Hutch Hangs ‘Em Up

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 13, 2013 – 6:26 am


As NFL players continue to use free agency as a vehicle to extend their careers with new teams this week, we take a respite from the frenzy to acknowledge a decorated player who has chosen to end his career this week.

Former Vikings offensive guard Steve Hutchinson has decided to retire after 12 illustrious seasons in the NFL, and he used Twitter to make his decision public.

“Retiring today after a great run in the NFL. Want to thank the @Seahawks, @Vikings, @TennesseeTitans and their fans for the opportunity,” Hutchinson tweeted. He later added: “I appreciate all the love. It’s all of you fans that make this the greatest sport in the world.”

After an All-America career at the University of Michigan, Hutchinson was drafted with a 1st-round (#17 overall) pick by Seattle in 2001. He played there through the 2005 season and then signed a free agent contract with the Vikings before the 2006 season. He played with the Vikings from 2006-11 and then played one season in Tennessee.

While with the Vikings, Hutchinson blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher each season and helping guide the club to a pair of division titles and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. While with the Vikings, Hutchinson was a 4-time All-Pro and a 4-time Pro Bowler. He was also named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team and was #3 on our list of the Top 10 Free Agent Signings in Vikings History.

In total, Hutchinson was a 7-time All-Pro and 7-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He will be a candidate to one day join the NFL’s immortals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aside from being a dominant blocker on the field, Hutchinson made a profound impact in the community, too. He is a regular visitor at children’s hospitals, and he worked diligently with his wife, Landyn, to make the holidays a special team for patients and their families at Minneapolis children’s hospitals.

Congratulations to Steve on a successful NFL career, and we wish you nothing but the best in your years of retirement.

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Top 10 Free Agent Signings In Vikings History

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2013 – 6:51 am

Free agency is about to begin and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year, let’s take a look back at the best (modern) free agent signings in franchise history.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 (year signed), with honorable mentions at the bottom.

Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

10. Ben Leber (2006)
Leber is a great example of a free agent who provided his team with outstanding value relative to the contract he signed. A starter for 5 seasons at outside LB for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked 1st against the run for 3 straight seasons (2006-08) and that helped the franchise capture back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 as well as an appearance in the NFC title game following the ‘09 season.

9. Jeff Christy (1993)
A 4th-round pick of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992, Christy was eventually cut and missed that season. Phoenix’s trash was the Vikings treasure, as Christy played 7 seasons in Minnesota and was a key cog on an offensive line that in 1998 blocked for one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Christy was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season 5 times as a Viking.

8. Gary Anderson (1998)
In just 5 seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise’s all-time scoring list and still ranks 6th. He had a perfect regular season in 1998, helping the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2000, Anderson surpassed the legendary George Blanda to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (he now ranks 2nd).

7. Darren Sharper (2005)
One of the most prolific ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, Sharper jumped state lines in 2005 and joined the Vikings for 4 productive seasons. During his Vikings career, Sharper was an All-Pro twice and he tallied 18 INTs and 3 TDs.

6. Pat Williams (2005)
One half of the famed “Williams Wall” that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams finished his 14-year NFL career with 6 great seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense, and Williams was a key contributor in that effort.

5. Randall Cunningham (1997)
Out of football for a year in 1996, Cunningham joined the Vikings in ‘97 and displayed no signs of rust. He enjoyed the greatest season of his career as a Viking in 1998, guiding the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season record with 34 TDs and only 10 INTs. Among QBs with 20+ starts, Cunningham has the 2nd-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-TD campaign in ‘98 still ranks 2nd all-time in club history.

4. Ryan Longwell (2006)
As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of 2 division winning teams during his 6 years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked 3rd in all-time scoring. Blair Walsh began to rewrite the Vikings record book for kickers, and much of what he’s rewritten only validates how productive Longwell was for the Vikings. Longwell ranks 1st in Vikings history with 9 game-winning FGs.

3. Steve Hutchinson (2006)
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his 6 seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned 4 of his 7 career Pro Bowls with the Vikings, and he was an invaluable part of Vikings offenses that featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his seasons in Minnesota.

