A Couple Things To Watch Over The Weekend

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 3, 2011 – 8:02 am

The Vikings aren’t playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday but that doesn’t mean Minnesota football fans are left with nothing to anticipate. One current Viking and two former Vikings are up for important awards/honors over the weekend.

Former Vikings WR Cris Carter and DE Chris Doleman are two of 17 finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 will be announced live on NFL Network on Saturday, February 5. The unveiling of the class will be made during a 90-minute special, Road to Canton: Hall of Fame Announcement Show: Class of 2011 presented by Van Heusen/JC Penney. The program airs live starting at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT)

S Madieu Williams joins Oakland Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha and Bears DE Israel Idonije as finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The winner of the award will be announced live on FOX before Super Bowl XLV.

Be sure to tune into the coverage of both announcements to see if these Vikings will be recognized for achievements they certainly deserve.

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Madieu Williams Nominated For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 24, 2011 – 12:16 pm

Madieu Williams has been a community-conscious individual for much of his life, a fact that was apparent during his free agent visit to Minnesota back in 2008. During that visit, Williams insisted that he take time away from the itinerary of fancy meals, luxurious hotels and limo rides to visit a local hospital.

It should be no surprise, then, that Williams has been named as one of three finalists for this year Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It was announced on Sunday that Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha and Bears DE Israel Idonije join Williams as finalists for the award named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back who died in 1999.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced live on FOX before Super Bowl XLV on February 6. Williams will be in the Persian Gulf, having made an earlier commitment to visit with U.S. service members during Super Bowl week, re-enforcing his commitment to the community. Asomugha and Idonije will be in North Texas during Super Bowl week and participate in a press conference on Friday, February 4, with the late Walter Payton’s family.

More on Williams’ Community Initiatives from
Williams’ charitable works have achieved local, national and global impact. Locally, he works with the North Community YMCA, United Way and Harvest Prep/Seed Academy and provides season tickets for the kids in his “Dieu’s Crew” program. Williams also hosted a free football camp in Maryland, where he was raised, this past summer, and continues to support the Cincinnati area after a stint playing for the Bengals. Globally, Williams made a $2 million donation to create the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health at the University of Maryland, where he attended college. The center will address public health issues in Prince George’s County and Sierra Leone, where Williams was born. He has already built a primary school in the African nation and is now building a secondary school there as well. His foundation sponsored a mission to Sierra Leone that brought American teachers, surgeons and dentists to help educate the teachers at his school, give free dental cleanings to all of the students and provide free surgeries. Williams came to the Vikings as a free agent in 2008 and has been a stalwart in the defensive backfield. He has started 38 of his 39 games and notched a career-best 96 tackles in 2010. Williams is a leader on the Vikings defense that has ranked in the NFL’s top 10 each of his three seasons with the club. Williams led the Vikings DBs in tackles in 2009 when the team advanced to the NFC Championship game.


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Vikings Tweak Roster Heading Into Sunday’s Game vs. Lions

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 1, 2011 – 5:27 pm

The Vikings tweaked their roster on Friday and Saturday in advance of Sunday’s contest in Detroit against the Lions. Here are the details…

On Friday the team placed S Madieu Williams on Injured Reserve and then filled the open roster spot by promoting CB Marcus Sherels from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

On Saturday, the Vikings placed another safety on Injured Reserve – Tyrell Johnson. The Vikings signed WR Juaquin Iglesias from the Chicago Bears Practice Squad to take the roster space created by placing Johnson on IR.

Iglesias was a 3rd-round pick of the Bears in 2009 but wasn’t able to grab a full-time 53-man roster spot. He played college football at the University of Oklahoma from 2005-2008.

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Frazier Supportive Of NFL’s Concussion Protocol

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2010 – 2:36 pm

Head injuries, specifically concussions, have quickly gone from being ignored to being in the spotlight. Because of both the short-term and long-term impact concussions have on the human brain, everyone involved with the game of football has grown a sensitivity to the issue.

Younger players in the NFL today might not necessarily notice it, but veteran players and especially current coaches or were players in the NFL have certainly witnessed the progression of this issue in the league. Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier is a great example of an individual who has seen the progression.

Frazier was a DB for the Chicago Bears from 1981-86 and was part of a fierce and tenacious defense. At that time the Bears had one of the best defenses in the NFL and in fact the 1985 team had what many today will argue was the best defense of all time. They probably inflicted many a concussion on opponents.

