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.
The Vikings will travel to Kansas City for their first preseason road game against the Chiefs on Saturday. It’s their third preseason game and a time when most NFL teams would like to have a resolution to any remaining training camp competitions.
Head coach Mike Zimmer, on the other hand, has hinted that some position battles could stretch into the fourth preseason game. He’s already bucked the exhibition trend by leaving his starters in for the entire first half in the second preseason game against the Cardinals. It’ll be interesting to see if Zimmer does anything different from last week as the Vikings ramp up for the regular season in two weeks. Here’s three things to watch:
1. WHO WILL BE THE STARTING QUARTERBACK? The Vikings will look to finalize the ongoing competition at quarterback, though Zimmer hasn’t publicly announced when he plans to make a decision. With the Jaguars selecting Chad Henne over Blake Bortles as their starting quarterback on Friday, the Vikings are the only team without a quarterback decision. While Matt Cassel Cassel hasn’t done anything worthy of a demotion, Teddy Bridgewater’s fourth quarter performance against the Cardinals last week kept him in the running. Zimmer hinted we could see Bridgewater with the first team against the Chiefs, although Cassel will start again and possibly play the entire first half again.
2. WHICH MLB AND SS WILL GAIN SEPARATION? It’s a close battle at middle linebacker and strong safety for the final two starting spots on defense. Head coach Mike Zimmer said linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole have been fairly even and plans to rotate them in every two series, similar to his plan against the Cardinals. Strong safety Robert Blanton will play his first preseason game after returning this week from a hamstring injury. He started training camp receiving first team reps but missed three weeks with the injury. Blanton must fight to start against Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo.
3. CAN MAUTI GAIN GROUND? Linebacker Michael Mauti received the second fewest snaps against the Cardinals, six, on defense. That should change against the Chiefs with rookie Brandon Watts and Gerald Hodges sidelined throughout the week with injuries. Mauti has gained first team reps at times in preparation for the Chiefs and should see more than six snaps. This will be a good chance to prove his worth with the increased workload.
The Vikings and the Wilf family announced this morning that they have agreed to commit an additional private contribution of $46.1 million toward the new stadium. With that commitment, the Vikings have now offered up a total of $49 million in additional contributions since November.
The additional money, which was promised to the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority at a meeting today, pushes the total private contributions from the team from $477 million to about $526 million.
The new money will go into the overall stadium budget and will ensure that amenities such as the five pivoting glass doors, elevators, escalators and acoustical treatments remain in the project.
“It is critical that the original stadium design unveiled in 2013 is delivered to the public when the new stadium opens in 2016,” said Vikings owner Mark Wilf. “Our goal is to provide the best game day experience possible for our fans and for everyone in Minnesota who uses the stadium. We strongly believed eliminating significant items that contribute to that fan experience was not an option.”
The public contribution toward the project remains at $498 million, the team said.
“The Vikings have made a significant contribution to the stadium budget, which allows us to maintain the original design to ensure the stadium is the most iconic, world-class stadium in the country and perhaps the world,” said MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. “The team stepping up to make this contribution was instrumental in helping to solve our budget gap.”
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— RB Adrian Peterson missed his second straight practice. He’s expected to travel to Kansas City.
— QB Matt Cassel’s excited to return to Arrowhead Stadium.
— OT Antonio “Tiny” Richardson’s fighting for a backup tackle spot.
— Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has moved on from the Chris Kluwe situation.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 21, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Lions WR Calvin Johnson will play his first preseason game on Friday against the Jaguars.
— Bears S Chris Conte will try to silence his critics in his first preseason game on Friday against the Seahawks.
— The Packers have a difficult decision to make with a surplus of outside linebackers.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings will travel to Kansas City with their third preseason game against the Chiefs on Saturday at 7 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Wide receiver Rodney Smith had more catches against the Cardinals last week (4) than he did in four preseason games last year (3). Smith finished with 55 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson missed practice for a second straight day as he deals with a personal matter, but the expectation is that he will be at Saturday night’s game in Kansas City.
That doesn’t mean Peterson will play against the Chiefs, though. Head coach Mike Zimmer said the other day he doesn’t feel the need to see Peterson in the preseason, so we probably won’t see him.
Also missing today’s muggy morning practice or watching from the side were nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf), cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder), and linebackers Brandon Watts (lower leg) and Gerald Hodges (knee). None of those four players are expected to suit up against the Chiefs.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) did, as promised, practice fully today after being held out of team drills yesterday. And he delivered the highlight of an uneventful practice when he kicked the football into the woods after dropping a would-be interception near the goal zone. It was a pretty impressive punt, but consider Zimmer unimpressed. Zimmer told the veteran to not do that again, and moments later, Greenway emerged from the trees carrying not one, but two footballs.
