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Notes From Tuesday’s Minicamp Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 20, 2012 – 6:28 am

The Vikings opened their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at Winter Park, but conditions during their afternoon practice made it feel like training camp down in Mankato. The temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity felt like it was at 90%, and when you add in winds that were gusting up to 15-20 mph with no cloud cover, it was a hot mess on the outdoor practice fields.

But the Vikings worked well in the conditions, completing a sharp practice and moving one step closer to the end of their offseason program. The Vikings have two days and two practices remaining in their offseason program, and will go through the same schedule on Wednesday that they went through on Tuesday.

Before we get to what will happen today, let’s go over a few quick notes and observations from Tuesday’s practice…

– Jasper Brinkley was not able to practice, a notable development because he sat out a bit last week in the hopes of being ready to go for this week’s minicamp. Slated to be a first-year starter at middle LB, Brinkley is itching to get back out on the field and the Vikings are surely anxious to get a look at him. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field today. Tyrone McKenzie filled in for Brinkley on the team’s base defense.

– Speaking of the Vikings LBs, it was great to see Chad Greenway back with the team and on the field. Fellow outside LB Erin Henderson also looked good, and will be the guest on this week’s Wobcast, which will be posted on vikings.com and available on iTunes later today.

– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier brought some calm to a situation regarding WR Percy Harvin, who made comments early on Tuesday indicating he wasn’t happy with the team. “It’s not something that can’t be handled and not something we can’t talk through,” Frazier said. “Not alarmed. Not alarmed at all.”He went on to say: “I really feel like when he and I sit down and talk in depth, whatever is in his heart or on his mind, we’ll get through it.”

– Contact is still prohibited and the team does not practice in pads, so it’s hard to get an accurate gauge on many areas of the team, especially the defensive and offensive lines. With that being said, LT Matt Kalil has had a good offseason program and there was a moment in practice that really stood out to me. We often think of LTs as pillars of the offense who remain stationary and secure the QBs blindside against edge-rushing defenders. But I’ve seen great movement skills from Kalil, including a play on Tuesday where Kalil moved quickly to the second level and covered up a LB who was in great position to make a play.

– Antoine Winfield grabbed an INT during a team offense vs. team defense period of practice. Winfield was playing out of the slot and was sitting in what appeared to be a zone in the middle of the field. A pass was lofted his way, and Winfield quickly jumped in front of a route and grabbed the pass. Winfield was one of the most impressive players early during OTAs, and seeing him make plays like the one he made on Tuesday is a great site after he played in just 5 games last season. Great to have him back on the field; he’ll make a big difference for the Vikings defense in 2012.

– The highlight of the day for the Vikings offense came near the end of practice during a two-minute/hurry-up period. QB Christian Ponder, who appeared to have a sharp practice and did a nice job of driving the offense down the field, threaded the needle on a pass to TE John Carlson. The Ponder-to-Carlson connection occurred right on the goal line, as Ponder rifled a pass to Carlson in between both Greenway and Henderson. Carlson, a mild-mannered and soft-spoken guy around the locker room, came down with the pass in the end zone and gave an emphatic dunk of the ball over the crossbar.

– Adrian Peterson spent time during practice working with certified head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on the side. You’ve probably seen the photos of him already, but if you haven’t you need to check them out. As I wrote earlier, it’s easy to believe in Peterson, and he remains confident he can be ready to play in the Vikings season opener. In comments on Tuesday morning, Frazier also remained optimistic in Peterson’s chances, saying the RB has remained on pace during his rehab. Whether Peterson will be ready for Week 1 or not remains to be seen, but it’s great to see him working so hard on the side during practice.

– Rookie CB Josh Robinson, who was originally issue jersey #31, has switched to jersey #21.


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Minicamp Schedule For This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 18, 2012 – 6:38 am

The Vikings will conclude their nine-week offseason program this week by holding a mandatory three-day minicamp at Winter Park that will begin on Tuesday and finish on Thursday. Coaches and players will be available twice per day, so you’ll hear quite a bit about the Vikings over the next three days or so.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Vikings will have a morning walk-thru followed by an afternoon practice. On Thursday the Vikings will forgo the walk-thru and instead hold practice in the morning.

We’ll of course have wall-to-wall coverage of this week’s minicamp right here on vikings.com. That coverage will be in addition to our normal weekly features such as the Monday Morning Mailbag, the Wobcast, Pick 6, and more. In case you missed it, check out last week’s practice highlight video by clicking here.

Also last week, we went one-on-one with 1st-round picks Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, so be sure to check those out while you’re waiting for more Vikings action this week.


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John Sullivan: Kalil “Willing To Put The Work In”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 8:18 am

Vikings C John Sullivan knows what it’s like to work hard to make it in the NFL. He entered the League as a 6th-round pick of the Vikings in 2008 and was a backup on the offensive line who also grinded away as a special teams player.

