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.
For the first time since he was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, Vikings top quarterback Matt Cassel will return to the city where he experienced probably the highest and lowest points of his NFL career, along with a bunch of personal memories Cassel will always cherish.
After Cassel’s breakout 2008 season in New England following a season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady, the Chiefs acquired him in 2009 and paid him big bucks to be their starter. A season later, the Chiefs won their division as Cassel had his only Pro Bowl season, tossing a career-high 27 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions.
But the honeymoon didn’t last for much longer after that, and things got so bad for Cassel during his turnover-plagued 2012 season that some fans at Arrowhead Stadium cheered when Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata knocked him out of an ugly game that the Ravens won, 9-6.
Still, despite that, Cassel said all the right things today about returning to Arrowhead Stadium.
“I’m excited to go back to Kansas City,” he said. “I haven’t been back since I left a few years ago. I’ve got a lot of close family friends there. We enjoyed our time there. My three children were born there. So I’ve got a lot of good memories in Kansas City, so it will be fun to go back and play.”
Cassel said he has “no ill will” towards the organization, and he said he is excited to catch up with the many familiar faces who were kind to him during his four years with the Chiefs.
“I’ve moved on. They’ve moved on. And it will be exciting to get out there and play against a good football team with a good defense as well,” said Cassel, who still owns a home in the K.C. area.
As for the quarterback competition that he is leading, Cassel said the coaches haven’t told him when a decision will be made, so he is only worried about playing well Saturday against the Chiefs.
“At this point, it’s just going to be one of those things where we just wait and see,” Cassel said. “Coach will make that ultimate decision. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to prepare and do what I need to do to get ready for the season. And then when the time comes and coach tells us, then that’s what we’ll have to deal with.”
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— OLB Chad Greenway was limited in practice due to a wrist injury.
— S Kurt Coleman almost quit football after paralyzing a teammate in college.
— Former Vikings C Mick Tingelhoff is a step closer to the Hall of Fame.
— Mike Zimmer is no cookie-cutter first-year head coach.
— The plan is for Greenway to wear the green dot on defense this season.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Fran Tarkenton (@Fran_Tarkenton) August 20, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Lions DT Nick Fairley says he wants to stay in Detroit.
— The Packers are trying to figure out who their backup QB will be.
— The Bears are trying to figure out who their backup QB will be.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings have an early practice today, as they take the field at 10:50 a.m. Afterward, defensive coordinator George Edwards and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will meet with the media. So will quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Former Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who was here from 2006-2010, now works for the Kansas City Chiefs. His official position is Special Project Manager, whatever the heck that means.
Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway, who is dealing with a wrist injury that head coach Mike Zimmer downplayed this morning, was dressed for practice today. But after participating in some of the individual drills at the start of the practice, Greenway spent the rest of the afternoon on the sideline.
Afterward, Greenway, who had a black brace on his right wrist, said he expects to practice tomorrow.
“It’s feeling pretty good and hopefully we’ll be able to push forward,” Greenway said.
Still, the injury is worth monitoring because it is the same wrist that Greenway fractured a season ago, when he played all 16 games despite the injury. Greenway did not have surgery on it after the season, instead going the rest-and-rehab route.
Greenway playfully joked that Zimmer was overreacting a little bit by holding him out today.
“I think he just thinks I’m getting old maybe,” Greenway said. “Obviously, when I had the issue with it last year it makes it a little more [noteworthy], wanting to take care of it. I know what it was like to go through the entire season with it last year and I don’t want to go through that again. I think we did a good job of figuring it all out and getting it taken care of.”
And no, if you’re wondering, Greenway did not tweak his wrist pouring ice water on Mark Craig yesterday. He laughed when I asked him if that’s what did it.
With Greenway and rookie Brandon Watts, who has a lower leg injury, watching from the sideline, second-year player Michael Mauti got an opportunity as the weak-side linebacker for the first-team defense. Hopefully for his sake, Mauti, who is firmly on the roster bubble, made a good impression.
Beyond Greenway, also missing from today’s practice were running back Adrian Peterson (personal matter), linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee), nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf), cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder), and tight end Chase Ford (foot). Rookie wide receiver Kain Colter briefly left practice with one of the athletic trainers, but returned with his right hand taped up.
Making his practice debut was new linebacker Justin Jackson. The rookie was wearing No. 45.
Robert Blanton, Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman split the first-team reps next to Harrison Smith.
Christian Ponder had a busy practice running the scout team as the Vikings prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ponder saw a lot of action with some of the other third-stringers against the starters and second-string defense. Smith didn’t make it easy for Ponder, picking off one of his deep throws over the middle and getting his hands on a couple other passes that could have been picked off.
Mick Tingelhoff, the overlooked and undrafted center who went on to play 17 seasons without missing a game for the Vikings, has moved one step closer to reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A five-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler from 1962 to 1978, Tingelhoff was chosen this afternoon as the Hall of Fame Senior Committee’s lone nominee for enshrinement vote by the full committee in 2015.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tingelhoff said by phone from South Dakota, where he’s vacationing with his family. “I’m honored. But I’ll be a lot happier if they put me in next Februrary.”
