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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Recovering Cassel upbeat, trying to help Vikings

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 30th at 7:36am 280807222

Quarterback Matt Cassel made an appearance in the open locker room today and was in much better spirits than he was five weeks ago, when he said he was “devastated” his season was over.

Cassel was all smiles when he scooted into the locker room, his surgically-repaired left foot still elevated on a cart, and he acknowledged it took a little time for him to come to grips with his injury.

“Anytime you have an injury and you’re out for a substantial amount of time, especially since this has been the longest I’ve been out at any time during my career, being out for the season,” the veteran said, “it’s always difficult at first. I think you try to find different ways to still be involved.”

Cassel attends meetings and will point out things to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

“I think Teddy’s done a tremendous job in a difficult situation,” Cassel said.

He also asked the coaching staff for projects to work on, such as a review of their red-zone offense.

“Oh, I miss it. Anytime you get something taken away, especially your job, it’s always difficult,” he said. “But I’m staying involved. I’m coming in every single day. I’ve been in meetings every day. That part has kept my moral high. I’ve spent a little extra time with the family. That’s been great. But at the same time, you definitely miss the competitiveness of being out there on a daily basis and Sunday.”

Cassel said his recovery is going well. The shattered bones in his foot are healing. And in a couple of weeks, the three wires that were inserted into his foot to keep some of the bones in place will be removed, allowing him to start walking and perhaps by the end of the season throwing footballs.

Cassel has even found a silver lining with the wires that are sticking out of his foot.

“So for Halloween, I think it would probably be a pretty good look,” he joked.

Gruden, Zimmer downplay first matchup as head coaches

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 29th at 3:39pm 280804062

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden both downplayed their first matchup as head coaches on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Both first-year head coaches enter with 3-5 records and a bye week on tap next week. The two served as coordinators under Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis for three seasons before accepting head coaching positions during the offseason. Zimmer served as the Bengals defensive coordinator for six seasons, while Gruden spent three years in Cincinnati as the offensive coordinator.

“It’s probably going to be overhyped a little bit on me knowing him and him knowing me,” Gruden said. “Hell, I don’t know when he’s going to call his blitzes and when he’s going to call his zones.

“We’ve been together for three years. Everyone thinks I know exactly what he’s going to do and they think he knows exactly what I’m going to do. Hell, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. And I know he doesn’t know, so we’re still working. I’m sure he’s still working on a game plan to stop the things that we do.”

Gruden said Zimmer’s defense is unpredictable, and the Vikings have implemented that same staple this season.

“The problem is he gives you so many looks, especially in the blitz,” Gruden said. “He’s the blitz doctor. So we just got to be on top of what we do and protect the quarterback.”

Zimmer said he’s still good friends with Gruden and felt he’s an innovative mind. Zimmer felt Gruden, in his own way, also brings an unpredictable element by making weekly tweaks to his scheme.

“I honestly don’t like going against my friends because I know at the end of the day one of us is going to be upset,” Zimmer said. “But it is what it is. I’m sure he’ll have his team ready to play and hopefully I’ll have my team ready to play.”

Gruden had an interview scheduled with the Vikings during the offseason, but he never got a chance to visit Winter Park. The Redskins offered the head coaching position to him during his second interview, which took place before his scheduled Vikings visit.

“I was excited to get this job here, but it would’ve been interesting to go check out Minnesota,” Gruden said. “But once I got the job here, it was a no-brainer. But Minnesota obviously got a great guy.”

Barr named NFC's Defensive Player of the Week

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 30th at 6:46am 280783852

Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr has been named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave the Vikings a 19-13 overtime victory Sunday.

Barr, the ninth overall pick in May’s NFL draft, recorded eight tackles and a sack in the win. And on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, he forced a fumble after a catch by Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scooped it up and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.

Barr is the first Vikings player to win the Defensive Player of the Week award since cornerback Antoine Winfield in 2010 and the first Vikings rookie to win since cornerback Cedric Griffin in 2006.

