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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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Special Teams Sets Tone For Practice; OTA #7 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 2:51 pm

The Vikings opened up their final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Winter Park on Monday under partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a brisk wind. After near-perfect weather a week ago, the windy conditions for OTA #7 added a challenging element for many phases of practice.

The first phase to deal with the wind was the Vikings special teams group, specifically the punt returners. Catching punts is difficult enough, but add in winds that gusted from 15-20 mph and the task becomes increasingly difficult. It didn’t faze the Vikings returners, though, as CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright fielded kicks gracefully.

The special teams’ performance in the first period of practice was an indication of what was to come, as the Vikings conducted a crisp and clean approximately 90-minute practice. The special teams setting a positive example for the rest of practice is something in which Mike Priefer, entering his second season as the Vikings special teams coordinator, takes pride.

“I’m very fortunate to work for a head coach like Coach Frazier,” Priefer told Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and yours truly during last week’s episode of Vikings Tonight on the Vikings Radio Network. “He gives me meeting time, he gives me practice time, he gives me individual time with guys. I like the fact that we start practice with special teams because, to me, we set the tone for the rest of the practice. We’re a high energy, high motor type period. We get a lot done in a fifteen- or twenty-minute period of time that we have. The fact that we get to start practice and get to set the tone for the rest of the day is exciting for me.”

A few other observations from OTA #7…

Who can, not who can’t
There have been no shortage of punt returners during OTAs. The four who caught punts on Monday are listed above, but several others have also been in the mix over the past two weeks. While fans are curious to know who will win the job after the position battle, Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White are still figuring out who will be in that position battle.

“We have eight or nine guys catching punts right now and you have to pull them out of a hat,” Priefer said on last week’s Vikings Tonight. “But the great thing is we have a lot of competition there. I’ve been at places where we have one guy, maybe two, that can even catch a punt. Here we have seven or eight guys who can catch punts.”

Sherels stands out
It was a good day of practice for CB Marcus Sherels, the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher who made last year’s Vikings squad as an undrafted free agent. If Sherels has more days like he had on Monday, he’ll once again be on the Vikings roster and in position to make an impact.

Sherels tallied a pair of pass breakups (PBUs) against what’s been one of the best QB-WR combinations during OTAs – Christian Ponder and Jerome Simpson. The first PBU came during a team offense vs. team defense period when Sherels jumped in front of Simpson on a short curl route, and the second PBU came during a 7-on-7 period of practice on a deep pass down the left sideline. On each play, Ponder placed the ball well and Simpson ran a good route, but Sherels was just able to make a great play on the ball.

Living on the edge
Ponder and fellow QB Joe Webb put their athleticism on display during a team offense vs. defense period. Both plays were similar in that the QBs were sprinting right to avoid a pursuing defender. DE Brian Robison was chasing Ponder, and the QB was able to buy just enough time to find WR Stephen Burton along the right sideline for a tip-toe completion before falling out of bounds. Moments later, Webb executed a similar play, sprinting right to avoid DE Eric Lattimore and completing a pass to TE Kyle Rudolph. The pass was thrown slightly behind Rudolph, but the second-year TE was able to reach back and make the catch before turning upfield to complete the play.

Good hands Griffen
Defensive linemen such as Everson Griffen spend much of their time rushing the passer. On Monday, though, Griffen showed off his pass-catching skills, grabbing a tipped pass to tally an INT.


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Golf And More Football Highlight This Week’s OTA Schedule

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 6:36 am

The Vikings will continue their offseason program this week at Winter Park, as the team enters the eighth week of its nine-week offseason program. Organized Team Activities (OTAs) 7-10 will take place Monday-Thursday, with Thursday’s practice concluding the team’s OTA schedule for 2012.

The on-field action continues next week, though, as the team will hold its mandatory minicamp from June 19-21.

Only Tuesday’s OTA will be open to the media, so remember to stay tuned to vikings.com all week for comprehensive coverage of Vikings OTAs. We had tons of coverage from last week’s OTAs, including this highlight video and my observations from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Aside from continuing on-field preparations for the 2012 season, the Vikings will also spend time this week making a positive impact in the community. After Wednesday’s practice, the team and the entire organization will spend the afternoon raising money at the annual Vikings Children’s Fund (VCF) Golf Tournament, which will be held at Rush Creek Golf Club.

While you’re waiting for coverage of today’s OTA, check out this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag.


