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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Zimmer on Tate: 'He's got good acceleration and he's a bit more of a thumper'

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated November 20th at 3:43pm 283394151

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t able to spell out his plan for how he’ll use newcomer Ben Tate because, A, NFL coaches are smart enough not to reveal game plans to reporters and B, the running back had just finished his first practice as a Viking.

“I don’t know yet,” Zimmer said. “He practiced some today. He got some reps and was in the blitz pickup. He was in everything, so we’ll see how fast he gets. It was a quick day for him.”

Zimmer said the reason Tate was claimed off waivers from the Browns on Wednesday is the team’s injury situation at running back, as well as the “finality of Adrian’s thing,” as in Adrian Peterson being suspended for the rest of the season on Tuesday.

The injury report will be out soon, but running backs Jerick McKinnon (lower back) and Matt Asiata (concussion) are on it. Zimmer said Asiata “is still going through” the league concussion protocol, which is required before returning to the field.

Tate shouldn’t be too rusty. He fell out of favor in Cleveland quickly, but did play on Sunday, carrying the ball twice for minus-9 yards. Zimmer said Tate looked “pretty good” in today’s practice.

“I didn’t see him make any mental mistakes, so that’s the first thing,” Zimmer said. “He had a 50-yard run on me [in Cincinnati] about three or four years ago.”

As for Tate’s strengths, according to Zimmer, the coach said, “He’s got good acceleration and he’s a little bit more of a thumper. Pound it up in there.”

As for how long it will take to know exactly what the heck he’s doing, Zimmer said Tate will need a little time.

“It’s a different system,” Zimmer said. “So he has to learn the different runs and protections and pass route combinations. That’s the big thing.”

Zimmer also talked about holding receiver Greg Jennings (rib), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and Asiata out of practice today. He said they’re progressing, “Good, for the most part. I think they’ll probably practice tomorrow.”

Asked specifically about Floyd, Zimmer said, “He practiced some yesterday. He’s just got a bruise. It’s nothing serious.”

Zimmer also gave left tackle Matt Kalil a pat on the back, saying, “He has been making strides. He’s been working hard in practice and is continually working on the techniques he needs to be working at, keeping his base wide. So I think he’s had a much better month.”

(Start the angry Kalil emails in 3 … 2 … 1 …)

Zimmer and the Vikings also are preparing for rain on Sunday.

“It’s hard to say when we don’t know how much rain,” Zimmer said. “But we have sections in the plan for all those scenarios.”

And, yeah, Teddy Bridgewater will wear his gloves.

“He’s been working that wet-ball drill all along,” Zimmer said. “So we’ll see.”

Turner explains decision to bring in Ben Tate

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 20th at 4:26pm 283378771

The Vikings claimed former Texans and Browns running back Ben Tate off waivers yesterday, adding him to a backfield that right now is missing its three top running backs from back in Week 1.

Adrian Peterson, of course, is suspended for the rest of the season. Matt Asiata is dealing with a concussion, putting his status for Sunday’s game against the Packers in doubt. And Jerick McKinnon, the current starter, has been dealing with a lower back injury that kept him out of practice yesterday.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner explained that the decision to claim Tate, who was waived by the Browns on Tuesday, was more about the numbers game at the position than anything else.

“I’ve never been with Ben Tate and I’m not real familiar,” Turner said. “Obviously, we’re in a situation where yesterday we had one back that could practice, so the timing of him being released and the opportunity for us to add a back, certainly it was good timing. And we’re getting started with Ben and trying to teach him our system and hopefully get him where he can be ready to go contribute.”

Turner isn’t sure how much Tate can contribute this weekend, as he only has a couple of days to learn the playbook. Turner said the Vikings can only dumb down the offense for Tate so much.

“We’ll see what our situation is,” Turner said. “Obviously you water it down too much then those guys on the other side, it’s pretty obvious to them. But hopefully there are some things we can get him involved with.”

As for McKinnon, Turner said the addition of Tate has nothing to do with how they feel about the rookie, who was back at practice this afternoon.

“We’re excited about Jerick and what he’s done and I see him as our running back,’’ Turner said. “He’s been limited in practice last week and couldn’t practice yesterday. Hopefully he can practice today. So you’ve got to protect yourself, obviously with Matt not being able to practice yesterday and in doubt as to whether he’ll play or not.’’

Peterson's appeal letter published

Posted by: Chris Miller Updated November 20th at 1:28pm 283378071

Adrian Peterson has appealed his NFL-mandated suspension, which runs through April 15 of next year, through the NFL Players Association.

