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.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman repeated coach Mike Zimmer’s earlier comments that the Vikings would like for suspended running back Adrian Peterson to return to the team in 2015, but stopped short of saying that will happen once Peterson is eligible to be reinstated on April 15.
“I don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL that wouldn’t want Adrian Peterson on the football team,” Spielman told a small group of reporters at Winter Park this morning. “If you can name me one. And I don’t want to speak for other teams. I’m being a little sarcastic with that. But I know he’s a pretty good football player.”
Peterson played only the season opener in 2014 after serving part of the season on the commissioner’s exempt list and then being suspended once he pleaded to a misdemeanor charge in relation to the injuries he caused while using a switch to discipline his 4-year-old son. Spielman defended Peterson’s character while acknowledging that he made a mistake.
“I think people tend to forget that when Adrian did make a mistake, he admitted he made a mistake,” Spielman said. “He went through the process in the court system. He’s currently suspended by the NFL right now, but he’s done a lot of positive things in this community as well.
“I’ve known Adrian his whole career and what type of person Adrian is. But I also know that we have to follow everything that’s put in place for us. Is there a resolution? Not right now. All I know is where we stand today. Does that change? I’m sure it’s going to change. Until those things change and get resolved, right now, we have Adrian Peterson, who is under contract for next year, who is currently suspended by the NFL. That’s pretty much all I can go into right now.”
Spielman deflected a point-blank question on whether the Vikings can afford Peterson’s current salary cap figure of $15.4 million.
“I’m not going to get into anything from a business-related standpoint with not only his, but any player’s contract,” Spielman said. “That’s stuff that we’ve always handled internally. I will always keep the business side of players contract internal.”
Taking the cap numbers and off-the-field issues out of play, it’s obvious where Spielman stands on Peterson, the player.
“Zim has expressed his opinion on Adrian,” said Spielman, referring to Zimmer’s earlier comments about wanting Peterson to return. “And there’s no doubt or no question on what Adrian Peterson has done for this organization on the field and what he is as a football player.”
Peterson will turn 30 this year. Normally, that’s ancient for most running backs. Spielman said Peterson isn’t a normal running back, so it’s probably a good idea not to assume things about AP. After all, it was assumed he wouldn’t be the same after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Then he came back and ran for 2,097 yards and won MVP honors.
“The only thing I would say about Adrian is Adrian is maybe one of the most unique players I’ve ever been around,” Spielman said. “Everybody talked about how he’s not going to be the same after his ACL. And that was his best year, coming back from that.
“Knowing Adrian, I know that he is going to want to come back and play. He’s going to play at a very high level when he comes back. I’m anticipating that, just knowing what he’s done in the past.”
Under rules of Peterson’s suspension, the team has not been allowed to have contact with him. That makes it even more difficult for the Vikings when it comes to figuring out how this all will end.
“All I know is where we are today,” Spielman said. “I’m not going to get into all the hypothetical discussions we have internally.
“I’ll just stick by with what I said. I know that Adrian is a good person, just being around him. I know he’s done a lot of good in this community. What he did – he just came out and said he made a mistake. As Zim had stated earlier, he has to get all that in order and then we’ll proceed from there.”
A Vikings player finally received a postseason honor, and it’s none other than quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The Pro Football Writers of America named Bridgewater to its All-Rookie team on Tuesday. Bridgewater finished with 2,919 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with an 85.2 quarterback rating in 13 games (12 starts).
He won the award over Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who started the entire season and had 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 76.6 quarterback rating.
The Vikings struck out on the PFWA All-NFL and All-NFC teams announced on Monday. They also didn’t have a representative on the AP All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl.
Bridgewater is also up for Rookie of the Year (You can vote here on the award) with Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was named PFWA’s Rookie of the Year.
