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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Floyd returns, but five other starters miss practice

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 4:03pm 286138701

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd returned to practice today, but the Vikings were without five other starters, including two new additions to the injury report.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph (knee/ankle) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness) did not practice today. Nor did outside linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), safety Robert Blanton (knee/ankle) or left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), all three of whom sat out Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring), running back Matt Asiata (foot) and defensive end Brian Robison (ankle) were all limited.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (wrist) and safety Andrew Sendejo (thumb) were listed as full participants on the injury report.

Floyd, meanwhile, was limited, but his presence at practice this early in the week gives hope that he might be able to return to the field — and play four quarters — this weekend against the Dolphins.

Floyd had been playing really well before banging knees with a teammate in practice a few weeks ago. He played but couldn’t finish the wins over the Panthers and Jets before the team decided to hold him out of practice last week and the Lions game as well.

The second-year defensive tackle said being sidelined was tough because he was playing well, starting to live up to the first-round expectations after waiting in the wings as a reserve last season.

“Frustration is an understatement for the past few weeks,” Floyd said. “But what can I do? My body is what keeps me going and when it tells me to stop, sometimes you’ve just got to listen.”

Floyd was asked by another reporter if he has talked through the frustration with anyone.

“I’m my own man,” he said, laughing. “So sometimes you’ve got to talk to yourself.”

(Just don’t do it in public, OK, Sharrif? People will look at you funny if you do that.)

One more practice tidbit for you that I couldn’t get in tomorrow’s notebook: The Vikings have opened the doors to their inside practice facility to let the cold air in to prepare for recent outdoor games. Now, to prepare for the trip down to Miami, they’ll turn up the heat in there.

“Yeah, it will be 80 degrees,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Not sunny, but it will be 80 degrees.”

I don’t think the temperature got up that high in there today, so I’m not going to show up in a tanktop tomorrow. But it was noticeably warmer than it usually is on days when they keep the doors closed.

Bridgewater off to a good start with his accuracy

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 4:27pm 286128851

Teddy Bridgewater was again on a podium, lamenting his incomplete pass toward wide receiver Jarius Wright in the final minute of Sunday’s loss to the Lions, the one he felt would have put the Vikings in position to win that nail-biter. Different day and different lectern, but same message.

“I missed the throw to Jarius. That hurt us,” the rookie quarterback said today.

There are a bunch of throws from this season that Bridgewater would like to have back — including that one he sailed over Wright’s head and his second interception Sunday, when he was both late and inaccurate while targeting wide receiver Greg Jennings on the sideline.

But for the most part, Bridgewater has been pretty accurate while executing Norv Turner’s offense.

His 63.5 percent completion percentage leads all qualifying rookies. It’s the highest mark for a rookie starter since 2012, when Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson both topped 64 percent.

And as I wrote yesterday, Bridgewater is among the league leaders in accuracy percentage, a stat from Pro Football Focus that accounts for things such as dropped passes, spikes to stop the block and throwaways, unlike raw completion percentage.

According to PFF, Bridgewater has been accurate on 75.6 percent of his throws, which ranks seventh in the NFL and is just ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Since Week 9, only Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have been more accurate.

Bridgewater completed 68.4 percent of his passes in college and completed 71.0 percent during his final season at Louisville. Even though he had an erratic pro day, accuracy was considered one of his biggest strengths as a prospect. So it’s no surprise that accuracy is translating to the pros.

“I have been pleased, but at the same time I’m not going to sit here and say I’m satisfied with it, because the expectation for this team and for me is pretty high right now,” Bridgewater said.

While Bridgewater has struggled with the trajectory on his deep balls this season, he has been accurate overall, in part because Turner is asking him to make shorter throws to his receivers. Only 47.9 percent of his 2,451 passing yards have come through the air (the majority of them have come after the catch), according to Pro Football Focus. That’s the fifth-lowest rate among qualifying QBs.

Still, being Bridgewater, the rookie sees plenty of room to improve. He is already talked to Norv Turner, the offensive coordinator, and Scott Turner, the quarterbacks coach, about some of the passes he’s sailed — like that one to Wright on Sunday — and what he can do to fix any flaws there.

“It’s all about finishing throws, whether it’s my follow-through or stepping into throws,” he said.

Mauti's latest knee procedure a 'speed bump'

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 17th at 1:37pm 286120131

Vikings linebacker Michael Mauti described his right knee procedure as a “speed bump” and a minor scope that placed him on injured reserve last week.

Mauti dealt with three torn ACLs in five seasons at Penn State before he arrived to the Vikings last year as a seventh round pick. He expects to recover from surgery in four weeks.

“I’m kind of over that; it’s part of the game at this point,” Mauti said of his knee injuries. “It’s encouraging for me after talking with the doctors. When he went in there and looked around, he said, ‘I couldn’t believe you’ve had the surgery that you’ve had because all your cartilage looks perfect.’”

He tweaked the meniscus on a kickoff during the third quarter. It’s unrelated to Mauti’s last torn ACL, which occurred on his left knee in 2012. Mauti was upbeat about the procedure and said he walked away the day of the surgery.

“I knew it wasn’t serious,” Mauti said. “I know what it feels like to have some things go wrong down there, unfortunately. I think the most encouraging part was that it’s not that serious. He cleaned up it up, and I walked out of the surgery that day. If this was during the year, a couple more weeks, and I’d be good to go again.”