But through hard work and studying, Sullivan ascended to the top of the depth chart at center and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre in 2009. Sullivan is now one of the best centers in the NFL, and was rewarded as such last season when the Vikings signed him to a contract extension.

So when it comes to identifying players who are willing to work hard and who have the potential to be quality performers along the offensive line, Sullivan has a keen eye. Sullivan is also not one to spew meaningless hyperbole just to fill space or capture attention. That’s why what he said about Vikings 1st-round LT Matt Kalil last week on Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen’s 9-noon radio show is notable.

“He’s a guy that cares, he comes from a great football family, and he’s the fourth overall pick,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of pressure there, there is a lot of money involved as well. That’s a big investment for a team, and nobody with any pride wants to let people that have invested in them like that down. It’s the same way I felt when I got my new contract. It puts new pressure on you, added pressure on you to be there. But that’s alright, that’s why we play the game. We want to be successful, so you’ve got to be willing to put the work in. And he’s a guy that’s willing to put the work in.”

Sullivan has a pretty good body of work from which to judge because the team has completed 6 of their 10 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and has now advanced to the eighth week of their nine-week offseason program. While practices so far have been non-contact, Sullivan has been able to observe two important elements to offensive line play, especially at left tackle – movement skills and technique.

“All you have to do is go watch how he moves,” Sullivan explained. “He’s a freak, an absolute freak. I’m just talking about movement skills. He is so fast for how big he is. It’s unbelievable.

“I’m talking great technique. I’m talking cutting off a linebacker from the back side…He moves incredibly well. I can’t say he’s a road-grader yet because obviously we don’t have pads on, but I’d be shocked if he weren’t. He’s a monster.”

Again, it’s important to stress that we’re only in the offseason program. It’s not like Sullivan, or anyone else, has the benefit of NFL game tape to make a water-tight judgment on Kalil or any other player on the roster. After all, Kalil will be going against Jared Allen day-in and day-out once the team gets to training camp, which will make it tougher for Kalil to impress. But Sullivan is not one to shower someone with blanket praise when it’s not deserving, and, as a late-round pick who is now the leader of his position group, he’s also one who expects his teammates to earn respect rather than to be given it based on draft status.

That’s why Sullivan’s praise for Kalil to this point is such good news for the Vikings.


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Vikings Sign Rhett Ellison, Now Have 7 Picks Under Contract

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 23, 2012 – 8:21 am

On Tuesday the Vikings announced the signing of six of their draft picks, and on Wednesday morning the club made official another draft pick signing.

Rhett Ellison, the team’s 4th-round (#128 overall) selection in last month’s draft, is now under contract.

The Vikings now have only three unsigned draft picks – LT Matt Kalil, S Harrison Smith and CB Josh Robinson.


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Vikings Get 6 Draft Picks Under Contract

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 22, 2012 – 1:31 pm

NFL teams have begun the process of signing their draft picks over the past few weeks and the Vikings have jumped into the mix as well. On Tuesday the team made official the signing of 6 selections from last month’s NFL Draft.

The players who’ve signed contracts are: 4th-round WRs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, 5th-round DB Robert Blanton, 6th-round K Blair Walsh, 7th-round LB Audie Cole and 7th-round DT Trevor Guyton.

Signing this year’s draft class is a tall task because, for the second consecutive year, the Vikings have 10 selections. Tuesday’s news that six are now under contract leaves four players who’ve yet to sign their deals. They are: 1st-round LT Matt Kalil, 1st-round S Harrison Smith, 3rd-round CB Josh Robinson and 4th-round TE Rhett Ellison.

Click here to read more about the Vikings 2012 draft class.


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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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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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Pick-By-Pick Summary Of Vikings 2012 NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2012 – 10:56 am

A quick pick-by-pick analysis of the Vikings 2012 draft…

LT Matt Kalil – 1st round
Projected to be a cornerstone LT for the next decade and allows the Vikings to solidify their offensive line by moving Charlie Johnson to LG and holding a robust competition at RG among Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz.

S Harrison Smith – 1st round
A 2-year captain at Notre Dame who is known for his intelligence, leadership, consistency and tackling ability, Smith will start from Day 1 at safety.

CB Josh Robinson – 3rd round
The fastest player at the Combine, Robinson has explosive athletic qualities and will compete for time at both CB and punt returner in his rookie season. If he can be the 4th CB and contribute on special teams as a rookie, this pick is a success. From a long-term perspective, Robinson could compete for a starting spot at CB some day.

WR Jarius Wright – 4th round
One of my favorite moves of the draft. Wright provides depth behind Percy Harvin at slot receiver should he sustain an injury or should the Vikings chose to deploy Harvin in the backfield or as an outside receiver on occasion. Wright, a First-Team All-SEC WR in 2011, is an explosive athlete with big-time production at Arkansas.

