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with Sean Jensen and Don Seeholzer

Stop back often because Sean and Don regularly posts updates to your comments. Leave your comments and questions by clicking on the comments link below each post.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bouncing back

Asked how his team bounced back this week after the loss, Vikings coach Brad Childress said, "I feel like they've gone about their business.
"You know, every day can't beat the game day, but yet they've gone through and knocked out what they needed to knock out every day as they prepare," Childress said.
I don't know how many times Mike Tice made a comment like that after a loss, only to have his team get manhandled on the road.
We'll see how the players respond under Childress.

Injury update

RB Chester Taylor (ankle) practiced without incident, and he remains listed as probable, which means there's a "virtual certainty" that he will play Sunday.

LB Ben Leber (knee) finished the full practice for the first time this week, and he was confident afterwards that he could play on Sunday. He is still listed as questionable.
"The way it felt today, if the game had to be played today, I think I could do it," Leber said.

DT Pat Williams (ankle) was upgraded from questionable to probable.

QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee) was downgraded to out.

Familiar face

Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams won't cut any slack to former teammate Melvin Fowler Sunday.
"I can whup any center," Williams said. "I don't care who it is."
The Buffalo Bills would be out of their collective minds to have Fowler try to handle Williams or Kevin Williams by himself. Last year, in replacing the injured Matt Birk, Fowler regularly struggled.
So Fowler will need plenty of help from guards Chris Villarrial and Tutan Reyes.
How those three players handle Williams & Williams, though, could be the key for Sunday's game.
At least Fowler isn't going to pull an Olin Kreutz and fire up Pat Williams.
"Pat is a great player," Fowler said. "I think he should have made the Pro Bowl last year, and I definitely have my work cut out for me."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chester added to injury report as probable

Vikings RB Chester Taylor was added to the injury report Thursday as probable with an ankle injury. He also missed a portion of practice Thursday. But probable is defined as "virtual certainty" that a player will play.

Key Sunday match up...

Vikings RT Marcus Johnson versus Bills LE Chris Kelsay and Bills LE Ryan Denney.
Why both players?
Because each has three sacks for the Bills. Neither veteran has a strong track record as a pass rusher. But they certainly have the numbers so far this season. Johnson improved last week, after he was schooled by Carolina's Julius Peppers.
But Johnson's performance against Kelsay and Denney will be a key for the Vikings. The Vikings need to exploit one of the Bills' weaknesses, run defense.
Although their defense is ranked 11th, the Bills' run defense is just 21st. Former Gopher Laurence Maroney had 86 rushing yards in the season opener against the Bills, while veteran Corey Dillon racked up 73.

Leber a spectator

Strongside linebacker Ben Leber, listed as questionable with a sprained left knee, did not participate in the first part of practice on Thursday. Leber's chances of playing Sunday truly do look questionable, which means there's a 50-50 chance he'll play. If that's the case, then Dontarrious Thomas likely would start in Leber's place. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who was tending to personal matters Wednesday, returned to practice.

Higher standard

Vikings coach Brad Childress noted yesterday that a defense can get away with a mistake by a player more often than an offense. His point: the left cornerback can play the wrong coverage, but the offense runs the ball off right tackle, and the middle linebacker and right defensive end make a great play.
But the mistake of an offensive player is often more glaring.
"So yeah, you can have ten guys doing the right thing (on offense) and one guy that is a little bit off and the play looks like slop," Childress said. "It's just hitting all the keys on a piano. Everything sounding right, being right. That one little key that's not right makes the whole thing sound bad, in this case look bad. "
Childress is being patient with his offense. But he made a telling comment during his press conference Wednesday.
"First of all you don't question anybody's effort, but just to know exactly what standard of performance is going to be there from every guy, every time," Childress said. "At different times it's been a little bit uneven. You know it's going to be different for different people. That's the easiest way to say it."
Anyone want to venture a guess which players he might be talking about?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Injury update

Vikings LB Ben Leber and QB Tarvaris Jackson were the only players who missed a portion of practice Wednesday.
Leber (sprained left knee) said he is optimistic that he will play Sunday in Buffalo. He is listed as questionable. Jackson, meanwhile, had a scope on his right knee Monday, and he is listed as doubtful. He is off crutches.
Defensive tackle Pat Williams continues to treat an ankle sprain. But he practiced in full today.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams was excused from today's practice for personal reasons.

Vikings sign Drew Henson

The Vikings signed former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Henson to the practice squad.
To make room for him, the Vikings cut offensive guard C.J. Brooks.
With rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson sidelined at least a few weeks, Vikings head coach Brad Childress wants to prevent Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger from taking too many snaps in practice.
Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Stephan LeFors worked out Tuesday for the Vikings.
According to a report today in the Miami Herald, Henson also worked out for the Miami Dolphins Tuesday.
Henson left football in 2001 and accepted a contract with the New York Yankees. But his baseball career never took off, and he returned to football, even starting one game for the Cowboys in 2004.
He was released by the Cowboys in August, however.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where the Vikings stand...

Here is a look at where the Vikings are in some key categories after Week 3:

* The Vikings offense is 18th overall, 18th in rushing and 15th in passing.

* The Vikings defense is 12th overall, 10th against the run and 15th against the pass.

* The Vikings are tied for 12th in the NFL in takeaways-giveaways, with a net difference of zero.
* QB Brad Johnson is 19th in passer rating, with an 81.8.

* RB Chester Taylor is 6th in rushing yards (275) and yards from scrimmage (348).

* WR Troy Williamson is tied for sixth in the NFL with six third-down receptions for 113 yards.

