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Griffen Moving Back To Defensive End, Frazier Says

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 14, 2012 – 6:15 am

All offseason there was chatter that Everson Griffen would make the transition from DE to LB. And then during training camp the chatter stopped and the move commenced.

A few weeks and one preseason game later, Griffen is moving back to DE.

“We saw enough of [Griffen] at linebacker where we feel that [defensive end] is going to be better for him,” Frazier said, according to KFAN.com’s AJ Mansour. “We talked to him Sunday night when we got back and he agrees that it’s better to be able to focus on that position.”

Griffen had been taking turns at LB with the third-team defense, primarily, and the thought was his combination of size (6-3, 273 pound) and athleticism would make him a good fit at LB, especially because he was behind a pair of effective starters at DE (Jared Allen and Brian Robison). After a worthwhile experiment, however, the Vikings have decided it’s better for the player and the team that Griffen move back to DE. Mansour notes, though, that Griffen could still play LB in some third-down situations.


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Harrison Smith To Get More Work With First-Team Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 13, 2012 – 5:22 am

Harrison Smith is one of the Vikings two 1st-round picks from last April’s draft. But so far during his short Vikings career, Smith has been running more with the second-team and third-team defenses than with the first team. According to Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, though, that could be changing soon.

“One of the things when we went back to look at the tape, and we felt this way going in, [was] Harrison was really making a push,” Frazier said on Sunday. “He’s going to get a chance to work in that first group, and he did on Friday night as well, he just didn’t start the game. It will be the same this week, although we’re going to do some things a little bit different with the starting rotations on Friday night. He’s done enough now where we feel confident that he can go out there in a starter’s role and we want to see how he performs in that role. He very well could start (this) Friday, he’s did some good things when he was in there (last) Friday night.”

Those comments are great news for the Vikings. As a 1st-round pick, the expectation is for Smith to emerge from 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, and it sounds like Smith is on track to do just that. Billed as an intelligent and instinctive defender with sound coverage skills and exceptional tackling ability, Smith should upgrade the Vikings at safety and help improve a pass defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and last in TDs allowed in 2011.

All along, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams defended putting Smith with the second and third team defenses by saying he wanted players to earn their spots as starters rather than be given starting positions based on draft position or pedigree. It sounds like Smith is doing everything the coaches are asking of him, including earning a spot as a starter on defense.


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Vikings Take Peterson Off PUP List

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 12, 2012 – 12:07 pm

The Vikings are hopeful that Adrian Peterson will be able to help them on Sundays between now and the end of the season. One major step in the right direction has happened, appropriately, on a Sunday.

On Sunday, two days following his team’s preseason opener at San Francisco, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier disclosed that Peterson has been taken off the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He was taken off the list in time to participate in the Vikings morning walk-thru on Sunday.

Previously during training camp, Peterson had been working out, but it was on the side with the team’s athletic training and strength staff. Now that he’s off the PUP list, Peterson can begin working with his coaches and teammates on the field.

“I want to caution you,” Frazier said during his press conference. “I know there are a lot of fans who are very optimistic and excited about seeing him back. But for us, it’s just part of the process. It doesn’t mean a whole lot other than he’s done a great job in his rehab up to this point off to the side with our strength coaches, [head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman and his staff and our medical staff.

“He’s done everything he can do on the side. It doesn’t mean in the future that he’s going to be lining up with our team in the opening game. We don’t know that. We have a long time to determine that.”

While Peterson is off the PUP list, it’s not full-steam ahead quite yet. Because of provisions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Peterson is not permitted to be in pads until he’s active for two practices (according to the team’s camp schedule, that will be this Tuesday).

That’s the update for now. We’ll have Frazier’s press conference posted to vikings.com in on-demand format soon.


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Three Takeaways From Vikings Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2012 – 3:10 am

The Vikings made their 2012 preseason debut on Friday night, dropping a 17-6 decision to the San Francisco 49ers at a blustery Candlestick Park. Rookie K Blair Walsh capped the game’s opening drive with a 39-yard FG that cut straight through the 20 mph gusts that swirled inside the stadium, but that was the only lead the Vikings would have for the evening.

