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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NFL announces that Peterson will be reinstated on Friday

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 16th at 5:24pm 300141141

One day after Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was eligible to be reinstated, the NFL issued a 211-word statement today that announced his return, effective Friday, while warning him to continue his counseling and not step out of line again.

The Vikings, meanwhile, quickly released a 23-word reaction that was a simple nod of recognition of the news and a welcome back for the 2012 NFL MVP.   The team knew this day was coming soon and already has expressed its support of Peterson with public comments from ownership, the front office, coaching staff and players in recent months.

Here is the statement from the NFL:

“Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was advised today that effective tomorrow he is reinstated as an active NFL player and may participate in all scheduled activities with the Vikings.

“In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell, Peterson was informed that he is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to the authorities in Minnesota and Texas, as well as the additional commitments Peterson made during his April 7 meeting with the commissioner regarding maintaining an ongoing program of counseling and treatment as recommended by medical advisors.

“Beyond the requirement to comply with his court obligations and plan of counseling, Peterson was reminded that his continuing participation in the NFL depends on his avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies. Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL.

“Peterson was suspended without pay last November 18 for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child.

Here is the Vikings’ statement:

“The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings.”

Those final eight words essentially are all the Vikings feel they need to say about their plans for Peterson amid a flurry of trade speculation that will only heat up as the draft approaches in two weeks.

The Vikings’ offseason training program starts on Monday. It’s unlikely that Peterson, who has expressed some reservations about returning to Minnesota, will participate in the voluntary workouts and OTAs. The first mandatory gathering is the team’s mini-camp on June 16-18.

Peterson hasn’t played since last year’s season opener in St. Louis. He rushed for 75 yards on 21 carries, caught two passes for 18 yards and didn’t score in a 34-6 win at St. Louis.

The following Friday, he was indicted in Houston on felony charges related to the injuries he caused while disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch. The Vikings deactivated him for Week 2, announced the following Monday that he would return and changed course two days later when the NFL stepped in amid an outcry from the public and the team’s corporate sponsors.

Peterson was placed on the newly-created commissioner’s exempt list. He was moved to the suspended list on Nov. 18 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault of his son.

Peterson ended up back on the commissioner’s exempt list on Feb. 27 when U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned an arbitrator’s ruling that sided with the league over Peterson. Rather than reinstate Peterson then, the league moved him back to his original list while it appealed Doty’s decision.

Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told reporters at last month’s NFL owners meetings that it would be “in Peterson’s best interests” to play elsewhere. But General Manager Rick Spielman has said the team has no interest in trading the 2012 league MVP and are standing behind a contract that has three years left on it and includes $12.75 million this season, a league-high for a running back.

Vikings work out Old Dominion basketball player Richard Ross

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 15th at 2:12pm 299871601

It appears several NFL teams  are interested in Old Dominion basketball player Richard Ross as a future NFL football player, presumably at tight end. Count the Vikings among the teams sniffing around the athletic 6-6, 236-pounder.

According to a source close to the situation, the Vikings sent tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski to conduct a private workout at Old Dominion today. Ross’ basketball teammates also showed up to watch and wonder if perhaps an ODU basketball player will become the first ODU product to be drafted by an NFL team.

Ross, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior this past season, hasn’t played football since high school. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first college basketball player to transition to NFL tight end. The Chargers’ Antonio Gates made that a popular possibility years ago.

The Vikings reportedly were one of the NFL teams that met with Ross at ODU’s pro day. Ross didn’t work out at the time because his basketball team was still in the NIT tournament.  According to the Virginia-Pilot, Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner was there to watch ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

The Vikings’ interest doesn’t necessarily mean they’re planning to use even a late-round draft pick on Ross. The team also spends a lot of time preparing for the mad dash of signing undrafted rookies as soon as the draft is over.

Those close to the situation say the Vikings have had their eye on Ross for a while. But he probably will have more private workouts scheduled with other teams before the draft.