2. Brett Favre (2009)
After torturing the Vikings for 16 seasons as a member of the Packers, Favre joined the Purple in 2009 and had arguably his best season with 33 TDs and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. Favre was the difference between a team that went 10-6/one-and-done in the playoffs following the 2008 season and a team that went 12-4 and was on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance.

1. Antoine Winfield (2004)
An easy selection at #1, Winfield has been the rare blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He has played in 119 games over 9 seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. Twice he’s recorded a single-season team record for tackles by a CB (110) and he now holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a DB with 11 and ranks tied for 2nd in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a DB.  Winfield has also scored all 5 of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.

Honorable mention: Jerry Ball, Bernard Berrian, Greg Biekert, Corey Chavous, Jack Del Rio, Jerome Felton, Lance Johnstone, Fuad Reveiz, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor

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Vikings Release 3 Veterans

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 10, 2012 – 2:47 pm

The Vikings on Saturday announced the release of 3 veteran players – CB Cedric Griffin and OGs Anthony Herrera and Steve Hutchinson.

“It was a tough decision as we move forward and prepare for the upcoming season and the future of our organization,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “All three individuals have meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the years. We wish all of them the best and thank them for their service to the Minnesota Vikings.”

All 3 players had been core members of the team for the past several seasons and played key roles in the team winning back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009 as well as making a run to the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. It’s likely that a combination of factors – clearing salary cap room, performance and rebuilding the roster – factored into the decisions to part ways with the players.

We’ll have more reaction to these moves and analysis and what it means for the future of the Vikings soon.

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4 Quick Takeaways From Thursday’s Combine Action

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 24, 2012 – 5:38 am

As I explained in the previous entry, Thursday was jam-packed with action and information gathering. Here are 4 quick takeaways that summarize what I learned after many interesting conversations – on air and off- with people in and around the NFL at the Combine.

1. The Pioneer Press’ Jeremy Fowler and La Canfora of NFL Network painted a picture of huge roster turnover for the Vikings, which means many of the team’s 16 unrestricted free agents might not be automatics to return.

2. One Viking who is not a UFA but whom some have speculated may not be asked back to the team is G Steve Hutchinson. But I must say that after talking to a couple of people, including one individual who will be a guest on tomorrow’s show, there’s no question that having Hutchinson on board for 2012 will be vital if the team uses an early 1st-round draft choice on LT Matt Kalil.

3. Regardless of how much room the Vikings have under the salary cap, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a big, blue-chip free agent signing at WR. Yes, the WR class appears deep in free agency this year, but La Canfora suggested that teams will use the franchise tag to retain their top free agents. He specifically mentioned Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson and Wes Welker as guys who could be retained via the franchise tag. That takes away a big part of the depth of that WR free agent class. There are still guys there to be had, including Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Steve Johnson and Robert Meachem, but the moral of the story is that there might not be as big of a bonanza on free agent WRs as many of us originally thought.

4. Everyone, and I mean everyone, we spoke with on and off the record seemed convinced that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will go 1-2 in the draft. At first that might disappoint Vikings fans because it drastically reduces – I say it actually all but eliminates – the team’s chances of trading back a few spots in the 1st round to acquire additional picks. But after more consideration, I’m hoping it goes Luck-Griffin III in some order, because that sets up the Vikings to grab LT Matt Kalil at #3. Kalil passes the eye test no question, and I love the thought of taking a LT with the design of him being a franchise cornerstone and Christian Ponder protector for the next 10-15 years.

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A Few Vikings Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 13, 2012 – 7:13 am

I’ve been away on vacation the past few days, but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping up with Vikings-related developments in the news. Here are a few storylines I’ve taken note of over the past several days and how they impact the Vikings.

Feel free to chime in on any of them by providing your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

– The Oakland Raiders released CB Stanford Routt on Thursday. This news becomes relevant to the Vikings immediately because the secondary is an area of the team that could use an influx of talent. I addressed the question of whether Routt would fit with the Vikings in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, so check it out to read more about this possibility.

