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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A three-step guide to surviving the Adrian Peterson saga

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated February 24th at 12:08pm 293863561

A guide to surviving the Adrian Peterson saga that might be helpful for fans, media, front office personnel, emotional agents and a certain former NFL MVP …

Step 1: Breathe.

Decisions,  conclusions and reactions are so much better when made with a calm brain, not a hyper heart. It’s why Teddy Bridgewater seems to have a future and Christian Ponder does not.

Just when everyone appeared to be thinking that Peterson will definitely be returning to the Vikings, Peterson told ESPN.com that he was “uneasy” about returning to the Vikings. Then CBSSports.com reported that Peterson’s agent got into a spat with Rob Brzezinski, the Vikings’ lead contract negotiator and salary cap wizard, and concluded said spat by saying Peterson will never play for the Vikings again.

That reported statement seems to be all that was needed for everybody to now assume that Peterson will definitely never, ever return to the Vikings.

I’d caution people against assuming that a decision of this magnitude became final in the heat of an argument at the scouting combine. I’ve been through enough of these kinds of things to know that there is always an out for the team and the agent when a definitive statement like this is made or, in this case, reportedly made: BLAME THE MEDIA.

If the two sides patch things up, the media will be blamed for blowing things out of proportion. Unfortunately, that’s become an all-too easy sell.

So don’t get stuck on statements or reported statements during a situation as fluid as this one. How many times have we seen one side say one thing and then the opposite happens.

I remember the Vikings telling us that reports of Randy Moss being traded in 2004 were ludicrous. I also seem to remember that they told us that about a month before they traded Randy Moss.

2, Pay the man

If the Vikings want Peterson, they should just pay him what his contract states. Give him his $12 million. Take the $15 million cap hit. If Jared Allen was worth $17 million at the end of his contract, Peterson is worth at least $15 million.

If the Vikings didn’t want to pay Peterson that much, they should have released him last year. Why pay the down payment and then not move into the house?

And let’s all stop trying to shoehorn Peterson into the box where all the other 30-year-old running backs reside. The last time we jammed him in a box built for the typical human being, he ran for 2,097 yards the year after his left leg essentially fell off at the knee.

He’s not normal. Yes, he’d be the highest paid running back in the league. Well, why shouldn’t he be? He’s the best running back in the league and he’d be running “angry,” as Vikings GM Rick Spielman has said.

Yeah, the running back position has been de-valued. But greatness hasn’t been. Peterson came into the league in 2007. There have been eight MVPs awarded since then. Only one time did a quarterback not win the award. That was in 2012 when Peterson won it. When healthy, he’s as valuable as any non-QB in the league and more valuable than a lot of the QBs.

Pay the man.

3, Stay humble, Adrian

When Peterson says he’s “uneasy” about returning to the Vikings, he should try to view the situation from the other side as well. The Vikings were uneasy with him last year. Heck, even his staunchest supporters were uneasy with what he did. Even the people who believe in corporal punishment as a way to raise children were uneasy with Peterson going too far with his 4-year-old son.

To say it was uneasy all the way around would be an understatement. The Vikings had every right to sit down as an organization and talk this thing through before taking a public stance. And if you’ve ever been in a meeting at work, you know there are differing views before the ultimate direction is chosen.

And, frankly, in the team’s defense, it tried to bring him back a week after his indictment, but all heck broke loose. If you think the NFL didn’t play a major role in putting Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list, you’re wrong.

The bottom line all these months later should be:

1, The Vikings want Peterson back, so pay him. 2, Fans, sponsors, governors and critics of what  Peterson did should stand down because the man admitted his mistake and has now paid dearly for it. And, finally, 3, Peterson should stay humble, be thankful that he’ll get the second chance he deserves and, most of all, remember that he is responsible for all of this, including his own unease.

Report: Vikings exec, Peterson exec had verbal spat

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated February 23rd at 6:34pm 293719001

CBS Sports is reporting that Ben Dogra, the agent for suspended and disgruntled Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and Rob Brzezinski, Vikings vice president of football operations, got into a “heated verbal altercation” about Peterson at the scouting combine and had to be separated.

