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.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— RB Adrian Peterson is driven by one thing: becoming the best NFL player ever.
— NT Linval Joseph spoke with the reporters for the first time since he got shot.
— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater will likely start against the Titans tomorrow.
— Rookie OLB Anthony Barr sat out another practice with a sprained ankle.
— CB Jabari Price and OLB Gerald Hodges returned to practice yesterday.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— K a y ℓ a (@kay_antoinette) August 26, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— RB Reggie Bush appreciates the rest the Lions have been giving him.
— The Packers reached an injury settlement with rookie TE Colt Lyerla.
— Bears rookie QB David Fales will play the entire preseason finale.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are traveling to Nashville today for their preseason finale against the Titans.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
ESPN recently conducted a survey of 30 of their “insiders” to rank the NFL’s 32 head coaches. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer came in 24th on the list, which is fair considering he is a first-time head coach. But it is worth noting that Zimmer ranked the highest among the NFL newbies, including Texans coach Bill O’Brien, Browns coach Mike Pettine and Redskins coach Jay Gruden.
With only the preseason finale standing between the Vikings and final roster cuts, head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff must make their final evaluation of a bunch of bubble boys Thursday night.
So what is he hoping to see from the Vikings players who are battling for jobs against the Titans?
“Instead of trying to play cautious, they play aggressive,” Zimmer said of the fringe players who typically stand out. “They’re going to fight for what they want to achieve. I think that part of it. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in there and they kind of spit the bit. They don’t really want to run that day. They’re more about not getting beat as opposed to beating the guy that they’re up against.”
Of course, some players who are still in limbo won’t get another chance to make an impression on Zimmer due to injuries. Outside linebackers Mike Mauti (foot) and Brandon Watts (leg), safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) and cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder) will not play against the Titans.
Nor will nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf), right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and outside linebacker Anthony Barr (sprained ankle), but those guys don’t have to worry about keeping their roster spots.
Wide receiver Rodney Smith (neck) and outside linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee) are also expected to sit out, though the fact that Hodges practiced today gives him hope that he might be able to go.
As for the quarterback plan, Zimmer was vague with us because he hadn’t yet told some players his plan for playing time. He left wiggle room that Matt Cassel could play, but said there is a “good chance” that Teddy Bridgewater will start before eventually giving way to Christian Ponder.
“If he does start the game, it’s good for us to see how he takes the beginning of the game,” Zimmer said of the rookie quarterback, who did not start any of the team’s first three preseason games.
One other comment piqued my interest in Zimmer’s powwow with reporters. When asked about cornerback Shaun Prater, he said he could see the Vikings shifting him to safety “down the road.”
“Prater, obviously he was with me before [in Cincinnati], but he’s a tough, feisty kid that can do a lot of jobs,” Zimmer said. “He can play nickel. He can play corner. I’m not too sure we shouldn’t look at him some at safety, just because of his temperament and he’s doing things a lot better now.”
With that praise for Prater, it sure seems like we can pencil him onto the team’s 53-man roster.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges, cornerback Jabari Price and defensive tackle Fred Evans all returned to practice on Tuesday. While Hodges has a knee injury, it has not been disclosed what sidelined Price and Evans.
While three Vikings returned, eight were held out. Wide receiver Rodney Smith, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf) were at practice but did not participate. Smith’s injury is also unknown, but he landed awkwardly on his recovering an onside kick late against the Chiefs on Saturday.
Safety Chris Crocker, linebackers Anthony Barr, Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts were not present. It’s the second straight practice they’ve missed in preparation for the Titans, though it is also unknown at the moment why they’ve been absent from practice this week.
Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday since he was shot in his calf on Aug. 9. He hasn’t participated in practice since the injury, but Joseph expects to be ready for Week 1 against the Rams.
Joseph said he’s been conditioning indoors over the past week, but Joseph increased his workload on Monday while running outside for the first time.
“My concern right now from the jump was just to do what I love, which is to play football,” Joseph said. “I just thank God that it was just a clean wound, straight in and straight out, and it’s behind me now. I’m glad I’m healthy and can help this team.”
Joseph, in his first year with the Vikings after four seasons with the Giants, was among nine people shot at a downtown Minneapolis club the same night the Vikings defeated the Raiders, 10-6, in their preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium.
“For all the victims who were involved and seriously hurt, I wish them a speedy recovery as well,” Joseph said. “You never wish for anything like that to happen to anybody.”
The 25-year-old would not go into details about the night of the shooting but described it as a “scary” moment that has changed his perspective on life.
