and special teams meetings. The rest of the day will be composed of events setup by the Senior Bowl staff.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog for more updates throughout the week. You can also receive updates from me during Senior Bowl week by following me on Twitter (@wobby).


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Heading To The Senior Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 23, 2012 – 5:53 am

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff are at the Senior Bowl this week, and vikings.com is going, too.

We have an early morning flight, with a connection in Atlanta, and we should be on the ground in Mobile, Alabama for the week-long festivities. Frazier and Co. are coaching the North squad in this year’s Senior Bowl, so we’ll have exclusive, behind-the-scenes access all week, leading up to the game on Saturday night.

Be sure to stay tuned to vikings.com and the vikings.com Blog for complete coverage of Senior Bowl week, including reports from practices and press conferences. Players will be available to speak after practices, and Frazier will also speak after practices as well as hold a press conference each afternoon.

You can also receive updates on Senior Bowl week by following me on Twitter (@wobby).


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Vikings Sign Two Future Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 18, 2012 – 4:21 pm

The Vikings made additions to their roster on Wednesday by agreeing to futures contracts with two free agents.

TE Daniel Hardy and OT Jose Valdez were signed to Reserve/Future Free Agent contracts.

Hardy is out of the University of Idaho and Valdez is out of the University of Arkansas.


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Jared Allen Named NFC Defensive Player of the Year by NFL 101 Awards

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 17, 2012 – 12:55 pm

Two quarterbacks who direct the league’s most high-powered offenses will join two of the most formidable defensive players – one of which is Vikings DE Jared Allen – and two coaches who guided their teams to playoff appearances as the 2011 winners of the annual NFL 101 Awards. The NFL 101 Awards are the nation’s premier awards event dedicated exclusively to professional football.

The 2011 season award winners will be presented with trophies at the 42nd Annual NFL 101 Awards gala in Kansas City Saturday, March 3, 2012, at the Westin Crown Center. The prestigious black-tie awards event was founded in 1969 and has evolved into what many sports insiders consider the finest awards event of its kind. This year’s event is presented by Perfect Output and ECCO Select.

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was selected as the AFC Offensive Player of the Year, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodges was the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year, Allen was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Houston Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiac was the AFC Coach of the Year and San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was the NFC Coach of the Year.

A national media committee, comprised of 101 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL, selected the winners in each award category in a nationwide vote at the conclusion of the regular season. In addition to these award winners, the Committee of 101 also selects the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and given in recognition of visionary leadership that has helped the NFL become the preeminent pro sports league in America. This year’s Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football award winner will be announced in February.

The awards show hosts for the evening will be NFL Network sportscaster Paul Burmeister and CBS football analyst Rich Gannon, a former NFL Most Valuable Player and Minnesota Viking, and a two-time 101 Award winner.

Event proceeds this year will be directed to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation through the Chiefs Children’s Fund, a 501(c)3 foundation that distributes funds to various children’s charities throughout the Kansas City area. TMC joined the Chiefs as the official Community Health Partner in September 2010. The Chiefs and TMC are working together to provide wellness education and promote healthier living for the people of Kansas City.  Both TMC and the Chiefs play a vital role in the Kansas City community and this partnership capitalizes on two well-established brands for the common goal of improving the health status of the community in general, and of the citizens in the urban core particularly.


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Observations From The Divisional Round

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 16, 2012 – 11:03 am

A few observations from this past weekend’s Divisional Playoff games…

Packers lose
Not much is more gratifying than when the Vikings win, but having the Packers lose comes about as close as anything. The defending Super Bowl champs went 15-1 in the regular season, but they were 0-1 in the postseason. Credit goes to the NY Giants for upending the Packers at Lambeau Field, and the equation for doing so was pressuring Rodgers to knock the Green Bay offense off-balance combined with near-flawless play from Eli Manning in the biggest moment of the season. The Giants move on to the NFC Championship Game, which will be played in San Francisco against a 49ers team that was 6-10 last year. A lot can change in a year.

The last word on this goes to the family of Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin. The Philbin family is enduring the tragedy of the death of Michael Philbin, the 21-year old son of Joe Philbin. That loss is more brutal than any loss one can experience in a sports arena, and everyone’s heart surely goes out to the Philbin family. This is a terrible tragedy that gives you pause and perspective on the priorities in our lives. Football doesn’t mean nearly as much in light of the Philbins’ loss.

Outstanding secondary play by the NY Giants and San Francisco 49ers
Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were the two best QBs in the regular season (they ranked #1 and #2 in passer rating), but the defenses they each faced this weekend were effective in slowing them down enough to earn a victory. Rodgers was held 46 yards below his regular season average for passing yards per game and he was held a full yard below is regular season average yards per attempt. Brees ultimately racked up 462 passing yards thanks to a late-game surge, but San Francisco held him a full yard below his regular season average for yards per attempt as well.

