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.
The players’ union says it has not had input into a revamped personal conduct policy the NFL owners approved Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
The union has sought to have any alterations to the policy negotiated.
The current policy was part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. But in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, portions of the policy are being reworked.
“In the latest of four talks (about the personal conduct policy) they progressively got less interested,” NFL Players Association President Eric Winston said of the NFL during a conference call Tuesday. “And we found out before this last meeting that they were already planning to present it. They basically asked us to a meeting as a farce, to say they met with the players three or four times.”
Among the union’s aims is to have Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in handing out discipline reduced or even eliminated.
Players who weren’t practicing during the portion of practice open to the media: Fullback Jerome Felton, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), strong safety Robert Blanton (leg), linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle).
Felton’s absence is the only surprise. We’ll have the first official injury report of the week after practice.
One other observation: Vladimir Ducasse, who replaced Charlie Johnson during last week’s win over the Jets, was working at left guard during the portion of practice open to reporters.
Listening to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer today reinforced the reality that those who pour their souls into the NFL don’t adhere to the term “meaningless” games.
Zimmer was asked if he pays attention to the playoff scenarios while preparing for that week’s opponent. At 6-7, the Vikings aren’t mathematically eliminated, but let’s just say it doesn’t look good. At least one website has listed their chances of making the playoffs at 0.1 percent. And that drops to eliminated if the Rams lose to the Cardinals on Thursday.
“I honestly don’t know the records of a lot of the teams,” Zimmer said. “It’s more about just Detroit. I know people have told me that if we win these and these people lose and this and that.”
Zimmer then paused and made it clear that even when the Vikings are eliminated, the final three games will make a difference in the building of a program and the mentality he’s looking to establish. And if you read between the lines, you can tell that a winning record, regardless of post-season participation, will mean an awful lot to the rookie head coach during a tumultuous season that began with a player getting shot in the calf after the preseason opener and took a hard turn south with Adrian Peterson being removed from the team after the regular season opener.
“I don’t want to get sentimental here, but we’ve come from a long, long way this year,” Zimmer said. “From all the things that have happened, all the things that we’ve overcame from even before the St. Louis game to the opportunities that we now have in the last three weeks. I think that’s a pretty good testament to our football team and how they work and how they do the things we ask them to.
“And the coaches, too. The coaches do really a great job in trying to figure out what we can do, how we can win, how we can get to an opportunity that we have.”
In other news:
On Monday afternoon, Carter Bykowski’s agent called him out of the blue with an offer he wasn’t going to refuse. Not only did an NFL team want to sign him off the 49ers’ practice squad to their active roster, it was the Vikings, whose practice facility is about five minutes down Highway 5 from where Bykowski grew up.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready. Let’s go home,’” he said today as he prepared for his first practice.
Bykowski is from Eden Prairie, where he played high school football for Mike Grant, the successful son of legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant. He is good friends with Ryan Grant, Bud’s grandson.
“I grew up with Ryan, so he was always around,” Bykowski said of Bud Grant. “He might not recognize me or remember me. I was 240 [pounds] back then.”
After winning two state football titles at Eden Prairie, Bykowski went to college at Iowa State. He initially played tight end there, but the Cyclones transitioned him to offensive tackle. He was a seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013 and had been on their practice squad for two seasons.
“For offensive linemen, a lot of times it’s a project,” Bykowski said. “I played two and a half years of college at tight end, so I had to put weight on and learn a new position, so that’s kind of come as a project. And now it’s kind of coming full circle here and I’m just ready to get after it.”
Bykowski isn’t sure what his role will be over the next three weeks. The Vikings have lost three starters on the offensive line, but it seems unlikely the team will slot him into a starting role before the season is through. He said he will simply try to impress the coaching staff with his performance in practice, and he hopes by doing that he will put himself in position to earn a spot next spring.
“I’m just coming in here and doing what they tell me to do and trying to get caught up with the offense as fast as I can so if the need be, I’ll be ready for it,” he said.
Vikings linebacker Michael Mauti was placed on injured reserve because of an arthroscopic knee surgery unrelated to the three torn anterior cruciate ligaments he suffered in five seasons at Penn State, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said earlier today.
Zimmer indicated that the injury wasn’t serious.
“It’s kind of like my kidney stones; it’s minor to somebody else,” Zimmer said. “It was more of a clean-up kind of thing.”
To replace Mauti on the roster, the Vikings signed offensive tackle Carter Bykowski off San Francisco’s practice squad. Bykowski was a seventh-round pick in 2013 and has been on the 49ers practice squad for two seasons. He is from Eden Prairie, and played college football at Iowa State.
Bykowski is 6-7 and 310 pounds. After playing tight end as a freshman at Iowa State, he redshirted a season while being converted to tackle. He was with the Cyclones for five years (2008-12).
Bykowski won two state football titles at Eden Prairie, and was also a standout on the basketball team before graduating in 2008.
|Buffalo||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Dallas||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Jets||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Chicago||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Detroit||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Oakland||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Arizona||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|St. Louis||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/28/14 7:30 PM|
|LA Lakers||7:00 PM|
|Golden State||9:30 PM|
|Colorado||2||1st Half 18:52|
|George Washington||7:30 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|