But now Frazier is a head coach in the NFL and he’s charged with the task of leading an organization, a task the requires him to manage players who are dealing with injuries – including concussions. Several Vikings players have dealt with concussions this season, including QB Brett Favre. He was knocked out of the Chicago Bears game a couple weeks ago and still hasn’t sufficiently recovered to be able to make it back onto the field. In addition, both LB Erin Henderson and S Madieu Williams are currently dealing with concussions.

While it’s certainly cumbersome and disadvantageous for Frazier to adhere to the concussion protocol the NFL currently employs, he does see the reasoning behind it and he expressed his support for that protocol while meeting with reporters on Thursday.

“There’s a good reason that we have the caution that we have with concussions,” Frazier said. “You take a look at some of the former players and you see the repercussions of some of the concussions that they had and you realize that the way that we approach concussions today is far better than the way it was approached when I played.

“There was a time that you’d be out a couple plays or a play and you’d be back soon, as soon as you could count to 10 you’d be back on the field. Today is much better for our players and for their futures.”

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Johnson Ready To Control The Secondary

Posted by cjsiewert on August 3, 2010 – 6:34 pm

With oppressively humid conditions lingering throughout this Tuesday afternoon’s practice, the Vikings were able to complete Day 5 of training camp without any hiccups. As promised, I kept a close eye on the young core of safeties and each individual looked solid once again during 7-on-7 and team drills.

Just as the case was throughout the first 4 days of camp, 7-year veteran Madieu Williams along with youngsters Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford found most of their time with the 1st team defense by rotating with each other often.

The big play of the day for the group of safeties occurred during 7-on-7 drills. First-year WR Logan Payne ran a deep post route down the middle of the field with CB Antoine Winfield covering the right side of the field. On the deep pass from QB Sage Rosenfels, Payne made his way into Johnson’s zone, but Johnson was able to outrun Payne on the over-thrown pass to make an impressive over-the-shoulder catch for the INT. Even though the play was whistled dead half way through, both Johnson and Payne made an effort on the football with Johnson hauling in the INT.

Once practice was over, Johnson and 4-year veteran Eric Frampton stayed late to get in extra reps on various coverage moves. Staying after practice has been a common occurrence for many of the safeties over the first 5 days of training camp and is a testament to their goals of improving.

After speaking with Johnson on his way to the locker room, the 3rd-year S out of Arkansas State felt that the Vikings secondary, especially the group of safeties, has great depth and experience.

“The more depth, the more things you can do,” Johnson said. “A lot of good players out there. One person go down, another can fill in and be just as good with no drop off.”

In regard to his own play, Johnson credited veteran Williams and former Vikings S Darren Sharper for offering advise to help improve his game over the past 3 years.

“One thing I picked up from Madieu is to be a student of the game,” Johnson said. “I also learned a lot of cover skills from Madieu because of his quickness. Sharp [Darren Sharper], he was a wise, savvy guy. I picked that up from him.”

Defensive Backs Coach Joe Woods was also given credit by Johnson to help him understand the game and progress in the league.

“Just calm down and play football,” Johnson said of Woods’ advice. “Sometimes you worry about too much that’s going on around you, and what’s not going your way and what is going your way. Just reminds me to chill out and play football. Just control what you can control and go out and do your best.”

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Young Group Of Safeties Look To Improve

Posted by cjsiewert on August 2, 2010 – 7:02 pm

Having stand-out defensive players such as LB E.J. Henderson, DE Jared Allen and CB Antoine Winfield on the field for the Vikings often causes the center of attention to focus on said players. With that in mind, the Purple’s young crop of safeties is determined to make sure that they will not be overlooked and maybe even have some of the limelight focused on them.

Even with much of the focus on the secondary centered on newly-acquired CB Lito Sheppard and rookie Chris Cook, this group of safeties has made their presence known throughout the first 4 days of training camp.

Seven-year veteran Madieu Williams youngsters Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford have found themselves practicing with the 1st-team defense for the majority of camp while 3rd-year S Husain Abdullah has rotated often with the 1st and 2nd units. Both Williams and Sanford made a number of defensive stops during Monday afternoon’s practice. Many of those stops occurred during 7-on-7 drills, which heavily favor the offense since there is no pass rush on the QB and a plethora of receivers to choose from.

Williams signed with the Vikings prior to the 2008 season and has been a regular starter when healthy, leading Vikings DBs and ranking 4th on the team with 76 tackles in 2009. Johnson started all 15 games in which he played during the 2009 season, his 2nd in the league, and Sanford has only 1 career start to his name but continues to play well both on defense and special teams.

Williams, Johnson and Sanford appear to be the front-runners in earning a starting role at S, but I wouldn’t count out any of the other 4 safeties on the roster – Husain Abdullah, Colt Anderson, Eric Frampton and rookie Terrell Skinner – as all of them have shown flashes of great defensive play throughout training camp.

