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Frazier Pleased With Depth On Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 19, 2010 – 3:43 pm

Assuming both CB Cedric Griffin and LB E.J. Henderson make it back to the starting lineup (things are looking that way at this point), the Vikings will return all 11 starters from last year’s defense. With that being the case, the team entered the 2010 season in good position to fortify its depth behind experienced starters.

And so far, according to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the team has taken advantage of that good position.

“Yeah, this is the best depth we have had on defense so far,” Frazier said on Thursday after practice. “Now it is just a matter of staying healthy and playing together. But by far this is the best depth we have had. Although, we are missing Cedric Griffin [and] we are not certain about E.J. Henderson. But we do have some quality guys at some certain positions as back-ups.”

Last year the Vikings defense led the NFL in sacks with 48, finished #2 against the run and ranked #6 overall. With all starters returning and depth improving across the board, the Vikings defense will look to build upon and improve those numbers in 2010.

Frazier declined to be specific when asked what areas of his defense he’d like to see improve.

“I want us to improve in all categories,” Frazier said. “Because I really believe that if we took another step as a unit it would help us get another step closer to a championship. Let’s just get better all the way across the board and then we will look back at the end of the year and just see if that indeed helped us take that next step as a team, which will help our defense as well.”


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Monday Morning Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 16, 2010 – 12:57 pm

The Vikings practiced for about an hour and 20 minutes late Monday morning on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park as they recuperate from Saturday night’s game and get ready for Sunday night’s contest at San Francisco. Temperatures were moderate and the breeze was brisk, providing a nice change from the conditions that came with training camp in Mankato.

The big news of the day was that WR Percy Harvin was back with the team after an extended absence due to the death of his Grandmother and another battle with migraines. Harvin looked fit while practicing and was targeted by QB Tarvaris Jackson several times. Harvin did not meet with reporters following practice but will likely do so later this week.

Sidney Rice, who hasn’t practiced with the team during training camp because a hip injury has him on the PUP list, worked with trainers and strength staff on the side. In speaking with reporters following practice, Rice said he’s had a setback or two in his recovery but that he continues to improve and feels comfortable running in a straight line. He declined to put a percentage on his health at this point.

Another guy on the PUP list – CB Cedric Griffin (knee) – was also working out on the side, as he’s been doing all of training camp. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress described Griffin’s progress recently as rapid and said it’s almost to the point where they’d like to remove him from the PUP list so he can participate in individual drills during practice, something he’s prohibited from doing under the rules of the PUP list. Childress also said Griffin is “chomping at the bit” to get back, something that became apparent near the commencement of training camp when Griffin disclosed he was hopefully he’d be able to participate in camp rather than go on the PUP list.

It was good to see so many of the players putting in extra time after practice, working on various areas of the game. Harvin and Greg Lewis were running routes with Jackson throwing to them, TEs Jeff Dugan and Garrett Mills were hitting a blocking sled, various players were fielding kicks, Marko Mitchell was working with WRs coach George Stewart and TEs Visanthe Shiancoe and Mickey Shuler were doing drill work with TEs coach Jimmie Johnson.

The team will have lunch and meetings the rest of the afternoon and will return to the practice fields late Tuesday morning.


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A Few Training Camp Trends 1 Week Into The Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 6, 2010 – 10:49 am

Practice #1 of Friday is in the books as the team worked out from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. in front of another packed training camp crowd in Mankato. Jared Allen and the rest of the defensive line were signing autographs after practice, which is a major reason for the boosted attendance this morning.

The Vikings had a spirited 9-on-7 period that saw the offensive line and RB Toby Gerhart dominate early and then saw the defense, specifically LB Jasper Brinkley, pick it up toward the end and shut down the offense. Brinkley has had an outstanding camp to this point and it’s clear the strongest part of his game continues to be stopping the run. He can fill holes and stun a ball carrier with his aggressiveness and suddenness.

The Vikings will hold a special teams practice this afternoon from 2:10 to 3:15 p.m. and then will hit the fields 2 more times tomorrow before taking the day off on Sunday. Speaking of special teams practice, that’s where RB Darius Reynaud injured his ankle the other day. I saw Reynaud walking around the sidelines today during practice, so that’s a good sign. Hopefully he can recover quickly and get back out on the field; he has had a very nice training camp to this point.

Other guys who missed practice today included: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), LB J Leman (leg) and C John Sullivan (leg).

CJ will chime in later today with a few more observations from today’s practice and a report on rookie DE Everson Griffen.

I’m going to head out of Mankato and begin my journey to Canton, OH for enshrinement ceremonies of John Randle and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010. Before I do that, though, I wanted to list a few trends I’ve noticed now that we are a week into 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Here it goes…

– Players who, in my eyes, are having solid training camps are: WR Bernard Berrian, LBs Jasper Brinkley and Kenny Onatolu, OT Patrick Brown, CB Chris Cook, OG Chris DeGeare, DT Letroy Guion, RT Phil Loadholt and RB Albert Young.

– The position group I’ve seen improve the most over camp has been the offensive line.

– The position group that has been the most impressive since Day 1 of camp is the LBs.