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer didn’t say as much, but it doesn’t take a body language expert to deduce that he’s ready for the Chris Kluwe questions to disappear.
Priefer met with reporters after today’s practice. This week’s settlement of Kluwe’s lawsuit against the Vikings was brought up when Priefer was asked for his opinion on the terms of the settlement and whether he was relieved to have the lawsuit behind him.
“You know,” he started, “I’m really excited about playing the Kansas City Chiefs. I’ve been focused on them all week. It’s something that I really haven’t given it much thought. The bottom line is we got a game to play and a season to prepare for.”
Priefer was suspended for the first three games of the regular season because of an anti-gay comment he made to Kluwe, the team’s former punter, in a team setting in 2012. He can reduce the suspension to two games by completing sensitivity training.
Thoughts on interim special teams coordinator Joe Marciano:
Priefer said things are going very well Marciano, who will be the team’s interim special teams coordinator during Priefer’s suspension.
“He’s a very knowledgeable coach,” Priefer said. “He’s been successful. He’s been in this league a long time. We’re trading ideas as we’ve been game-planning those first two ballgames, first three ballgames, actually. We just haven’t gotten as far as [Week 3 against] New Orleans yet because it’s a lot of work. But we’re getting there.
“Unfortunately, I have to leave the building for a few weeks, but we’re going to leave the guys in good hands.”
Walsh was 47 of 50 in practice:
Priefer said he’s not worried about kicker Blair Walsh, who is 0 for 2 from 50 yards and beyond during the preseason. Walsh also missed a 33-yard PAT in the closing seconds of last week’s win over the Cardinals.
“”He’s had a really good training camp,” Priefer said. “Going into that game the other night, he was 47 of 50 in team period. Obviously, that doesn’t mean a whole lot when you miss a couple of field goals. But he’s striking the ball well. He’s hitting the ball well. We’re working on a little bit of the follow through. We’ll tweak that and I think he’ll be just fine.”
Priefer said weather wasn’t a factor in any of Walsh’s preseason misses.
Hoping for Patterson kick returns
Cordarrelle Patterson has just started returning kicks in practice this week. The Vikings haven’t used him in the first two preseason games because his health is too valuable to risk over the course of a month’s worth of preseason games.
But Priefer said he’s hoping coach Mike Zimmer chooses to use Patterson for at least one or two returns on Saturday at Kansas City.
“I don’t think I need to see anything from [Patterson], but it’s one of those things that if you only do it in practice, the tempo isn’t the same, the timing isn’t the same,” Priefer said. “A lot of our returns are based off of timing, so getting him out there for a rep or two will help him get ready for St. Louis” in the regular season opener.
|Chicago WSox||1||Top 3rd Inning|
|Tampa Bay||1||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Detroit||1||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Seattle||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Baltimore - B. Norris||1:20 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks|
|San Francisco - T. Lincecum||3:05 PM|
|Washington - J. Zimmermann|
|Houston - C. McHugh||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - D. Salazar|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||6:05 PM|
|Philadelphia - D. Buchanan|
|Atlanta - E. Santana||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - M. Leake|
|Pittsburgh - E. Volquez||6:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - W. Peralta|
|San Diego - A. Cashner||7:10 PM|
|Arizona - V. Nuno|
|Miami - T. Koehler||7:10 PM|
|Colorado - J. Lyles|
|Detroit - J. Verlander||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - T. May|
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||7:25 PM|
|Texas - N. Tepesch|
|LA Angels - C. Wilson||8:05 PM|
|Oakland - J. Lester|
|NY Mets - J. deGrom||8:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke|
|Tampa Bay||3:30 PM|
|New Orleans||7:00 PM|
|St. Louis||7:00 PM|
|San Diego||8/24/14 3:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||8/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Atlanta||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|Detroit||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Kansas City||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|NY Jets||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|St. Louis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Carolina||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|New England||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Washington||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Baltimore||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Chicago||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Denver||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Minnesota||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|San Francisco||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Seattle||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|(21) Texas A&M||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|(9) So Carolina|
|Wake Forest||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Boise State||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Tulane||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Temple||8/28/14 8:15 PM|
|Rutgers||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Weber State||8/28/14 9:30 PM|
|(19) Arizona State|
|BYU||8/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|UNLV||8/29/14 9:30 PM|
|UCF||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|
|Oklahoma State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Red Bull New York|
|Chivas USA||6:30 PM|
|Sporting Kansas City|
|Vancouver FC||9:30 PM|
|Calgary||8/24/14 2:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||8/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Ottawa||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 2:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
Poll: Which of Rick Nelson’s must-try foods at the State Fair do you most want to try?