* P Chris Kluwe is 29th in the NFL in punting and 26th in net yardage.

But here are the two rankings that trouble me the most:

* The Vikings are 25th in the NFL, averaging just 4.27 yards on each first-down play.

* The Vikings offense is a woeful 30th in the NFL with 46 first downs.

Guess which two teams are worse?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress concluded his press conference around 1:25 p.m. Here are some highlights:

* LB Ben Leber has a sprained left knee, which he initially injured in Sunday's loss to Chicago. But Leber put on a brace and finished the game. Childress, though, is uncertain whether the injury will keep Leber out of the starting lineup Sunday in Buffalo.

* QB Tarvaris Jackson underwent successful surgery to his right knee Monday morning, Childress said. Jackson is not expected to be sidelined very long. But Childress said the team will work out a few quarterbacks, so Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger are not overwhelmed with repetitions in practice.

* Childress declined to say why CB Fred Smoot did not start against the Bears. But Childress dismissed initial reports that Smoot had a helmet problem.

"That's between Fred and I," Childress said. "I'm not going to put it off as a helmet issue."

* Childress said he would like an explanation from the league about Troy Williamson's offensive pass interference call in the third quarter. The play negated a 36-yard catch by Williamson, who made the play over Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher. There only appeared incidental contact at best.

* Childress again said he liked his matchup of Williamson one on one against Bears cornerback Charles Tillman down the sideline on fourth and 2 on Minnesota's final offensive drive.

Reading the sign

One troubling comment from Sunday's aftermath came from Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris. On the critical fumble, Harris said, he knew that All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson was going to pull.
"I saw that the guard was sitting kind of light," Harris said.
In other words, Hutchinson wasn't going to try to overpower him. He was shifting momentum away from Harris.
So Harris got a tremendous jump, and he blew through Hutchinson's hole before center Matt Birk could even get there.
Fumble, Bears recover the ball.
Give credit to Harris for making a heady play. But the Vikings clearly need to work on not giving away pre-snap hints.

Missed opportunity...

The Vikings were 3 1/2 minutes from:
* A 3-0 start for the first time since 2003;
* Three wins over 2005 playoff teams;
* A key victory in the NFC North against the defending division champion.
But the Vikings fumbled away their four-point lead, and they could not muster another late comeback.
So where do they stand now?
Before their Oct. 15 bye, the Vikings have to play in Buffalo, against a surprisingly solid Bills (1-2) squad. And they host the 0-3 Detroit Lions.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Childress and Johnson weigh in on the final offensive play

Just to avoid any confusion, here what quarterback Brad Johnson said about the final play.
"It was a man-to-man coverage," Johnson said. "I couldn't believe they were in the coverage, actually. (I) took a hit on it, they applied a lot of pressure.
"It was there for the taking and I had to take the shot if it was there, so I took it," Johnson said. "I was hoping I would get that kind of coverage actually and we just didn't come through with it. I thought we played (the) possessions going into it the way we needed to and that was the shot we took and took it. "
Coach Brad Childress on the final play: "Yeah, we just tried to throw it to a playmaker.
"Troy has been good for us, and he had man-to-man coverage out there," Childress said.

Play calling

Hindsight is 20-20. But I was puzzled by the Vikings' decision to try a long pass down the right sideline on 4th and 2 on the final offensive drive.
Anyone else wonder about that?

Marcus Robinson inactive

WR Marcus Robinson is inactive today. WR Maurice Mann will make his Viking debut.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

No relief in sight

When the Vikings play the Chicago Bears Sunday, they will be facing a third consecutive playoff team from last year. But after that, the Vikings could have arguably their toughest game yet -- in Buffalo, against the 1-1 Bills.
What have the Bills done? Well, they played the New England Patriots tough on the road, losing 19-17, and they upset the Miami Dolphins on the road, 16-6.
From there, the Vikings host the woeful Lions, then they have a bye... before playing in Seattle, against the defending NFC champions, then hosting the New England Patriots.
Notice something? More very strong defenses over the next month.
What would you consider a good record heading into November, when the Vikings have played seven games?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Williamson upgraded

WR Troy Williamson and G Artis Hicks were both upgraded from questionable to probable for Sunday's game.

WR Marcus Robinson (hamstring) remains questionable. But he is motivated to play in this key NFC North game against his former club, the Chicago Bears.

QB Tarvaris Jackson is listed as doubtful after damaging the cartilage in his right knee Thursday.

Jackson injured

Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson suffered a knee injury that will require minor surgery.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Jackson "tweaked" his right knee on the second to last play of practice Thursday.
He will have a procedure Monday that will sideline him several weeks.
Childress would not say who his emergency quarterback is, behind backup Brooks Bollinger.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Experienced front

The Vikings have done a solid job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, although the team only has two sacks.
But the Chicago Bears present a group that is healthy and savvy. The least experienced starter is Roberto Garza, who has a respectable 40 career NFL starts. After that, the Bears boast a group that's played a lot of games together, led by Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown and Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz.
If the Vikings are going to pressure quarterback Rex Grossman, their defensive line will have to step up, or else coordinator Mike Tomlin will have to rely on his linebackers to blitz.
With Erasmus James out, the Vikings will need their tackles, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, to generate a lot of inside pressure.
Who wins the battle between these two excellent units will play a huge factor in the outcome.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Full strength

The Vikings overcame two top-10 ranked defenses from a year ago to jump out to a 2-0 start. But there's a distinction when the Vikings line up against a third Sunday: this one isn't missing any key players.
In Washington, the Vikings played a Redskins' defense minus star cornerback Shawn Springs. And the Carolina Panthers played last Sunday without Pro Bowl middle linebacker Dan Morgan. The Panthers offense also was without All-Pro receiver Steve Smith and the starting left tackle.
The Bears injury report shows no significant injuries to any players.
Will this matter Sunday?

