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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Three things to watch during Titans-Vikings

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 28th at 4:51pm 273084671

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.

Peterson denies report that claimed he told the Cowboys he wanted to play for them in the future

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 28th at 2:31pm 273068491

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.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Johnson's journey, Vikings with something to prove and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 28th at 10:48am 273008371

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

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.

Zimmer on what he wants to see from Ponder: `Just have the poise, when he's getting rushed, to make the right throws'

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 27th at 1:33pm 272909181

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked Tuesday what he’d like to see from third-string quarterback Christian Ponder in Thursday night’s final preseason game at Tennessee. His answer summed up what everyone has been waiting to see in Ponder since the Vikings selected the Florida State QB 12th overall three years ago.

“Just have the poise, when he’s getting rushed, to make the right throws,” Zimmer said.

That sentence, and Ponder’s consistent inability to fulfill it, sums up Ponder’s fall from future franchise quarterback hopeful at age 22 to current third-string insurance policy/trade bait/one-more-year-afterthought at age 25.

Ponder has enough physical talent to play the position. Zimmer said he thinks Ponder’s arm strength is underrated. And maybe he’s right. But it’s hard to tell since Ponder usually appears either too slow to decipher and/or unwilling to trust his arm for fear of making a mistake. Sometimes, you’d like for him to just make a bad decision as opposed to, well, no decision when it comes to passing the ball.

“I’d like to see him do what he does out here in practice,” Zimmer said. “He made, like, three great throws [Tuesday].”

Ponder proved in 2012 – the year the Vikings went 10-6 and made the playoffs — that he can make the necessary throws. However, what he didn’t prove was he can make them consistently when the pocket collapses and the pass rush is in his face. And in case you haven’t noticed, that happens regularly in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was talking back in May about evaluating college quarterbacks. He said he looks for the guy who “can make the NFL throw” because “I can get 100 guys who can come in here and make the college throw.” Then he showed some film of rookie Teddy Bridgewater making some quick, strong and accurate throws with the pocket collapsed and defenders crowding his legs.

Whether this is something that can be taught is tough to say since each quarterback and quarterback teacher is so different and develops so differently.

Bridgewater has credited Turner with already managing to speed up his dropback, which in turn has helped him buy more time to read the defense, aim at the target and let the ball fly.

Bridgewater most likely will start Thursday night as the Vikings rest No. 1 quarterback Matt Cassel and several starters. Ponder also is expected to play most of the game, so we’ll get a look at his progress or lack thereof for the first time since the preseason opener.

At this point, it appears Ponder will make the final roster and serve as an insurance policy against an injury. Those who don’t like that idea probably would feel differently if Cassel was injured in the first quarter at St. Louis and the Vikings had to play ¾ of that game with just Bridgewater and the next 15 with Bridgewater and some young street free agent who hasn’t been practicing Turner’s offense since March.

Having some experience and mobility at the No. 3 quarterback spot should be viewed as insurance money well spent. Just throwing in the towel if Cassel and Bridgewater were hurt would be admitting it’s OK to just waste another year of Adrian Peterson’s career.

Peterson is having a Hall of Fame-type career. But he’s also 29 years old and has experienced just one playoff victory.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Peterson wants to be the best ever, Joseph speaks and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 27th at 7:03am 272854411

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— RB Adrian Peterson is driven by one thing: becoming the best NFL player ever.

— NT Linval Joseph spoke with the reporters for the first time since he got shot.

— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater will likely start against the Titans tomorrow.

— Rookie OLB Anthony Barr sat out another practice with a sprained ankle.

— CB Jabari Price and OLB Gerald Hodges returned to practice yesterday.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— RB Reggie Bush appreciates the rest the Lions have been giving him.

— The Packers reached an injury settlement with rookie TE Colt Lyerla.

— Bears rookie QB David Fales will play the entire preseason finale.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are traveling to Nashville today for their preseason finale against the Titans.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

ESPN recently conducted a survey of 30 of their “insiders” to rank the NFL’s 32 head coaches. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer came in 24th on the list, which is fair considering he is a first-time head coach. But it is worth noting that Zimmer ranked the highest among the NFL newbies, including Texans coach Bill O’Brien, Browns coach Mike Pettine and Redskins coach Jay Gruden.

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Chicago WSox 2
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Kansas City 5
Texas 2 FINAL
Houston 4
Oakland 0 Top 4th Inning
LA Angels 3
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
NY Jets 7 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
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Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
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NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
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Cleveland 33
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Minnesota 19 FINAL
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