While the art of tackling has been lost from a general standpoint in the NFL, I think one reason New York and San Francisco were able to keep Rodgers and Brees in check was excellent tackling, particularly by members of the secondary. So often we see both Brees and Rodgers hit their receivers in stride, allowing for massive amounts of yards after the catch production. In fact, the Saints were #2 and the Packers were #3 in the NFL in yards after the catch this season. This past weekend, though, I noticed on many occasions that Packers and Saints receivers were not able to shake loose from defenders after the catch. The one exception I can think of immediately is Saints TE Jimmy Graham’s 66-yard TD late in the game, but outside of that the point remains that New York and San Francisco did a good job of tackling in their Division Round contests.

There was also great tackling by both defenses in the Baltimore vs. Houston game on Sunday.

Production from Tight Ends
It may now get lost in all the talk about the Giants upsetting the Packers, but we should not lose sight of the impact TEs had in the passing game this weekend. Offensive coordinators in the Divisional Playoff games utilized their athletic, pass-catching TEs about as well as possible. In the 4 Divisional Playoff games, TEs accounted for 29% of all receiving yards and 40% of all receiving TDs. The top performers were New England’s Rob Gronkowski (10 receptions, 145 yards, 3 TDs), San Francisco’s Vernon Davis (7-180-2), New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham (5-103-2) and New England’s Aaron Hernandez (4-55-1); Hernandez was also the Patriots leading rusher with 61 yards on 5 carries.

This is good news for Kyle Rudolph, who is coming off a solid rookie season and is in line to see even more action next season with a full offseason of working with quarterback Christian Ponder and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave under his belt.

If available, let’s take a look
There were a lot of standout players in the Divisional Round games, but I like to find some of the “under the radar” types who perform well but don’t receive much attention from the public, and who may also become available in the offseason. Again, there was not a shortage of players who stood out in last weekend’s games, but here is a short list of guys that might look good in purple some day: Baltimore G Ben Grubbs, NY Giants WR Mario Manningham, New Orleans G Carl Nicks, San Francisco CB Carlos Rogers, NY Giants CB Aaron Ross and Baltimore CB Lardarius Webb (RFA).

Eli Manning coming of age
Eli Manning has been a Top 10-12 type of QB for much of his career, but there’s no question that he’s taken huge steps forward this season, and the biggest step yet was Sunday night when he throttled the Green Bay defense for 37 points while completing 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards and 3 TDs along the way. Manning is a great example of what happens when a team uses a high pick on a QB, gives him time to develop, remains loyal to him through tough times, finds weapons to put around him and waits for the development to take shape. That’s what happened with Manning in New York, and I think that’s the model the Vikings are trying to follow with Ponder.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not yet comparing Ponder to Manning. But to say that Ponder has no chance to be an Eli Manning-type of QB after watching him play just 11 games is as premature a statement as saying Ponder will surely be an All-Pro passer some day. Manning played in 9 games his rookie season and he had more INTs (9) than TDs (6). In his 2nd season, Manning played and started all 16 games, but he completed just 52% of his passes and had a passer rating of 75.9. In fact, Manning didn’t have a passer rating of over 77.0 until his 5th season. But wisely, the Giants did not give up on him, despite pressure from the fan base to do so. Manning responded by helping lead the club to a Super Bowl over the New England Patriots after the 2007 season and now he has the Giants in another NFC title game.

I see a lot of similarities in Manning and Ponder, particularly in their mental approach to the game but also in other areas, such as arm strength, demeanor, stature in the pocket and leadership.

Ultimately, the point is we just don’t know yet on Ponder because there’s not a large enough body of work to judge. But I believe seeing Manning play the way he’s playing right now gives Vikings fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Ponder.


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Submit Your Monday Morning Mailbag Questions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 14, 2012 – 9:04 pm

We’re in the thick of the NFL’s postseason, but the Monday Morning Mailbag is in midseason form.

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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Peterson Thanks Fans And Discusses Rehab Process

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 13, 2012 – 4:21 pm

Don’t miss next Tuesday’s Wobcast, which features Adrian Peterson, plus 2012 NFL Draft and Pro Bowl talk. You can find all Wobcasts and subscribe to via iTunes by clicking here.

It’s been two weeks since Adrian Peterson underwent successful surgery to repair his knee, and already the NFL’s best RB is offering reason to be encouraged and optimistic at his chances of returning to form.

Peterson, sporting a Jim Kleinsasser-like beard that any true Minnesotan would appreciate, was joined by Vikings Certified Heat Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman in meeting with reporters inside the Winter Park field house on Friday to provide an update on his knee and the rehab process. You can watch the press conference in its entirety by clicking here.

