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 Vikings have filled the vacant spot on the 53-man roster created when running back Adrian Peterson was placed on the exempt list. They did so by signing wide receiver Charles Johnson — not to be confused with starting left guard Charlie Johnson — from the Browns’ practice squad.
The team had a need for a wide receiver after letting suspended wide-out Jerome Simpson go.
Johnson, who is in his second year in the league, played his college ball at Grand Valley State. He was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in 2013 and was on Green Bay’s practice squad last season when Cleveland signed him to its active roster. He did not play in a NFL game, though.
He spent all of training camp and the 2014 preseason with the Browns, who, as you probably remember, employed Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner in the same capacity last season.
The new guy will wear No. 12.
Linebacker Chad Greenway, who has a broken left hand, will be a game-time decision when the Vikings play at New Orleans on Sunday.
Greenway practiced on Friday at Winter Park, and briefly huddled with coach Mike Zimmer and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman afterward. Greenway, who also has been on the injury report because of a rib injury, seemed optimistic he might be ready for the game.
Defensive tackle Sharif Floyd (shoulder) and right offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) should be ready to start in the Saints game, Zimmer said.
Zimmer briefly addressed the team dropping receiver Jerome Simpson, who was scheduled to return from a three-game suspension Monday. Simpson was cut after it discovered Thursday that he had been cited for possession of marijuana and an open bottle during a July traffic stop. His current suspension was his second for violation of the NFL’s substances of abuse policy.
“Every situation is different,” Zimmer said, adding the team “will do what’s in their best interest.”
Simpson’s locker was empty.
With running back Adrian Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list following his indictment in Texas on child abuse charges, the Vikings do have an open roster spot. Zimmer said it would eventually be filled, but he wasn’t certain when that would happen.
He was eager to turn the team’s focus to Sunday’s game against the Saints (0-2), as was Greenway, who was asked about distractions.
“We need to understand our jobs, but also understand it’s in a hostile environment against a team that is desperate,” Greenway said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, and we have to prep our guys, who haven’t been in this situation, to help focus on their jobs.”
For Week 3 of “Behind Enemy Lines,” we talked to Larry Holder, the Saints columnist for The Times-Picayune. Here are five questions we asked Holder leading up to the Vikings-Saints matchup at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
1. What has been the biggest issue on defense?
LH: Where do you start? The two strengths on the Saints defense last season was the pass rush and the secondary play. Both have been a letdown so far this season. The Saints haven’t consistently been able to pressure either Matt Ryan or Brian Hoyer. The secondary hasn’t done the defense any favors, though, by having far too many miscommunications.
2. How has Drew Brees looked through two games?
LH: Brees hasn’t been as sharp as the Saints have been accustomed to in recent years. But Brees started slow last season and he compiled one of his best seasons in the NFL. Brees has thrown a costly interception in each game. One was his fault against Atlanta in the end zone. The other came as he took a shot in Cleveland, but the result also cost the Saints as it went back for a touchdown.
3. In what ways does the defensive game plan change without running back Adrian Peterson?
LH: I would assume the Saints would focus less on stopping the run and zero in on shoring up the pass defense. The Saints have expressed their respect for Cordarrelle Patterson and will take their chances in not stacking the box.
4. What is the sense of urgency with this team starting 0-2 and coming back to the Superdome?
LH: There’s no major panic with this team. There’s definitely a sense of urgency, though. The Saints know they had their chances of winning both games and it didn’t happen. They know the season isn’t in trouble at 0-2. As for 0-3, that’s a different story.
5. What needs to happen for the Saints to win the game?
LH: The Saints need to play like they typically play at home. Both side of the football come with extra juice in the Superdome as the Saints went undefeated there in 2013. The Saints need to cut down on the mistakes on defense and increase the pressure on the quarterback. The Saints have also run the football with plenty of success and should continue to use their ground game even with Mark Ingram likely out Sunday with a broken hand.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings released WR Jerome Simpson after another brush with the law.
— The loss of Simpson and RB Adrian Peterson isn’t going to help QB Matt Cassel’s struggles.
— Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer says he’s a better man after sensitivity training.
— Head Coach Mike Zimmer was optimistic about injuries to OLB Chad Greenway and others.
— Rookie OLB Brandon Watts is back at Vikings practice after a month layoff.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Congrats to my man @D_Hest23 breaking the record!
— Corey Wootton (@CoreyWootton) September 19, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Saints RB Khiry Robinson is excited about his opportunity with RB Mark Ingram out.