Mauti has played nine games this season, mainly used on special teams. He finished with four tackles.

Vikings promoting safety Dixon from practice squad

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 2:05pm 286118101

The Vikings are promoting safety Ahmad Dixon from the practice squad. He will fill the open roster spot created yesterday when the team waived offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb.

Dixon, a rookie, started the season with the Cowboys, who drafted him in the seventh round. He made the team out of training camp, but was waived in September, reportedly because he had been late for a couple of team activities.

He has since spent time with the Vikings, the Bears, the Dolphins and the Vikings again. He only played in an NFL game for the Bears, getting special-teams snaps in five games for them.

“I think he’s a talented guy,” head coach Mike Zimmer said today. “He’s been bouncing around on some different practice squads for a little bit. He’s a guy to look at for a possibility in the future. He played pretty good on special teams. We knew him coming out in the draft and then when he was with Dallas in the preseason, the couple games I watched he looked pretty good.”

Starting safety Robert Blanton missed Sunday’s game with an injury, and while cornerback Shaun Prater can potentially play safety, the Vikings have only three healthy safeties right now.

In other news, the Vikings added guard Jordan McCray to their practice squad. McCray, an undrafted rookie out of Central Florida, spent time on the Packers’ practice squad this season.

He was one of multiple players the team had in for tryouts today. That’s because in addition to promoting Dixon, the Vikings lost cornerback Chris Greenwood, who was signed by the Ravens.

Vikings Rewind: Reviewing the final drive vs. Lions

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 17th at 11:00am 286105791

The situation: Down 16-14 with 45 seconds left, the Vikings had the ball at their own 30 needing just a field goal to win.

The context: The Vikings were held scoreless the entire second half and missed an opportunity to score with 2:01 left in the game. The defense got the ball back after a three-and-out to set up one last chance to win.

The result: Kicker Blair Walsh missed a 68-yard field goal as time expired and seal the Lions win.

How it happened:

Instead of reviewing just one play, we’ll look at multiple plays and how the Vikings could’ve handled the situation better.

IMG_0189

We’ll start with the first play of the drive where the Vikings were lined up in trips left and wide receiver Jarius Wright was wide open on a nice route. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sailed a ball over Wright’s hands. If completed, it would’ve been a gain of over 20 yards and placed the Vikings in Lions territory. Instead, it’s a wasted down and a wasted five seconds.

IMG_0190

On the next play, Bridgewater was pressed and forced to dump it off to running back Matt Asiata, who cut inside to gain nine yards. The Vikings were out of timeouts and Asiata gave himself up a yard short of the first down.

“We talked to the guys about, if you don’t think you can get out of bounds, get as much as you can and get down,” Zimmer said. “Matt, he got down, but he should have got the first down before he did.”

Asiata had an opportunity to get out of bounds and gain maybe two yards but chose to do the opposite. The Vikings burned 14 seconds off the clock until Bridgewater spiked the ball on 3rd and 1 at their own 39.IMG_0191

Asiata’s decision put the Vikings in a 4th and 1 situation where they needed to gain the first down but also gain a good chunk of yardage or get out of bounds. They got the first down when Bridgewater dumped it off to tight end Kyle Rudolph (circled in yellow), but he only gained five yards and didn’t get out of bounds.

Another 10 seconds went off the clock before Bridgewater spiked the ball on first down with five seconds left in the game at their own 44.

The 4th and 1, we don’t need the first down; I mean, we need the first down, but we need yards at that point and time,” Zimmer said. “We had a guy open down the field that we should’ve tried to get the ball down in there.”

Zimmer was referring to Wright (circled in red) who was around the Lions’ 44 when Bridgewater hit Rudolph. Wright beat his defender and had an opportunity to race out of bounds before the safety chased him down or the clock expired. If Wright got the Vikings to the 40, it would’ve set up a 57-yard field goal. That’s still a difficult kick to make, especially after Walsh pulled a 53-yarder to the right on the Vikings’ first drive, but nobody has ever made a 68-yard field goal before.

We’re already at three glaring mistakes and haven’t even factored in the delay of game penalty yet after the Vikings converted on fourth down that pushed the Vikings back to their own 39.

Bridgewater connected with Rudolph for 11 yards after the delay of game. Rudolph ran out of bounds at midfield with one second left. Take away the delay of game penalty and Walsh would’ve attempted a 63-yard field goal, a yard shy of NFL record for longest field goal made.

We didn’t handle the fourth quarter well and as I’m trying to teach this team that when you play good, you still have to win the fourth quarter and the critical parts,” Zimmer said. “…There’s so many games in the NFL that come down to this kind of crunch time, and we didn’t do enough to win. We’re going to keep going forward, we’re going to keep pounding the message. My mentality has not changed, my mindset has not changed. As I told the team, we’re going to stick with it, keep working on getting better because we’ve got something to build for the future.”

Zimmer listed some of the late game situations the Vikings have faced where they’ve won (the Jets and Bucs in overtime) and lost (the Packers, Bills, Lions and Bears). We touched on those situations last week in Vikings Rewind and how this young roster, particularly Bridgewater, is gaining experience with how to handle these close games. Their last four losses against the Bills, Packers, Bears and Lions were by a combined 14 points.

The Vikings had another opportunity to put it all together against a good Lions team and fell short late, just like they have in their three previous losses.

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Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
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San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60

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