Injury update

Vikings coach Brad Childress said three players will be listed on the injury report this week: WR Troy Williamson (shoulder), WR Marcus Robinson (hamstring) and G Artis Hicks (shoulder). All three are questionable, which means there is a 50-50 chance they will play.
The good news for the Vikings is that all three of them practiced in full Wednesday, which is usually an encouraging sign.
The Bears, meanwhile, are very healthy right now, with only DE Israel Idonije (ankle) and S Cameron Worrell (knee) both listed as questionable. Both players, though, are backups.
In other key news, Vikings veteran Darrion Scott took a few snaps at right defensive end, vacated by Erasmus James, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
But Kenechi Udeze also switched over to the right side on a few occasions, with Scott replacing him on the left side.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blast from the past...

Morten Andersen obviously still hasn't given up on one of George Blanda's record.
FoxSports reports that the Atlanta Falcons have signed Andersen, 46, to handle field goals.
Andersen will take over that duty from Michael Koenen, who had been handling punts, field goals and kickoffs.
Presumably, Koenen will still punt and kickoff.
Blanda holds the NFL record, playing in a game at age 48.
Andersen last played for the Vikings in 2004.
A member of the NFL's all-decade team in the 1980s and 1990s, Andersen got a late start on the 2000s. But he's not one to give up. He's stated in the past a desire to play until he's 50.

James to IR

The Vikings announced that defensive end Erasmus James has officially been placed on injured reserve and rookie defensive Jayme Mitchell has been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster. The Vikings also signed guard C.J. Brooks, who worked out for the club last week, to the practice squad.
James is the fourth Vikings defensive player to be placed on injured reserve this season, joining S Tank Williams, LB Chad Greenway and CB Dovonte Edwards. Mitchell joined the Vikings as an undrafted rookie in 2006 out of the University of Mississippi.

Former Viking Fox promoted to Eagles 53-man roster

The Philadelphia Eagles announced that DE Jevon Kearse was placed on the injured reserve list and CB Dustin Fox was elevated from the practice squad.
A former third-round choice of the Vikings in 2005, Fox was released earlier this month and picked up on the Eagles' practice squad.
"I think I can contribute some immediate depth," Fox said. "Obviously, we are kind of hurting at corner right now. Guys have been getting nicked up a little bit. So that's the main goal."

Upon further review...

This is what struck me about the Week 2 games:

* Former Vikings head coach Mike Tice was a part of the most impressive victory of the season. Sure, the Jacksonville Jaguars were hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the Jaguars, 12-4 last year, beat the Steelers at their own game. The Jaguars played tremendous defense, and they pounded their opponent with their run offense. And even though they committed the first turnover, the Jaguars didn't lose their composure. If you didn't see the game, it was a rout, even if the final score was 9-0.

* The honeymoon in Miami is over for former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. A crowd of 72,797 at Dolphins stadium started booing him and chanting for backup Joey Harrington after a painful start. Culpepper fumbled a snap, and he looked lost as the Buffalo Bills swarmed him the entire first half.
For the game, he was sacked seven times.
While he finished with solid numbers (23 of 32 passing for 250 yards and a touchdown), he got most of that yardage as the Bills played conservatively to protect their lead. His touchdown came with just under two minutes left.
I think Culpepper will be successful in Miami, but not until he feels confident in his knee, his offensive line and the offensive scheme.

* The Michael Koenen project should end soon in Atlanta. The idea of a player handling punts, kickoffs and field goals seemed too good to be true. After making eight of eight field goal attempts, Koenen, who handled punts last year, won all three jobs. But he has missed two of eight field goals so far this season, including all four in Sunday's victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
You could only do it in a dome because, late in the season, you need to be able to get away with a few mishits.
"What he's doing is remarkable," Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell said last week. "I did it for three years in college. But the college season is half as long as the NFL, and I was tired. I'm interested to see how he does."

* The San Diego Chargers remind me of the Gophers.
They've generated some excitement, outscoring their first two opponents 67-7. But that's like the Gophers scheduling Tulsa and Troy State (2003) to open a season. The Chargers have a bye this weekend. But if they dominate in their next two games (at Baltimore, home against the Pittsburgh Steelers), then I'll be impressed.
Anyone disagree with me?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Quincy Morgan signs with...

...The Denver Broncos.
The club announced that the veteran receiver has signed a one-year deal.
The Broncos waived receiver Charlie Adams to make room for Morgan.
A sixth-year player, Morgan has 164 career receptions for 2,466 yards (15.0 avg.) with 17 touchdowns in 79 regular-season games, including 53 starts.
The Vikings had expressed interest in Morgan.

James done for the season

Vikings coach Brad Childress said DE Erasmus James has torn the ACL in his left knee.

"Unfortunately, it's a season-ending injury for Erasmus," Childress said.

The Vikings initially hoped he had a strained knee. But James left the field in the fourth quarter, after someone barreled into his left leg. He limped off the field, and he was carted to the team's locker room.

"It doesn't feel serious," James said Sunday. "But you never know."

Childress said the club will make contingency plans over the next 48 hours. With a lot of depth at the position, Darrion Scott would appear the likely player to slide into the starting lineup. But because he's more of a base end (left side), the Vikings may consider rookie Ray Edwards, who had a solid preseason.

Kenechi Udeze once played on the right side. But he prefers playing left end.

Childress approval rating...