– Staying in the secondary, it was reported that Alabama S Mark Barron will have surgery to repair two hernias, which will prevent him from participating in the Combine and could cause his draft stock to fall. For his sake, hopefully these developments won’t adversely impact his NFL career. For the Vikings sake, I wonder if a big drop in Barron’s draft stock could put the team in position to nab the best safety in the draft with the 3rd pick of the 2nd round. My sense is that would be a huge steal for the Vikings. This is complete speculation on my part, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to do at this point in the pre-draft process?

– The Pittsburgh Steelers restructured the contracts of CB Ike Taylor and LBs Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley to create cap space. Don’t be surprised if we similar news from the Vikings this offseason, as they face several of what I call “50-50” decisions on veteran players. CB Cedric Griffin, LB EJ Henderson, G Steve Hutchinson and CB Antoine Winfield are just a few examples of players with whom this tactic may (or may not) apply.

– Kevin Acee of UT San Diego writes that the San Diego Chargers are likely to cut LT Marcus McNeill to clear cap space. LT is another position often speculated about regarding the Vikings, but most of the speculation centers on acquiring a LT in the draft. Obviously LT is a premier position in the NFL, so it’s rare to find a good one available in free agency. But McNeill would be a good one and he could be available in free agency. He’s 28 years old and is a two-time Pro Bowler. Something to consider at least.

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Vikings Place Hutchinson On Reserve/Injured List, Sign RB Todman

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 27, 2011 – 5:02 pm

The Vikings placed LG Steve Hutchinson on the Reserve/Injured list on Tuesday and signed RB Jordan Todman from the San Diego Chargers practice squad to take the vacant spot on the roster.

Hutchinson did not play in last week’s win over the Washington Redskins because of a concussion he sustained two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints.

Todman was a 6th-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in last April’s draft. He was a standout RB for the University of Connecticut, scoring 31 rushing TDs and running for 3,179 yards in 3 seasons. Todman was a First-Team All Big East selection in 2010 and was also named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year that season.

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Asher Allen, Hutchinson Ruled Out; All Others Probable

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2011 – 11:54 am

The Vikings on Friday ruled CB Asher Allen (concussion/shoulder) and LG Steve Hutchinson out for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Both players sustained their concussions last week against the Saints and neither player was able to participate in practice this week.

RG Anthony Herrera (knee), S Jarrad Page (hamstring), DT Kevin Williams (knee) and LB Erin Henderson (illness) were all full participants in practice on Friday and are all listed as probable.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said earlier in the week that Joe Berger would start if Hutchinson was unable to play. It’s expected that rookie interior lineman Brandon Fusco could also see some action with Hutchinson unavailable.

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Berger, Fusco Will See Action If Hutchinson Is Unable To Play

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 22, 2011 – 3:31 pm

Vikings LG Steve Hutchinson was forced out of last week’s game against the Saints after suffering a laceration to his face. As it turns out, Hutchinson also suffered a concussion in the game. Because of those injuries, Hutchinson has been unable to participate in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

If Hutchinson is unable to play in Saturday’s game at Washington, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said that 7-year veteran Joe Berger would get the start and also that rookie Brandon Fusco might see some playing time as well.

Should Berger get the start, it will not be the first time he sees the field for the Vikings. Berger filled in for Anthony Herrera for 5 games from Week 7 to Week 12 when the starting RG was dealing with a knee injury. Berger’s ability to provide depth at both LG and RG is precisely the reason the Vikings added him to the roster earlier in the season.

“He did well,” Frazier said of Berger’s time filling in for Herrera. “We felt like he is a guy who is more than capable of playing the guard position and playing center as well. When he was in there he did a fine job so we’re not stressed. We’d like to have Steve for sure, but Joe showed that he can get the job done.”

As for Fusco, he’s been active for just one game this season. The 6th-round pick is listed as a center, but he, too, has position flexibility. Frazier said the team has given consideration to rolling him into the game as well.

“We talked about that, just to be able to see him move around and just see how he does,” Frazier said. “We’re going to see how the game is going and maybe get that done.”