Barr is the sixth rookie linebacker to win the award since 2006. The others were DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly. That’s pretty good company right there.

Barr ranks second on the Vikings with 54 tackles this season and his three sacks are tied for third on the team. He has forced one fumble and recovered three of them, which is tied for the NFL lead.

Vikings Rewind: Captain Munnerlyn's interception

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 29th at 3:38pm 280781182

The situation: On the opening drive, the Bucs faced a 2nd and 11 on their own 44 with 10:24 left in the first quarter.

The play: Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon ran a play action bootleg, looking for wide receiver Mike Evans isolated on the play.

The result: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted Glennon’s pass at the Vikings’ 15.

How it happened:

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The Bucs were in a “12″ personnel set, meaning one running back and two tight ends. They flipped their formation, with both tight ends switching from the left to the right side. Then they motioned tight end Luke Stocker into the backfield to setup an offset “I” formation.

The Vikings were in their base 4-3 defense with Munnerlyn guarding Evans at the top of the play.

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The Bucs ran a play action using running back Doug Martin to the weak side of formation. Glennon’s main option on this play was Evans, with wide receiver Vincent Jackson cutting across the middle as the second option.

Munnerlyn knew what Evans’ route was once he saw the bootleg play.

“I saw the quarterback roll out and said, ‘It’s a boot — comeback [route],’” Munnerlyn said.

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Evans attempted to go vertical on the play after Munnerlyn sniffed out the comeback route. He threw his hand up, asking for Glennon to throw it deep. It appeared at this point Evans had a step on Munnerlyn, but Glennon held on to the ball for another second to give Munnerlyn the opportunity to recover.

“In the NFL, guys always run comeback routes with boots,” Munnerlyn said. “He knew I was sitting on his route. The only reason he threw his hand up was because he felt like low-hipped for the comeback.”

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Glennon finally threw the ball, and it was a terrible pass. He underthrew Evans, and Munnerlyn was the only player capable of making a play on the ball. He boxed out Evans, who was a standout high school basketball player in Texas, to snag his eighth career interception and Munnerlyn’s first with the Vikings.

“He knew I was sitting there because after the play as I caught it, [Evans] said, ‘You knew that was a comeback, huh?’” Munnerlyn said. “That’s why [Glennon] took it up high. When he took it up high, I just caught up with him and put my hands on him and made a play on the ball. I tried to ‘basketball’ him because I knew he was trying to get in front of me.”

Munnerlyn has been inconsistent this season, but he had a solid performance against the Bucs against two physical receivers in Evans and Jackson. We’ll see if that continues against Washington on Sunday, but the interception was surely a good sign for one of the top Vikings acquisitions in the offseason.

“It just felt good to get my hands on the ball,” Munnerlyn said. “It’s been a long time. I feel like it’s been forever. To get the win and for me to get my hand on the ball, I felt better.”

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Barr could be honored, no deadline deal, ownership change, more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 29th at 1:31pm 280759672

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— OLB Anthony Barr is nominated for the NFL’s Rookie of the Week award.

— The Vikings did not make a deal at the NFL’s trade deadline yesterday.

— The Vikings have a chance to go on a run, but there’s no guarantees.

— RB Adrian Peterson hopes his star attorney can get him out of trouble.

— Reggie Fowler no longer has an ownership stake in the franchise.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— The Redskins aren’t saying whether Robert Griffin III will start Sunday.

— Redskins WR Pierre Garcon was frustrated with his role in Monday’s win.

— New head coach Jay Gruden is starting to take charge of the Redskins.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings get back to work this morning at Winter Park to prepare for the Redskins. Coach Mike Zimmer and QB Teddy Bridgewater will be at the podium at 11 a.m. Practice is at 12:50 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Six running backs were selected before Jerick McKinnon in May’s NFL draft, but it is the rookie out of Georgia Southern who leads all rookies with 392 rushing yards. It certainly helped that he rushed for 135 yards, the most by a rookie back this season, in the Week 4 win over the Falcons.

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