— Banged-up Saints C Jonathan Goodwin is expected to start against the Vikings.
— Embattled Saints CB Patrick Robinson owned up to his recent struggles.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings will practice at 10:50 a.m. Zimmer will speak with reporters at 12:30 p.m. and the locker room will be open as Vikings players pack up their bags before flying to the Big Easy.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Vikings and Saints have gone in different directions since meeting in the NFC championship game five years ago. Not only did the Saints go on to win the Super Bowl that year, they have gone 42-24 with three seasons with double-digit wins since then. The Vikings, meanwhile, have three seasons with double-digit losses and they have a 25-40-1 record since that day in the Superdome.
We just chatted with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after practice, as we usually do every Thursday. As he walked over to meet us, a PR staffer flagged him down and informed him about wide receiver Jerome Simpson’s latest legal issue. Even though the incident happened in July and took place just down the road in Bloomington, Zimmer said it was the first time he had heard about it.
Zimmer said he wouldn’t comment on Simpson until he spoke with General Manager Rick Spielman, but he did say that the Vikings, who are still reeling from the child abuse charge against running back Adrian Peterson, are “going to keep guys who care about football.”
“We’re going to look for high-quality guys,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to keep guys who care about football, guys who are passionate about playing the game. We’re going to continue to get those guys and keep working. There’s really nothing I can do about what everybody else says. All I can do is what I think is best at the time.”
In football-related news, a rarity this week, Zimmer stood by quarterback Matt Cassel, who threw a career-high four interceptions in the loss to the Patriots. Zimmer again pointed out that Cassel played well in the preseason and Week 1 and said “I’m not going to let one bad afternoon ruin it.”
Zimmer also said that outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who missed practice yesterday and today with a broken left hand and a rib injury, “feels a lot better today.” The Vikings will evaluate Greenway tomorrow and go from there. Zimmer added that offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, who participated in practice in some fashion today, is going to be OK. “He’s tough,” Zimmer said.
Finally, Zimmer expressed displeasure that players on both sides of the ball freelanced in the loss to the Patriots. He said it had more to do with the score than it did with Peterson not being active.
“The whole team last week, especially in the second half, we tried to do more than we were supposed to do and it showed up on tape,” Zimmer said. “Guys were trying to do their own thing. So we worked real hard this week on trying to get back to basics and understanding that there’s times where you make plays in the game but the game has to come to you.”
|NY Mets - B. Colon||6:05 PM|
|Washington - T. Roark|
|Baltimore - U. Jimenez||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - B. McCarthy|
|Kansas City - Y. Ventura||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - D. Salazar|
|Seattle - F. Hernandez||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Dickey|
|Chicago WSox - S. Carroll||6:08 PM|
|Detroit - D. Price|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels||6:10 PM|
|Miami - H. Alvarez|
|Pittsburgh - G. Cole||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - A. Wood|
|Milwaukee - M. Fiers||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto|
|Tampa Bay - A. Cobb||6:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Houston - B. Oberholtzer||7:05 PM|
|Texas - N. Martinez|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks|
|Arizona - A. Chafin||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson|
|LA Angels - W. LeBlanc||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke|
|Colorado - J. De La Rosa||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - R. Erlin|
|NY Giants||9/25/14 7:25 PM|
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|Tennessee||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
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|New England||9/29/14 7:30 PM|
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|Texas Tech||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(24) Oklahoma State|
|Appalachian St||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(11) UCLA||9/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Middle Tennessee||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Fresno State||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(25) Kansas State|
|Tennessee||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Vanderbilt||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Wyoming||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(9) Michigan State|
|Northwestern||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|TCU||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Tulane||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|So Florida||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Colorado State||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Western Mich||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Maryland||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Akron||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Bowling Green||9/27/14 2:00 PM|
|Arkansas||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(6) Texas A&M|
|Kent State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Ky||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Minnesota||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Wake Forest||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|FIU||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Miami-Ohio||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Colorado||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Texas||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Stanford||9/27/14 3:15 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|South Alabama||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||9/27/14 5:00 PM|
|(22) Ohio State|
|Rice||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Missouri||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|(13) So Carolina|
|Boise State||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|North Carolina||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Central Mich||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Troy||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Memphis||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(10) Ole Miss|
|Duke||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas State||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|Washington St||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(8) Notre Dame||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(7) Baylor||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|UNLV||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Illinois||9/27/14 8:00 PM|
|Oregon State||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|San Jose St|
|Montreal||9/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/27/14 5:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/27/14 8:30 PM|