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Double Duty: Vikings Construct Playground After OTA #3

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 31, 2012 – 2:59 pm

The Vikings conducted OTA #3 on Thursday at Winter Park as they continue preparations for the 2012 season. And while the team’s focus is on the upcoming season, they shifted that focus slightly on Thursday afternoon to help a school in the local community.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Vikings partnered with the Toro Company and KaBOOM! to build a new and safe playground, with this year’s effort going to help Sheridan Arts Magnet School in Northeast Minneapolis. KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

“This is an outstanding effort by everyone involved,” said KaBOOM! project manager Allie Farrington. The goal is to create a happy and healthy place for kids to enjoy the outdoors in a manner that is consistent with Toro’s environmental mission and the Vikings commitment to making a difference in the community. This is a great experience for the community to see their leaders with shovel in-hand to try and make a direct and positive impact.”

More than 250 volunteers, including 100+ Vikings staff members, team executives, Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, Head Coach Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coaching staff and current Vikings players teamed with Toro employees and organizers from KaBOOM! to complete the project.

The new playground’s design is based on drawings provided by students who attended the Design Day and will use the playground, with the total cost of the playground being split by the Vikings and Toro, their community partner.

“This has been a fantastic day,” Sheridan Arts Magnet School principal Al Pitt said. “We are changing our grade configuration here and going to more K-5 students, so this is what we needed. We are grateful to the Vikings, Toro, Mortenson Construction for providing the tools, our board members, the YMCA, local community members and everyone else who made this day and event possible.”

The Vikings are working hard right now to improve the product that will be on the field in 2012. But fans can also be proud of their team away from the field, as the Vikings organization continues its efforts to improve the local community as well.


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5 Observations From OTA #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Vikings conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park in more favorable conditions than Tuesday’s action. It was partly sunny with little breeze and moderate temperatures, creating a good teaching environment for the coaches and a comfortable climate for the players.

Both head coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder met with reporters following practice, and we’ve posted both of those press conferences to the website. So check that out after reading the following 5 observations from Wednesday’s practice…

Looking for a big year
CB Chris Cook made a great play during the 7-on-7 period of practice, leaping to high-point a deep pass along the right sideline. Cook immediately bounced to his feet and sprinted down the sideline, accompanied by defensive teammates serving as would-be blockers. Veteran Antoine Winfield was asked after practice about Cook, and he said: “We’re looking for a big year out of him.”

A lot like Frazier
Winfield hung out for nearly 20 minutes after practice speaking to reporters, and he was eventually asked about new Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. Said Winfield of his new coordinator: “Reminds me of Leslie Frazier. Soft-spoken, straight to the point and he expects us to work hard each day.”

Play the pass, too
If the Vikings were to play a game today, the starting middle LB would likely be Jasper Brinkley. Known as a hard hitter and sound run-stuffer, some may question Brinkley’s ability to play the pass. But Brinkley is determined to prove those people wrong. Last week on Vikings Tonight, a weekly 30-minute radio show hosted by Paul Allen and co-hosted by yours truly on the Vikings Radio Network, Brinkley was our guest. When I asked him if filling the gaps in the run game was his forte, Brinkley quickly responded by saying: “Not to neglect my pass coverage, I can play that. That’s one of the things people always try to say that I can’t do. But I will be able to prove this year than I can do it.” You have to love that determination from Brinkley, and you also have to love how Brinkley is following through on his commitment. After practice on Wednesday, there was a group of 6 DBs catching passes from the JUGS machine. Joining that group of 6 DBs was one other player – Brinkley.

Felder finds an INT
At one point during practice a CB made a great play on a pass to collect an INT. The player was wearing jersey #43, so I had to glance down at my cheat sheat to figure out the identity of that player. It was Bobby Felder, an undrafted rookie out of Nicholls State. If he keeps making those kinds of plays, Felder could play himself into a roster spot. I was glad to see him grab the INT.

Play of the day
The play of the day – of the plays I saw, anyway – was a tremendous reception made by an unlikely target. QB Joe Webb dropped back to pass and lofted a pass fairly deep down the left sideline. As I panned to my left to watch the conclusion of the play, I expected to see either Devin Aromashodu or Jerome Simpson run under the pass. But instead it was FB Matt Asiata, who was sprinting toward the ball and completely extended himself to make the diving catch and land inbounds.