“It’s just a flash and just makes you think about everything you’ve done in your life,” Joseph said. “I’m 25 years old and feel like I have a lot left to accomplish with my job and just my life. I’m just glad I have the opportunity to do that.”
Every Monday, well Tuesday in this case, we’ll take four questions from Twitter for our weekly mailbag using the #VikingsST hashtag.
After seeing the offense and defense in progressive what is legit chances of ten wins? What do you see our record #VikingsST
— zach sween (@1Sween) August 25, 2014
The Vikings will be an improved team, but I don’t think that will result in 10 wins. Yes, unlike other sports leagues, there’s always a team that jumps from worst to first in the NFL. I just don’t think it’ll be this team.
The Vikings have shown some good signs in the preseason, especially on offense. The defense is the biggest concern and will decide if the Vikings are that surprise team, or just another average team. It’s easy to get your hopes up with the team 3-0. Thoughts of a playoff berth and 10 wins creep in, but it’s the preseason. The record doesn’t mean a thing and it could play out dramatically different at the start of the regular season.
I had the Vikings at 7-9 before the season. With Rams quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season, I bumped it to 8-8. It still projects as a third place finish, ahead of the Lions, in my opinion.
— Anthony Skubic (@Skubzy) August 25, 2014
Not every first rounder makes an immediate impact as a rookie and there’s seems to be a lofty expectation every year on all first round picks to do just that. If a player fails to exceed that, he’s immediately a bust apparently.
Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd lost weight in the offseason, removing red meat and pork from his diet, but he’s continued to develop all-around as a defensive tackle. Floyd’s getting more opportunities now as the starting three-technique tackle rather than serving as a backup last year. He played very well the last two games, specifically his pass rushing ability, and we’ll see if he can carry that play into the regular season. Remember, it’s his second season. There will still be some growing pains Floyd will experience throughout the season, especially in a new scheme. He’ll need to show progress, however, similar to how he’s performed in the preseason.
— Josh Betts (@BettsSportsBeat) August 25, 2014
Matt Asiata has been very impressive during preseason, including as an option in pass situations out the backfield. McKinnon can be a third down back and used at times in the pass offense in two-back formation, but Asiata is Adrian Peterson’s backup.
It’ll be interesting to watch when offensive coordinator Norv Turner uses McKinnon to start the season. He brings a change-of-pace to big backs like Peterson and Asiata, but how often will Turner want that? Although he does provide the flexibility, it doesn’t appear that McKinnon will get too many snaps early in the year.
— Chris Duncanson (@SpyderFenix) August 25, 2014
Head coach Mike Zimmer might’ve reference the cornerback as “the other guy” last week, but cut him?
Yes, he’ll make the team.
|NY Yankees||0||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Detroit||3||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||3||Top 4th Inning|
|Cincinnati - A. Simon||3:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - V. Worley|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman|
|Philadelphia - J. Williams||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - B. Colon|
|Miami - J. Cosart||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - A. Harang|
|Boston - A. Webster||6:10 PM|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi|
|Cleveland - T. Bauer||6:10 PM|
|Kansas City - J. Shields|
|Detroit - K. Ryan||6:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt|
|Texas - R. Ross Jr.||6:10 PM|
|Houston - S. Feldman|
|Colorado - T. Matzek||7:10 PM|
|Arizona - V. Nuno|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wada||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - M. Gonzales|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke||7:40 PM|
|San Diego - I. Kennedy|
|Milwaukee - M. Fiers||8:05 PM|
|San Francisco - J. Peavy|
|Oakland - J. Samardzija||8:05 PM|
|LA Angels - C. Rasmus|
|Washington - S. Strasburg||8:10 PM|
|Seattle - R. Elias|
|Green Bay||9/4/14 7:30 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||7||FINAL|
|(8) Michigan State||45|
|Troy||10||4th Qtr 5:52|
|(7) UCLA||28||4th Qtr 3:40|
|Western Mich||34||4th Qtr 8:11|
|(5) Ohio State||27||4th Qtr 4:25|
|Appalachian St||14||4th Qtr 2:58|
|Ga Southern||20||4th Qtr 8:10|
|Boston College||0||1st Qtr 14:56|
|West Virginia||2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||4:30 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||7:00 PM|
|North Texas||7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|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|
|(8) 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|
|(1) 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|
|(17) 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|
|New England||4:00 PM|
|FC Dallas||7:30 PM|
|Real Salt Lake||9:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/5/14 6:30 PM|
|Calgary||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/7/14 3:00 PM|