Here’s the complete PFWA All-Rookie Team:
QB – Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
RB – Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals; Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
WR – Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TE – Jace Amaro, New York Jets
C – Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
G – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns; Zach Martin, Dallas Cowboys
T – Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans; Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins
DL – Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams; Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore Ravens; Kony Ealy, Carolina Panthers; Justin Ellis, Oakland Raiders
LB – Chris Borland, San Francisco 49ers; Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens
CB – Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears; E.J. Gaines, St. Louis Rams
S – Deone Bucannon, Arizona Cardinals; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay Packers
PK – Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles
P – Pat O’Donnell, Chicago Bears
KR – Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
PR – De’Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Trey Burton, Philadelphia Eagles
Well, at least the regular season predictions – 146-90-1 straight up and 125-111-1 – went fairly well.
And the start of last week’s wild-card round went as expected when the Panthers won. But after that, well …
Last week’s final record: 1-3 straight up and 2-2 versus the spread.
The Lions pick was a reach that was understood at the time it was made. Picking the Bengals was a lesson in the value of paying closer attention to key injuries (Note: When all the playmakers are injured, pick the other team, especially if the other team is at home). And the Steelers losing at home was a surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise considering Joe Flacco now has an NFL-record seven road playoff wins. Really. Joe Flacco. Look it up.
Here are four more swings at the NFL Divisional playoff games this weekend. All four home teams are favored even though we all know there’s no way all four home teams do what they’re supposed to do over two days in the NFL:
Ravens plus-7 at Patriots: Patriots by 3
Why?: New England has its best defense in years. Tom Brady is, well, Tom Brady. And the Patriots have spent a week being told they’re 1-2 against Joe Flacco in the postseason the past five years.
Panthers plus-11 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 14
Why?: The Panthers have won five straight while holding those five losers to an average of 11.8 points per game. But the Seahawks are 24-2 at home with Russell Wilson at quarterback. And they joined the 1976 Steelers as the only team in NFL history to win its final six regular-season games while holding those six teams to fewer than 40 total points (39).
Cowboys plus-5 ½ at Packers: Packers by 7
Why?: Aaron Rodgers is the closest thing to a mistake-free quarterback the NFL has ever seen. Eddie Lacy provides balance and a power running game. And the defense helped the Packers outscore opponents 93-7 in the first quarter of the last seven games at Lambeau Field. Tony Romo has had a great season as well, but he’s a mistake waiting to happen.
Colts plus-7 at Broncos: Broncos by 3
Why?: The Colts lack the balance offensively to beat a much-improved Denver defense on the road. We say this while whistling past the proverbial graveyard that feels like this could be another one-and-done home outing for Peyton Manning, whose passing rhythm fell out of whack late in the year.
THE WILD-CARD ROUND
Record: 1-3. Versus spread: 2-2.
Final Regular-season Record: Last week/overall: 12-4/146-90-1. Versus spread: Last week/overall: 9-6-1/125-111-1.
The Vikings climbed to the top of CFL All-Star receiver Duron Carter’s list of preferred NFL teams to sign with after today’s workout at Winter Park.
“It went really well,” said Carter, the 23-year-old son of Vikings Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter. “I met everybody and it looked really good. I like Minnesota, I like the facilities, I like the coaches and everything. It seems like things are looking up. I would say Minnesota is probably my front-runner right now.”
Carter had already worked out for Tampa Bay, Indianapolis and Kansas City. He said he hasn’t ruled them out and plans to continue his tour of NFL teams with visits to Cleveland, Carolina, San Francisco and Washington. He said Cleveland is scheduled for next Friday, while Carolina could be as early as next week depending on the outcome of the Panthers’ playoff game at Seattle on Saturday.
Carter, who caught 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns for the Montreal Alouettes this season, can’t sign with an NFL team until Feb. 10. That’s the date that CFL players entering their option years are able to jump to the NFL.
“The Vikings are No. 1, but I might as well go around and see what everybody is talking about,” said Carter, a 6-5, 205-pounder who attended the Vikings’ 2013 rookie minicamp as a tryout invitee. “I can’t sign anyway.”
As for what impressed Carter the most about Winter Park, he said, “It was kind of incomparable to the other places I’ve been so far. I was running around that facility when I was a kid. Going back and see some of the same people still there, it was kind of like a homecoming.
“Just talking to [receivers] coach [George] Stewart and coach [Norv] Turner [the offensive coordinator], I seemed a lot more comfortable working out with them and talking to them than a lot of other places.”