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Emptying Out The Notebook For OTAs 4-6

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 7, 2012 – 2:11 pm

Another productive and successful week of Organized Team Activities is in the books, as the Vikings conducted OTA #6 on Thursday at Winter Park. The Vikings are now 60% of the way through their OTA schedule and have completed seven weeks of their nine-week offseason program.

A lot happened this week during OTAs, including: Both LB Chad Greenway and WR Percy Harvin rejoining the team on Tuesday; QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stealing the show on Wednesday; several Vikings players and coaches helping out at a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass and Kick clinic; WRs coach George Stewart answering questions in this week’s Pick 6; and WR Jerome Simpson appearing in this week’s Wobcast.

In such a jam-packed week, it’s easy for a few important topics to slip through the cracks. To prevent that from happening, let’s empty out the notebook from this week.

Win with Winfield
Injuries held CB Antoine Winfield to just 5 games in 2011, and the crafty veteran is entering his 14th season. But don’t expect his play to decline. In fact, as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained earlier in the week, Winfield will be relied up for both leadership and playmaking ability this year.

“The fact that he’s here and participating in all of these OTAs, I told him the other day that I don’t take that for granted,” Frazier said, “and really appreciate him being here because he provides veteran leadership for some of the new faces that we have in the secondary and he’s a great player. We need his leadership, we need his playmaking ability on the football field and he’s played a number of years in this League but we don’t think his best football is behind him.”

Who will be the RB3?
The Vikings have as good a 1-2 punch at RB that you could ask for in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Both are coming back from injury, however, which makes the team’s quest for a third RB important.

“That number three back for us really needs to be a guy who can step in and play in early downs, not just in third-down situations, which is more the norm for most third-down backs,” Frazier said. “There are guys who are more specialty types, and for us he needs to be a guy who can carry the ball as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. We are looking for a little bit more out of the third back this season.”

After Peterson and Gerhart, the Vikings have four RBs listed: Derrick Coleman, Jerome Felton, Lex Hilliard and Jordan Todman.

Sully takes charge
One of the best draft picks the Vikings have had since Rick Spielman joined the club is C John Sullivan. The Vikings selected Sullivan in the 6th round in 2008, and initially he studied behind veteran Matt Birk while also playing special teams. In 2009, Sullivan was the starter and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Those two seasons were key for Sullivan in terms of learning how to operate as an NFL center and as a leader.

Now, those two years are paying off both for Sullivan and the team. Sullivan is a leader on the offensive line, and he’s also taking on more of a leadership role with the whole team, according to Frazier.

“John is a guy we’re really counting on from a leadership standpoint,” Frazier said. “He was rewarded, as you know, this past season with a good contract and because of how he has matured on the football field, he’s really come along and he’s begun to accept that role as a leader.”

Frazier is right – it’s clear that Sullivan has taken a leadership role with the club. Every team has high draft picks who end up being impact players, but just as important as those players are the John Sullivans of the world. The Vikings are lucky to have Sullivan.

Another late-round gem?
Sullivan is one example of a late-round pick making a big difference on the team. Is Stephen Burton an example in the making? We don’t know yet. The former 7th-rounder out of West Texas A&M has flashed quite a bit during OTAs and he’s even caught the eye of Frazier.

“You can see the confidence and that’s a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player,” Frazier said. “He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that’s the one thing that you can see is coming through now.”

Burton, who played in 3 games as a rookie last year, measures in at 6-1, 224 pounds and could also be a contributor on special teams, perhaps as a returner.

“The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ball games a year ago when I know he wasn’t expecting that early on and neither were we,” Frazier explained. “That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp.”

Burton has clearly taken a step forward in 2012, and I’m looking forward to watching him compete during the summer and into the preseason. The Vikings currently have 12 receivers on the roster.


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Ponder, Simpson Steal The Show At OTA #5

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 6, 2012 – 2:07 pm

Wednesday was a good day of work for the Vikings as they continued their series of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The team worked in ideal conditions for a second consecutive day, and this time the approximately 90-minute practice was conducted in front of a full contingent of media.

Following practice, several Vikings players and Head Coach Leslie Frazier took part in a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass & Kick clinic.

“We tried to put our guys through the paces today and hit a few different situations,” Frazier said. “It’s so good to be able to come out here and practice and you plan things, and now you get to see it (the plan) come to fruition. It’s good for our football team, the attitude has been great and when you have guys on our team working as hard as they’re working, and then to take time out and go and do what they did after practice to help other people, it just shows you the type of integrity and character you try to develop on a team.”

