Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Looking a little exhausted after the Vikings ran him all over the rain-soaked LP Field tonight, second-year running back Joe Banyard said he had no idea he had just eclipsed 100 rushing yards.
Rushing for 111 yards on 18 carries, Banyard, who is battling for a roster spot, made a strong argument to be the team’s fourth running back behind Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
“At the end of the day, I was just trying to do what’s best for this team,” said Banyard, who also had one catch for two yards. “If the opportunity was presenting itself, I was trying to capitalize on that.”
After McKinnon got three carries in the early going, Banyard took over as the primary ball-carrier and pretty much carried the offense on his back. He rushed for 59 yards on the team’s first two drives, and his 20-yard run down to the Tennessee 3-yard line on the opening drive set up rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s third-down touchdown pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Banyard finished the preseason with a team-high 212 yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per attempt.
But head coach Mike Zimmer stopped short of saying that Banyard had locked down a roster spot.
“Joe has played good this whole preseason, and that’s another guy that is a good kid, that works real hard and he is showing up a lot in the preseason,” Zimmer said. “Him and [rookie] Dominique [Williams] have also both done nice jobs. We’ll sit down tomorrow and talk about those things.”
Even if Banyard doesn’t make the Vikings’ 53-man roster, he certainly put up some impressive tape during the preseason. So it’s going to be difficult for them to sneak him onto their practice squad.
It took less than 20 seconds for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to bring up Christian Ponder in his post-game press conference after tonight’s 19-3 win over the Titans in the preseason finale, and he again staunchly defended the third-string quarterback.
“I’m especially proud of Christian Ponder because I know there’s been a lot of fans and a lot of people that have really been negative towards him,” Zimmer said. “And the guy’s been nothing but a first-class guy, works hard every single day and went on to perform well tonight.”
Ponder replaced starter Teddy Bridgewater at the 9:26 mark of the second quarter. He completed 12 of his 15 attempts for 121 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers. He led the offense on three scoring drives and would have gotten them in the end zone if not for a drop at the goal line.
“I feel like I played well,” Ponder said. “There are some plays I’d like back. But overall, I’m pretty proud of the way I played and the way we all played.”
It was Ponder’s first appearance since the preseason opener, when he went just 3-for-7 for 39 yards in the fourth quarter of a 10-6 win over the Raiders. It might also have been a final audition of sorts for Ponder. Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have said they would like to keep three quarterbacks, and there’s no reason to believe Ponder won’t be one of them. But at the very least, this might be the last time Ponder shows up on tape before his contract expires as season’s end.
“We did well and won the game, which is most important,” Ponder said. “I had fun. It was a fun environment to play in with the rain coming down, and we had a good time.”
We’re finally here. The final preseason game is upon us and real football is around the corner. But until the season opener against the Rams, the Vikings have their final exhibition game against the Titans on Thursday.
The big names and most of the starters likely won’t play, which will probably steer away the casual Vikings fan. Nevertheless, this game is important. It’ll be head coach Mike Zimmer’s last opportunity to evaluate his team before the Vikings trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 3 p.m. CT. With that said, here’s three things to watch:
1. HOW MUCH WILL TEDDY PLAY? There’s a “good chance” rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will start, according to Zimmer. The quarterback competition was settled this week with Matt Cassel named as the starter, but this is still a good opportunity for Bridgewater. It’d be his first chance to start, and the last time Bridgewater will face another opponent for the foreseeable future. It’s unknown how much Bridgewater will play and when quarterback Christian Ponder will enter the game, but Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner would like to see the rookie wrap up a solid preseason against the Titans on a high note.
2. WHICH CORNERBACKS WILL START? A veteran like cornerback Captain Munnerlyn probably won’t play, but will Zimmer want to give Xavier Rhodes another game to get comfortable with the new scheme before the regular season? He made a few good plays against the Chiefs last week and will need to take that next step in his second season with the questionable depth at cornerback. Also, keep an eye on Josh Robinson and Shaun Prater, who had an interception against the Chiefs, and how much they’ll play against the Titans.