Right off the bat, Peterson displayed exactly why he’s a fan-favorite and one of the NFL’s best superstars.

“I want to say thanks to the fans for the outpour of support that I’ve been receiving,” Peterson said. “Fan mail, some tweets, just so many different sources. And I just wanted to tell you guys that I really appreciate it and I’m working hard to get back as soon as possible.”

Peterson went on to explain that he was able to accept the knee injury “pretty quickly” and move on to focusing on overcoming the next challenge – the rehab process.

“The beginning was tough, just mentally, accepting it (the injury) for what it was,” Peterson explained. “Then sitting on it for a week before having the surgery, I had time to ask myself ‘Why this? Why that?’ But ultimately, I was able to look at it for what it was, put that behind me and get my mind right for this challenge that’s ahead of me.”

Sugarman called last three days of Peterson’s rehab process “awesome,” saying Peterson has been riding a stationary bike and that he’s accomplished every task expected of him to this point in the rehab.

The natural concern when a player, especially a RB, suffers a serious knee injury is whether that player will ever regain his form. But is Peterson concerned?

“Not at all. I’ve not thought about that once. I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I call that to a higher power and I put my faith in Him. I know that anything I put my mind to, I’m going to be able to accomplish. I feel like I’m going to come back better than before. I know people might laugh at that or think otherwise. But you know what? It doesn’t matter what they think or how they feel about it. Only thing that matters is how I feel about it and what I believe. And I’ve been able to go through the sacrifices and whatever it takes to get to that, and I’ve already started that.”

Friday’s press conference wasn’t about announcing any good or bad news. It wasn’t about showing off the fact that Peterson is no longer leaning on crutches or that he has near full range of motion back. But listening to Peterson speak and watching him project confidence and optimism about his recovery is a great sign for Vikings fans, and reason enough to anticipate a full recovery.


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Peterson’s Family Ice Fishing Contest Postponed

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on January 12, 2012 – 1:15 pm

Adrian Peterson’s Blizzard Blitz 2012, a family ice fishing contest that will be held on Lake Waconia, has been postponed until February due to the unseasonably warm weather recently in the Twin Cities.  It was previously scheduled for Monday, Jan. 16.

For more info on the event, click here.


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Wilfs Send Letter to Minneapolis

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2012 – 10:49 am

The Vikings and the State of Minnesota continue working toward finding a stadium solution that will keep the Vikings in Minnesota. While the Vikings believe that Arden Hills is the ideal stadium location, the club has been asked by State Leaders to assist the City of Minneapolis with its site analysis and due diligence.

In a letter from Owner/President Mark Wilf to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson, the Vikings have followed up with the City of Minneapolis on the City’s state preference for a building a new stadium at the Metrodome site. You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking here.

Building a new stadium at the current Metrodome site would require the Vikings to play three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota, and the letter from Wilf to the City lays out costs that would be associated with this move, including: TCF Bank Stadium Revenue Limitations; Capital Improvements to TCF Bank Stadium; and NFL Program Requirements at Metrodome.

In summary, there would be $67 million in additional costs associated with building a new stadium at the current Metrodome site, and thus relocating the Vikings home games to TCF Bank Stadium. In the letter, Wilf also references disruptions to the football team, fans, sponsors and partners, as well as the potential challenges created for University of Minnesota neighborhoods during the three-year period in which the Vikings would play home games on campus.

Governor Dayton has asked the City of Minneapolis to submit a stadium proposal by January 12, 2012.


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St. Thomas’ Caruso Named 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach Of The Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 10, 2012 – 6:15 am

As a Gustavus grad it’s tough to acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments of a Tommie, but congratulations are indeed due to the University of St. Thomas’ Glenn Caruso for being named one of four 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year honorees.

The four winners of the award were Les Miles of LSU, Rob Ash of Montana State University, Tim Beck of Pittsburg State University (Kan.), and Caruso, who is now the first two-time winner of the award. Each coach earns a $50,000 charitable donation from Liberty Mutual and a $20,000 scholarship award for their school’s alumni association. They also will be honored in the permanent Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year display at the College Football Hall of Fame.

With this year’s awards, Liberty Mutual now has donated more than $1.5 million to over 80 charities on behalf of the 21 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year winners since 2006.

“These four coaches embody the spirit of college football: they inspire excellence on the field, commitment to academics, and dedication to their communities as true leaders both on and off the field,” said Archie Manning, chair of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. “Once again, college football fans across the country were passionate about their favorite coaches and helped select, along with the national media and College Football Hall of Fame players and coaches, four leaders who exemplify the pillars of the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year: sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence.”


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