NFL Draft Truth or Hype: running back Todd Gurley

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 15th at 12:29pm 299848001

We interrupt your daily Adrian Peterson chatter to examine a prospect that could be the next Peterson. Yes, we’re talking about Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who had a strange season last year.

If you never caught Gurley’s eye-popping highlights, you definitely knew his name last year when he was suspended four games for exchanging autographs for cash. Once he returned from suspension, Gurley tore his ACL against Auburn.

Up until that point, Gurley was a Heisman candidate and one of the most dynamic players in the country at 6-1 and 222 pounds.

By the Numbers:

Freshman (14 games): 222 carries, 1,385 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, 16 receptions, 117 receiving yards

Sophomore (10 games): 165 carries, 989 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 37 receptions, 441 receiving yards, six touchdowns

Junior (six games): 123 carries, 911 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, 12 receptions, 57 receiving yards

Gurley averaged 6.4 yards per carry in three seasons. He was the second freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in school history. The first was some guy named Herschel Walker in 1980.

He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns during his career and ran the seventh-fastest 60-meter hurdles time in school history at 8.12 seconds.

Gurley’s pretty good.

Combine/Pro Day results:

40-yard dash: N/A

Bench press (225 pounds): N/A

Vertical: N/A

Broad jump: N/A

But Gurley’s health is the biggest concern among NFL teams at the moment. He’s still recovering from ACL surgery and didn’t participate at the NFL Combine or Georgia’s pro day. Gurley didn’t even get his knee examined by doctors at the combine so it wouldn’t slow down his recovery time. Gurley will return to Indianapolis this weekend for a medical re-check, which should give teams a better idea if there are any red flags with his knee.

The Film

When healthy though, Gurley was in a league of his own among running backs in college football. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon was really good in college. Gurley was great. This wouldn’t even be a comparison if Gurley was healthy.

Georgia football games were must-see-TV when Gurley played. Every time Gurley touched the ball, you thought he was going to score a touchdown. Before the injury, he truly was a special talent that had great size, speed and power. He could run between the tackles, but Gurley was so dangerous when he bounced outside and turned the corner. Gurley wasn’t scared of contact. Per Pro Football Focus, Gurley led the nation forcing a missed tackle on every 3.3 rush attempts.

 

His biggest area of improvement is pass protection. Based on what I saw, Gurley seemed to pickup outside blitzes fine. But he could use some work protecting between the tackles.

 

It’s only five games from this season, and nobody knows at the moment how his knee feels, so there’s a lot of uncertainty on whether Gurley will return to form. It doesn’t help him that it’s a really good draft for running backs and teams can find value in Day 2 or 3. Some other names I do like that will get picked after the first round are Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Northern Iowa’s David Johnson and Minnesota’s David Cobb.

But I love Gurley. Even as he recovers from ACL surgery, I’d still pick him in the first round and ahead of Gordon. Yes, I know, he’s a running back and that position shouldn’t warrant a first round selection. But he’s going to be special. And, yes, I’m banking on his medical exam this weekend coming back clean.

Verdict: TRUTH.

NFL on Peterson decision: Stay tuned

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 15th at 8:34am 299822751

It’s not like the Vikings have a game this weekend, but NFL fans aren’t a particularly patient pack of people. So Vikings fans probably have today, April 15, written down in big bold letters as potentially a celebratory day.

After all, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, today is the first day that former league MVP Adrian Peterson can be considered for reinstated after his lengthy tussle with the league, the law and the high court of public opinion regarding the injuries he caused while disciplining his 4-year-old son.

So we’ll hear something today, right? Goodell will pull out a roll of industrial strength paper towels and clean this thing up nice and tidy before we head off to work.

Right? Right?! RIGHT!!!!?

Well, maybe not.