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Ponder Continues Progression During OTA #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 1:46 pm

Vikings QB Christian Ponder will enter just his second season in 2012 and right now he’s going through his first offseason program in the NFL due to the lockout that kept players away from facilities last year. That, combined with the natural disadvantages offenses face this early in the installation process, makes it no surprise that Ponder is finding adversity at times during OTAs.

It happens to every young NFL QB. Facing adversity is not the issue, though. It’s how the QB handles that adversity and how the QB bounces back from it that matters most. In that respect, the Vikings are in good shape with Ponder at the helm.

 “Today was a good starting point,” Ponder said after OTA #1. “A little rusty. I think guys were a little nervous. But a starting point.

“I’m a pretty big self-critic. I’ll probably go in and get upset at myself. There were some positives. No turnovers, which is a good thing and something I need to improve upon. Our main goal an offense right now is to get better on first and second down. And I’m going to see a lot of stuff on film that I’m going to get mad at myself, but I need to realize this is a starting point and we have nine more of these (OTAs).”

As of now, the Vikings have eight more OTAs because the team conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday afternoon. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday marked improvement for the entire squad from Tuesday’s work, and Ponder acknowledged that he saw improvement from the offense on Wednesday as well.

“I thought today was a lot better than yesterday,” Ponder said during his post-practice press conference. “Yesterday was an okay starting point for everybody. The defense kind of got the better of us yesterday, but today I think the offense came back and played a lot better. Overall I think I’ve progressed a lot the past two days. I think the whole offense has done a lot better.”

One moment that illustrated Ponder’s progression so far during OTAs came about midway through Wednesday’s practice during 7-on-7 work. On the first play of the period, Ponder lofted a pass deep down the left sideline for WR Devin Aromashodu, but CB Chris Cook made an exceptional play on the ball and grabbed the INT. On the next play, Ponder dropped back and rifled a pass into the center of the field to hit WR Stephen Burton between two defenders. The pass was perfectly timed and was the proper read. As Ponder jogged back to the huddle, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave barked “Way to bounce right back!”

Later in the 7-on-7 drill, Ponder found Burton once more on a perfectly-placed intermediate pass among three defenders to the right side and he finished the drill by finding a speedy Jerome Simpson running a deep crossing route.

There is still work to be done for Ponder and the Vikings offense, and they will be the first to acknowledge that. But given Ponder’s football acumen and attitude, that work will be done quickly and it will be done well.


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CB Asher Allen Retires

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 12:11 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters on Wednesday afternoon to discuss his team’s progress through the first two Organized Team Activities (OTAs). But one matter of business Frazier addressed had to do with a player who is not at Vikings OTAs.

Asher Allen, a 3rd-round pick of the Vikings in 2009 out of Georgia, has decided to retire, and the Vikings have consequently placed him on the Reserve/Retired list.

Allen played in 37 games with 21 starts for the Vikings over three seasons, tallying 129 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 4 INTs, 18 pass breakups, 1.0 tackles for loss and 1 forced fumble; he also had 12 special teams tackles.

The Vikings now have 16 DBs listed on the roster.


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Great Debate: Jared Allen vs. Jason Pierre-Paul

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 6:47 am

Last week I bemoaned the fact that CBSSports.com NFL columnist Pete Prisco left both Chad Greenway and Percy Harvin off his Top 100 NFL Players list. This week, though, I want to point out another NFL analyst’s opinion regarding a Vikings player and agree with it.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks took an insightful and interesting look at two of the NFL’s elite pass rushers – Vikings DE Jared Allen and NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. In his column, he asks and analyzes which of the two is a better pass rusher right now. It’s an interesting topic because both players are truly elite , and there’s an argument to be made for both.

Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for the NFL-owned network and website, breaks this debate down into five categories and lists which player has the advantage in that category. He gives the edge to Pierre-Paul in athleticism, but describes Allen as “the veteran technician with the relentless motor” and gives him the edge in explosiveness, rush moves, disruption and motor.

