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.
Former Gopher MarQueis Gray was among the two waiver claims the Vikings won on Sunday.
Gray, who played quarterback for the Gophers and now serves as a tight end, was released by the Browns and announced his return to the Twin Cities on Twitter.
It’s official I’m a Viking!! I’m coming come thank you lord!!
— MarQueis Gray (@MarQueisG) August 31, 2014
Along with Gray, the Vikings claimed offensive tackle Michael Harris, who was released by the Chargers, according to an NFL source. Both players have previously worked with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who held the same position last season with the Browns and served as the Chargers’ head coach in 2012.
The Vikings must make two corresponding transactions to make room for Gray and Harris on the 53-man roster.
While there were no major surprises among today’s roster cuts, the release of veteran safety Chris Crocker qualifies as a minor one. Crocker and fellow safety Kurt Coleman were both let go as the Vikings trimmed their roster from 75 players to 53 before today’s roster deadline.
Also cut were defensive tackles Fred Evans, Chase Baker and Isame Faciane; tight ends Chase Ford and Allen Reisner; running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams; wide receivers Kain Colter and Donte Foster; offensive linemen Mike Remmers, Jeff Baca and Zac Kerin; defensive end Justin Trattou; linebackers Mike Zimmer and Justin Jackson; and corners Julian Posey and Kendall James.
James, a 2014 sixth-round pick, was the only member of the team’s draft class to be cut.
Among the notables who did make the team were wide receivers Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith; fullbacks Jerome Felton and Zach Line; offensive tackle Austin Wentworth; linebackers Gerald Hodges, Brandon Watts, Michael Mauti and Larry Dean; and, yes, quarterback Christian Ponder.
Rookie offensive tackle Antonio Richardson will join safety Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve.
Note that wide-out Jerome Simpson will not count against the 53-man roster while suspended.
The Vikings will place safety Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve, according to a league source.
Sanford, a starter for the Vikings in 2012 and 2013, injured his quad in last Thursday’s preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs and could not play two nights ago against the Tennessee Titans.
Sanford also missed most of the spring workouts because of a different injury, a pulled muscle.
Those injuries, which denied him an opportunity to impress new head coach Mike Zimmer, along with his $2.5 million salary-cap figure put Sanford’s roster spot in jeopardy heading into cut-down day.
According to Yahoo Sports, the Vikings are putting Sanford on short-term injured reserve, which is not to be confused with injured reserved with a designation to return. On short-term IR, the player is released once he is healthy. It is used for banged-up players who would have been cut otherwise.
The Vikings have until 3 p.m. CDT today to trim their roster from 75 players to 53 players.
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."
So how should we interpret an undefeated preseason?
Well, we know the Vikings are playing efficiently, confidently and successfully. We also know Thursday night’s 19-3 win at Tennessee completed the seventh unbeaten preseason in a franchise history that stretches to 1961.
Next up is the Sept. 7 regular season opener at St. Louis against a Rams team that’s missing its starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, who’s out for the season with another torn ACL.
So we all can write down 1-0 for the Vikings, eh?
Before we do that, let’s go back to 2001, the last time the Vikings were undefeated in the preseason. They were efficient, confident and were also coming off a trip to the NFC Championship game the year before.
The season opener also was at home against a Panthers team that was starting Chris Weinke, a rookie fourth-round draft pick, at quarterback.
Naturally, the Panthers won 24-13. The Vikings would win only five games that year. As for the Panthers, all they did was end the season on a 15-game losing streak.
But, with that in mind, Vikings fans should be encouraged by this year’s preseason.
Defensively, even with a somewhat vanilla approach that’s natural for the preseason, coach Mike Zimmer showcased an approach that was more unpredictable up front, tighter in coverage on the back end and just more aggressive and competitive overall.
A year ago, the Vikings ranked last in scoring defense, allowing 30 points per game. For what it’s worth, they were No. 2 (12.3) this preseason. Granted, it’s preseason. But something good is happening on that side of the ball.
Meanwhile, offensively, the same 11 starters return. But a better and more clear approach at quarterback coupled with the upgrade from Bill Musgrave to Norv Turner at coordinator makes it obvious that the ceiling is much higher this season.
The Vikings were 11th in scoring and third in rushing despite resting their best player, Adrian Peterson, for the entire preseason.
Although one should temper preseason statistics, here are three belonging to the Vikings that fans should feel good about regardless of whether it’s preseason or regular season.
Turnover differential: Plus-5. (No. 2 in the league).
Giveaways: 1. (Tied for fewest in the league).
Penalties: 31. (Tied for second-fewest behind only San Francisco’s 29).
|NY Mets - LP: J. Familia||6||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: A. Ramos||9|
|Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels||7||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran||0|
|Boston - LP: B. Badenhop||3||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour||4|
|Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes||6||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman||4|
|Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole||4||FINAL|
|St. Louis - WP: S. Maness||5|
|Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson||2||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner||4|
|Detroit - WP: D. Price||12||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber||1|
|Seattle - LP: C. Young||1||FINAL|
|Oakland - WP: J. Hammel||6|
|San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt||4||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich||2|
|Arizona - LP: T. Cahill||1||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: T. Ross||3|
|San Francisco - LP: S. Romo||9||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins||10|
|Washington||6||Bottom 9th Inning|
|Texas - LP: C. Lewis||3||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura||4|
|Green Bay||9/4/14 7:30 PM|
|Buffalo||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Minnesota||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Oakland||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Washington||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||9/7/14 3:25 PM|
|San Francisco||9/7/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||9/7/14 7:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||13||4th Qtr 1:49|
|Arizona||9/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||9/5/14 6:00 PM|
|Washington St||9/5/14 9:30 PM|
|SMU||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Fla Atlantic||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Buffalo||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(24) Missouri||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Arkansas State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) McNeese State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Central Mich||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ill||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(20) Kansas State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(4) Oklahoma||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|SC State||9/6/14 11:30 AM|
|Navy||9/6/14 12:00 PM|
|UAB||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|South Alabama||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|Colorado||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|Fresno State||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|(2) Eastern Wash||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|(15) USC||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Ohio U||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Missouri State||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Ball State||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Maryland||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Eastern Mich||9/6/14 3:00 PM|
|Georgia Tech||9/6/14 3:00 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss||9/6/14 3:30 PM|
|Old Dominion||9/6/14 5:00 PM|
|(8) Michigan State||9/6/14 5:30 PM|
|(19) Arizona State||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|San Jose St||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|East Carolina||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|(9) So Carolina|
|Duke||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|(15) Sam Houston St||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|Michigan||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|Lamar||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(21) Texas A&M|
|Northwestern St||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|BYU||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|Citadel||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|San Diego St||9/6/14 7:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Virginia Tech||9/6/14 7:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State|
|Memphis||9/6/14 9:00 PM|
|Colorado State||9/6/14 9:15 PM|
|Air Force||9/6/14 9:15 PM|
|Oregon State||9/6/14 9:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||9/6/14 10:00 PM|