As we pointed out in print this morning, the NFL views April 15 as a much softer deadline than the IRS. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello sent this email reminder of Peterson’s vague timetable when asked Tuesday if the league would be removing the former NFL MVP from the commissioner’s exempt list and reinstating him today:

“Here is what we said regarding April 15 when we announced his suspension [last fall]: –

“Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was notified today that he has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, and will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. … “In order to assess your progress going forward, I [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015.”

Goodell and Peterson met for three hours last week. Whether it will lead to his reinstatement today, well, stay tuned. And keep in mind that, A, He will be reinstated; and B, the Vikings are off this Sunday.

ESPN analyst rips Peterson's agent for trying to control trade discussion

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 14th at 5:27pm 299728531

If a man’s ears do indeed burn when someone not present is talking about him, then Adrian Peterson’s agent probably spent the past hour with his head in a bucket of ice water.

ESPN analyst Bill Polian, the newly-elected Pro Football Hall of Famer and former NFL general manager, just conducted a conference call with reporters. I climbed aboard the runaway NFL draft hype train and asked Polian the following question:

“In a trade scenario, what would you consider Adrian Peterson’s value in terms of draft picks, and would you trade for him on draft night if you hadn’t talked to him or had him take a physical beforehand?”

Polian laughed because apparently he has spent a lot of time barking about this situation and the actions of Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, who hasn’t exactly been Mr. Subtle in expressing how much better off Peterson would be somewhere other than Minnesota, which, by the way, has him under contract for three more years, including a $12.5 million agreement for this season.

“I’ve had a lot to say on this subject on [ESPN's NFL] Insiders,” he said. “Let’s take away the hypotheticals for a moment and say the following: Despite anything his agent may say to the contrary or his, quote, people, whoever they may be or say to the contrary, the following are the facts. He has a valid contract, a multi-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. And if the Minnesota Vikings decide that they want him to play football for them, he will play football for them or play football for no one.

“So I think that is a fact. It’s very clear-cut. It’s black and white, despite any protestations to the contrary. Secondly, if you were to be interested in trading for him, that means that the Vikings control the ability to move him. No one else. So there is no third party interaction here. This is a question of whether or not the Vikings want to trade Adrian Peterson to someone else. So I think those two sets of facts have been lost in all of the noise that surrounds this situation almost since last January.

“The third part of the equation is where does he stand with the league? I presume that question will be answered at some point in the foreseeable future. But it has not been answered yet. And that certainly affects any potential trade. I hasten to add that if the Vikings would be willing to entertain one — and they have said just the opposite, at least from where I can tell recently — trying to determine what’s fair compensation for him in a trade assumes that the Vikings would be willing to enter into such a transaction. Not that someone else decides that it should take place.

“So compensation is [Vikings General Manager] Rick Spielman’s call, and I’m not going to farm his land. The fact of the matter is that he has a very, very fair contract, in my opinion, from his perspective. He’s the highest-paid back in the league, I believe. And he has a multi-year contract. So he would be ostensibly available for three more years if any team ever trades for him. To me, that mitigates whatever his age is. He’s also had a year off, which is probably for a running back a good thing. So the extent that his age is a factor if you were going to move him, I don’t think it is a factor because he’s under club control for the next three years.

“Could you make a trade for anybody on the clock? Of course you can. But the question of whether or not that player will report is another issue. And that’s unknowable at this time. I would be, as a general manager, I would be very wary given what’s gone on up to this point that he would report and honor that contract. I would have concerns about that if I were trying to make a trade.”

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Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 7
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: A. Caminero 2
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 2
Cincinnati - WP: A. DeSclafani 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 1
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Robertson 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: E. Volquez 7
San Diego 14 Bottom 7th Inning
Colorado 2
Oakland 4 Bottom 3rd Inning
LA Angels 2
Houston 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Seattle 2
Milwaukee 82 FINAL
Chicago 91
New Orleans 28 2nd Qtr
Golden State 17
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Minnesota 3
Anaheim 3 3rd Prd
Winnipeg 4

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