I didn’t get a chance to catch up with any of the safeties today but I’ll keep tabs on them tomorrow and hopefully get a view words after Tuesday’s practice, so stay tuned right here on

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Will Tyrell Johnson Have A Breakout Season?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 2, 2010 – 7:14 am

Using WRs such as the Vikings Sidney Rice and the Dallas Cowboys Miles Austin as examples of breakout players from 2009,’s Pat Kirwan recently identified 20 players who are candidates in his mind to have a breakout season in 2010.

And he included another Vikings player in this year’s group.

Vikings S Tyrell Johnson, entering his 3rd season in the NFL, was on Kirwan’s list. Kirwan said Johnson is “still learning the pro game” after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Arkansas State. But he also said Johnson is an excellent athlete whose already faced a lot of pressure because opposing offenses attack the Vikings via the pass so often.

I found Kirwan’s inclusion of Johnson on this list particularly interesting because of the high volume of emails I’ve received lately from fans who want the Vikings to pursue unrestricted free agent (UFA) S O.J. Atogwe. So I took a more detailed look at the Vikings safety situation – click here to read it.

This entire issue is a good Vikings talker that sparks thoughtful debate and conversation. Fans, what do you think?

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Defense Exclusive OTA Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 20, 2010 – 1:19 pm

OTA #3 is in the books after another 90-minute or so workout on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The weather was more of the same – sunny and warm – as the Vikings coaching staff worked with young players and selected veterans for the 3rd consecutive day.

As noted earlier, today’s OTA observations will focus exclusively on defense (tomorrow’s will focus exclusively on offense). Also, CJ will be chiming in a bit later after observing the Vikings WRs for most of practice. He also spoke with WR Greg Lewis after the Vikings concluded their on-field work.

A few (defensive) observations from today’s work…

– After opening up with some special teams drill work – a staple of Brad Childress’ practices – the Vikings defense focused on turnovers. Players were split up into groups by position and the defensive coaches conducted drills that condition players to be aggressive in forcing fumbles and also recovering those fumbles. One drill had DBs chopping their feet and moving laterally across obstacles for 10 yards and then sprinting forward to scoop up a fumble and return it to the endzone. Another drill required DL and LBs to execute a pass rush move (swim, rip, bull rush) and then rake the ball from a tackling dummy. Yet another drill asked DBs and LBs to punch the ball out of a ball-carriers possession and the recover the fumble.

Standouts in those drills included CBs Chris Cook and Lito Sheppard (lateral shuffle and fumble recovery) and DE Brian Robison (pass rush and stripping the ball).

– Of course there is no contact permitted during OTAs – per NFL rules – and that alters somewhat how teams practice, or at least what the focus may be during parts of practice. I’ve noted this in previous observations, but one emphasis Vikings coaches preach during these OTAs is pre-snap and after-the-snap positioning.

Coaches are teaching the players – most of whom are new to the team or in their 1st or 2nd year – how to read and react to certain situations and formations. DL coach Karl Dunbar spent almost 2 periods of practice explaining to his players how important it is to pay attention to how an OL was lined up.

“Whether we have pads or not, or whether there is contact allowed or not, we want to work on our positioning,” Dunbar told me after practice. “It’s situational football. We want them to know how to read and react to splits (along the offensive line), depths, motion by a receiver and shifts in the formation. Why is that running back lined up 5 steps deep instead of 7? Why is the split wider between the guard and tackle? Those are things we need to understand so we can react to certain situations.”

– Although because of the no contact rule the 1-on-1 drills aren’t quite as intense and realistic, there is still a lot of valuable work that can be accomplished. In today’s 1-on-1 DB/WR drill, rookie CB Chris Cook – selected with the 34th overall pick in last month’s draft – came up with an INT. On the very next play, former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher CB Marcus Sherels had blanket coverage against WR Taye Biddle as QB Tarvaris Jackson launched a deep pass down the field.

– LBs and Ss went up against RBs and FBs in a passing drill, where the offensive players came from out of the backfield to run pass routes as the defenders dropped into coverages to cover them. The highlight of the drill came when newly-converted RB Darius Reynaud bolted from the backfield, used an inside move to get past a LB, and then straightened out his route to catch a pass down the middle of the field. S Madieu Williams, however, was right there and would’ve applied a crushing hit to Reynaud as he made the catch had they been in a game situation. RBs coach Eric Bieniemy, who coaches as hard and as well as anyone, was all over the play. He first acknowledged the inside move Reynaud used to get past the LB, but then corrected Reynaud by pointing out the inside move brought him to the middle of the field where the S could break up the play. Bieniemy explained the proper route would’ve had Reynaud making the catch near the numbers instead of down the middle of the field.

