Stadium Takes Big Step, Passes Minnesota House Of Representatives

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 7, 2012 – 9:40 pm

The Vikings organization, its fans and Minnesota lawmakers have been battling for a new stadium to keep the Vikings a part of Minnesota culture for more than a decade. And tonight, after a full day of debate inside the State Capitol, a huge step toward that end was made.

Stadium legislation passed the Minnesota House of Representatives by a margin of 73-58, setting the stage for debate and a vote in the Minnesota Senate on Tuesday. Fans played a huge role in making a push to gain passage in the House, and now fans can have the same influence as the process moves on to the Senate. Click here to find out how to contact your Senator and urge them to vote for the stadium legislation.

While more work remains to reach resolution on this long-standing issue, tonight’s outcome represents a historic moment in the push for a stadium that will keep the Vikings in Minnesota for many, many generations.

More to come here on, so stay tuned.

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Vikings Release Longwell

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 7, 2012 – 4:21 pm

The Vikings on Monday released K Ryan Longwell, a 16-year veteran who spent the past 6 seasons with the Vikings.

“Ryan has meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the past six seasons,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his service to the Minnesota Vikings.”

Longwell is the Green Bay Packers all-time leading scorer (1,054 points) and also ranks as the 3rd all-time leading scorer in Vikings history with 633 points over his 6 seasons in Minnesota.

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Phase 2 Of Vikings Offseason Program Begins Monday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 7, 2012 – 7:04 am

The Vikings 9-week offseason program is segmented into 3 phases, and as the team enters its third week of workouts it also launches Phase 2 of the program. Attendance for Phase 1 of the offseason program was near-capacity and I anticipate the same will be true for Phase 2, especially in light of how many veterans hung around Winter Park to observe the team’s rookie minicamp this past weekend.

We explained the differences in each phase of the offseason program a few weeks ago, but as a review here are the basics of Phase 2:

– Coaches are allowed to be on the field with players
– “Perfect Play” rules are in effect (no contact, no going to the ground, etc.)
– Individual player instruction drills permitted
– Special teams drills on a “separates” basis
– No live contact
– No individual or team offense vs. defense
– No helmets

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Ellison Continues Strong Showing At Vikings Rookie Minicamp; More From Saturday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 5, 2012 – 2:27 pm

The Vikings had two productive practices on Friday to open their annual rookie minicamp, and the coaches and players were right back at it on Saturday as well with two more practices. The minicamp will conclude on Sunday with one practice.

Here are a few observations from Saturday’s on-field action…

– The Vikings were able to squeeze the morning practice in and work outside before a weather system carrying heavy rain arrived, but the afternoon practice was moved inside due to inclement weather.

– I can’t say he’s the most impressive of the rookie minicamp because it’s virtually impossible to give equal attention to every player without watching hours of film, but in my eyes FB/TE Rhett Ellison is having as good a few days as anyone. Ellison is billed as a big, physical blocking-type of TE. But as I said on Friday, he’s a fluid route runner and smooth pass catcher. We recorded an interview with LT Matt Kalil on Friday for next week’s Wobcast, and Kalil – a teammate of Ellison’s at USC – spoke very highly of Ellison and described him as a do-everything type of player who is also a great teammate in the locker room. I noticed that Ellison was the last one off the practice field on Saturday morning and spent a few minutes beating up on a blocking sled before retreating to the locker room following practice.

– Saturday was a better day for WR Jarius Wright. The 4th-round pick was sidelined midway through the morning practice on Friday and then sat out the afternoon practice as well. On Saturday morning, the shifty WR was back on the field and looked good.

– The Vikings signed LB Soloman Elimimian at the end of January to a future free agent contract, and now they’re getting to see the former CFL standout on the field in Minnesota for the first time. I’m guessing they like what they see so far. Elimimian plays with great energy, always seems to be around the ball and is clearly athletic enough to compete at the NFL level. He might be undersized, but that might also not matter. Now, it’s one thing to standout in rookie minicamp and it’s an entirely different matter to standout when the veterans arrive. But so far, so good for Elimimian.