 Even at 2-12, the Vikings primary goal is to win the game. Vikings players and coaches continue to work hard during the week to be in a position to win on game day. But it also isn’t a bad idea to get a better look at players such as Fusco to see if they have the potential to a part of the team’s long-term plans.

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Hutchinson Hosts Early Thanksgiving Meal At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2011 – 7:00 am

Vikings All-Pro G Steve Hutchinson continued his tradition of providing holiday meals at childrens’ hospitals this week by hosting an early Thanksgiving meal for young patients and their families – approximately 100 people – at the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

In a Vikings-themed room at the hospital, the meal (turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn and pies) was served buffet style. Joining Hutchinson were Vikings OT Patrick Brown, TE Jim Kleinsasser, S Tyrell Johnson, C John Sullivan, WR Kerry Taylor and QB Joe Webb. The players also visited children in their rooms who were not able to attend the Thanksgiving meal.

I’d like to send a special “thank you” to Jennifer Amundson of U of M Amplatz Children’s Hospital media relations for passing along the photos.

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Vikings Have Experienced Thrills in Recent Monday Night Games

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 10, 2011 – 2:54 pm

This entry was written by Vikings Public Relations intern Eric Haigh

Playing on Monday Night Football (MNF) is a special moment for any team that gets the opportunity. While the Vikings will be playing in their first MNF game of the season this week at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, they certainly have been involved in many exciting MNF games in their history. To help prepare you for this week’s NFC North rivalry game between the Vikings and Packers, let’s take a look back at the most exciting Vikings MNF games over the past 5 seasons.

Vikings 19, Redskins 16 – September 11, 2006 – FedEx Field
The Vikings kicked off the 2006 season under the lights of FedEx Field with a new head coach in Brad Childress and many other new faces, including CB Cedric Griffin, LG Steve Hutchinson, and K Ryan Longwell. On the first possession of the game, the Vikings drove 80 yards and scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by RB Chester Taylor. After 13 unanswered points by the Redskins, the Vikings came back to take the lead with a 46-yard field goal from Longwell and a 20-yard TD pass from QB Brad Johnson to WR Marcus Robinson. With 4:35 left in the 3rd quarter, Redskins K John Hall tied the game at 16 with a 22-yard field goal. In the final minutes, the Vikings came up big and took the lead with another Longwell FG, this time from 31 yards away with only 1 minute left in the game. The Redskins were able to get into position for a 48-yard FG try with 17 seconds remaining, but the kick sailed wide left and the Vikings opened their season with a big win on the road.

Vikings 20, Bears 13 – December 17, 2007 – HHH Metrodome
The Vikings entered this MNF matchup with an 8-6 record and a chance to put themselves in good position for a playoff berth. In their way was another NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears. Despite a noisy crowd that wanted to see their Vikings make that push into the postseason, the Purple started off slowly, falling behind 13-6 at the end of the 1st half with their only points coming on two Longwell FGs. The Vikings kept that momentum going in the 3rd quarter, as rookie RB Adrian Peterson punched a TD in from 1-yard out. However, the extra point following the score sailed wide left and kept the score at 13-12 in favor of Chicago. With just over 11 minutes remaining, starting QB Tarvaris Jackson was knocked out of the game with an injury. One play later, Peterson went up the middle for an 8-yard TD. Backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger scored a 2-point conversion after the TD and the Vikings never looked back, winning 20-13.

Packers 24, Vikings 19 – September 8, 2008 – Lambeau Field
The second time the Vikings opened the season on MNF came in this 2008 showdown with their division rival Packers. Green Bay was coming off of a 2007 season in which the team reached the NFC Championship Game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in overtime. The Vikings were coming off a promising season with many young players looking to make the jump to the next level. Both offenses had trouble early in the game, with 3 of the first 4 scores being FGs. Going into halftime, Green Bay held a 10-6 lead, and after a 76-yard punt return for a TD from Packers punt returner Will Blackmon, hope was dwindling for the Vikings. However, the team rallied, scoring 2 TDs in the 4th quarter. With the score 24-19, the Vikings got the ball back with 1:51 remaining in the game and marched to the Minnesota 45 before QB Tarvaris Jackson was intercepted by Packers safety Atari Bigby to clinch the game. The Vikings would come back and beat the Packers at home later in the 2008 season on their way to an NFC North Championship.