– I am confident in the way the Vikings medical and strength staffs are handling the injuries of CB Cedric Griffin and WR Sidney Rice.

– The Vikings had a true one-two punch in previous seasons with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. But I’m wondering if the one-two punch philosophy will be modified slightly in 2010 to include a few RBs in the rotation along with Peterson.

– RB Toby Gerhart has gotten better every day, struggling right out of the gates and having perhaps his best practice on Friday morning.

– I’m certain that Vikings fans will set a training camp attendance record this year; the crowds have been great.

– The Vikings defensive line led the league in sacks last year, and this year during training camp the unit looks improved.


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Griffin, Rice Start On Active/PUP List; Henderson On The Field

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2010 – 5:54 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress disclosed moments before his team’s opening practice of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp that 2 players – CB Cedric Griffin and WR Sidney Rice – would begin camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

There are 2 versions of the PUP list – Active/PUP and Reserve/PUP – and the details of each are confusing. After conversations with Rob Brzezinski and Rick Spielman, I’m now aware of the distinctions between the 2 lists. The details are too much to get into right now on the blog, so let’s just keep going.

Basically, Griffin and Rice are unable to participate in practice for now but can be removed from the Active/PUP list during camp, which will allow them to fully participate in training camp and the preseason.

Griffin landed on the PUP list because he’s coming off a knee injury that he sustained in the NFC title game last year. Childress said Griffin has “done a great job with his rehab” but that placing him on the PUP list for now is the prudent move.

Rice is on the PUP list because of hip injury he suffered at some point in the playoffs last year. The injury bothered him enough to cause him to miss the Pro Bowl and then Childress said the injury had flared up throughout the offseason. Although Rice was able to participate in some of the team’s mandatory minicamp, it’s caused enough discomfort that surgery was considered at one point after the minicamp. Ultimately, Rice will begin camp on the sidelines but it sounds as if he could return soon.

The good news, though, is that MLB E.J. Henderson was on the field, just 7 months after fracturing his femur. Childress has praised Henderson’s attitude and work ethic all offseason and did so again on Friday.

“From the first day he told me ‘I’m going to change the protocol with the way this injury is rehabilitated,’ I thought, ‘Wow, there is a mouthful.’ He has his jaw locked right from the beginning.

“He has been religious about his rehab, almost to the point where you have to hold him back. We will continue to hold him back until he gets out there and does football type of movements. He is right where he needs to be at with his complete health.”

Childress also said that Henderson has completed the entire offseason manual that every player receives and that the veteran LB will be eased back into a practice routine.

CJ Siewert, who many of you may remember from his time writing for vikings.com around draft time, will have more on Henderson’s recovery and his 1st practice back with teammates in a story that will be posted Saturday.


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Sheppard Signing Adds More Stability At CB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 22, 2010 – 9:29 am

Many football followers woke up Wednesday morning still anticipating the Vikings would select a CB in the 1st round of the 2o10 NFL Draft on Thursday evening. But by Wednesday evening, the Vikings had already added a 1st round CB – former Philadelphia Eagle and New York Jet Lito Sheppard.

Drafted by the Eagles in the 1st round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Sheppard has had a solid 9-year NFL career that has included Pro Bowl selections in 2005 and 2006 and then an All-Pro selection in 2004. In 104 career games and 70 starts with the Eagles and Jets, Sheppard has 19 career INTs and 3 TDs and he is also the 1st player in NFL history to post 2 INTs with returns of 100-plus yards.

Credentials such as those make Sheppard a great fit for the Vikings because both starting CBs – Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield – are recovering from significant injuries sustained in 2009. While Asher Allen and Benny Sapp filled in well last season, there’s no doubt the addition of Sheppard adds stability to the position as well as a player with vast starting experience in the NFL. Sheppard started every game for the Eagles from 2004 to 2007 and was a starter on teams that won 4 NFC East Division titles and appeared in Super Bowl XXXIX.

“He’s a hard worker and he wants to be the best at his position and his craft,” said Vikings WR Greg Lewis, who played with Sheppard in Philadelphia from 2003 to 2008. “He likes competition, so any time you put all of those traits together you have a good player.”

Lewis, who said Sheppard is a good teammate who will fit in well with the Vikings, recalled practicing against and playing with the CB often in Philadelphia.

“He’s willing to do whatever it takes to win games,” Lewis continued. “He was on a Super Bowl team and he wants to get that ring just like everybody else here.

“Hopefully Antoine and Ced come back as soon as possible, but having Sapp and Lito and Ash there is always good. They are guys with experience. I think it’s a great signing.”


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Will Sheppard Signing Affect Vikings 1st Round Selection?

Posted by cjsiewert on April 22, 2010 – 6:15 am

With news of CB Lito Sheppard signing with the Vikings late Wednesday afternoon, new speculation has begun on who the Vikings will select with the 30th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The strong consensus among draft pundits before the Sheppard signing was that the Vikings would select a CB in the 1st round due to the fact that Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield are recovering from injuries and may not be available for the start of the 2010 season.  Signing Sheppard has indeed alleviated concerns with the Purple’s secondary and now has draftniks re-evaluating the Vikings 1st round selection.