San Francisco answered with a TD later in the 1st quarter to take a 7-3 and eventually took a 17=6 lead into the locker room at halftime. Neither team scored in the 2nd half.

For the Vikings, QB Christian Ponder was good-not-great, completing 4 of 9 passes for 80 yards. RB Toby Gerhart was solid and strong, rushing the ball 5 times and gaining 31 yards, with a long rush of 16 yards. The Vikings defense struggled stopping the 49ers ground game, allowing over 100 rushing yards in the 1st half and 260 in the game.

The thrill of victory and agony of defeat take a back seat in the preseason, though, as teams are looking to find “wins” within the exhibition games. There are position battles to be settled and roster spots to be won, and that is the focus for NFL teams and their followers during the preseason.

With that in mind, here are three takeaways on my mind as I sit on the team’s charter flight back to Minneapolis…

Blair Walsh impresses in first NFL game
I’ve been a big supporter of Blair Walsh’s since the Vikings selected him in the 6th round. His leg strength was never questioned, and I didn’t find his dip in accuracy during his senior season at Georgia as concerning as others did. The kid was an 88.8% kicker as a sophomore and junior, and most of his misses during his senior year came on FGs from 40 or 50+ yards.

Regardless, there were no concerns about Walsh’s accuracy on Friday night. He converted both of his FG attempts, the first from 39 yards and the second from 26. Keep in mind, the nasty wind gusts did nothing to help matters, either. In addition to his accuracy on FG tries, Walsh’s leg strength was on display during kickoffs. He logged one touchback on a kick that was blasted through the endzone, and then his other two kickoffs were 6 and 8 yards into the endzone. During the regular season, teams will not be taking those kicks out of the touchback area.

The benefit of Walsh’s touchbacks – opponents’ average drive start will be closer to their own 20 – will far outweigh any accuracy issues he has on FGs. As any defensive player or coordinator and they’ll tell you that pinning a team at or inside the 20 is a big-time advantage for the defense. With Walsh, the Vikings will be doing much more of that in 2012 than they have in recent seasons (Vikings ranked 31st in opponents’ average drive start in 2011).

Run defense missed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield
The Vikings held out DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams and CB Antoine Winfield on Friday night, giving the veterans a break from the action while also giving younger players more opportunity. And the absence of three quality run stoppers showed, with San Francisco gashing the Vikings defense on the ground seemingly at will in the 1st half.

One part of you gets frustrated when the opponent is able to run the ball so easily. But the other part of you knows that without Allen, Williams and Winfield in the mix, the defense is much more vulnerable. It would’ve been nice to see other players step up and stymie the 49ers ground game, but I’m not worried about the Vikings run defense just yet. If the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers are able to do in the next two weeks what the 49ers did this week, then we’ll have some concerns.

Offensive line displays improvement
I was pleased with the performance of the Vikings first-team offensive line. RB Toby Gerhart averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 5 attempts and neither Ponder nor Joe Webb were sacked while the first-team offensive line was in the game. Several times Ponder was able to settle into a pocket after dropping back, and on his52-yard pass to WR Stephe Burton Ponder was afforded the time and space to step up into the pocket to deliver the throw.

First-round pick LT Matt Kalil looked solid in his debut. He will be the first to admit there’s room for improvement, but it was a good beginning for Ponder’s new blindside protector. C John Sullivan had no issues with snaps and RT Phil Loadholt was sound in his technique and discipline.


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Vikings Representatives Visit 49ers New Stadium Site And Sales Center

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2012 – 5:29 pm


Several Vikings executives took advantage of tonight’s first preseason game in San Francisco by spending the morning at the 49ers new stadium construction site and corresponding sales center in Santa Clara. The 49ers, approximately two years ahead of the Vikings and the stadium project in Minnesota, expect to open the facility in time for the 2014 season.

With construction in Santa Clara well underway, the excitement among the 49ers fan base is building. In order to give fans a true feel for the new home, the 49ers opened a sales center near the construction site. Vikings officials toured the interactive space that includes a full mock suite and a complete model of the open-air stadium. Similar to Minnesota’s new stadium, the 49ers facility will boast much wider concourses, a significantly larger footprint and many new fan amenities. During the tour, fans get eye-opening comparable views of the 49ers current Candlestick Park to corresponding areas in the new Santa Clara facility. One particular point of interest for team executives was a touch-screen map depicting all the various transportation routes from fans’ homes to the parking lots at the new stadium.

