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.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson’s three-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy was upheld by the NFL.
Simpson missed practice on Aug. 18 to meet with the league in New York to appeal the suspension stemming from a drunken-driving arrest last season. The wide receiver avoided jail time in January after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree drunken driving following a Nov. 9 arrest. Simpson, 28, was placed on a one-year probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service in public schools.
It’s the second suspension for Simpson, who is entering his sixth season, and it occurs just a day before the Vikings must trim their roster down to 53 players from 75. It’s unknown how Simpson’s suspension will impact whether they plan to keep five or six receivers.
The 28-year-old previously served a three-game suspension when he first signed with the Vikings in 2012 for a drug arrest in September 2011 when he played for the Bengals.
Despite knowing of a possible suspension, the Vikings opted to re-sign Simpson to a one-year deal in the offseason. He was used as the team’s third wide receiver in the preseason and had two catches for 25 yards in the four exhibition games.
The NFL released this statement: "Jerome Simpson of the Minnesota Vikings has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2014 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
"Simpson will be eligible to return to the Vikings’ active roster on Monday, September 22 following the team’s September 21 game against the New Orleans Saints."
Looking a little exhausted after the Vikings ran him all over the rain-soaked LP Field tonight, second-year running back Joe Banyard said he had no idea he had just eclipsed 100 rushing yards.
Rushing for 111 yards on 18 carries, Banyard, who is battling for a roster spot, made a strong argument to be the team’s fourth running back behind Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.
“At the end of the day, I was just trying to do what’s best for this team,” said Banyard, who also had one catch for two yards. “If the opportunity was presenting itself, I was trying to capitalize on that.”
After McKinnon got three carries in the early going, Banyard took over as the primary ball-carrier and pretty much carried the offense on his back. He rushed for 59 yards on the team’s first two drives, and his 20-yard run down to the Tennessee 3-yard line on the opening drive set up rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s third-down touchdown pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Banyard finished the preseason with a team-high 212 yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per attempt.
But head coach Mike Zimmer stopped short of saying that Banyard had locked down a roster spot.
“Joe has played good this whole preseason, and that’s another guy that is a good kid, that works real hard and he is showing up a lot in the preseason,” Zimmer said. “Him and [rookie] Dominique [Williams] have also both done nice jobs. We’ll sit down tomorrow and talk about those things.”
Even if Banyard doesn’t make the Vikings’ 53-man roster, he certainly put up some impressive tape during the preseason. So it’s going to be difficult for them to sneak him onto their practice squad.
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.
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.
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.
|Philadelphia||12/20/14 3:30 PM|
|San Diego||12/20/14 7:25 PM|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|Portland||97||1st OT 1:24|
|LA Clippers||65||3rd Qtr 4:05|
|Oklahoma City||9:30 PM|
|Case Western Reserve||65||FINAL|
|UC Santa Barbara||69|
|Central Penn College||65||FINAL|
|William & Mary||86|
|Fla Gulf Coast||83|
|South Dakota St||53||FINAL|
|TX-Pan American||51||2nd Half 5:25|
|Colorado State||71||2nd Half 3:19|
|Alabama A&M||40||2nd Half 4:18|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||35||2nd Half 8:38|
|Eastern Wash||24||1st Half 5:44|
|Idaho State||20||1st Half 4:05|
|Nevada||12/20/14 10:00 AM|
|Utah State||12/20/14 1:20 PM|
|(23) Utah||12/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Mich||12/20/14 4:45 PM|
|South Alabama||12/20/14 8:15 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|East Tenn St||48||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||69|
|(6) North Carolina||65||FINAL|
|Long Beach St||85|
|Miss Valley St||39||FINAL|
|(16) Oregon State||67||2nd Half 2:21|
|Pacific||22||1st Half 11:44|
|New Mexico St||7|
|No Dakota State||33||1st Half 2:19|
|Cal State Fullerton||40|
|Utah State||34||1st Half 3:04|
|Bethesda (CA)||17||1st Half 5:50|
|Utah Valley U||10||1st Half 3:30|
|LSU||2||1st Half 17:05|
|UC Santa Barbara||2|