Will they take a QB to mold under the tutelage of Brett Favre?  Will they select a LB or defensive lineman to bolster the defensive front?  Or will they draft another CB to add depth to a newly beefed-up secondary?

What I take from this signing is that it gives the Vikings more ammunition to acquire what they really want with their 1st overall selection.

The Vikings are a team built to win this season.  With a solid core of players on the current roster, the Vikings could possibly use pick #30 to trade down with another team.  Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman mentioned yesterday in the pre-draft press conference that they are not going to reach for a player to simply fill a position, but rather take the best available player on their board.

I mention that the Vikings could trade down mainly on the basis of all the hype surrounding Florida QB Tim Tebow.  I don’t see the Vikings taking Tebow in the 1st round, but if he is still available when it comes time for the Vikings selection, they could trade with another team that really wants the former Heisman Trophy winner.

This year’s crop of defensive players runs deep in many different positions and trading down to gain possibly another 2nd round pick wouldn’t hurt.  I could be wrong here.  This is just one blogger’s opinion on yet another exciting offseason move.

What do you take from the signing in regard to the Vikings 1st overall selection? Share your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.

Also, be sure to check out vikings.com’s 1st ever Mock Draft and voice your opinion.


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Report: Vikings Take A Look At Virginia CB

Posted by cjsiewert on March 30, 2010 – 12:48 pm

With reports of free agent DE Mike Montgomery and the Vikings agreeing to a 1-year deal, Minnesota appears to be making a splash in the free agent market after a brief void of inactivity.  Along with the reported signing, the Vikings may be creating some more attention by taking a closer look at a Draft prospect.

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reports that University of Virginia CB Chris Cook is conducting a private workout for the Vikings today, according to an NFL source with knowledge of the situation.

There has been a lot of speculation on the Vikings’ Draft “needs” and the secondary has garnered most of the attention, as we touched on briefly earlier today.  The concern with the Vikings’ secondary revolves around the injuries of Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield.  There has also been some anxiety over the production numbers from last season with the Vikings ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and just 26th in INTs, so perhaps taking a closer look at the draft-eligible CB may suite the Purple’s best interest.

Various scouting reports label the 6-2, 210 pound CB as versatile with great speed and coverage skills – traits that may intrigue the Vikings to add talent and depth to a secondary unit that already has positive potential.


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Report: Vikings Lose Out On Free Agent Corner

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on March 30, 2010 – 12:14 pm

Heading into the 2010 season, one of the areas for minor concern when it comes to the Vikings defense is the area of cornerback.  Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield is coming off an injury-plagued 2009 season but plans on being 100 percent come training camp.  Veteran Cedric Griffin, however, tore his ACL in the season-ending loss to the Saints and may not return to action until after the 2010 season gets underway, depending upon how his rehab and recovery goes.  The Vikings brought back Benny Sapp to provide depth in the secondary, and rookie Asher Allen got ample playing time last year due to Winfield’s injury, so he should be improved as he embarks on his sophomore campaign.

According to the Star Tribune, the Vikings recently had veteran corner Tye Hill, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, in for a visit at Winter Park in an effort to further bolster the secondary’s depth.  Hill’s visit to the Twin Cities came on the heels of a visit to the Tennessee Titans, and today, Hill inked a one-year deal with the Titans, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

There are of course several free agent corners left on the market, and many NFL Draft pundits believe the Vikings could address the position via the upcoming Draft as well.


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Agent: Sapp Re-Signs With Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 9, 2010 – 2:34 pm

I have not confirmed with team officials, but according to the Twitter account of Benny Sapp’s agent Andy Simms, the unrestricted free agent (UFA) CB has agreed to terms to remain with the Vikings.

The news should be encouraging for Vikings fans because Sapp played well in 2009 as the team’s primary nickel CB and he also stepped up his game and played outside quite a bit when CB Antoine Winfield was missing from action due to a foot injury. With both Winfield and other starting CB Cedric Griffin coming back from injuries in 2010, Sapp’s presence on the roster should provide some stability.

Sapp has spent the past 2 seasons with the Vikings after playing the first 4 years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

We’ll have more information for you when it becomes available.


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A Look At The Vikings CB Situation

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 11, 2010 – 8:42 am

The position that will receive maximum attention this offseason for the Vikings is QB, with most of the talk centered on whether or not Brett Favre will return for a 20th NFL season.

But as important as Favre’s return or non-return is to the Vikings, let’s not forget that, as is the case for all 32 teams in the league, there are several other questions the Purple must answer before the 2010 season arrives.

Other areas of the Vikings roster that will remain in the offseason spotlight include DT, where Pat Williams may or may not be back in 2010, as well as LB E.J Henderson’s return from injury and the free agent status of RB Chester Taylor.

In this NFL Network video, Michael Lombardi and Charles Davis do a nice job of talking about a few of these offseason storylines. But there’s another position that I think deserves as much or perhaps even more consideration this offseason – CB.

The guys touched on it a little bit at the end of the video, but I wanted to go into more detail here on vikings.com. Click this link to read more about the Vikings CB position this offseason, including how the health of Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield will impact the way the Vikings address the depth chart at CB…


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