Vikings fans can expect a similar setup in Minnesota in the coming months and years. With an RFP set to be issued for an architect in the coming week or two, the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) are quickly moving ahead to ensure the project opens on time and on budget in 2016.


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Vikings Arrive At Candlestick Park For Preseason Debut

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2012 – 4:45 pm

The Vikings traveling contingent has made the short trek from the team hotel to Candlestick Park for tonight’s preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers and players have begun hitting the field for their warmups. We’re currently under sunny skies with a temperature of 56 degrees and the winds howling at 18 mph.

Tonight marks the first preseason game for both the Vikings and 49ers, and it marks the 7th time the teams have met in the preseason, with the last coming in 2010. The last time San Francisco played a game here at Candlestick they were hosting the NFC Championship Game last January, a game in which they lost to the NY Giants.

Several representatives from the Vikings organization visited some of the 49ers facilities, which are located directly next to the site of the team’s new stadium, which is being constructed right now. We’ll have a report and pictures from that visit posted here on the vikings.com Blog shortly.

Remember to stay tuned to vikings.com tonight because we’re you’re best place for preseason coverage of the Vikings. We’ll host a live chat on the website during the game, we’ll stream press conferences after the game, and I’ll check in following the game with a recap of the night and plenty of reaction from players and coaches.

Also, for those of you not in Minnesota who wish to watch tonight’s game, go to the vikings.com home page and check out Preseason Live, a subscription-based program that you can utilize to watch every Vikings preseason game (charge of just $20).

That’s it for now, but we’ll be checking in with you periodically before tonight’s game to keep you up-to-date on the action.


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Reminder: Vikings vs. 49ers To Be Broadcast On The CW Twin Cities

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2012 – 9:54 am

The Vikings kick off their preseason schedule tonight against the San Francisco 49ers, and for the third consecutive season KARE 11 will be the team’s preseason television partner.

Because of NBC’s 2012 Olympics coverage, however, the Vikings-49ers game will be broadcast on an alternative channel. The CW Twin Cities will televise tonight’s game, with kickoff slated for 8:00 p.m. CT.

Below is a listing of The CW Twin Cities’ channel locations on Cable/ADS:

– DISH ch 23
– DirecTv ch 23
– Comcast SD ch 8
– Comcast HD ch 808
– Charter Cable ch 602 or 783 (depending on location)
– Mediacom cc 106 or 117 or 821 (depending on location)

Preseason Simulcast
The Vikings Entertainment Network (VEN) will use the Vikings Radio Network broadcast team of Paul Allen and Pete Bercich for the 2012 Vikings preseason television broadcasts. The preseason games, aired on KARE 11 (on WUCW tonight at San Francisco), will be simulcast over the Vikings Radio Network and its flagship station KFAN 100.3 FM.

“Hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans enjoy listening to PA’s exciting calls and Pete’s thorough analysis on the radio during Vikings games,” said Vikings Vice President of Sales & Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. “This is a unique opportunity to also allow our television viewers to listen to the voices of the Vikings.”

Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman will continue his sideline reporting role, while former Vikings LB Ben Leber will be added to handle sideline interviews during the preseason TV broadcasts.

For more information on the Vikings preseason TV schedule, click here.


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Watch Friday’s Preseason Opener Live or On-Demand In HD via PreSeason Live

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on August 8, 2012 – 9:59 am

Did you know that roughly three out of every four visitors to vikings.com live outside the state of Minnesota? So for those fans, watching any Vikings game, and especially preseason ones, can be particularly tricky.

But thanks to vikings.com and the NFL, fans can watch each of the four Vikings preseason games (plus all other NFL preseason games in 2012) either live or on-demand and in high-definition with PreSeason Live for just $19.99, which is $10 off the 2011 price.  Click here to buy now.

With PreSeason Live, you can watch the games on either your laptop or your iOS or Android device. Plus, if you choose the on-demand version, you can either watch the full game or the condensed version, which shows you every play from an entire game, from opening kickoff to final whistle, commercial free in roughly 30 minutes, including penalties, coaches challenges, and plays under review.