– The last observation from today’s practice actually has nothing to do with defense. I wanted to compliment the Vikings turf management crew on the job they’ve done with the practice fields. They look great, even after 3 consecutive days of on-field work. I’m sure Minnesota weather – the winters especially – aren’t easy on the turn and the Vikings staff does a nice job of grooming the surface.

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Childress Addresses Vikings Safety Position

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 25, 2010 – 4:01 pm

If you’ve been following Mock Madness on or are paying attention to any other sort of pre-draft speculation, you’ve surely noticed that safety is a popular pick among draft prognosticators.

There are a few 1st-round caliber safeties in this year’s draft-eligible class and the sentiment I gather from fans is that many are unhappy with the performance of starting safeties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams, so the projections make sense.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress has not publicly shared that same sentiment about his safeties and in speaking with Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune at this week’s NFL owners’ meetings he even said Johnson and Williams played well in the Vikings pair of playoff games.

But he also told Zulgad that the Vikings will continue to add good players to the roster, regardless of position.

“I thought [they] played really well in the playoffs,” Childress said of Johnson and Williams. “With that said, you continue to add good players. Jamarca (Sanford) will have had that one trip around the block and none of them are…they are never going to step away from competing and competition makes your team better as opposed to guys that say, ‘Hey, I’ve got mine, you guys go ahead and get yours.’

“We’ve always identified and promoted guys that if there’s a move it’s with merit, it’s not just because he’s a good competitor…[Jamarca] learned things about our defense and he will play that much faster this year.”

If the Vikings do select a safety in this year’s draft, it’ll mark the 3rd consecutive year they’ve done so. In 2008, Johnson was the team’s 2nd round pick and then Sanford was chosen in the 7th round of the 2009 draft.

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Looking Forward To The NFL Draft

Posted by cjsiewert on March 23, 2010 – 6:43 am

With the 2010 NFL Draft now less than a month away (April 22), speculation on which teams will select which players will hit full swing.  But instead of offering my opinion on who the Vikings should consider, I’d like to speculate on what positions (in no particular order) the Vikings might address and how it will impact the depth on the roster.

CB – There are a few question marks at this position, especially considering that Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield will be coming off of injuries.  It’s good that Benny Sapp will return because he provides stability at the position and there’s reason to be optimistic about Asher Allen, though he still needs to gain experience. Statistically, the Vikings ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and just 26th in INTs, so perhaps the Vikings address this position during the draft to add talent and depth to a unit with a lot of potential.

S – Madieu Williams has directed traffic in the secondary since signing before the 2008 season, but drafting another safety would push Williams and fellow starter Tyrell Johnson and it would also provide friendly competition between reserves Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton and Jamarca Sanford, who have all spent the majority of their playing time on special teams.

DT – Yes, the Vikings did just sign Jimmy Kennedy to a multi-year deal, but Pat Williams will be entering his 14th season and adding another young DT would certainly help out with depth at this position.

LB – Chad Greenway and Ben Leber have obviously proven themselves to be steady contributors for the Vikings defense, but the uncertainty of E.J. Henderson’s return may lead to a LB being drafted this year.

RB – The Vikings lost arguably the best 3rd down back in the NFL with Chester Taylor’s departure to Chicago. This loss of experience could have the Vikings looking for a solution in a complementary player to All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson.  The Vikings may feel comfortable in Albert Young, though, and that might steer them away from using a draft pick on a RB in 2010.

OL – Not to say that the Vikings’ offensive line needs help – 2 Pro Bowlers in Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson along with 1st-year stand-out Phil Loadholt – but the Vikings may want to add some extra protection and depth along the line for future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre.

Keep in mind that drafting based on a perceived team need is not always the best route to take.  Case and point – the 2007 draft. Taylor was coming off a career-best 1,216 rushing yards and 6 TDs.  The RB position seemed to be the least of the Vikings worries heading into the 2007 season, but despite Taylor’s accomplishments the Vikings used their 1st round pick (#7 overall) on RB Adrian Peterson.

And I can be almost certain that nobody is opposed to that decision now.

Also, the WR position didn’t appear to be an immediate need during last year’s draft, but Florida’s Percy Harvin offered a versatility that couldn’t be passed up.  Result: 2009 Rookie of the Year and the Vikings’ 2nd ROY in the past 3 seasons (Peterson in 2007).

All things considered, I would look for the Vikings to select the best available player that fits their needs rather than having a predetermined selection by position.

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