A letter from the NFLPA e-mailed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been published by ESPN.

The letter outlines the familiar reasons previously espoused by the NFLPA, which clearly feels Peterson’s discipline is a product of Goodell’s desire to crack down more firmly on violators in wake of the Ray Rice incident. The letter says no first-time violator of the league’s disciplinary policy has served more than a two-game suspension.

Peterson’s appeal will be heard on Dec. 2. Goodell also hears the appeals, but the NFLPA asked for a neutral arbitrator.

Turner pleased with Bridgewater's improvement

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 20th at 1:16pm 283375771

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s sixth start was probably one of his worst this season. He completed 18 of 28 for 158 passing yards and a touchdown in the 21-13 loss to the Bears on Sunday. It was the third lowest quarterback rating, 76.2, Bridgewater has posted this season.

It may appear that Bridgewater regressed in his development given the offense’s inability to move the ball at Soldier Field, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said that’s not the case in his eyes based off what he sees at practice.

“His development is coming along the way we hoped it would,” Turner said. “I saw someone say he took a step back in that game but games are different.

“Teddy had a great week of practice last week. He had a chance to do some things that we haven’t been doing and routes we haven’t been throwing.  He’s getting better. I see him getting better every day. Sometimes games come up in different ways, and it shows up, and sometimes it doesn’t show up.”

The Vikings season at this point is mainly about the continued progression of Bridgewater and how he handles live action. Whether that’d be allowing plays to develop, which was an issue against the Bears, or producing an impressive game for four quarters, all eyes will be on the rookie quarterback.

We’re limited based on what we see at practice, which can cause small details to be analyzed extensively in a small sample size of games for Bridgewater. He’s had one eye-popping performance against the Falcons, a solid second half against Washington and a lot teaching moments during his seven appearances.

Turner said the coaching has stressed a sense of urgency and patience when dealing with a young offensive team relying on a rookie quarterback, Bridgewater, a rookie running back, Jerick McKinnon, and a slew of young receivers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen.

“Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practices are critical in terms of their development,” Turner said. “That’s how they’re going to get better with how they practice and things that show up in practice, then you want to see it in the game. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it’s harder because teams are going to do things that take plays away. Sometimes, it comes up where [Johnson] is in the right place and sometimes it’s someone else.

“We’re just trying to build something and create a foundation for all these guys.”

Patterson just wants to have some fun again

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 20th at 2:06pm 283375351

Cordarrelle Patterson’s smile was impossible to miss late last season as he maneuvered into the end zone with regularity. Even early this season, when things weren’t going as well, Patterson would still flash his pearly whites. He couldn’t help it. That’s his nature.

But now, 10 games into a disappointing season in which he has just 28 catches and two total touchdowns, the smile is gone and frustration has set in. Patterson is now acknowledging that his play has been a letdown, and today he put the burden of blame on himself.

“I don’t matter what the defenses do,” he said. “This is my job. I need to find a way to get open.”

On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he was disappointed in the play of the second-year wide receiver. He didn’t say yes, but he carefully chose his words when talking about how Patterson is a young player who still has plenty to learn. Zimmer pointed out that Patterson was learning a new offense for a third straight year and said he still thinks Patterson will be a good one.

Today, Patterson was asked if he was bothered by Zimmer’s assessment of his development.

“Why would that hurt? I’m a grown man,” he said. “Stuff like that shouldn’t hurt me. Coach Zimmer is right. I’ve been in three different offenses in three years. It’s a lot of learning. At the end of the day, this is my job. This is something I need to just focus on, just this main job. And whatever Coach Zimmer says is right. Even though I probably won’t think it’s right, he’s the head coach and whatever he says goes.”

Patterson has been targeted 59 times but caught just 28 of those passes. With 332 receiving yards, he is averaging just 11.9 yards per catch. And the touchdowns, where have they gone? He had nine last season as a receiver, runner and returner. This year he’s been in the end zone just twice.

So Cordarrelle, what kind of numbers were you expecting to put up this season?

“Not where they’re at right now,” Patterson said. “They’ve been disappointing and I know I’m letting a lot of people down. It’s tough. It’s very tough out here, man. It’s a struggle sometimes. Offensively, and me, just got to find that groove and just get it going.”

Until then, it seems we won’t see that smile as often as we had grown accustomed to.

“I just need to focus in and just go out and play ball, man, just have fun, like last year,” Patterson said. “I was having a lot of fun last year. This year it seems like I’m not having as much fun as last year. I just need to find that little missing piece and just have some fun.”

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