The progress bar marks the big plays, so you can skip ahead to the game’s biggest moments. You can also watch two videos at once with Picture-in-Picture, or watch four videos simultaneously.


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Vikings Issue First Depth Chart Of Preseason

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 8, 2012 – 5:19 am

There’s a long way to go before NFL teams have to make roster decisions, but there’s not a long way to go before teams take the field for their first preseason game. So while there’s still plenty of time for players to make their case for a roster spot, NFL teams began releasing their initial preseason depth charts this week.

You can find the Vikings initial depth chart by clicking here.

There aren’t any major surprises or developments in the depth chart, but here are a few notes…

– As expected, Brandon Fusco is listed as the starter at RG, with Geoff Schwartz as his backup. Chris DeGeare is listed as the backup at LG behind Charlie Johnson.

– Lex Hilliard is listed as the 3rd-team RB, with Derrick Coleman and Jordan Todman stacked evenly behind Hilliard.

– Veteran Joe Berger is listed as the backup center, with undrafted college free agent Quentin Saulsberry listed with the 3rd team.

– D’Aundre Reed is lasted as the backup left DE and Nick Reed backs up Jared Allen at right DE.

– Tyrone McKenzie is in the lead for backup middle LB duties, with Audie Cole listed as the 3rd-team middle LB. Everson Griffen is also with the 3rd-team, listed at the weakside LB position.

– Marcus Sherels backs up Antoine Winfield at one CB position and Chris Carr is behind Chris Cook at the other CB spot. Based on my observations at practice, Carr would be ahead of Sherels in any 3-CB defensive alignment.

– Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are listed as starters at safety, with Harrison Smith behind Sanford at FS and Eric Frampton behind Raymond at FS. This is a fluid position, and Smith has been getting more and more reps with the 1st-team.

– Percy Harvin is listed as the top kickoff returner and Sherels is listed #1 at punt returner. Sherels also backs up Harvin at kickoff return and rookie WR Jarius Wright is listed as the backup punt returner.


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Vikings Offense Responds To Musgrave’s Motivation Measure

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 7, 2012 – 6:01 pm

If you know Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, you know that he’s generally a polite, personable character who can strike up a friendly conversation with anyone. If you know Musgrave well, though, you know that he has plenty of vitality in him when it comes to football.

The Vikings offense is well aware of this now.

As the Star Tribune’s Dan Wiederer explains on Access Vikings, Musgrave went outside the box to motivate his group for Tuesday’s practice after a subpar outing on Monday.

“Yesterday we took a step back in a couple of periods,” Musgrave said during his press conference on Tuesday. “We’re looking to make those corrections and get better the next time we’re faced with those periods for sure.”

That’s the measured, polite Musgrave speaking. The impassioned Musgrave addressed his players in a different manner, according to QB Christian Ponder.

“He had a great metaphor of lighting a fire,” Ponder said. “He finds some unique ways of motivating us. But it works. I’m not going to go into details.”

As Wiederer writes, Ponder was pushed for more detail and was asked if props were involved in the motivation tactic.

“Yep,” he said laughing. “Let’s just say it involved a bucket of water, some leaves and some sticks. It was interesting.”

It may well have been interesting. But it was also effective. The Vikings offense rebounded nicely on Tuesday, looking sharp in many of the team periods and even capping off a few drives with game-winning scores. One was to WR Percy Harvin on a deep pass down the middle of the field and another was finished by a Blair Walsh 57-yard dagger that split the uprights and had plenty of extra distance.

“It was important for us to step out and have a good practice today,” Ponder told Wiederer. “We made a point of it [Monday night], to have more enthusiasm. And we did. It was a great way to bounce back.

“He’s (Musgrave) quiet, but when he gets on the football field he gets a fire. He’s not afraid to yell at people, and he expects a lot out of us. He does it in his own way.”

Musgrave’s way is clearly the right way for the Vikings offense. As head coach Leslie Frazier mentioned to reporters after practice, every offense will experience times of adversity. What matters most is how the offense responds. Under Musgrave’s direction, the Vikings offense responded well on Tuesday.

That’s the sign of a good motivator, and of an offense going in the right direction.


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