– There are several familiar faces from last year at this weekend’s camp, and one of them is that of Alexander Robinson, the former Iowa State RB who was with the Vikings during training camp last year. Robinson, a Minneapolis native, impressed in the Vikings preseason finale a year ago and now he’s trying to carve out a spot for himself on the Vikings offseason roster this year. Robinson has looked solid so far in camp. The other RBs in camp this weekend are: FB Matt Asiata (Utah), Derrick Coleman (UCLA), Josh Murray (Mary) and FB Tyler Legate (Nebraska).

– LB Audie Cole, drafted by the Vikings in the 7th round last weekend, had 2 INTs on Saturday morning.

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9 Players Who Stood Out On First Day Of Rookie Minicamp

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 4:37 pm

There isn’t much need for an introduction here. The title sums up what you’re about to read. After two practices of rookie minicamp at Winter Park, here are 9 (actually, 10) players who’ve stood out…

DT Chase Baker (rookie free agent – Boise State): A feisty interior defensive lineman, Baker may be undersized but I also like his motor and effort.

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (pre-draft signee – Sacramento State): One of three QBs in camp, there is no doubt he has the best – and an NFL-caliber – arm.

S Robert Blanton (5th round – Notre Dame): Practiced with energy, good size, instincts seem solid. I will also say his running mate – 1st-round pick Harrison Smith – also impressed on the first day.

RB Derrick Coleman (rookie free agent – UCLA): Runs hard and violent it appears (practices are no contact) and I saw him make a terrific shoe-string catch in the morning.

LB Soloman Elimimian (pre-draft signee – Hawaii): Size and length might work against him, but the guy plays like an animal and I can’t wait to see him practice in pads.

TE Rhett Ellison (4th round – USC):  Sold to me as a bruising, blocking type, but I think he’s a fluid route runner and pass catcher who also knows how to mix it up in the trenches.

WR Kamar Jorden (rookie free agent – Bowling Green): Made two impressive catches Friday, with one coming on a vertical route down the right sideline and the other on a crossing route where he achieved a great release off the line and ran away from his defender.

B Josh Robinson (3rd round – Central Florida): Speed is as impressive as advertised and it looks like he can cover.

CB Nick Taylor (pre-draft signee – Florida International): For a basketball player, he looked good in the morning practice. Actually, he looked good in the morning practice, period. Might have some cover skills.

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Kalil, Blanton Stand Out In First Practice; Other Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 1:33 pm

The Vikings 10-player draft class plus 61 other players trying out for the club joined Vikings coaches and scouts on the field Friday morning for the first of five scheduled practices at this year’s rookie minicamp. Conditions were perfect, with the coaches and players working under sunny skies, moderate temperatures and a slight breeze.

The group of 71 players is comprised of the 10 draft picks from last weekend, 15 rookie free agents, 7 pre-draft signees and 39 players present on a tryout basis. The players were in helmets, jerseys and shorts with no pads, with the individual and team drill work similar to a full-squad minicamp practice; they are non-contact practices, however.

There will be another practice this afternoon at 2:55 p.m., two more on Saturday and then one final practice on Sunday. Here are a few thoughts from this morning’s practice…

– Although it’s presumed he’ll be the starter at LT from Day 1, #4 overall pick Matt Kalil doesn’t have an entitled attitude. Speaking with reporters after practice, Kalil acknowledged he has plenty of learning to do and he said playing next to a veteran such as Charlie Johnson – who will likely play LG in 2012 – will be an advantage.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier came away impressed with Kalil after the first practice. “You can see why we have high hopes for him,” Frazier said. “He was excellent today.” Frazier was also asked about CB Josh Robison, whom the Vikings selected in the 3rd round, and Frazier said he noticed Robinson had an impressive burst while fielding kicks/punts.

– When asked what he’s looking for out of the rookies and tryout players in attendance this weekend, Frazier noted that standout plays are what catch coaches’ attention. Keep in mind, during the season and even training camp, coaches want to see playmakers but they also emphasize consistency and making routine plays. At this minicamp, though, a premium is being placed on making splash plays.