In conclusion, Brooks gives the nod to Allen, saying: “While Pierre-Paul is only a year or so away from becoming an absolute monster on the edge, Allen is a consistent force capable of producing game-changing turnovers whenever he steps onto the field. With more than 100 sacks over eight seasons, I’m willing to take production over potential in this debate.”

Once again, you can’t go wrong having either player on your team. Allen and Pierre-Paul are in different stages of their careers, with Allen in the prime of a Hall of Fame career and Pierre-Paul two years into what appears to be an incredibly productive career. But both bring the same valuable trait to their teams – elite edge-rushing and game-changing ability from a premier position in the NFL.

I know we have a natural bias on this website, but let us know what you think about this debate by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.


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Antoine Winfield, WR Bryan Walters Impress During OTA #1; Other Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 29, 2012 – 1:39 pm

The Vikings held their first Organized Team Activity (OTA) of the 2012 offseason program on Tuesday, working for roughly 90 minutes on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park under mostly cloudy skies and windy conditions. The energy level is ramped up around the facility as the team begins Phase 3 of the offseason program.

Now is not the time to put much stock into depth charts and tracking which players are working with the first-stringers and which players are working with the second-stringers. Coaches experiment with several different combinations for a variety of reasons at this point in the offseason, so we’ll let others worry about all of those projections.

There were plenty of other observations to make, however. Here are a few notes I scribbled out while watching Tuesday’s practice…

– One of the first players to stand out in my eyes was CB Antoine Winfield. It was great to see him back on the field after he played in just 5 games last season. Winfield showed no signs of being slowed now, though, as he looked spry during individual drills and very sound during team offense vs. team defense. Winfield had a bounce in his step around the facility before and after practice, and it’s clear he still has explosion in his legs while on the field.

– QB Christian Ponder was sharp early in practice, displaying accuracy and command during the individual and group installation periods. He spread the ball around to several receivers, encountered no QB-center exchange issues with C John Sullivan and even found WR Jerome Simpson on a deep pass. After working through some issues midway through practice, Ponder bounced back nicely at the end of the 7-on-7 drill to cap a solid first practice.

– Speaking of Simpson, it’s a treat to watch him chase down a deep pass. There are times when the QB takes a short drop and launches a pass downfield that looks to be grossly overthrown. But Simpson usually finds a way to track the ball down and make a play on it. You can see that Ponder already has trust in Simpson’s ability to make plays downfield, and that trust and play-making potential will only grow the more they practice together.

Click here to check out a photo gallery from OTA #1.

– A group of collegiate officials were at Tuesday’s practice and will be officiating OTAs for the Vikings.

– My sense is LB Erin Henderson is poised for a breakout season. He now has one year as a full-time starter under his belt and I think he’ll only improve with another offseason of work at Winter Park before his second year as a full-time starter. Henderson is a player who seems to be around the ball a lot, and I’m hopeful he’ll make the improvement from a player who is around the ball a lot, to a player who makes big plays around the ball frequently.

– The Vikings WR position will be a fun one to watch this offseason, training camp and preseason. There are currently 11 WRs on the roster, and I’m guessing there will be some tough cuts later this summer. Bryan Walters, acquired by the Vikings earlier this offseason, impressed me on Tuesday. At 6-0, 190-pounds, Walters is a diminutive receiver with sure hands and crisp route-running abilities. As well as he could perform at WR, I’m also curious to see if he’ll be in the punt return rotation because that would increase his stock. He’ll be a player to watch this summer as the team prepares for the 2012 season. Walters is a 2-year veteran out of Cornell.

– There has never been a doubt in my mind that RB Toby Gerhart could shoulder the load full-time for an NFL team, and after seeing him on Tuesday that continues to be the case. Whether he has to do just that with the Vikings remains to be seen, but if he is charged with that responsibility the Vikings will still be in good shape. Gerhart looks very fit, and I can say with certainty that I would not like to be the one trying to break down and tackle him as he runs downhill.