There were a lot of good things happening on the field both offensively and defensively on Wednesday, but there’s no doubt that QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stole the show about half-way through practice during a team offense vs. team defense period. Ponder dropped back and launched a pass deep down the right sideline, and Simpson used his speed to track the ball and make an acrobatic leaping catch over a defender before falling to the ground and securing the ball for a completion.

“That’s what he’s been doing for five practices,” Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said after Wednesday’s workout.

Said Frazier: “Whoa, what a catch. We’ll be looking forward to seeing that on Sundays! I mean, all of his teammates were going, ‘Wow, now I understand why he’s here.’ So that was impressive.”

Click here to see video of the Ponder-to-Simpson circus-style catch and click here to listen to this week’s Wobcast, with Simpson joining as the guest.

The connection with Simpson was Ponder’s best completion of the day, but he also made impressive throws to WRs Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright. The completion to Wright came on a deep out route along the right sideline, and the completion to Burton came on a slant pattern across the middle of the field with Ponder placing the football where only Burton had a chance to catch it, and Burton fully extending to dive and make the catch.

The Vikings concluded practice with a competitive period in which the team worked in a backed up situation (offense on their own 2-yardline) and in the no-huddle.

“So far, we’re making some progress, but we still have a long ways to go to come together as a team,” Frazier said. “That’s why we have these OTAs and that’s why we’ll have minicamp and the preseason as well. We’re making progress, but we definitely have a ways to go.”


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Vikings To Host Special Olympics Minnesota Athletes For PPK Clinic

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 6, 2012 – 7:23 am

The outdoor practice fields at Winter Park will get quite the workout on Wednesday, as 50 Special Olympics Minnesota (SOM) athletes from across the state will join Vikings players for a fun Punt, Pass and Kick Clinic following Organized Team Activity #5.

The athletes will enjoy watching the team practice and then following practice they will take the field and participate in various punt, pass and kick stations. Following the clinic, players and coaches will stick around to sign autographs and appear in photos with the athletes and their families. Players scheduled to put on the clinic include: Christian Ballard, Chris Cook, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen, Christian Ponder, Cullen Loeffler, Matt Kalil, D’Aundre Reed, Jerome Simpson, Blair Walsh and Joe Webb. 

The Punt, Pass and Kick Clinic is part of Special Olympics Minnesota’s ongoing relationship with the Vikings, providing new and meaningful opportunities for Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Since 1973, SOM has been enhancing the human potential and quality of life for children and adults with intellectual disabilities by offering year-round sports training and competition.  By sharing their joy and courage, SOM athletes inspire the human spirit in all of us.


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Greenway, Harvin Participate In OTA #4; Other Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 5, 2012 – 12:28 pm

The Vikings returned to the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park on Tuesday for Organized Team Activity (OTA) #4, and two of the team’s best players – LB Chad Greenway and WR Percy Harvin – rejoined the team for on-field activities. Weather conditions were ideal – sunny skies and warm temperatures – and the team worked for approximately 90 minutes.

Both Greenway and Harvin looked fresh and explosive during practice, and their presence along with a weekend for all the players to rest and recover after last week’s three OTAs yielded an up-tempo practice environment. We caught up with Harvin after practice for a quick interview and will have that posted to vikings.com shortly.

Here are a few other observations from OTA #4 on Tuesday…

– Tuesday’s practice opened with a special teams period, and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer had several guys in the rotation to field kickoffs. By my count there were 8 players catching kicks – WRs Stephen Burton, Harvin, Bryan Walters and Jarius Wright; CBs Marcus Sherels, Josh Robinson and Nicholas Taylor; and RB Jordan Todman. The point here is not so much to try and track who’s taking the reps, but more to illustrate that Priefer is looking at the entire roster in an attempt to fill the kickoff return role. This OTA portion of the offseason is not the time to narrow down the competition by figuring out who can’t fill the role, rather now is the time to discover guys who can fill the role so a robust competition can be held in training camp and the preseason.

– It’s mentioned above that Greenway made his return to the field, and he looked good in doing so. He’s the leader of that LB group and is one of the team’s most consistent performers. Another who’s stood out among that group, though, is Erin Henderson. He had a good week last week and hit the ground running this week, too, making splash plays in both the special categories and 9-7 periods of practice.

– A couple of young DBs tallied INTs during practice. S Mistral Raymond got one late in practice and fellow S Robert Blanton, the team’s 5th-round pick in this year’s draft, grabbed one a few moments earlier during 7-on-7 action. Overall the defense is playing a bit faster than the offense at this point, but that is to be expected this early in the OTAs and offseason programming. The offense has clearly taken a step forward since OTA #1 and I expect the offense will continue making great strides as training camp approaches.

