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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These days, rookie QBs 'a lot more prepared' than Rodgers was

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 30th at 3:26pm 277635021

The way NFL quarterbacks are groomed — specifically the timetables on which that grooming takes place — has drastically changed since the Packers took Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005.

Not that you need the history lesson, but Rodgers was considered to be candidate to be the top pick during the draft process but fell into the back end of the first round, much like Teddy Bridgewater did this past spring. The Packers had Brett Favre, but decided Rodgers was too good to pass up.

Seeing a first-round QB sit and watch for three years before starting was a rare occurrence even then, but about a decade later, it has become a question of when and not if they start as a rookie.

All nine of the quarterbacks selected in the first round from 2011 and 2013 started at least five games as rookies. And in 2014, two of the three first-round quarterbacks were starting by Week 4.

On a conference call with Minnesota media, Rodgers, while admitting he hasn’t seen Bridgewater play a single NFL snap, said he would not have been as prepared to start right away back in 2005.

“Definitely not as prepared as the guys are now,” the 30-year-old said. “The guys coming out now are a lot more prepared than maybe myself and Alex Smith and Jason Campbell, the three guys who went in the first round in 2005; we’re all still in the league and still playing. But definitely, you look at some of the guys who have been starting the past few years, they’re a lot more prepared.”

Rodgers figures the reason is that offensive schemes at the high-school and college levels have become more advanced and young quarterbacks are asked to read more at the line of scrimmage.

“And, obviously, we’ve seen some guys step in the past few years and really play well in their first, second and third years,” said Rodgers, who is now in his seventh season as the Packers’ starter.

So far, so good for Bridgewater, who has yet to show any rookie jitters in his young NFL career.

Bridgewater sits out again, but Munnerlyn is back

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 30th at 3:46pm 277629901

Despite saying earlier today that he feels much better than he did on Sunday, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sat out practice for a second straight day due to a sprained left ankle.

Head coach Mike Zimmer hinted that Bridgewater might be at practice tomorrow.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who came down with a bout of food poisoning Sunday night, returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out yesterday. He said earlier that he feels fine now.

Running back Jerick McKinnon, who was limited by an ankle injury yesterday, was limited again at today’s workout. Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) was also limited for a second straight day.

Outside linebacker Chad Greenway (ribs) missed another practice and could sit out a second straight game. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia surgery) was also absent from practice, of course.

Outside linebackers Michael Mauti (foot) and Brandon Watts (knee), fullback Jerome Felton (knee) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) were all listed as full participants on the injury report.

Bridgewater's ankle improving, status still unknown

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated September 30th at 4:59pm 277620751

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater won’t place a percentage on his chances to play Thursday against the Packers, but he feels the ankle has made progress.

“I’m much further ahead than I was Sunday,” Bridgewater said.

The Vikings have a quick turnaround after defeating the Falcons, 41-28, on Sunday. In that game, Bridgewater suffered the ankle injury on a quarterback sneak in the goal line. Bridgewater said he’ll run for the first time on Tuesday after rehabbing the ankle indoors with flexibility exercises.

“Teddy’s doing much better,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “If he can play, he’ll play.”

Bridgewater said he hasn’t pushed off the ankle or thrown a pass this week. He didn’t practice on Monday. Zimmer said Bridgewater will receive more mental reps at practice on Tuesday.

“We have a long time until Thursday, so I just want to continue to rehab, do a little exercising today and see where I am these next couple of days,” Bridgewater said.

Bridgewater, along with running back Jerick McKinnon with his 135-yard rushing performance, is up for the Pepsi Rookie of the Week award (You can vote here on the award). He became just the second quarterback to throw for over 300 yards, 317, and zero interceptions in his first career start.

If the rookie is ruled out against the Packers, quarterback Christian Ponder will get the start. Ponder replaced Bridgewater against the Falcons and finished the game.

“I’ve felt like I’ve paid attention in practice the whole time taking a lot of mental reps,” Ponder said. “So I feel like I’m pretty confident in what I’m doing.

Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 5

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 30th at 9:28am 277589861

Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.

12 — passes completed beyond 10 yards for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

One of the biggest differences between Bridgewater and Matt Cassel has been Bridgewater’s ability to push the ball down the field. According to ESPN, Cassel completed just one of his 11 attempts thrown beyond 10 yards with three interceptions before breaking his foot in Week 3. Bridgewater, meanwhile, has completed 12 of 17 such attempts for 231 yards with no picks and hit on two of his five passes beyond 20 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Sure, those numbers are inflated by his 8-for-12 showing against a poor Falcons pass defense. But still, Bridgewater has impressed.

135 — rushing yards for the Vikings through the “A” gaps during Sunday’s win.

The Vikings rushed for a season-high 241 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries Sunday, and they did more than half of that damage running behind center John Sullivan, who is quietly having another steady season. The Vikings rushed for 135 yards on 16 carries through the “A” gaps on either side of Sullivan, including rookie running back Jerick McKinnon’s 55-yard gain in the second quarter. The Vikings averaged 8.4 yards per carry behind Sullivan and 3.8 running it anywhere else.

six — completions allowed by cornerback Josh Robinson so far this season.

After a finicky hamstring flared up throughout training camp, Robinson drew the ire of head coach Mike Zimmer. But surprisingly, Robinson has gone from being “the other guy” to playing like “the man,” at least through four games. Robinson, the team’s third cornerback, has allowed just six receptions for 68 yards in coverage on 14 targets, according to Pro Football Focus. He has a pair of interceptions, too. Quarterbacks have a paltry passer rating of 18.5 when targeting Robinson.

one — quarterback hits surrendered by the Vikings offensive line on Sunday.

The play of left tackle Matt Kalil and the Vikings offensive line was scrutinized — including in this space — after the Week 3 loss to the Saints. But that group rebounded with its best performance of 2014 against the Falcons. Not only did the Vikings get their ground game going for the first time this season, they did not allow a sack. Bridgewater was pressured on just eight of his 34 dropbacks and hit only once, according to Pro Football Focus. Kalil allowed just two hurries.

67 — defensive snaps for outside linebacker Gerald Hodges against the Falcons.

Veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway sat out the 41-28 win with a broken rib and a busted left hand, giving Gerald Hodges an opportunity to make his first NFL start. Hodges ended up playing every single defensive snap for the Vikings and his 67 snaps were 27 more than he had played in his career before Sunday. So how did Hodges do? He made three tackles and recorded one QB hit. With it being a short week, look for Hodges to again have a large role against the Packers.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Bridgewater misses practice, committee at running back, more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 30th at 9:01am 277569631

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater missed practice yesterday with an ankle injury.

— Head coach Mike Zimmer prefers the committee approach at running back.

— Injured TE Kyle Rudolph can’t wait to get back on the field.

— CB Josh Robinson was far from questionable against the Falcons.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Packers OLB Clay Matthews should be good to go Thursday night.

— The Packers defense is really struggling to stop the run right now.

— How will the Packers deal with the short practice week?

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

We will hear from both Bridgewater and Zimmer this morning at 11 a.m. Then the Vikings will switch back to a more normal practice schedule with a 12:50 p.m. practice at Winter Park.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

RT Phil Loadholt, at 6-foot-8 and 343 pounds, is the biggest player on the Vikings and one of the biggest men in the NFL period. To put that into perspective, he weighs nearly twice as much as the smallest Vikings player. That would be CB Marcus Sherels, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds.

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