Vikings 30, Saints 27 – October 6, 2008 – Louisiana Superdome
Entering a loud and raucous Louisiana Superdome on October 6, 2008, both the Vikings and Saints were in need of a win to remain in their respective division races. The Vikings did nothing to help quiet the crowd during the earlier stages, giving up a 17-yard TD from Saints QB Drew Brees to WR Devery Henderson just 3:51 into the game. New Orleans again moved the ball into scoring position midway through the 1st quarter before settling for a Martin Gramatica 46-yard FG attempt. The attempt was blocked and returned 59 yards for a TD by Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. After FGs by each team, Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe hauled in a 4-yard TD pass from running back Chester Taylor on a trick play to put the Vikings up 20-10 heading into halftime. The Saints stormed back in the 2nd half, scoring 17 unanswered points, including punt return TDs of 71 and 64 yards by Saints RB Reggie Bursh to give New Orleans a 27-20 lead. With 7:10 to go in the 4th quarter, Vikings QB Gus Frerotte hooked up with WR Bernard Berrian for a 33-yard TD to even the score. After a Saints missed FG, the Vikings got the ball back and took a shot deep to Berrian, who the officials say was interfered with by S Kevin Kaesviharn, putting the ball at the New Orleans 14. Longwell hit a 30-yard FG with 16 seconds left in the game to give the Vikings a much-needed win.

Vikings 30, Packers 27 – October 5, 2009 – Mall Of America Field
The storylines were aplenty when the Vikings met the Packers in Week 4 of the 2009 season. Vikings QB Brett Favre, who had spent 16 years of his career with the Packers and won one Super Bowl and 3 MVP awards, was facing his old team for the first time, only adding to the fierce rivalry between the two sides. On the other side was Favre’s successor, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who was in the middle of his second season and the team’s full-time starter. Favre made his mark first after the Vikings recovered a Rodgers fumble, firing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Shiancoe to take an early 7-0 lead. One minute and four seconds later, Rodgers threw a 62-yard TD pass to Packers TE Jermichael Finley to even the score. After Favre hooked up with WR Sidney Rice for a 14-yard TD in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings defense came up with a stop and got the ball back again. However, Packers rookie LB Clay Matthews stripped Adrian Peterson of the ball and took it back 42 yards for a TD to make the score 14-14. Peterson made up for his mistake on the next offensive series, taking the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Vikings a 7-point advantage heading into halftime. From there, Favre and the Vikings put their foot on the gas. Favre drove the offense down the field on the opening drive of the 2nd half and finished it off with a 31-yard TD pass to Berrian. After scoreless play for over a quarter, the Vikings defense got in on the act, as DE Jared Allen sacked Rodgers in the end zone, stripping him of the ball and recovering it. After a Packers challenge, it was ruled that Rodgers’ knee was down in the end zone, resulting in a Vikings safety and a 30-14 lead. A Packers TD reception by receiver Jordy Nelson and a 31-yard FG from kicker Mason Crosby was not enough to overcome the deficit, as Favre beat his former team for the first time. Favre would go on to lead the Vikings to a 2009 NFC North Championship and an NFC Championship Game appearance.

Over the next several weeks with the stadium issue on the front burner in Minnesota, we’ll have a piece of stadium information posted after each Blog entry.

Stadium Did You Know?
– Because of the revenue-challenged Metrodome, the Vikings receive annual subsidies of $15-20 million from other NFL teams in order to compete, including smaller markets like Green Bay and Kansas City.

– State lottery proceeds were used in Baltimore and Seattle to help pay for new football and baseball stadiums.

– The Twins ballpark legislation required the team to pay 30% of the total construction costs while Hennepin County covered the remaining 70%. The Vikings have agreed to fund 33% of the costs of an NFL-ready open-air stadium in Minnesota.

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