According to the CBS report, Dogra also “made it clear that Peterson would never play there again.”

If the report has merit, it would be the latest twist in the Peterson saga, which has quickly turned ugly. The Vikings have praised Peterson in the media in recent weeks, saying they would like him to play for the team this season. But on Thursday, Peterson told ESPN he is uneasy about a return.

NFL teams routinely use the scouting combine to touch base with agents about their players, whether they are soon-to-be free agents, players with tricky contract situations or just players they want to check in on. While the Vikings are allowed only limited communication with Peterson through their legal team while he is suspended, they are allowed to speak with his agent. Brzezinski is the team’s lead contract negotiator.

The report did not say what specifically led to Brzezinski’s blow-up with Dogra.

The Vikings are declining comment.

The Vikings were checking out running backs at the combine over the weekend in the event that they will be without Peterson’s services going forward. He is eligible to be reinstated on April 15.

If Peterson isn’t reinstated until then, more than a month after the start of free agency, most of the NFL’s free-agent money will have been spent, giving more leverage to the Vikings if they do request that he take a pay cut to reduce his restrictive $12.75 million base salary and $15.4 million cap hit for 2015.

Given his age, contract and recent legal woes, Peterson might not have much trade value if he is requesting one, though it is expected that teams would show interest were he to become available.

Off the Board: Reacting to a first-round run on receivers

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated February 23rd at 11:24am 293679441

Some see mock drafts as pure entertainment. Others see them as completely pointless. But while even some of the best draft analysts are throwing darts when it comes to projecting how the first round of the NFL draft will play out, these mock drafts can serve a purpose, even to NFL teams.

In the days leading up to the draft, after their draft boards have pretty much been set in stone, most teams, including the Vikings, do their own mock draft exercises to make sure they are prepared for the twists and turns of the draft, especially the first round, which is the best show on television.

So in the spirt of that, between now and April’s draft we will participate in an exercise I’ve dubbed “Off the Board,” in which we theorize about how the Vikings might proceed with their 11th overall pick based on the draft-night drama that unfolds in front of them. I’ll come up with a new scenario every couple of weeks. Remember, this is more about the draft process than the actual picks.

For the debut installment of “Off the Board,” let’s explore the scenario of what might happen if each of the top three wide receivers go in the top 10 picks, a very real possibility after Kevin White and Amari Cooper blew up the combine and DeVante Parker did nothing to drop his stock with a solid showing himself. Barring an unexpected off-the-field incident or a fluke injury before draft, I think it’s safe to say that White and Cooper will be long gone by the 11th pick, and Parker could, too.

I’m not saying the Vikings definitely want to get Teddy Bridgewater a receiver, but it’s a definite need. So what might they do if the top three guys are all gone? Let’s start mocking and take a guess.

1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. Winston came off as a little cocky during his Q&A with media on Friday, but I personally had no problem with that. His interviews with teams were infinitely more important due to his off-the-field issues, and Winston reportedly made favorable impressions there. As for his on-field performance, Winston opted to throw and did not disappoint.

2. Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon. Mariota also gets points for throwing at the combine instead of waiting until his pro day. He, too, was sharp and also showed off his speed in testing. I could see the Titans taking a front-seven defender as they continue to switch to a 3-4, but in the end, I think they will end up taking whichever quarterback the Buccaneers don’t pick or auction this pick off.

3. Jaguars: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia. The Jaguars have some good young wide-outs in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee, but none of them profile as a true No. 1. White, who ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3, would give strong-armed quarterback Blake Bortles a big-play threat.

4. Raiders: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. Welp, there goes another wide receiver. Cooper fared well in the 40-yard dash, but his performance in receiver drills impressed more. A smooth route-runner, Cooper has been compared to Reggie Wayne. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr would like this pick.

5. Redskins: Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida. Fowler backed up his explosive game tape with a nice week in Indy. The Redskins will need another edge defender if/when they let Brian Orakpo walk.

6. Jets: Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska. Gregory is a tweener type being projected to go in the top 10 or so picks. Maybe the Jets prefer a different edge defender, but we’ll drop Gregory here.

