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.
INDIANAPOLIS —- DeVante Parker wouldn’t mind reuniting with Teddy Bridgewater again.
In their three seasons together at Louisville, Bridgewater connected with Parker 113 times for 1,920 yards and 28 touchdowns, including a dozen touchdowns during Bridgewater’s final season.
Bridgewater, of course, left for the NFL and finished strong in his rookie year with the Vikings.
“We all knew what Teddy can do. He was prepared all the time,” Parker said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Field. “People doubted him and he’s proved everybody wrong.”
Parker’s numbers took a dip in 2014 without Bridgewater, but he is in the conversation over this draft’s top receivers and is considered by draft analysts as a lock to go in the top 20 or so picks.
Some of those analysts projected him to the Vikings at pick No. 11 in their early mock drafts.
It’s safe to say Parker and Bridgewater will be pleased if that’s how April’s draft plays out.
“That would be real good, to reunite with him again,” said Parker, who was measured today at 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds. “We had a good connection from college and it would be a good thing.”
Bridgewater has been in the ear of General Manager Rick Spielman, vouching for his college teammate and advocating that the Vikings take Parker. Spielman has also asked Bridgewater about Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Teddy’s high school teammate. This is a common thing, though. Spielman often asks players about old teammates, but that doesn’t mean they have say in his decisions.
“They had a great career together but that has no influence on who we’re looking at,” Spielman said yesterday morning in his chat with Twin Cities reporters. “We’re going to look at who’s best for us regardless. You have to look at the best football player, who fits your scheme the best and what you’re trying to get accomplished. That has no part of the equation.”
Still, consider the Vikings interested in Parker. He said today that he spoke with them out here.
INDIANAPOLIS —- Head coach Mike Zimmer just sat down with us in the lobby of the team’s hotel here in Indianapolis and within a minute was playfully heckled by a passerby for being stuck talking to a group of local reporters. Needless to say, offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t miss all the extra media responsibilities that came with being a head coach.
Zimmer was in a relaxed mood, cracking some jokes of his own, too, and sharing a couple of colorful stories that we are unable to share with you. This year’s scouting combine is a little less stressful for him now that he is settled in as head coach and since he won’t have to spend the next two months jetting all over the country in search of a starting quarterback (it’s safe to say the Wilfs aren’t going to hook him up with a private jet to go scout defensive tackles or cornerbacks).
No, Zimmer is happy to have Teddy Bridgewater, the winner of the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award. Of course, Zimmer couldn’t resist rattling the quarterback’s cage for winning the fan award.
“I texted him something like, ‘Hey, congratulations, Teddy. Now let’s see if we can win a championship, unless you just want to be a celebrity quarterback,’” Zimmer said. “He texted me back and said, ‘Thanks, Coach. But I’ve never cared about individual awards and all I ever care about is the team and winning football games.’ The stuff he says is so perfect anyway.”
About the team and the business of winning football games…
Zimmer was a little more forthcoming about the team’s offseason plans, especially at the running back situation, than General Manager Rick Spielman was yesterday.
Zimmer said it’s not a big deal that suspended superstar Adrian Peterson won’t be eligible for reinstatement until a month after the start of free agency.
“We’re not going to look for a running back in free agency anyway,” Zimmer said.
It is his preference — and the organization’s likely path — to improve the team through the draft.
“I’d much rather go through the draft to find players than free agency,” Zimmer said. “If you don’t know the guy and you haven’t coached him or somebody else hasn’t coached him … I think you make a lot of mistakes there. You use free agency to plug in a couple of holes, but I don’t believe that we’re going to go out and pay some guy a whole bunch of money. When I was in Cincinnati and a lot of places, we would kind of go for the lower-end free agents and coach them up and hope they fit in our scheme.”
Zimmer has mostly focused on defensive draft prospects after the 2014 season ended. The depth at linebacker, one area of need, isn’t as deep as he would like. Same deal at cornerback. But his opinion could change a little bit after he sees some of these players in person.
There are a couple of more Zimmer tidbits I’ll share before getting to work on tomorrow’s story.
