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2011 Pro Bowl Moves Back To Hawaii

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 3, 2010 – 8:49 am

The Vikings had 10 players earn Pro Bowl berths after the 2009 season and 4 of them – Jared Allen, Heath Farwell, Steve Hutchinson and Adrian Peterson – were healthy enough to make the trip to South Florida the week prior to the Super Bowl and play in the all-star game.

After next season, though, any Vikings who earn Pro Bowl berths and elect to play in the game will have a different itinerary.

The NFL announced on Tuesday that the 2011 Pro Bowl, which will be played a week before Super Bowl XLV, is returning to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii after leaving the island for the 2010 version. The decision to play the NFL’s All-Star Game the week before the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year follows a significant increase in viewership for the 2010 Pro Bowl, the first Pro Bowl to precede the Super Bowl.

According to the NFL’s release, the 2010 Pro Bowl on ESPN was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers, the most for a Pro Bowl since 2000 (13.2 million viewers) and a 40 percent increase from the 2009 game (8.8 million viewers). The 12.3 million viewers also marked the largest viewership for an All-Star game in any sport on cable television. The game at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida also attracted the largest Pro Bowl attendance (70,697) in 50 years.

“Playing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl generated more excitement and interest in the event and also kicked off Super Bowl week in an innovative new way,” said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events. “We are pleased to return to the State of Hawaii, which has embraced the Pro Bowl for 30 years.”

The Pro Bowl’s return to Hawaii, where it had been held consecutively from 1980 to 2009, is part of a two-year agreement between the NFL and the state of Hawaii to play the 2011 and 2012 games there.


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Farwell Returns From Pro Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 2, 2010 – 11:10 am

Vikings LB and special teams ace Heath Farwell has returned to Minnesota after spending a week in South Florida for Pro Bowl festivities.

Farwell flew down to the South Florida area last Tuesday to begin preparations for the Pro Bowl and to participate in all of the activities surrounding the NFL’s annual all-star game.

“It was a lot of fun just hanging out with the other players and their families,” Farwell said. “You have respect for these guys and it’s a nice opportunity to chat with them and enjoy the experience together. There’s a lot of exchanging autographs and things of that nature.”

One of the items Farwell brought back home with him was a signed pair of DeMarcus Ware cleats.

Farwell flew down to South Florida with his wife, Julie, on Tuesday and then later in the week Farwell’s parents and grandparents arrived, as well as Julie’s parents.

The group returned to Minnesota on Monday, the day after the Pro Bowl. Farwell saw a lot of the field on Sunday and was credited with 2 special teams tackles. His production came in a losing effort, however, as the AFC defeated the NFL 41-34.

Next up in Farwell’s offseason activities is a hunting trip with teammate and Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler down in Texas, which is where Loeffler grew up and makes his offseason home.


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AFC Outlasts NFC In Pro Bowl Shootout

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 1, 2010 – 8:33 am

A quartet of Vikings and 2 TD passes from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was not enough for the NFC to claim its 3rd consecutive victory in the Pro Bowl, as the AFC came away from the annual all-star game with a 41-34 victory at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida on Sunday.

Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, who went 13 of 17 for 189 yards and 2 TDs, was the game’s MVP. He hooked up with teammate Andre Johnson for a 33-yard score in the 1st quarter and then later in the 1st quarter also found Broncos WR Brandon Marshall for a 23-yard score.

Another pair of WRs also had impressive performances. For the NFC, Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson had 6 grabs for 101 yards and 2 TDs while San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson had 7 receptions for 122 yards and 1 TD.

Adrian Peterson carried the ball just 3 times on the evening but gained 17 yards and also had 1 reception for 5 yards. G Steve Hutchinson played the entire game, as did DE Jared Allen and LB Heath Farwell. Allen finished with 4 tackles and Farwell had a pair of special teams tackles.

T Bryant McKinnie, who earned his 1st Pro Bowl berth, did not play in the game after missing a pair of practices late in the week and then being removed from the NFC’s roster.


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Peterson, 4 Other Vikings Preparing For Pro Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 29, 2010 – 11:04 am

For those of you who have sufficiently recovered from last Sunday’s disheartening NFC Championship Game loss or for those of you who just can’t get enough football, this Sunday presents yet another chance to watch some of your favorite Vikings perform on the field.

The Pro Bowl will be played this Sunday in South Florida – site of Super Bowl XLIV – and will feature 5 Vikings. The Vikings had 10 players named to the NFC’s roster, but only 5 of them will appear in the game. The 5 players are DE Jared Allen, special teams ace Heath Farwell, G Steve Hutchinson, T Bryant McKinnie and RB Adrian Peterson.