TE Rhett Ellison – 4th round
Seems to be a player who can fulfill the role of blocking TE and FB. No one can replace Jim Kleinsasser, but that’s the thinking behind this pick perhaps. Ellison is a blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone player who will quickly become a fan-favorite in Minnesota, similar to how Kleinsasser’s career progressed.

WR Greg Childs – 4th round
A great value pick here, as a knee injury caused Childs to fall from a 1st- or 2nd-round prospect last year to a mid-round prospect this year. Childs has prototypical size for an outside WR at 6-3, 219 pounds, and he also has great speed and ball skills.

CB Robert Blanton – 5th round
Blanton will likely move from CB to safety with the Vikings and perhaps even join Smith, his college teammate, as a starter in 2012. Good position flexibility here for Blanton, plus he can be a special teams contributor right away as well.

K Blair Walsh – 6th round
Walsh has a very strong leg and was one of just three kickers with a draftable grade on the Vikings board. His accuracy dipped in 2011, but also consider he was 40 of 46 as a sophomore and junior. His accuracy dipped last year because he had so many attempts (led nation in FG tries) and because he had a high number of long attempts. A good selection here because it adds competition to the kicker position with the ever-steady and reliable Ryan Longwell also still in the fold.

LB Audie Cole – 7th round
Cole adds competition to his position, and his best attribute may be position flexibility, as he can play all three LB spots in the Vikings defense.

DL Trevor Guyton – 7th round
Similar to Cole, Guyton is a late-round selection who has a chance to stick around because of his position flexibility. Guyton can play DE or DT, will add competition to the defensive line, and could contribute as a special teams player as well.


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Spielman Plays Cards Right And Lands Two Aces

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 27, 2012 – 12:10 am

Bravo, Rick Spielman. In the proverbial poker game that is the NFL draft, Spielman and Co. strolled up to the table with a pretty big chip – the #3 overall pick – and parlayed some perfectly timed subterfuge with a tremendous working knowledge of other teams’ needs to turn that chip into a pair of immediate impact starters who will make the Vikings better from Day 1.

Coming away with LT Matt Kalil and S Harrison Smith from the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft is a 100% win for the Vikings, a team coming off a 3-13 record and looking for players to plug into the starting lineup.

As Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen explained on his show page, the outstanding outcome did not arrive on accident. Leveraging a pair of teams who each reside in the Top 5 is not always an easy prospect, and selling many big-hitting national reporters from across the country on our supposed serious interest in taking CB Morris Claiborne ahead of Kalil was perfectly timed. But Spielman was able to do it.

And it all resulted in a terrific trade for the Vikings at the top of the 1st round in which Cleveland shipped 4th-round, 5th-round and 7th-round picks to Minnesota in exchange for the right to select RB Trent Richardson. Oh, and by the way, the Vikings were still able to get the player they coveted all along in Kalil. Then later in the 1st round, the Vikings traded up from the 2nd round back into the 1st round to add another player on their wish list – Smith.

“This is what makes the draft so fun,” Spielman said on Thursday evening. “The moving up and down and accumulating picks then using those picks to potentially move back up if you target a player. I know the depth at safety in this draft was very slim. We wanted to make sure that we started on our secondary and improving that area. We feel very strongly that Harrison will definitely do that.”

Vikings fans must be feeling great about where their team stands after the 1st round because two major needs were addressed. With 9 selections remaining in the last 6 rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, it will be interesting to what kind of tricks the Vikings can pull from their sleeve next.


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Kalil Joins Proud Vikings-USC Fraternity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 26, 2012 – 7:29 pm

The Vikings made Matt Kalil the 1st-round choice on Thursday evening, and in so doing they ushered Kalil into a decorated and proud fraternity of both 1st-round offensive linemen from USC and Vikings offensive linemen drafted in the 1st round.

Kalil is the 17th USC OT selected in the 1st round since 1968, and the second USC OT selected with a 1st round pick in the last two years (Tyron Smith – Dallas Cowboys). He’s also the fifth USC player selected in the 1st round in Vikings franchise history and the eighth offensive linemen selected with a 1st-round pick in franchise history.

Take a look…

USC Players Drafted In 1st Round By Vikings
— OT Ron Yary #1 overall in 1968
— OT Steve Riley #25 overall in 1974
— S Joey Browner #19 overall in 1983
— DE Kenechi Udeze #20 overall in 2004

Vikings Offensive Linemen Drafted In 1st Round
– Ron Yary (USC) #1 overall in 1968
— John Ward (Oklahoma State) #25 overall in 1970
— Steve Riley (USC) #25 overall in 1974
— Randall McDaniel (Arizona State) #19 overall) in 1988
— Todd Steussie (California) #19 overall in 1994
— Korey Stringer (Ohio State) #24 overall in 1995
— Bryant McKinnie (Miami) #7 overall in 2002


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