3. WHO WILL STAND OUT ON SPECIAL TEAMS? There’s a lot of pressure on some of players on the bubble to perform well one last time to make the 53-man roster. Keep an eye on who starts on the return and coverage teams on kickoffs and punts. The final guys vouching for a roster spot will likely make their biggest impact on special teams during the regular season and will be used accordingly in the final preseason game.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson denied a report that said he called Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and told him he would like to play for the Cowboys in the future.
“This was a casual conversation between NFL colleagues in which I never indicated I wanted to leave the Vikings,” Peterson said in a statement released by the team this afternoon. “I have always said I understand the NFL is a business but that I would love to retire as a Viking.”
According to an ESPN report, Peterson and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke on the phone in June. The reporter only heard one side of the conversation — what Jones said to Peterson.
“Well, I understand, Adrian,” Jones reportedly said. “I’d like that, too … Well, I love your story. I love your daddy’s story. I’ve always respected what you’ve been about. I’ve always been a fan of yours.”
In the report, the ESPN reporter writes, “Listening to half the conversation, it is obvious Peterson is telling Jones he wants to play for the Cowboys.” At no point did the reporter state that he actually heard Peterson say that he would like to play for the Cowboys or encourage Jones to make a trade. But the report stated that Jones confirmed that Peterson told him that he wanted to play for Dallas.
Peterson grew up in Texas and has said multiple times that he was a Cowboys fan as a child.
The report came two days after Peterson told the Star Tribune he wanted to retire with the Vikings.
“They selected me, and things have been pretty good so far. We haven’t won a championship, but I don’t think they regret the pick,” Peterson told my colleague, Jim Souhan. “I know it’s a business. On the personal side, my goal is to finish my career as a Minnesota Viking. I would like to finish my career having played for just one team. Not many people get to do that. That would be special.”
Peterson, the highest-paid player on the Vikings, is under contract through the 2017 season.
The Cowboys could be in violation of the NFL’s tampering rules if they did not report the phone call to the Vikings. If they were, the Cowboys would be subject to a fine or the forfeiture of draft picks.
The Vikings did not say if they planned to push the NFL to pursue tampering charges.
“We are focused on the 2014 season, and as we have consistently communicated, Adrian is an integral part of the Vikings organization,” the team said in a statement.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— DT Tom Johnson took a long, winding path to the NFL and the Vikings.
— What does Mike Zimmer want to see from QB Christian Ponder tonight?
— These four Vikings players have something to prove against the Titans.
— I did a Vikings chat at the airport yesterday, so I was cranky and I apologize for that.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
In Tennessee getting ready for my final job interview for the Vikings.
— Isame Faciane III (@Theonly_Isame3) August 28, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— The Packers are already worrying about Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch.
— Lions players are looking forward to seeing former coach Jim Schwartz.
— These Bears players are on the bubble heading into tonight.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings wrap up the preseason against the Titans tonight in Nashville. The game starts at 7.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
ESPN crunched the numbers and they think the Vikings will win four games this season. I will eat this blog if that happens. Don’t ask me how I will actually do that, just know that I promise I will.
|Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Arrieta||2||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: D. Axelrod||7|
|NY Yankees - LP: S. Kelley||2||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: P. Coke||3|
|Colorado - LP: J. Lyles||1||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit||4|
|Tampa Bay - LP: K. Yates||4||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: A. Miller||5|
|Atlanta - WP: M. Minor||6||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: J. Niese||1|
|Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco||3||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks||2|
|Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak||11||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: B. Chen||5|
|Texas - LP: R. Mendez||2||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: C. McHugh||4|
|Oakland - LP: R. Cook||3||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: F. Salas||4|
|(21) Texas A&M||52||FINAL|
|(9) So Carolina||28|
|(18) Ole Miss||35|
|(19) Arizona State||45|
|(6) Jacksonville St||6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8:00 PM|
|Penn State||8/30/14 7:30 AM|
|Troy||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) UCLA||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Mich||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(5) Ohio State||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Appalachian St||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Ga Southern||8/30/14 11:30 AM|
|Boston College||8/30/14 2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Rice||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|California||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Marshall||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|Arkansas||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||8/30/14 4:30 PM|
|Liberty||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||8/30/14 6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|North Texas||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||9/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/5/14 6:30 PM|
|Calgary||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/7/14 3:00 PM|