Because my goal is to objectively cover the Vikings on a year-round basis to give fans an inside look at their favorite team, I stay away from picking favorites or displaying any personal sentiments. But I can’t hide the fact that I’m excited to watch Peterson play on Sunday.

This will be Peterson’s 3rd Pro Bowl appearance in as many seasons, and when you consider the success he’s had in his first 2 all-star games, you’ll see why I’m excited to see him play in his 3rd game. As a rookie in the 2008 Pro Bowl (after the 2007 season), Peterson destroyed the AFC defense to the tune of 129 yards and 2 TDs on 16 carries. The NFC won the game 42-30 and Peterson was named the game’s MVP. Last year, Peterson carried the ball 8 times and gained 48 yards while finding the endzone once.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Peterson have another monster game on Sunday. He runs with more intensity than any other RB in the league and I think he’ll have that intensity ratcheted up on Sunday.


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Special Teams Registers Special Performance

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 18, 2010 – 9:21 am

In a dominating victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Mall of America Field, the Vikings defense cooled off a hot Cowboys offense while their offense lit up a Dallas defense that had allowed just 14 points in the previous 3 contests.

But it wasn’t just an offensive and defensive show on Sunday. The Vikings special teams unit played well also.

From kicking and punting to kick and punt coverage, special teams coordinator Brian Murphy had his unit performing superbly against the Cowboys. K Ryan Longwell was 2 of 2 on FGs and 4 of 4 on PATs, and he also demonstrated expert control on his kickoffs. P Chris Kluwe pinned Dallas on its own 2 with one punt and also registered a 61-yard boomer.

The kick coverage units were solid as well, holding Dallas to just a 15.7-yard return average on 7 kickoff returns. Special teams stalwarts S Husain Abdullah, LB Heath Farwell and S Tyrell Johnson each registered a pair of tackles and CB Cedric Griffin, though credited with no special teams tackles, did a great job of preventing returners from getting around the edge.

“I know it’s trite but our team did a great job,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after the game. “Whether you talk about Ryan Longwell and Chris Kluwe kicking the football. Our coverage units were unbelievably outstanding. We were real worried about (Patrick) Crayton in the return game and Felix Jones who got in there toward the end. Great place to put our defense on the field.”

Childress raises an excellent point as it pertains to the special teams performance aiding the defensive effort. Dallas average starting field position after a kickoff was their own 22, and their average starting position for all possessions was their own 25. The Vikings, meanwhile, enjoyed an average starting field position of their own 43, a drastic difference and one that was paramount in the final outcome.

The addition of QB Brett Favre to the Vikings offense will go down as the most important improvement over last year’s team, but one must also not discount how much Murphy and his special teams unit has improved from last year as well.


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Farwell Earns Long-Deserved Honor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 11:05 am

Vikings LB and special teams ace Heath Farwell has been a productive player for the franchise over his 5 seasons, twice being named special teams MVP and consistently being among the team leaders in special teams tackles.

This year Farwell has been recognized as the outstanding special teams player that he is by being named to his first career Pro Bowl, an honor he certainly doesn’t take lightly.

“I want to thank the fans, the coaches and the players for helping me achieve one of my career goals of being named to the Pro Bowl,” Farwell said on Tuesday. “To be voted on by your peers is a prestigious individual honor.”

The honor for Farwell is especially significant this year because he’s having another solid season after coming back from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2008 season. Farwell is the unquestioned leader of the Vikings kick coverage units, something that is evident on the field with his actions but also off the field with his words.

“Several guys on the team deserve this award, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent them and the Minnesota Vikings,” Farwell said. “This is something I’ve worked for my entire career, and to do it after suffering a season-ending injury the year prior makes it even more special.

“But none of the individual accolades compare to the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, so we’ll continue to focus all of our energy toward that end.”


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This Week’s Silver Lining – Pro Bowl Selections

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2009 – 6:14 pm

Individual accolades certainly don’t take precedent over team success. But as we go through the negativity involved with losing 3 of 4 games at the end of a season, it’s nice to sprinkle in some positivity, too.

And that positivity is represented by the fact that 8 Vikings were honored late this afternoon by being named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. That is the most Pro Bowlers for a Vikings team since the 1998 squad sent 10 players to the annual NFL all-star game.

Five Vikings were named starters on the NFC – DE Jared Allen, G Steve Hutchinson, T Bryant McKinnie, RB Adrian Peterson and DT Kevin Williams. Three others – LB Heath Farwell, QB Brett Favre and WR Sidney Rice – will be backups.