Although the Senior Committee carries tremendous weight, Tingelhoff still must receive at least 80 percent of the vote from the full board of selectors. They will meet and vote on the Saturday before Super Bowl 49 in February.
Vikings Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, a longtime roommate and friend of Tingelhoff’s, grabbed the phone from his secretary when told the news.
“It’s about [darn] time I got a call like this on Mick Tingelhoff,” he said. “He played 17 years. He came to us as an undrafted free agent from Nebraska. I remember his first day. I was going into my second year.
“He started out as a middle linebacker. We needed a center. He moved over there and became as great a center that’s ever played.”
One of the responsibilities that typically fall into the lap of a starting middle linebacker is donning the green dot on the back of their helmet during games, a distinction that means that they are the one defensive player on the field who has a radio headset in his helmet. That allows him to receive the calls from the defensive coordinator, sometimes via another defensive coach on the sideline.
That conversation is a one-way street, since the players are not permitted to have microphones to talk back. But it is an important one nonetheless, as the player with the green dot is the one who gets the defensive play call verbally and must relay it to the rest of the defense. For more on how that process works, I recommend you read this story I did back in Baltimore a couple of years ago.
So how does this relate to the Vikings? Well, head coach Mike Zimmer has yet to choose a starting middle linebacker between Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole. And regardless of which one he picks, they are not expected to play in the nickel and other sub packages, meaning they will only end up being on the field about 40 percent of the time. So giving the green dot to the Mike isn’t going to fly.
Zimmer could have chosen to give it to starting safety Harrison Smith, but when TCF Bank Stadium gets worked up in anticipation of a big third-down play, it would be difficult for Smith to yell out the calls loud enough from the secondary for the guys in the trenches to decipher what he was saying.
That left two other choices: Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr, who both stay on the field in the nickel package. Of course Zimmer was going to delegate those duties to the veteran, not a rookie.
“I think we’re pretty solid there,” Zimmer said when asked if he is still trying to figure out a plan.
Zimmer, who must have forgotten that we are running out of new stuff to talk about here in the dog days of late August, seemed surprised that I was asking him about who would wear the green dot.
“Is that important? It’s a news story today?” Zimmer said playfully (I think, at least). “Yeah, he’s been doing it. I wish 11 of them could have it, though. Have blue dots, green dots, red dots.”
|Chicago WSox||1||Top 3rd Inning|
|Tampa Bay||1||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Detroit||1||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Seattle||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Baltimore - B. Norris||1:20 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks|
|San Francisco - T. Lincecum||3:05 PM|
|Washington - J. Zimmermann|
|Houston - C. McHugh||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - D. Salazar|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||6:05 PM|
|Philadelphia - D. Buchanan|
|Atlanta - E. Santana||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - M. Leake|
|Pittsburgh - E. Volquez||6:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - W. Peralta|
|San Diego - A. Cashner||7:10 PM|
|Arizona - V. Nuno|
|Miami - T. Koehler||7:10 PM|
|Colorado - J. Lyles|
|Detroit - J. Verlander||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - T. May|
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||7:25 PM|
|Texas - N. Tepesch|
|LA Angels - C. Wilson||8:05 PM|
|Oakland - J. Lester|
|NY Mets - J. deGrom||8:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke|
|Tampa Bay||3:30 PM|
|New Orleans||7:00 PM|
|St. Louis||7:00 PM|
|San Diego||8/24/14 3:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||8/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Atlanta||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|Detroit||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Kansas City||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|NY Jets||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|St. Louis||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Carolina||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|New England||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Washington||8/28/14 6:30 PM|
|Baltimore||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Chicago||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Denver||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Minnesota||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|San Francisco||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Seattle||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|(21) Texas A&M||8/28/14 5:00 PM|
|(9) So Carolina|
|Wake Forest||8/28/14 6:00 PM|
|Boise State||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Tulane||8/28/14 7:00 PM|
|Temple||8/28/14 8:15 PM|
|Rutgers||8/28/14 9:00 PM|
|Weber State||8/28/14 9:30 PM|
|(19) Arizona State|
|BYU||8/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Bowling Green||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Colorado State||8/29/14 8:00 PM|
|UNLV||8/29/14 9:30 PM|
|UCF||8/30/14 7:30 AM|
|Troy||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) UCLA||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Mich||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|(5) Ohio State||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Appalachian St||8/30/14 11:00 AM|
|Ga Southern||8/30/14 11:30 AM|
|Boston College||8/30/14 2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Rice||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|California||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|Marshall||8/30/14 2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|Arkansas||8/30/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||8/30/14 4:30 PM|
|Liberty||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||8/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||8/30/14 6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||8/30/14 6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||8/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|North Texas||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|Oklahoma State||8/30/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|(14) Wisconsin||8/30/14 8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||8/30/14 9:30 PM|
|Red Bull New York|
|Chivas USA||6:30 PM|
|Sporting Kansas City|
|Vancouver FC||9:30 PM|
|Calgary||8/24/14 2:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||8/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Ottawa||8/29/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 2:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
Poll: Which of Rick Nelson’s must-try foods at the State Fair do you most want to try?