Zimmer talked about the addition of former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers yesterday. Zimmer said Bostick is a good athlete who will come in and compete with the guys on the roster. He also said he is a solid special teams player, though he couldn’t resist making a joke when asked about Bostick botching that onside kick in the NFC title game.
“We’ll try not to put him on the onside kick team,” Zimmer said.
Finally, a little something on wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. I thought we might get through the week without a comment from Zimmer or Spielman about Patterson, whose struggles last season let to the spilling of tons of digital ink. Alas, Zimmer was asked about Patterson, but at least he had some new, interesting things to say about Patterson’s lost 2014 season.
“I think one of the biggest problems Cordarrelle had last year was he was going to have this breakout year and he was going to be this,” he said. “I think all those things maybe affected him a little bit, and he thought how easy this game would be and how easy it was going to go. And it didn’t quite go that way. So let’s just keep our heads down and work and not worry about whatever.”
Patterson has been in touch with Receiver X, the mysterious former NFL receiver whom Zimmer has asked Patterson to work with. Zimmer is still not revealing the identity of said mentor.
Asked if Patterson has mentality to follow through by putting in the work, Zimmer hesitated.
“He’s going to have to have that mentality,” Zimmer said. “I know he likes the limelight and all that stuff, but if you’re not playing, that stuff’s going to fade away fast.”
INDIANAPOLIS —- The Vikings have claimed tight end Brandon Bostick off waivers.
Bostick spent the past three seasons with the Packers and is best known, at least for the moment, as being the player who mishandled the late onside kick in Green Bay’s overtime loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game last month. Bostick took responsibility for the miscue in the aftermath of the loss, though to be fair, it was one of several costly mistakes in the Packers’ collapse.
Bostick joined the Packers in 2012 as an undrafted rookie out of Newberry. He spent 2012 on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster in 2013. In 24 games over the past two seasons, he caught nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns while also contributing on special teams.
The Packers waived Bostick earlier this week. The Vikings claimed him today and the 25-year-old will compete with Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford for a roster spot and a role.
INDIANAPOLIS —- It has been 11 months since Teddy Bridgewater’s infamous pro day and about eight since the Vikings disregarded the poor performance that they had seen that day and traded up to select Bridgewater late in the first round of the draft.
Once he got on the field in 2014, Bridgewater, of course, looked more like the quarterback the Vikings saw on tape after a decorated college career at Louisville than the guy without gloves who was spraying errant passes all over the practice field in that workout. Bridgewater went 6-6 as a starter and was one of the most accurate rookie passers in NFL history.
Just a little bit ago, at his official combine press conference, General Manager Rick Spielman was given an opportunity by a non-Minnesota reporter to take a victory lap of sorts. He was asked to describe what impressed him about Bridgewater, and Spielman, a few days before this year’s crop of draft-eligible quarterbacks will chuck passes here, made sure he brought up that pro day.
“I’m thankful the media did him a disservice, in my opinion, last year by judging him in on his pro day,” he said.
After his jab at the reporters on hand, Spielman went on to explain the process of anchoring players on his board based on their on-field performance and how the Vikings try to resist the urge to move players up or down based on how they fare at the combine or at their pro days.
“One thing that we try to do, our process, is that we had our draft meetings before we came down and we put all the player on a board and graded him purely off what seen off tape or what we seen live as football players,” he said. “All this other stuff that will accumulate here and over the next couple months will start to add into it, but it’s not going to be a situation where a guy having a sixth-round [grade] goes all the way up to the first round because he comes out here and he runs fast in his shorts. Or it’s not going to be a situation where a guy has a bad pro day where all the sudden we’re going to forget the 47 games that he was productive on the tape if you’ve watched him play the last three or four or years.
“You’ve just got to be careful. It’s part of the process. All the information to gather that you use to make your decisions, but it has to come back to what he is, not only as a character but what he is as football player.”
INDIANAPOLIS —- A few Minneapolis-based reporters and I sat down a couple of hours ago with General Manager Rick Spielman for a cup of coffee and a chat about the Vikings as the scouting combine kicks off today. He spoke for nearly a half hour, and he touched on a lot of topics. I would just post the full transcript of the conversation, but it would bust this blog and maybe the internet.