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will be pleased to know that, according to ESPN, his head coach, Brad Childress, has the highest approval rating in the NFL.
I'm sure ESPN's poll isn't as accurate as, say, Gallup or the Washington Post-ABC News. But for sports, it's the best we've got.
According to the 2006 SportsNation NFL Head Coach Approval Ratings, Childress leads the league with a 96-percent approval rating. Childress also received the most votes (7,211), nearly 5,000 more than the next closest coach.
While the Vikings are one of 10 teams with a 2-0 record, clearly the Vikings get the edge with this approval rating victory.

Erasmus update

Vikings coach Brad Childress hasn't addressed the status of defensive end Erasmus James yet. But James was using crutches, and he had a bulky brace on his left knee.

Not an encouraging sign.

A timetable is uncertain, but some preliminary estimates have him out at least several weeks.

While he didn't have any sacks, James was doing a very good job of providing some pressure from his right edge.

This is one of the positions, however, that the Vikings have some depth. Fourth-round pick Ray Edwards has looked sharp, and he, too, is a gifted speed rusher.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Steve Smith won't play

All-pro receiver Steve Smith did not travel with the Carolina Panthers on Saturday and will miss Sunday's game at the Metrodome, the Associated Press reported Saturday.
Smith hasn't practiced or played since straining his right hamstring in practice Sept. 5. Drew Carter and Keary Colbert are expected to split time opposite Keyshawn Johnson against the Vikings, the AP reported.
That means as many as four starters could be out for the Panthers. The others: center Justin Hartwig (groin), left tackle Travelle Wharton (knee) and middle linebacker Dan Morgan (concussion). In fact, Wharton has already been placed on the injured reserve, ending his 2006 season.
The key for the Vikings will be to limit DeShaun Foster on first down runs, and force quarterback Jake Delhomme to make plays from second-and-long, and third-and-long. That will enable the Vikings pass rushers to focus on getting after Delhomme, which, in turn, will likely create turnover opportunities.
On offense, the Vikings need to try to confuse and exploit Morgan's replacement, Adam Seward, a second-year player out of UNLV.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Koren debut?

Green Bay Packers receiver Koren Robinson is questionable for Sunday. But his former Viking teammates are rooting for him.
"I wish I could watch the game," Marcus Robinson said. "I'd like to see what he does."
Although Koren Robinson was released by the Vikings 11 days after his Aug. 15 arrest following a high-speed chase, his former teammates only hope the best for him.
"I'm happy for him," Marcus Robinson said. "He's a talented guy, and he can be very productive."
Added receiver Troy Williamson, "He’s a great player.
"I'll look forward to catching the highlights."
Robinson, though, may not play because of a knee injury. And even if he does, Robinson may only contribute as a kickoff returner, just as he did for the Vikings last September.

Lighten the load

Vikings safety Dwight Smith stepped off the scale and said, "That's made all the difference."
Smith, who is 5 foot 11, weighed just a shade under 200 pounds. Asked what he meant, Smith said he played last year at a startling 225 pounds, as a strong safety for the New Orleans Saints.
With safety Jay Bellamy lost for the season after just three games, Smith had to step in and play a pseudo-linebacker role in the Saints' defense.
Smith finished with 86 tackles, the fourth-highest total on the team, one sack, two interceptions and he forced two fumbles.
But Smith said he feels better playing around 200 pounds, which enables him to maximize his speed.
After being inactive for the opener, Smith hopes to showcase his speed and talent Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Steve Smith

I'm told Steve Smith will not play Sunday. But even if the Panthers are pulling a fast one, I think Vikings' fans and players should be at ease for two reasons.
One, Smith's key asset is his speed, and aching hamstrings do not let you run at an optimal level.
Second, Smith is going to be somewhat rusty since he hasn't practiced in over a week.
That means the Vikings should focus on stopping DeShaun Foster and the running game, because Keyshawn Johnson hasn't beaten any team in years.
Player to watch: Panthers MLB Adam Seward. He struggled last week, and the Vikings will do a lot of shifting, motions and audibles to confuse him and the defense.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Mann show

The Vikings released veteran Todd Pinkston last week to make room for him, and they've held off signing veteran Quincy Morgan because of him.
He is Maurice Mann, a first-year receiver.
A former fifth-round pick, Mann is intriguing to the Vikings for several reasons. First, he has explosive speed. According to his prospect profile, Mann ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds. Second, Mann knows this offense, having played in it at Nevada, where the Vikings got another somewhat overlooked receiver, Nate Burleson.
In fact, Mann played with Burleson one season.
"He did most of the work," Mann said. "He had 138 catches, what can I do? I was his decoy."
Mann, though, appreciated playing alongside Burleson, and they reunited in Seattle during training camp. But Mann was cut by the Seahawks and signed to the practice squad.
Mann said he is more than willing to compete and contribute as a kickoff returner. But he had only limited success at Nevada, averaging a modest 20.7 yards per return.
But Mann had better make a quick impression. A glut of veterans are looking for jobs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quincy Morgan update

The agent for free-agent receiver Quincy Morgan said his client is nearing an agreement with the Denver Broncos.
Morgan, whom the Vikings worked out last week, is an attractive option for several teams because of his NFL experience as a receiver and kickoff returner.
Agent Brian Overstreet said he had hoped Morgan would sign with the Vikings. But Overstreet added that the Broncos might sign his client in the near future.