– Another spot that is sure to see good competition this offseason for a starting position is DT next to Kevin Williams. Williams has been missing a solid, consistent running mate since the other half of the Williams Wall – Pat Williams – was no longer with the team. Time will tell which players the coaches tab to compete for that spot, but I don’t think there will be a shortage of candidates. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his scouting staff have done a nice job of acquiring players to try and fill that gap. Both Letroy Guion and Fred Evans were brought back and could be candidates. And from the looks of it, several others, including 7th-round pick Trevor Guyton (6-3, 280 pounds), Tydreke Powell (6-3, 325) and Terrell Resonno (6-3, 305) will be in the mix. I left DTs Chase Baker and Christian Ballard off that list only because I could see them playing at Kevin Williams’ spot in a reserve role, but the Vikings coaching staff could certainly ask either of them to step into the competition as well.

Quick Hitters
– WR Devin Aromashodu was hot during 7-on-7 drills and was a favorite target of young QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
– RB Jordan Todman, preparing for his 2nd season out of Connecticut and acquired by the Vikings late last year after spending much of his rookie season with San Diego, is impressively fast. He burst through a hole during team offense vs. team defense drills today and his explosion was remarkable.
– I saw LB Larry Dean around the ball a lot on Tuesday.
– Rookie LB Corey Paredes made one of the best defensive plays on Tuesday, nabbing a Joe Webb pass out of thin air and returning it for a TD.


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Catch Coverage Of Vikings OTAs This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 29, 2012 – 6:24 am

The Vikings launch their first series of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) today, and vikings.com will be there every step of the way to cover the action and provide you with updates. The team will hold one OTA practice each day over the next three days, with Wednesday’s practice open to the media. Since today’s action is closed to the media, vikings.com will be your exclusive source for Vikings coverage.

Be sure to check back continuously today because we’ll bring you constant coverage, from written updates here on the vikings.com Blog to video highlights to player interviews.

Tuesday’s action marks the beginning of Phase 3 of the offseason program. Phase 3 is comprised of the final four weeks of the nine-week offseason program and will include 10 OTAs and a mandatory veteran minicamp in June.


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Happy Memorial Day, Vikings Fans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 28, 2012 – 6:24 am

Today is a day off for many of us. It’s a day to spend with family and friends enjoying the great outdoors or a ballgame or a preferred indoor activity if the weather is a bear. Today, for many, is the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.

But more importantly, today is Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed each year on the last Monday of May and it’s dedicated to remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It’s because of the bravery and courage of our service men and women that we as American citizens are able to enjoy luxuries such as freedom, security and even football.

So before you take the time to consume great Vikings content on vikings.com or relax with family and friends on a day off, please take a moment to remember and honor the brave men and women who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our safety and freedom.


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Minneapolis City Council Formally Approves Vikings Stadium By 7-6 Vote

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on May 25, 2012 – 10:19 am

After the Minneapolis City Council’s Committee of the Whole approved the building of the new Vikings stadium by a 7-6 margin during a Thursday meeting, the full Council approved the project by the same margin — 7-6 — on Friday, meaning the project has now passed every possible hurdle and is full-steam-ahead.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the stadium bill into law earlier this month after it passed both the House and the Senate, and this approval by the Minneapolis City Council was the final step in the process.

The city of Minneapolis will pay 15 percent of the total cost, which is roughly $150 million.

Next up in the process will be the creation of the new Stadium Authority.  Three members will be appointed by Gov. Dayton and two by Minneapolis Mayor Mark Dayton.  The Vikings will then begin working with the authority on the design of the stadium and hiring an architect.  That process will take roughly 10-12 months and the ground-breaking taking place next spring or summer.


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Minneapolis City Council ‘Committee of the Whole’ Approves Vikings Stadium By 7-6 Vote

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on May 24, 2012 – 12:35 pm

The Minneapolis City Council’s Committee of the Whole approved the building of the new Vikings stadium by a 7-6 margin during a Thursday meeting.  This vote must be ratified on Friday morning but today’s passage is considered to be indicative of tomorrow’s formal vote.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the stadium bill into law earlier this month after it passed both the House and the Senate, and this approval by the Minneapolis City Council was / is the last step in the process before it’s full steam ahead on the design and construction.

The city of Minneapolis will pay 15 percent of the total cost, which is roughly $150 million.


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