7. Bears: Leonard Williams, DE, USC. This big end could very well end up being the first defender selected. The Bears, who are switching to a 3-4 defense under John Fox, could get a perfect fit.

8. Falcons: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri. I can see new Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a defensive guy, drafting an impact defender with his first pick, like Mike Zimmer did with Anthony Barr a year ago.

9. Giants: Erik Armstead, DE, Oregon. A tricky projection. The Giants may select another offensive lineman here. But they often target defensive linemen early, and Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent.

10. Rams: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville. There goes the third receiver. They claim they’re keeping Sam Bradford, so let’s give him another target. Somewhere Teddy Bridgewater frowns.

11. Vikings: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa. In this scenario, the top-tier receivers are gone, and taking, say, Dorial Green-Beckham, might be a reach. It might also be too early to select a cornerback or an outside linebacker like Shaq Thompson, so a trade-down might be an option. But if the Vikings stay put in this scenario, they would be able to get their hands on their favorite offensive lineman. I don’t know right now if that’s Scherff or someone else. But his ability to play either guard or tackle should appeal to the Vikings, who need reinforcements at both positions after the line struggled in 2014.

OK, your turn. Leave a comment to tell me who you would want the Vikings to pick in this scenario.

Vikings sign CFL LB Brian Peters

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated February 23rd at 10:12am 293677371

The Vikings signed linebacker Brian Peters from the Canadian Football League on Monday. Peters spent the last two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, leading the team with 78 tackles last year. The 26-year-old also had three sacks, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown.

Peters is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds and played safety while at Northwestern. He’s the 11th linebacker on the Vikings roster, though Jasper Brinkley and Dom DeCicco are slated to become free agents in March. It’s a position that head coach Mike Zimmer said is thin in the draft and free agency.

Peters is the second player the Vikings have signed from the CFL this offseason. The team signed cornerback Jalil Carter to a reserve/future deal on Jan. 15. The Vikings also added defensive end Leon Mackey from the Arena Football League last month on a reserve/future deal.

Versatile Shaq Thompson could be a Vikings fit -- somewhere

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated February 23rd at 7:28am 293434661

INDIANAPOLIS —- On Thursday morning, head coach Mike Zimmer talked about figuring out what your players do best and putting them in a situation to thrive. He also mentioned the importance of versatility, like linebackers who can be sub-package defenders and dual-role defensive backs.

Maybe he had Washington linebacker/safety/running back Shaq Thompson on his mind. Maybe he didn’t. But no player at the combine personifies versatility like the Huskies’ Swiss Army knife.

Most teams see him as a linebacker, and Thompson made it clear yesterday that he is not going to be a running back. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock projects him as a safety and some teams probably do, too. Whoever picks Thompson will get to decide what he is, but he prefers to be a linebacker.

“That’s where I feel the most comfortable,” Thompson said yesterday. “I like to be up by the line of scrimmage. I feel like I’m physical enough. I’m not the biggest guy, but I have a lot of heart.”

In 2014, his junior year, he made 81 tackles for the Huskies. He forced two fumbles and picked off a pass. He was a terror on special teams. And he averaged 7.5 yards per carry as a part-time back.

Whatever he is, the Vikings have some interest. He met with Zimmer this week at the combine.

Outside linebacker isn’t a pressing need for the Vikings. They used their first-round pick last year on Anthony Barr. Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole impressed while filling in when Chad Greenway missed four games due to a couple of injuries. They also like 2014 late-round pick Brandon Watts.

But with Greenway possibly on the chopping block due to his age and $7.1 million salary and with Zimmer looking for more defensive playmakers, Thompson could be a first-round fit for the Vikings.

In theory, Thompson could play in Greenway’s old spot in the base defense, and his athleticism and skill set could allow him to be used in sub packages and make plays as a hybrid linebacker/safety.

“Even if a guy is better than me, I’m not going to think he’s better than me,” he said of playing in space. “My confidence is going to be high. I’m going to feel I can guard him. I’ll never be on the field thinking somebody’s better than me even if they are. That’s the mindset you have to have.”

We have a long way to go until the draft, but Thompson is a guy you should probably keep tabs on.

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