A little levity

Things have been quite serious around here. But there was a comical moment during the early part of practice.
As the cornerbacks went over to practice a tackling technique drill, cornerback Fred Smoot playfully slammed his shoulder into a blocking apparatus. One problem: the apparatus didn't move. Smoot was stonewalled.
Defensive backs coach Joe Woods then informed Smoot that they were going to practice on the other side. His teammates erupted in laughter.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress said he did not have any significant injuries to report. For a team working on a short week, that's good news.
Childress also said he was pleased with Troy Williamson's handling of kickoffs, and he expected to keep utilizing his explosive receiver in that role, perhaps spelling him once in a while.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Kickoff return

WR Troy Williamson lined up for the first kickoff. He and Mewelde Moore had been handling that chore.
But Williamson misplayed the knuckleball kickoff and downed it in the endzone for a touchback.

Koren Robinson agrees to terms with Packers

Agent Alvin Keels said in a brief interview that Koren Robinson has agreed to terms on a two -year contract with the Packers. Robinson is in Green Bay now.
"I'm definitely happy he's getting another opportunity in the NFL," Keels said. "I think it should work out for the Packers and for Koren."

Dwight Smith not in uniform

S Dwight Smith is not in uniform. It is apparently a coach's decision.

Childress debut

The NFL is about players. Hall of Fame coaches will tell you that.
But tonight's most intriguing matchup is between the coaching staffs. The Vikings easily have the NFL's most inexperienced staff, with a rookie head coach, and rookie coordinators, who also happen to be among the youngest in their roles.
The Washington Redskins, meanwhile, boast the NFL's most expensive and experienced coaching staff, led by Joe Gibbs, who has led his team to three Super Bowl titles.
Working under Gibbs are three former NFL head coaches Al Saunders (San Diego), Gregg Williams and Joe Bugel (Phoenix, Oakland).
And beware, Viking fans, don't be misled by the Redskins' 0-4 preseason record. This is a veteran football team that can put that behind them.
Those are daunting challenges. But true competitors wouldn't ask for anything less.

Returner update

Vikings coach Brad Childress has been mum on two key positions, kickoff returner and backup quarterback. It appears he will hold those decisions to himself, up until game time.
But indications are, running back Mewelde Moore will handle kickoffs and punts. That seems like a sound decision, because one of the biggest gaffes of the preseason was Troy Williamson fumbling on the opening kickoff against the Oakland Raiders.
I don't profess to be a great football mind. But over the years, I've noticed that players have to have a certain swagger to return kickoffs and especially punts. A player has to have a fearlessness.
That's no indictment on Williamson. But he didn't have a whole lot of previous experience, and he doesn't look comfortable when he does handle that duty.
While I think he'll do fine as a receiver, I could see Williamson's eyes getting big on the road, on Monday Night Football.
Best that he watch kickoffs from the bench.

Returner update

Vikings coach Brad Childress has been mum on two key positions, kickoff returner and backup quarterback. It appears he will hold those decisions to himself, up until game time.
But indications are, running back Mewelde Moore will handle kickoffs and punts. That seems like a sound decision, because one of the biggest gaffes of the preseason was Troy Williamson fumbling on the opening kickoff against the Oakland Raiders.
I don't profess to be a great football mind. But over the years, I've noticed that players have to have a certain swagger to return kickoffs and especially punts. A player has to have a fearlessness.
That's no indictment on Williamson. But he didn't have a whole lot of previous experience, and he doesn't look comfortable when he does handle that duty.
While I think he'll do fine as a receiver, I could see Williamson's eyes getting big on the road, on Monday Night Football.
Best that he watch kickoffs from the bench.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Insight on McKinnie deal

The timing and staggering size of this deal may seem curious to many of you. But this actually could be a win-win deal for the Vikings and McKinnie.
Why, you ask, would the Vikings make Bryant McKinnie, who has never been to a Pro Bowl, the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL? Because left tackle is one of the most difficult -- and important -- positions to fill in the NFL. The position requires a massize, tremendously athletic man who also is most responsible for protecting the blind side of right-handed quarterbacks against some of the most league's athletic defensive players. Without a good left tackle, offenses have to allocate a tight end to help block the right defensive end, which means there is one less option for quarterbacks.
The position is also a good investment because tackles -- and offensive linemen in general -- tend to have the fewest major injuries.
While McKinnie has not yet been to a Pro Bowl, he is a gifted athlete with unlimited potential. The Vikings are banking on him tapping into that -- or at least continuing to play at his current clip, which would still make him among the league's top 10 at his position.
The Vikings also have little leverage in negotiations because left tackles are always in demand and, thus, overpaid.
Two months ago, the Cincinnati Bengals locked up Levi Jones, the 10th overall in the 2002 NFL draft, three spots behind McKinnie, to a six-year, $40 million extension that included $14 million in guarantees.
McKinnie is better than Jones, and he's better than anyone else who will become a free agent in the next few years. In addition, left tackles are rarely diamonds in the rough. The league's elite are usually high draft picks, so the Vikings would only be gambling on an unproven commodity in future drafts. Too, those players are going to cost as much -- if not more -- than McKinnie.
Consider that D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the fourth overall pick in April's NFL draft, got a guarantee of at least $17 million.
Fact is, McKinnie's run as the highest-paid offensive linemen will be short-lived, possibly trumped by a rookie from the 2007 NFL draft class.
So why did the Vikings cough up $18 million in guarantees? Because that's the going rate for a premier left tackle. Had he become a free agent next offseason, the Vikings surely would have slapped a franchise tender on him. The tag at his position would have been about $8 million.
What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, if McKinnie does have a Pro Bowl season, he'd command guarantees well north of $20 million. And history shows that offensive tackles (see Walter Jones and Orland Pace) aren't afraid to hold out. In fact, McKinnie held out 98 days during his rookie season. You think he'd blink about holding out as a coveted veteran? In the end, more than any other position, offensive tackles get what they want (Jones and Pace are among the NFL's five highest-paid offensive linemen).
If the Vikings couldn't swing a deal next year, then McKinnie would be content waiting until the following offseason, when his franchise tender skyrockets 120 percent, to nearly $18 million.
See how we get to that ultimate number?
In the end, as mentioned above, the Vikings are playing the odds. While he has not yet been to the Pro Bowl, McKinnie has been a consistent performer at left tackle, and he's started every game the past three seasons.
Just as important, the Vikings can avoid another dramatic holdout and distraction, and they can continue to show that they're willing to pay a premium price for talented players.