– Several Vikings veterans, who are not permitted to participate in this weekend’s minicamp, observed the morning practice from the sidelines. The players I noticed watching practice were: QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, TEs John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, OL Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love and John Sullivan, DL Everson Griffen, WR Manny Arceneaux and RB Jordan Todman.

– Last year during training camp I made mention of players who passed the “eye test” during practice. Today’s eye test winners were Kalil and S Robert Blanton. I already explained that Frazier was impressed with Kalil, but what I liked about Blanton was the way he carried himself on the field and added energy to the defense. He appears to be an intelligent player with a passion for the game. That observation is off of one practice, admittedly, but it was obvious this morning that Blanton enjoyed being on the field.

– K Blair Walsh met with a group of reporters after practice and said it was an honor to be on the roster with a player of Ryan Longwell’s stature and accomplishment. Asked if his best trait was his strong leg, Walsh acknowledged that many people credit him with a strong leg, but he also noted that all NFL kickers have strong legs and that he isn’t distinguished among them. Walsh also said that a player has to earn his place in the NFL, regardless of whether he was selected in the NFL draft or not.

– There are five former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in camp this weekend. They are: WR Da’Jon McKnight, TEs Tiree Eure and Nick Tow-Arnett, DE Anthony Jacobs and DT Brandon Kirksey. McKnight met with a fairly large group of reporters after practice and called it a “blessing” to be in camp with the Vikings. He dealt with a knee injury last season, but says the knee is completely healed now.

– Two other under the radar players who stood out today were CB Bret Lockett and WR Josh Philpart.

– There are three QBs in camp this weekend. They are: Blake Bolles (NW Missouri State), McLeod Bethel-Thompson (Sacramento St.) and Spencer Ohm (Concordia – St. Paul).

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Vikings Fans Can Help Make Stadium Dream A Reality This Weekend

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 8:49 am

Vikings fans have played a key role toward generating momentum for passage of stadium legislation. With the Minnesota House of Representatives now set to vote on the current proposal on Monday, the ultimate goal is now closer than ever.

The Vikings are urging fans to help make the final push and make the stadium dream a reality.

“The outpouring of support from Vikings fans has greatly intensified over the last several weeks, but it’s crucial that our fans continue to be heard over the weekend,” Vikings Director of Corporate Communications Jeff Anderson said. “Every day we will be asking supporters to email, call, and tweet their State rep and tell them to vote ‘yes’ on Monday. Given that we’ve never been this close, there is absolutely no reason to hold back now.”

Vikings fans can call or email thier Representative to ask them to vote YES on the stadium bill to put thousands of Minnesotans back to work and help secure the Vikings in Minnesota for the next generation of fans. And don’t think your voice won’t be heard.

 Minnesotans “are telling me that they want a stadium…a first-class facility that not only will be the home of our beloved Vikings for generations, but also a stadium that is used by the entire state,” Sen. Julie Rosen, chief author of the stadium legislation, told the Star Tribune. “That will attract a Super Bowl, Final Four and provide opportunities for amateur sports, high school sporting events and other organizations.”

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Vikings Agree To Terms With 15 Rookie Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 4, 2012 – 8:13 am

The Vikings rookie minicamp begins today and runs through the weekend. In advance of the minicamp, the Vikings have agreed to terms with the following 15 rookie free agents…

DT Chase Baker – Boise State
RB Derrick Coleman – UCLA
DE Kevin Cyrille – Florida Atlantic
CB Bobby Felder – Nicholls State
WR Kamar Jorden – Bowling Green
DE Eric Latimore – Penn State
LB Tyler Nielsen – Iowa
DE Ernest Owusu – California
LB Corey Paredes – Hawaii
G Austin Pasztor – Virginia
DT Tydreke Powell – North Carolina
DT Terrell Resonno – Missouri
Quentin Saulsberry – Mississippi State
Darrion Weems – Oregon
CB CC Whitlock – South Carolina

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Fan Email: Is Jabar Gaffney A Good Fit For Vikings?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 3, 2012 – 6:30 am

Whenever a recognizable name becomes available, whether it is via trade rumors or free agency – the first thing that comes to mind for many fans and football observers is, “Is he a good fit here?” And so, with the Washington Redskins releasing WR Jabar Gaffney earlier this week, I’ve received several emails from fans asking if the Vikings would be a good match for his services.