Looking at the Vikings’ CURRENT roster, which includes a pretty good running back who’s, um, well rested, here’s one man’s opinion of the top four needs heading into the first round of the draft, which will be held in what will seem like 3,457 days …
1. Receiver: Not just any receiver. A big, fast, prototypical No. 1-type receiver with some polished route-running skills. (Google: Big receivers/Bears/Lions/really hard to defend). There’s no guarantee Cordarrelle Patterson will put in the work or grasp what is necessary to be an elite receiver, so the train moves on. If he wakes up, great. The Vikings would have two elite big receivers for Teddy Bridgewater to look for.
2. Left guard: The offensive line just flat-out isn’t good enough and another first-round investment might be due. Four of the positions — left tackle, center, right guard and right tackle — are manned by young guys who are either doing a good job, are capable of doing a good job and are here because the team invested heavily in them financially and/or through the draft. Charlie Johnson won’t be brought back and David Yankey is a fifth-round pick who never saw the field this season. An elite left guard would help the line overall and could steer left tackle Matt Kalil’s career back to the path it should be on.
3. Strong safety: Free safety Harrison Smith should have made the Pro Bowl and would have gotten more All-Pro consideration if the team had been better. Now imagine placing another elite, first-round caliber safety next to him. Someone with the same instincts, tackling ability and versatility. Might come in handy for those Green Bay games against a QB who is about to win his second MVP award and has thrown 477 passes and 38 touchdowns since his last pick at Lambeau Field
4. Cornerback: Josh Robinson, for the most part, played better than expected as the No. 3 corner in his first season with Mike Zimmer and his staff coaching him. But he’s a shaky No. 3 in the NFC North. Plus, there’s no guarantee the Vikings will remain as healthy in the secondary as they were in 2014. Anyone who saw the team play in 2011 and 2013 knows what happens to a defense when the secondary is ravaged by injuries. Also, Captain Munnerlyn was an upgrade from Chris Cook, but he didn’t reach a level that screams automatic starter for 2015. So if things line up a certain way and corner is the top talent on the board in Round 1, take him and move Munnerlyn to the No. 3 nickel slot spot if you have to.
Although the top four needs were listed in order, we aren’t saying automatically take a receiver first, a guard second, etc. The Vikings have enough needs that every position, except quarterback, should be in play when they pick 11th overall. Just pick the greatest talent and make the necessary adjustments.
Four rookies made the Pro Bowl this season. All four were selected below the 11th pick. Any one of them would fit with the Vikings, even the one who is a defensive tackle because, well, he’s that good and those big fellas don’t play every snap.
The Giants got receiver Odell Beckham 12th overall. He’s going to win offensive rookie of the year. The Rams took defensive tackle Aaron Donald 13th overall. He’ll likely win defensive rookie of the year.
At No. 16, the Cowboys got guard Zack Martin. All he did was earn All-Pro honors. At No. 17, the Ravens took linebacker C.J. Mosley, a playmaker who helped Baltimore’s defense go on the road and win at Pittsburgh in last week’s wild card round.
Obviously, the Vikings also did well for themselves, picking up linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 and Bridgewater at No. 32. Whether the Vikings give Barr help on defense or Bridgewater help on offense should come down to the best player, not a preconceived notion of which position should be filled by which round.
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|NY Rangers||6:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||6:30 PM|
|Ball State||6:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||6:00 PM|
|Western Mich||6:00 PM|
|West Virginia||6:00 PM|
|Central Mich||6:00 PM|
|Saint Josephs||6:00 PM|
|George Washington||6:00 PM|
|Indiana State||7:00 PM|
|Tabor College||7:00 PM|
|Texas A&M||8:00 PM|
|Fresno State||8:05 PM|
|San Diego St|
|SD Christian||9:00 PM|
|Colorado State||10:00 PM|
|Coastal Carolina||6:00 PM|
|Columbia International||6:00 PM|
|(3) Baylor||7:00 PM|
Poll: Which of the State Fair concerts announced so far do you most want to see?