Pinkston cut

The Vikings released veteran receiver Todd Pinkston Saturday and plucked receiver Maurice Mann from the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad.
The Vikings didn't cite a reason for releasing Pinkston. But it appears they're doing what they did last year at this time: protecting themselves from having to pay a vested veteran for the entire season. Koren Robinson was cut and then re-signed quickly, so his salary was not fully guaranteed for the entire season.
Coming off a torn Achilles, Pinkston, who acknowledged to me the other day that he wasn't 100 percent, would not be a good player to lock into having to pay $585,000. As a vested veteran, he would be guaranteed that entire salary, even if he only played one game. The only saving grace is that he agreed to a split contract, which means the Vikings would have saved some money if he ended up on the IR.
Then again, the Vikings could have just taken an extended look at Pinkston, to gauge how healthy he was. Perhaps, they weren't thrilled with what they saw and want to give him some more time to get healthy.
Additionally, Mann doesn't look like a roster filler. He's got 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash, which is above average, and he did a solid job of handling kickoffs in college. Mann also is 6 foot 1 and noted for his quickness.

Friday, September 08, 2006

McKinnie signs seven-year extension

The Vikings have agreed to terms with left tackle Bryant McKinnie on a seven-year, $48.5 million contract extension that includes a league-record $18.1 million in guaranteed money for an offensive lineman, according to a person close to the situation.
But per league rules, McKinnie's $900,000 base salary this season was guaranteed this week, and he will be guaranteed another $17.25 million.
The deal was delicate because all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson signed a seven-year, $49 million contract that stipulated that he had to be the Vikings' highest paid lineman. But the Vikings and McKinnie's agent, Ben Dogra of CAA, got around that by making McKinnie's deal worth $48.5 million over seven years.

Injury update

According to an official NFL injury report, Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot and running back Mewelde Moore have been upgraded to probable, which means there is a 75 percent chance they will play Monday night against the Washington Redskins.
Smoot and Moore both participated in team practice, according to the injury report.
Meanwhile, running back Clinton Portis participated in team practice for the first time Friday. But he indicated in interviews with reporters Friday that he would not be playing against the Vikings.
Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs looks as if he won't play. He is still listed as doubtful, and he did not participate in the team portion of practice.

Injury update

The Vikings have lost some key players to season-ending injuries, including linebacker Chad Greenway, safety Tank Williams and cornerback Dovonte Edwards. But heading into this season opener, the Vikings are fairly healthy, other than minor injuries to cornerback Fred Smoot and running back Mewelde Moore.
The Vikings are at least better off than the Washington Redskins, who apparently will be without talented cornerback Shawn Springs and might have a battered Clinton Portis.
The only concern for the Vikings is if Smoot gets hurt. Their depth at that position is a concern, with only Ronyell Whitaker and rookie Cedric Griffin available.

Returner up in the air

Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said he doesn't have any problem using starting receiver Troy Williamson as a kickoff returner. But Ferraro said the team hasn't determined who will be back there yet.
The candidates are Williamson, Mewelde Moore and cornerback Ronyell Whitaker.
"We're still evaluating that as we go, and we're not going to make a decision until Monday on who's going to do that," Ferraro said.
Asked about the team's interest in Quincy Morgan, Ferraro said, "I couldn't even answer that.
"We're looking at a lot of people, keeping our eye on the wire. Whatever is going to make us a better team."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pinkston in practice...

I had a chance to watch Todd Pinkston run through some drills in practice today and talk to him afterwards. Vikings coach Brad Childress has been evasive about Pinkston's health. But Pinkston admitted that he is around 90 percent in terms of his health.
"It's very encouraging," said Pinkston, who missed the entire 2005 season and parts of the preseason because of a torn Achilles'. "I'm coming along fine. It's going to take a little time to get warmed up."
You could see flashes of his elite speed. But Pinkston seemed tentative at times.
As for his acclimation, Pinkston said his transition has been smooth. He's comfortable with the terminology. Now he's trying to adjust to the way his quarterback delivers balls.
Pinkston said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb throws the ball with a lot more velocity than Brad Johnson.
"Brad is more timing, and he gives you more of a chance to get to the ball and get upfield," Pinkston said. "I don't have a problem with it. It's a just a different style, so I have to adjust."

Injury update

Vikings coach Brad Childress said RB Mewelde Moore (knee) and CB Fred Smoot (ribs) are the only players on the Vikings injury report. Both are listed as questionable, which means they have a 50-50 chance of playing.
Both, however, are expected to play.
The Washington Redskins, meanwhile, have far more serious injury problems. CB Shawn Springs (abdomen) is doubtful, which means he only has a 25-percent chance of playing. And RB Clinton Portis is questionable with a shoulder injury. Both Springs and Portis missed practice Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Still looking

According to the league's personnel log, the Vikings worked out former Kansas State receiver Quincy Morgan along with linebacker Marquis Cooper on Tuesday. Of course, the Vikings signed Cooper. But the fact that Morgan worked out is telling. Not only is Morgan a receiver with 52 career starts, including 17 career receiving touchdowns, he also is a pretty solid kickoff returner.
Morgan returned 23 kickoffs last year for 583 yards, an average of 25.3 yards. But Morgan had two returns of 40 or more yards, including a 74-yarder.
Morgan also could provide some depth at receiver since he had 56 catches for 964 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002 for the Cleveland Browns.