Instead, I’ll just pass along a few of the comments that caught my ear.
But first, here is the prerequisite Adrian Peterson non-update de jour.
Spielman was again asked by one of my peers for his stance on Peterson, even though Spielman made it pretty clear a month ago when he said he wanted Peterson to be back with the team in 2015. Those comments have since been echoed by Owner Mark Wilf and new COO Kevin Warren.
“Me and [Coach Mike Zimmer], I think you guys have a pretty good idea where we’re at on it,” he said. “And I think our whole organization is on the same page. And I stated what I stated when I talked with you guys after the season. What team wouldn’t want to have an Adrian Peterson talent?”
I asked Spielman if he wished he could tell Peterson that man to man.
“I’m sure he reads the paper,” Spielman said with a grin.
While Spielman said he “expects” Peterson to play for the Vikings this season, he declined to comment on whether Peterson would have to take a pay cut to do so.
Spielman said the Vikings — and likely other teams — will have to be warier of college prospects with question marks about their character because of the way that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have dropped the hammer this season when it comes to off-the-field conduct.
“I think you have to be very conscientious of that, especially with the new personal conduct policy,” he said. “With the way everything is nowadays, these kids have to realize that, and I can’t speak for every team, but some teams may have been more lenient but now won’t be as lenient with specific issues that these guys are coming in with, just because of the environment that we’re in right now.”
OK, let’s talk a little football.
Spielman thinks it’s a deep draft class at wide receiver, offensive line, running back, defensive line and cornerback. And he is relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about drafting a quarterback in the first round, though he did say the Vikings, who will likely move on from Christian Ponder, could add a young, development passer at some point during the offseason to be the team’s third QB.
He also hinted that Matt Cassel will be back as Teddy Bridgewater’s primary backup in 2015.
Finally, when our cups of coffee were about empty, Spielman made a point to bring up the Vikings playing in the Hall of Fame Game. They are excited to get that extra preseason game and, perhaps just as important, that they will be able to get a third week of training camp down in Mankato.
“We thought it was a great opportunity for this team to go down to Mankato a week early and get an opportunity for those guys to play an extra preseason game because mostly you’re going to play your starters minimal at most,” he said. “[The fifth game] I think really aids in their development.”
Spielman is scheduled to do a presser with the entire swarming mass of media here in a little bit and will surely be asked about Peterson again. I’ll let you know if there’s an update this time.
|Oklahoma City||13||1st Qtr 0:05|
|Ottawa||0||1st Prd :16|
|East Tenn St||73||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||60||FINAL|
|Central Conn St||69||FINAL|
|North Dakota St||58||FINAL|
|Utah Valley U||50||FINAL|
|UC Davis||45||2nd Half 11:30|
|UC Santa Barbara||51|
|UC Irvine||52||2nd Half 11:36|
|Cal State Fullerton||51||2nd Half 12:15|
|Montana||36||2nd Half 17:10|
|BYU||44||2nd Half 15:27|
|Pacific||39||2nd Half 11:09|
|Arizona State||9||1st Half 1:44|
|San Diego||5||1st Half 15:49|
|St Marys-CA||15||1st Half 12:56|
|Oregon State||8||1st Half 15:35|
|Long Beach State||10:59 PM|
|William & Mary||84||FINAL|
|Coll of Charleston||55|
|(9) Florida State||72|
|(11) Miss State||50||FINAL|
|(2) South Carolina||69|
|(15) North Carolina||72|
|(4) Notre Dame||87|
|(22) George Washington||81||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||56|
|Stephen F Austin||58|
|No Dakota State||87|
|South Dakota St||69|
|(12) Texas A&M||69|
|(7) Oregon State||58|
|Utah Valley U||61|
|UCLA||57||2nd Half 12:12|
|Santa Clara||42||2nd Half 12:28|
|CS-Northridge||48||2nd Half 11:45|
|Cal State Fullerton||38|
|UC Santa Barbara||27||2nd Half 10:40|
|Hawaii||27||2nd Half 13:18|
|Long Beach St||31|
|Cal Poly||45||2nd Half 14:19|
Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?