Access Vikings

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.


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Vikings release regular season depth chart, sign Wentworth to practice squad

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated September 2nd at 2:08pm 273603921

The Vikings released an updated depth chart for the regular season, which has Jasper Brinkley and Robert Blanton as the starting middle linebacker and strong safety.

The depth chart is subject to change but gives a better idea of where both positions stand. Head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t want to name the starters at both positions publicly on Monday, although he already made a decision. Here’s more on the strong safety situation from today’s paper.

Here’s a complete look at the Vikings regular season depth chart.

The Vikings also signed undrafted rookie free agent guard Austin Wentworth to the practice squad. They released cornerback Kendall James to make room for Wentworth, who was waived on Sunday. James was selected in the seventh round in this year’s draft and the only drafted rookie not on the roster.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Vikings underrated, still searching for a safety and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 2nd at 9:59am 273546261

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Are the Vikings better than they are being given credit for?

— The Vikings remain undecided at one of their starting safety spots.

— NT Linval Joseph, RT Phil Loadholt and OLB Anthony Barr all returned to practice.

— TE MarQueis Gray is happy to be back in the Twin Cities.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— Will the new Bears defense respond when the bell rings?

— The Packers are counting on rookie C Corey Linsley to start.

— Rookie OLB Kyle Van Noy could be headed to IR but with a return designation.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

Players have the day off. They’ll be back at Winter Park tomorrow for their regular work week.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Vikings got rid of three experienced starting safeties in Chris Crocker, Kurt Coleman and Jamarca Sanford and replaced them with two veterans, Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo, with 13 combined starts in the league and a sixth-round pick, Antone Exum, who is in his first season.

MarQueis Gray surprised, excited to be a Viking

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated September 1st at 2:07pm 273474191

Vikings tight end MarQueis Gray, going on less than four hours of sleep, arrived at Winter Park on Monday for his first practice with the Vikings.

The former Gophers quarterback said he was surprised to return to the Twin Cities after the Browns cut him on Saturday.

“I found out more about it through Twitter more than my agent, but he called me right away and Mr. [Rick] Spielman called me also,” Gray said. “I’m happy to be here. I called my wife, and she was going crazy.”

Gray was flooded with texts and social media responses on Sunday as reports rolled in that the Vikings claimed him.

The Indianapolis native spent his rookie season last year with the Browns under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who Gray felt had a big impact on the acquisition.

“[Turner] saw, first most, what I could do in this offense,” Gray said. “I believe he’s trusting me a lot, obviously, because he wants me to be here. I just got to make sure I do my part and uphold all the great things he’s said about me.”

Gray does not know the specifics of his role at the moment. He was used in two tight end formations and Wildcat plays with the Browns in his first season at the position.

“You never take a day off being a tight end,” Gray said. “A lot more physical stress on the body. That’s why I’m trying to mainly bulk up strength wise, because I’ve been doing a lot blocking. That’s been the main focus I’ve been working on since I’ve switched to tight end.”

Joseph back at practice, new Vikings make cameos

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 1st at 2:08pm 273462751

Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph was at practice today, three and a half weeks after he was a victim, along with eight others, in a nightclub shooting in downtown Minneapolis. Joseph, who last week spoke for the first time since the shooting, planned to be a “full go” in practice this week.

Since we are now in regular-season mode, we got the boot about 20 minutes into practice, so we only saw Joseph participate in individual drills. It didn’t appear that his injured left calf was affecting him too much, so that’s an encouraging sign that he might indeed return for Sunday’s opener.

Top pick Anthony Barr, who had been dealing with a sprained ankle,  returned to practice, as did right tackle Phil Loadholt, who had an ankle injury and wide receiver Rodney Smith, who hurt his neck nine days ago. Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who left Thursday’s game with a hip injury, also practiced.

Only four players were not participating while we were out there: fullback Zach Line, offensive tackle Mike Harris and outside linebackers Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts.

Line hurt his ankle in the preseason finale. Mauti has a foot injury and Watts has a leg injury.

Zimmer said he expects Watts to be the only injured Vikings player to not be able to play Sunday.

Harris, meanwhile, is not injured, at least not that we know of. The Vikings claimed him off waivers yesterday and he appeared about 15 minutes into practice. He might have just gotten in town.

And, yes, tight end MarQueis Gray, also claimed off waivers yesterday, was out there today.

Vikings 4 Downs: safeties, Line, NFC West vs. NFC South, more Ponder talk

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated September 1st at 11:36am 273462221

The Vikings wouldn’t pick up a guy they just cut. If they did like safety Kurt Coleman, they would’ve kept him. The team cut Coleman and Chris Crocker, while placing Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve. It leaves just four safeties on the roster – Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith, Antone Exum and Andrew Sendejo –when head coach Mike Zimmer still hasn’t finalized who will start at strong safety. It appears it will be Blanton and Smith as the starting safeties against the Rams on Sunday.

Sendejo is capable of playing both positions, which gives Zimmer flexibility at safety. Whether the Vikings add another safety depends on how Zimmer feels about Exum. The biggest issue with adding a safety at this point is he’ll have less than a week to learn the defense. Similar to the acquisitions of tight end MarQueis Gray and offensive tackle Michael Harris, the Vikings would probably prefer someone that’s familiar with the scheme in case they’re needed in an emergency situation.

It was surprising that the Vikings kept Zach Line with Jerome Felton on the roster. It might be more about special teams than it is about offense, however. He was used quite a bit on special teams during the preseason and the Vikings will be without two key players on special teams from last season. Sanford was placed on injured reserve, while the Vikings waived linebacker Larry Dean on Sunday. Unless Felton gets injured, it’s hard to see Line being used on offense this year.

I don’t think losing one player, as valuable Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford are to their teams, will have that great of an impact on the entire division. It’s still the best division in the NFL and could still claim both NFC Wild Card spots. The same can’t be said about the NFC North with the bottom two teams, the Vikings and the Lions, which could both finish with losing records. It’s on par with the NFC South, which should be an improved division, and a notch, or two, below the NFC West.

Ouch. The Christian Ponder hate continues, even after a decent performance in the preseason finale against the Titans. Ponder might be the scout team quarterback, but if you’d rather take MarQueis Gray and/or Jerick McKinnon over him, it’d be a waste of time even discussing.

And while we’re at it, if the Patriots can get a future sixth or seventh-round pick for quarterback Ryan Mallett from the Texans, you can see why the Vikings opted to keep him on the roster juuuuuust in case someone needs a quarterback this year.

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