In the meantime, Troy Williamson is listed as the top kickoff returner, with Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason listed behind him.
Moore is the No. 1 punt returner, with Travis Taylor and Darren Sharper behind him.
Other interesting notes on the Vikings' depth chart:
* Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger are listed as co-No. 2s at backup quarterback, although Jackson is listed first.
* Williamson is the No. 1 receiver, with Todd Pinkston behind him, and Billy McMullen No. 3.
At the other spot, Travis Taylor is backed up by Marcus Robinson.
* Moore has apparently moved ahead of Ciatrick Fason, despite missing much of the preseason.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

McDaniel into Ring of Honor

The Vikings announced tonight that offensive guard Randall McDaniel will be the next player inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Dec. 17.

Ring of Honor

The Vikings announced tonight that OG Randall McDaniel will be the next player inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Dec. 17.

Roster update

Without ever donning a Vikings uniform, OG Steve Edwards has been released by the Vikings to make room for LB Marquis Cooper.
As the Vikings emphasize past relationships, Cooper benefits because he played in Tampa, where defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin previously worked.
Cooper is a third-year veteran who was a former third-round pick out of Washington in 2004. He has played in 26 NFL games and has tallied 27 tackles.
Meanwhile, undrafted defensive end Jayme Mitchell cleared waivers and was added to the practice squad.

Former Viking update

A couple of prominent former Vikings have surfaced in other NFL cities.
WR Koren Robinson visited with the Green Bay Packers.
Meanwhile, QB Mike McMahon had a workout with the Cleveland Browns, according to the NFL Network.
Teams certainly will not sign Robinson to a contract until after the first game of the season. Otherwise, they would have to guarantee him his full salary for the upcoming season.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Number updates

A reader posted a question about jersey numbers. Here they are:

Brooks Bollinger will wear No. 9, formerly worn by J.T. O'Sullivan
Todd Pinkston will wear No. 17, formerly worn by Kevin Kasper
Steve Edwards will wear No. 73, formerly worn by Adam Goldberg
Rashad Baker will wear No. 28, formerly worn by Dwight Smith, who took Willie Offord's No. 24.
Artose Pinner will wear No. 22, formerly worn by Adimichinobe Echemandu.

Number changes

I don't know that anyone in the market would consider the jersey number of any of the following players. But here's an update, just in case:

Dwight Smith 28 24 (Willie Offord)
Ronyell Whitaker 39 27 (Brandon Jones)
Jason Glenn 47 55 (Jason Palermo)

More roster moves

The Vikings signed veteran guard Steve Edwards and released rookie defensive end Jayme Mitchell to make room for him.
In addition, WR Jason Carter and RB Wendell Mathis cleared waivers and were added to the practice squad.
Mitchell could join them Tuesday.
Edwards played in 38 games with 24 starts during his four seasons with the Chicago Bears. In 2003, he started all 16 games at left guard.
He is familiar with Vikings coach Brad Childress because he entered the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2002.
Edwards spent part of the 2002 season on the Eagles’ practice squad before being signed to the Bears' active roster in October.
In the meantime, Childress said during his press conference that he was confident in his receiver group. But he did not rule out taking a look at Charles Rogers, the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Rogers was cut Saturday by the Detroit Lions.
"He is a guy that's been released," Childress said of Rogers. "I have not seen a snap of tape on him from the preseason, but we still have time."
Childress said the team would look to make tweaks on their roster up until the season opener.

Bollinger extension

Vikings coach Brad Childress said QB Brooks Bollinger has signed a two-year extension beyond the 2006 season. Bollinger was set to be a free agent after this season. The Vikings acquired him in a trade Thursday for DT C.J. Mosley and a seventh-round pick.

Fox to Eagles practice squad

The Philadelphia Eagles signed former Vikings defensive back Dustin Fox to their practice squad. In announcing the move, the Eagles listed Fox as a safety, the position he initially played for the Vikings when the club drafted him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
But Fox was switched to cornerback this year, and he struggled to play at an acceptable NFL level.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Plugging holes

The Vikings immediately addressed their two most glaring positions of weakness. The club announced today the signing of DB Rashad Baker, who spent
2004 and 2005 with Buffalo, and RB RB Artose Pinner, who was released Saturday by the Detroit Lions.
A former fourth-round pick of the Lions, Pinner has five career rushing touchdowns, including two against the Vikings.
The signing of both players provides some needed veteran depth at key positions. To make room, the Vikings cut two undrafted rookies, WR Jason Carter and RB Wendell Mathis.
If they clear waivers, they would likely be added to the practice squad. A club can carry up to eight players on their practice squad.
The players added to the practice squad Sunday are:
TE Richard Angulo
CB Charles Gordon
WR Martin Nance
OT Donald Penn
DE Khreem Smith

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Initial thoughts

Don't fall in love with this roster, because there will definitely be changes.
Players on the bottom of the depth chart at their respective lists still have to be wary, because the Vikings are scouring the waiver wires to see who's out there.
The only mild surprise to me was the release of LB Rod Davis. But that wasn't a surprise, since LB Jason Glenn was a starter on several of the special teams' units.
Running back Wendell Mathis had a solid camp and bolstered his spot with his return ability. But the Vikings could still upgrade at this position.
The real surprise is DE Jayme Mitchell, an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi. He was solid but not spectacular in training camp. Nothing like Spencer Johnson, another undrafted rookie defensive linemen, in 2004.
But Mitchell definitely looks the part: 6 foot 6, 285 pounds.