It appears the answer is no.

As they do with every player who becomes available, the Vikings will likely discuss Gaffney’s availability and evaluate whether or not he’s a good fit here. It appears Gaffney has plenty of gas left in the tank. He may be 31 years old, but he’s coming off a season in which he recorded career highs in receptions (68) and receiving yards (947), and tied a career high with 5 TDs.

But I’m just not sure he’s a good fit here. The Vikings signed 4-year veteran Jerome Simpson last week, they have veterans Devin Aromashodu, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins set to return, and they selected two WRs in the 4th round of last weekend’s draft (Greg Childs and Jarius Wright). That’s not to say any of those receivers are superior to Gaffney – they may be, they may not – but it does yield the conclusion that Minnesota may not be a great fit for Gaffney.

The other factor to keep in mind is that for a team and a player to join forces, there must be mutual interest. This is something many fans didn’t consider with regard to the Asante Samuel situation. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons acquired his services for a moderate price from the Philadelphia Eagles, but not every team had the same opportunity as Atlanta. Samuel identified Atlanta has a desirable destination, and he was therefore willing to talk turkey with them in terms of restructuring his contract.

Gaffney will now be in a similar situation. There will be a demand for his services, so Gaffney will choose his next team among multiple options. The smart money should be on the New England Patriots, the team for which he played from 2006-08, especially after ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this. While there is a deep crop of WRs in New England, Gaffney will likely begin his next stint with the Patriots as one of the preferred pass-catchers given his familiarity with the organization and Tom Brady from his first stint with the team, as well as his familiarity with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after their time together with the Denver Broncos from 2009-10.

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A Closer Look: Middle Man Of The Vikings Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 1, 2012 – 8:47 pm

The 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone, and by most accounts the Vikings had a good few days. Judging from the comments section of the Blog and the emails sent to my inbox, Vikings fans seem to be pleased with their team’s 10 selections, and it’s likely due to the blend of addressing team needs but also finding value in each of the picks.

When you’re coming off a 3-13 season, though, having one solid draft isn’t going to calm all the nerves and fix all the issues. One of the issues on many fans’ radars – again, judging by fan comments and emails – is that of the middle linebacker on the Vikings defense. The Vikings haven’t re-signed E.J. Henderson and they didn’t address LB in the draft until their first of two 7th-round choices.

So who will play middle LB for the Vikings in 2012?

It’s natural to wonder about the return of Henderson because A) there’s no obvious alternative and B) Henderson has been a consummate professional and both a defensive leader and source of inspiration for the entire organization. Henderson has been everything a team can ask of a player, and more. Bringing him back would give many fans a sense of relief and confidence in the position.

But, given the decisions the Vikings have made in the case of veterans such as CB Cedric Griffin, RG Anthony Herrera and LG Steve Hutchinson, and also given the push to build through the draft and acquire young players with upside, it appears re-signing Henderson is not in the plans.

As for a draft pick, the Vikings did take Audie Cole in the 7th round, and while the organization is looking to infuse the roster with youth, I don’t believe the team is counting on Cole to fill the void in 2012.

That leaves Jasper Brinkley as the team’s top candidate to man the middle of the defense. And when all is said and done, it may not be a bad option. Brinkley was selected with a 5th-round pick in 2009 and played special teams while serving as Henderson’s understudy for the first two years of his career. Last year, Brinkley sustained a hip injury that forced the Vikings to place him on the Reserve/Injured list and end his season before it began.

Brinkley appears fully recovered now and he’s poised to take on starting responsibilities. While it’s hard to accept the reality that Henderson is no longer calling the shots for the Vikings defense on the field after so many productive seasons and so many big-time plays, this is the natural progression of the NFL and a necessary step for the Vikings in their quest to build a team that can compete for the long-term.

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