Since 2006, the Vikings have had 13 different players recognized with 25 Pro Bowl honors. Hutchinson has earned his 7th straight honor, Favre has been named to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 19 seasons and Allen becomes the 1st Vikings DE to go to consecutive Pro Bowls since Chris Doleman did it in 1989 and 1990.

Farwell, McKinnie and Rice are being honored as Pro Bowlers for the 1st time.

This year’s Pro Bowl will be played the week prior to the Super Bowl in Miami, also the site of this year’s Super Bowl. This is a changeup from the normal set up, of course, because the Pro Bowl has been played in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl on a regular basis since 1980.

So while these 8 Vikings players are surely honored to be named Pro Bowlers, they’d like nothing better than to be unable to play in the game because of a more important “bowl” game they’d have to play the following week.

Note: Check out the vikings.com blog early tomorrow morning, as we’ll have reaction from several of the Vikings Pro Bowlers, including Farwell, McKinnie and Rice.


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Remember To Vote For The Samsung Unsung Hero Of The Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2009 – 6:37 am

Remember to visit the vikings.com home page and vote for the Samsung Unsung Hero of the Game. This is a new bit on the website and it’s one that fans largely control. The winner of the poll, which closes on Wednesday, will be interviewed and the video will be posted on vikings.com.

Last week the Samsung Unsung Hero of the Game was TE Jeff Dugan. Click here to see his interview.

This week’s choices for the Samsung Unsung Hero of the Game are CB Asher Allen, LB Heath Farwell, T Phil Loadholt and S Jamarca Sanford.

Allen recorded his 1st career INT in yesterday’s win and also had a tackle. Farwell had 2 special teams tackles and recovered a fumble on a Seattle kick return. Loadholt was part of an offensive line that paved the way for the Vikings to gain 160 rushing yards and pickup 271 total passing yards. And Sanford recorded 1 special teams tackle and forced the fumble that Farwell recovered.


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Vote Vikings To The Pro Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 17, 2009 – 3:37 pm

Late in October, we wrote in this space that Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie was having a Pro Bowl caliber season. And according to information released by the NFL today, fans seem to agree with us.

McKinnie is 1 of 10 Vikings who currently are the leading vote-getters at their position. Both G Steve Hutchinson and C John Sullivan lead their positions in votes, as do fellow offensive players RB Adrian Peterson and Fahu Tahi. QB Brett Favre, who has a league-best 107.5 passer rating, doesn’t lead all QBs in voting (Drew Brees is #1) but Favre is the 4th-leading vote-getter in the entire NFL, behind Brees, Peyton Manning and Peterson.

Defensively, DE Jared Allen and DT Pat Williams lead their position in votes.

The Vikings also have 4 special teams players who lead in votes, with Heath Farwell leading in special teamer votes, Percy Harvin the leading vote-getter among kickoff returners, Chris Kluwe leading among punters and Ryan Longwell the #1 vote-getter among kickers.

Fans, click here to increase the vote total for the 10 Vikings leaders and also to cast votes for other deserving players on the Vikings roster.

 


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Special Teams Improvement The Product Of Buy-In

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 9, 2009 – 6:12 pm

A key component to the Vikings 7-1 record through 8 games in 2009 has been improved play from the special teams unit, specifically the coverage units and the return game. Those improvements, along with continued solid performances from both P Chris Kluwe and K Ryan Longwell, have helped the Vikings produce a more complete performance from all 3 phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams.

So far in 2009, the Vikings rank 2nd in kickoff return (up from 20th in 2008) average and 8th (up from 24th) in punt return average. Also, the Vikings rank 10th in average yards allowed per kickoff return (up from 21st in 2008).

Certainly individual performances have contributed to this improvement. Rookie Percy Harvin has jolted the kick return game and the return of LB Heath Farwell to the kick coverage units has infused experience, leadership and talent to the group.

But Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Monday that although players such as Farwell, Harvin and special teamers Kenny Onatolu and Karl Paymah have done well with their roles, the big difference is the collective attitude from the entire special teams group.

“I just think there has been great buy-in,” Childress said. “Brian (Murphy) and Chris White (assistant special teams coach) have done a great job of teaching those guys and that goes through the whole offseason.”

The Vikings special teams unit received a face-lift following the promotion of Murphy to special teams coordinator this past offseason and the subsequent addition of White and Jason Glenn as Murphy’s assistants. The special teams staff is in its 1st year together, but you wouldn’t know it from the progress that’s been made since the offseason.

“I just think they have been able to get their arms around those guys and have them have great understanding,” Childress said. “That is what you see, great understanding and awareness. Murph and his guys have done a nice job and the players have great buy in. The players are doing are great job of getting it on the field.”


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