– It wasn’t all defense on the highlight reel on Tuesday. QB Christian Ponder connected with TE Kyle Rudolph on a terrific touch pass that was perfectly placed over a pair of LBs and underneath a CB and S late in practice. Rudolph fully extended and stayed on his feet to make the catch. Walters also had a full-extension catch late in practice where he had to dive among defenders to secure the ball.

– Early in practice both Manny Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu made highlight-caliber catches. Aromashodu’s came first on a pass from Ponder with CB Chris Carr in coverage. Aromashodu stopped his route short, leaped high in the air and made the catch over Carr (who was in perfect position), and came down with both feet in bounds and the ball secured while falling onto the left sideline. Moments later, Arceneaux made his catch in similar fashion – more of a back-shoulder fade, this time from Joe Webb.

– The Vikings will hold OTA #5 on Wednesday at Winter Park and it will be open to the media. We’ll have continuing coverage of OTAs and the Vikings offseason program here on vikings.com, so stay tuned.


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Vikings To Resume OTAs On Tuesday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 4, 2012 – 6:56 am

Last week the energy level ramped up at Winter Park, as the Vikings launched Organized Team Activities (OTAs) with practices on Tuesday-Thursday. This week the OTAs will continue with three more practices on the same days.

To review last week’s coverage, click here.

We’ll cover this week’s OTAs in similar fashion to last week, with exclusive access to Tuesday and Thursday practices. The Wednesday practice is open to the media, and we’ll have coverage for you that day as well. We’ll record a Wobcast early in the week and then another edition of Pick 6 – this edition is a WR exclusive edition with a special guest on-hand to help answer questions – will be posted mid-week.

This week is the seventh of the team’s nine-week offseason program and it’s the second week of Phase 3 of the program.


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What Happened At OTAs?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 1, 2012 – 6:46 am

The Vikings have completed their first three days of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as they march through the offseason program in preparation for the 2012 season. It was a busy, productive and positive week overall for the team, as they put in great work on the field and closed the week with their annual playground build at a local school in Minneapolis.

In case you missed our wall-to-wall coverage of OTAs this week, here are a bunch of quick-hitters and links to get you caught up…

Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin raced up a hill a bunch of times and we have video of it.

QB Christian Ponder is a big self-critic and because of that has progressed well during the offseason.

WR Jerome Simpson told us he loves his new team, his new QB and his new position coach.

Cool video of OTA #1.

– RB Toby Gerhart, the guest on this week’s Wobcast, comes from an athletic family and is good-to-go for the 2012 season.

We talked about CB Antoine Winfield a lot in this week’s Pick 6 (video mailbag feature).

– And in this blog entry about OTA #1.

– The week concluded with a cool annual community event that makes a direct and profound impact.


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Double Duty: Vikings Construct Playground After OTA #3

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 31, 2012 – 2:59 pm

The Vikings conducted OTA #3 on Thursday at Winter Park as they continue preparations for the 2012 season. And while the team’s focus is on the upcoming season, they shifted that focus slightly on Thursday afternoon to help a school in the local community.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Vikings partnered with the Toro Company and KaBOOM! to build a new and safe playground, with this year’s effort going to help Sheridan Arts Magnet School in Northeast Minneapolis. KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

“This is an outstanding effort by everyone involved,” said KaBOOM! project manager Allie Farrington. The goal is to create a happy and healthy place for kids to enjoy the outdoors in a manner that is consistent with Toro’s environmental mission and the Vikings commitment to making a difference in the community. This is a great experience for the community to see their leaders with shovel in-hand to try and make a direct and positive impact.”

More than 250 volunteers, including 100+ Vikings staff members, team executives, Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, Head Coach Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coaching staff and current Vikings players teamed with Toro employees and organizers from KaBOOM! to complete the project.

The new playground’s design is based on drawings provided by students who attended the Design Day and will use the playground, with the total cost of the playground being split by the Vikings and Toro, their community partner.

“This has been a fantastic day,” Sheridan Arts Magnet School principal Al Pitt said. “We are changing our grade configuration here and going to more K-5 students, so this is what we needed. We are grateful to the Vikings, Toro, Mortenson Construction for providing the tools, our board members, the YMCA, local community members and everyone else who made this day and event possible.”

The Vikings are working hard right now to improve the product that will be on the field in 2012. But fans can also be proud of their team away from the field, as the Vikings organization continues its efforts to improve the local community as well.


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