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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Priefer, Vikings considering special-teams changes

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 30th at 1:31pm 280960662

Head coach Mike Zimmer sent a message to the special-teams unit during Monday’s team meeting.

So what exactly was Zimmer’s message and who in particular was it aimed at? Let’s ask Mike Priefer.

“It’s the mistakes,” the special teams coordinator said. “It’s the penalties, to be honest. … We were not penalized very often last year. This year we have been and that’s been tough. We’ve lost a lot of hidden yardage, return yardage because of the penalties. That was the big message with the young guys. Those are the ones making the most mistakes, the young guys. That’s usually what it is. But when you’re an error-repeater, as I’ve said, you’re going to run out of chances at some point. We need to make sure we either get it corrected or we’ve got to find somebody else to do those jobs.”

Rookie defensive backs Antone Exum and Jabari Price were both flagged for penalties in the 19-13 win over the Buccaneers. For Exum, it was his third special-teams penalty in the past four weeks.

So Priefer and the Vikings this week are preparing more players for special-teams roles than they typically would as they consider possibly shaking things up for Sunday’s game against the Redskins.

Another problem that cost the Vikings field position was punter Jeff Locke’s propensity to boom the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. He booted three touchbacks after having just one all season.

Priefer said that Locke is still trying to figure out the best swings for punts from midfield based on the wind, though the weather was nearly perfect down in Tampa. Priefer said Locke needs to do a better job of gauging the field conditions during pre-game warmups to prepare for punts that count.

“He understands situational football. We preach it all the time. The head coach preaches it. I preach it,” Priefer said. “Those were very uncharacteristic mistakes for Jeff and he’s going to get better going forward.”

Everson Griffen honored, not satisfied with monthly award

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 4:12pm 280955892

It’s only Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen’s second month as a full time starter, and he was rewarded for his early season performance on Thursday by winning NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for October.

Don’t think Griffen will be satisfied by receiving the award.

“I’m excited, I can’t let this accolade become something that I think I have arrived,” Griffen said on Thursday. “That hasn’t happened yet. There’s still more to come, and I’ve still got to go out there and keep doing my job each and every day.”

Griffen led the NFC with six sacks in October and was the only player in the conference to snag a sack in four games this month. Griffen tied a career-high three sacks against the Bills two weeks ago. He also led all NFC defensive lineman with 20 tackles totals.

While it’s an individual award, and the first Vikings defensive player since Jared Allen in October 2011 to accomplish the feat, Griffen gave credit to the defensive line for his accomplishments.

“The whole defensive line, we’ve been playing well,” Griffen said. “We’re second in the league in sacks, and we’ve just got to keep it coming. At the end of the day I’m happy with the award, but it’s time to get back to work. Now I’ve got to go try and get it the next month, keep building on that and don’t let this be the ending point.”

Cordarrelle Patterson expects to be 100 percent vs. Washington

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 1:30pm 280952062

Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was asked on Thursday whether he’d be 100 percent on Sunday against the Redskins. He sounded like he took offense to the question about his health.

“Of course, man,” Patterson responded. “I’ll be out there no matter what. It’s going to be a big game for us. We’re going to be going on a bye week after that, so it’s big on us. We need to get this win.”

Patterson was in a walking boot after the overtime win over the Bucs, but it was removed a day after the game. Patterson wasn’t listed on the injury report on Wednesday. He had his left foot leaning against a pillar in the locker room while talking to reporters.

It’s good news for the Vikings offense, which witnessed Patterson receive a team-high 12 targets from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Patterson had a season-high six catches for 86 yards against the Bucs, and he’ll look to carry that connection over into this week.

“It all starts at practice,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to have good practice habits. Me and Teddy, we had a good week last week trying to find me the ball. And it paid off Sunday, so this week just keep building on from there and trying to get more balls.”

Up until the Bucs game, Patterson didn’t have more than four catches in a game  this season. His previous season-high in receiving yards was 61 against the Saints. Patterson has had a less than stellar season, but he hoping that will change after his recent performance.

“You’ve got to get good with the quarterback,” Patterson said. “It don’t matter how the game plan is with you. Sometimes the game plan can be around you, and you still don’t get the ball. You’ve just got to figure out the thing with your quarterback, and I feel like me and Teddy, we done hit and know where each other stands. Let’s just hope we can continue and build on from there.”

Vikings 4 Downs: RGIII or McCoy, O/U on Pro Bowlers, 2014 draft class and more

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 4:02pm 280930362

Robert Griffin III will reportedly start after missing six weeks with a dislocated left ankle. He’ll likely be rusty, but I’d still think Griffin is a tougher matchup that Colt McCoy, who had a nice performance against the Cowboys on Monday. Griffin is the more talented quarterback and allows Washington to expand the playbook on offense.

Washington has still been able to get big plays through the air, whether it’s Griffin, McCoy or Kirk Cousins, because of their receivers. The Vikings secondary will have to stay on top of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcson, while tight end Jordan Reed is a very solid option over the middle. I’m not sure how Griffin looks in practice but a backup like McCoy likely won’t sustain his early success as opponents get more film on him in Washington’s offense.

I’d take the over. This goes for Vikings players actually named to the Pro Bowl and not a Vikings player named as a replacement once 20 players drop out.

At this point, defensive end Everson Griffen appears to be on his way to a Pro Bowl invitation. He was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month, leading the conference with six sacks in October. Outside of Griffen, what are the other options? Safety Harrison Smith is another good option to be named with his play and three interceptions to show for in the stats sheet.

Easy there, we’re only eight games into the season. Typically it takes three or four years to evaluate a draft class. We can’t just go off of immediate impacts because some flame out after their rookie seasons and turn into busts.

The only rookies that aren’t contributing are linebacker Brandon Watts, offensive guard David Yankey and defensive end Scott Crichton. Safety Antone Exum Jr. and cornerback Jabari Price have been receiving a heavy dosage of special teams snaps recently.

I still think in a few years the 2013 class will be tough to top considering the three first round picks selected – wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. It depends on how left tackle Matt Kalil’s career plays out, but the Vikings drafted Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson, wide receiver Jarius Wright, safety Robert Blanton and kicker Blair Walsh in 2012. That hasn’t been a bad class either.

But let’s give it some time before we make knee-jerk reactions to both classes. …Like during the offseason when we’re bored out of our minds and there’s nothing to talk about.

He’s probably next in line after the Vikings sealed up extensions with their 2011 class during the offseason. Smith fits Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme and has developed into a well-rounded safety this season.

Given how inconsistent Kalil has been this year, I’d think Smith will be the priority during the offseason to give Zimmer a defense to build around Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and Smith for the long run. Those are three good pieces to have on defense and should make Vikings fans pretty excited about potentially how good this defense could be for years to come.

Everson Griffen named NFC Defensive Player of the Month

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 4:02pm 280921192

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen received NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for October. It’s the first Player of the Month award in Griffen’s career.

He recorded an NFC-best six sacks this month, along with 20 tackles, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble in four games. Griffen ranks third in the NFL with eight sacks this season.

It’s still early, but through eight games, Griffen has lived up to a five-year deal worth up to $42.5 million he signed during the offseason. While the price tag was a shock to many, including Forbes who named Griffen as the most overpaid player in the NFL, the deal will look reasonable if Griffen sustains his early season success.

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