Vikings announce roster moves

The Minnesota Vikings have released the following 21 players and have traded T Adam Goldberg to the St. Louis Rams for an undisclosed draft choice.
The following players were released:

TE Richard Angulo
CB Tony Beckham
WR Josh Davis
LB Rod Davis
RB Adimchinobe Echemandu
CB Dustin Fox
CB Charles Gordon
WR Ryan Hoag
FB Steven Jackson
WR Chris Jones
WR Kevin Kasper
OG Chris Liwienski
LB Kyle McKenzie
QB Mike McMahon
QB J.T. O'Sullivan
S Willie Offord
C Jason Palermo
OT Donald Penn
DE DeQuincy Scott
DE Khreem Smith
DT Eric Taylor

Roster moves becoming more clear

The Vikings have half an hour left before they must finalize their 53-man roster. As of now, a handful of players have already been informed they have not made the team, most notably safety Willie Offord.
The full list will be available soon.
In the meantime, the Vikings announced on their Web site that CB Dovonte Edwards will be placed on the injured reserve and that WR Todd Pinkston has officially been signed.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pinkston agrees to terms with the Vikings

The Vikings have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with veteran receiver Todd Pinkston, according to a person close to the situation.
The Vikings apparently were pleased with Pinkston after they put the veteran receiver through a physical, and he provides more experience for a unit ravaged by departures this year, from Nate Burleson, to Koren Robinson, and even undrafted rookie Hank Baskett.
It is unclear what the Vikings corresponding move will be. But an action might not be necessary until Saturday, when Pinkston could officially sign the deal. By the afternoon, the Vikings must pare their roster from 75 to 53 players.
Brad Childress confirmed his interest in Pinkston, who played for the Vikings coach when he was the offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles. After drafting him in the second round in 2000, the Eagles cut him Thursday after trading for veteran Donte' Stallworth.
Pinkston was hobbled in training camp with a torn Achilles, which sidelined him the entire 2005 season. But the Vikings apparently aren't concerned with the injury.
Terms of his deal were not immediately available.
Pinkston started 62 games in six seasons with the Eagles and also appeared in 12 playoff games.

Bollinger officially a Viking

A Vikings spokesman confirmed that Brooks Bollinger and C.J. Mosley passed their respective physicals.
That means Bollinger is a Viking now, and Mosley a New York Jet. The Jets also get an undisclosed draft pick, believed to be in the seventh round.

Branch update

The Patriots released a brief statement that closed the possible trade of receiver Deion Branch.
"No trade has been consummated," the statement said. "Deion Branch remains under contract to the New England Patriots." reported that Branch filed a grievance through the NFL Players Association.
Given the tension between the two sides, it seems farfetched to imagine they will come to an amicable resolution.
Coach Bill Belichick has focused on signing and drafting players who put the team first. Branch's holdout for a new contract could doom his future with the club.
The Vikings apparently never became serious players for Branch's service. While they had the salary-cap space, the Vikings probably were discouraged by the draft pick it would have cost them (at least a third) as well as a contract that included an eight-digit signing bonus.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are looking at more cost-effective options. Todd Pinkston, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, was scheduled to take a physical today.

Pinkston visiting

    Former Eagles wide receiver Todd Pinkston was scheduled to take a physical with the Vikings today.
    Pinkston, who was released by the Eagles on Wednesday, missed the entire 2005 season because of a torn Achilles. Several other teams are interested in Pinkston, but the Vikings could make a move in the next few days, pending the results of his physical.


-- In four exhibition games, the Vikings' defense racked up eight interceptions and recovered four of eight fumbles. Starting players accounted for three interceptions and no fumble recoveries.
-- The Vikings tied an exhibition game for the third time in team history. The last time was 1975, in San Diego. The score was 14-14.
-- Childress applauded starting quarterback Brad Johnson for "controlling the football in this game."
Johnson finished 11 of 13 for 135 yards, with one touchdown.
"He had great command of the football," Childress said. "He did a great job of utilizing his checkdowns."
-- Troy Williamson returned one kickoff, and Childress said the team has not "totally given up on Troy Williamson" as a returner.
-- On seeing Terrell Owens, Childress said, "I did not.
"I don't think he was lined up on my side at all," Childress said.

More ESPN the Magazine info

Childress told the magazine that defensive tackle Pat Williams was two pounds heavier than his assigned reporting weight, which is why Childress put the veteran on the physically unable to perform list to open training camp.
"As much as you want to say, Gosh dang, that's our starting nose tackle, you can't," Childress told the magazine. "Some things can't be negotiable."

Stadium visit

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, and his brother Mark Wilf, chatted with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for 90 minutes Thursday. Joined by limited partner Richard Mandelbaum and vice president Lester Bagley, the Wilf brothers were briefed by Jones on their stadium efforts.
The Cowboys received approval to build a stadium in Arlington.
Bagley, accompanied by other vice presidents Steve LaCroix and Steve Poppen, toured the stadium site Wednesday without the owners.
"It's a different market," Bagley said. "It's top five, so there are differences. But nonetheless, they had a public campaign, and now they've dug a hole. It's a process we're going through. They're just ahead a year or so. It's also (helpful) to talk to other clubs who've been down that path."