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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If you think Turner has no use for three QBs, Norv says you're mistaken (see: Cleveland, '13)

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 19th at 2:27pm 271868991

To those who think Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner has absolutely no use for No. 3 quarterback Christian Ponder, hop aboard this time machine and we’ll travel allllll the way back to … well, last year.

Turner was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. By Week 3, Turner was down to his second starting quarterback. By Week 8 – less than halfway through the season – he was on his third starting quarterback.

Overall, the Browns had three quarterbacks start at least three games. Brandon Weeden started Week 1 and made five starts. Brian Hoyer started Week 3 – beating the Vikings at the Metrodome, in case you forgot – and made three starts. And Jason Campbell started Week 8 and made eight starts.

With fans and others stuck on discussing the potential for Ponder to be traded or released as the Vikings go with just two quarterbacks on the roster, today seemed to be a good day to ask Turner the following:

“Norv, considering what you went through in Cleveland last year, does that give you a heightened sense of appreciation for your third quarterback?”

“Absolutely,” Turner said. “It never gets portrayed that way. I was obviously very disappointed in the opening game the way our fans reacted to Christian because I think he’s done everything he can do. He’s working his butt off. I think he’s a guy who is going to be valuable to our team.”

Ponder didn’t play in the second preseason game. But when you’ve been in the NFL for 30 seasons, as Turner has, you tend to expect the unexpected when it comes to injuries and the like. So you still carve out a little time for the guy at the end of the depth chart.

“The thing in Cleveland is we had three different guys have their career-best games in three different situations,” Turner said. “We didn’t win the games because we gave up a touchdown at the end of the game or something kept us from winning the game that was out of the quarterback’s hands. Having three quarterbacks, if that’s the way we end up going, it’s extremely valuable to me.”

Weeden’s best game saw him complete 24 of 40 passes (60.0) for 370 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 94.8 passer rating in a loss to Jacksonville. Hoyer’s best game actually came in a win over Cincinnati when he completed 25 of 38 passes (65.8) for 269 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 103.9 rating. And Campbell’s best performance came in a loss to New England, when he completed 29 of 44 passes (65.9) for 391 yards, three touchdowns, no picks and a 116.8 rating.

Turner, of course, doesn’t set the final roster. He was asked if he’d push head coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman to keep all three quarterbacks currently on the roster.

“There are advantages to going both ways and we’ll adjust to whatever,” he said. “But I think we have a pretty good quarterback situation right now.”

Simpson believes meeting with the NFL 'went great'

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 19th at 11:56am 271864821

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson is back at Winter Park today after traveling to New York with his lawyer, David Valentini, for a Monday disciplinary hearing to appeal a three-game NFL suspension stemming from a DWI arrest last year. Simpson believes the hearing “went great.”

“I just told them the truth, told them the truth,” the 28-year-old said. “The records and the facts show what happened.”

Asked what he thought his suspension should be reduced to, Simpson replied, “I don’t know. That’s up to the discretion of them.”

Simpson avoided jail time in January after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree DWI from a Nov. 9 arrest. He was placed on one-year probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service in public schools.

The Vikings, aware of a possible suspension, re-signed Simpson to a one-year deal this offseason.

It was the second suspension for Simpson, who was banned three games by the NFL after a drug arrest in September 2011. Simpson was indicted on a felony drug-trafficking change, but later plead to a lesser felony charge of “being involved in a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.” He was sentenced in Kentucky to 15 days in jail in April 2012.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said this morning that the Vikings will be prepared if Simpson’s suspension is upheld, saying that the team has contingency plans in place for a variety of situations.

“You have to have a varied plan,” he said. “Unfortunately in this game, guys miss [games] — whether it’s a case when a guy misses because off an off-the-field thing or we could be in the opening game and someone we’re counting on to play a big role sprains his ankle on the third play. And we have to plan to go play and do the things we want to do. We have plans and there are certain plays that Simp is really good on. There’s other guys that have to fill in if he’s not in for that play.”

Turner believes the Vikings have other viable deep threats, including Greg Jennings, to fill the void.

Meanwhile, Simpson made it clear that will accept the league’s final decision and move forward.

“I’m just ready to get it behind me,” he said.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Walsh's long misfires, Barr 'will be a force' and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 19th at 7:24am 271821621

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— K Blair Walsh continues to struggle from way downtown.

— Matt Cassel will again start at quarterback Saturday night.

— WR Jerome Simpson missed practice to appeal his suspension.

— DE Brian Robison thinks rookie OLB Anthony Barr will be a force.

— The Vikings made a move, claiming a linebacker off waivers.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— The Bears signed KR/PR Darius Reynaud.

— Packers rookie WR Davante Adams has been impressive.

— The Lions finally have some depth at wide receiver.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings have a walkthrough in the morning and practice at 12:50 p.m. at Winter Park. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is scheduled to speak with the media in between the two.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The Cardinals don’t exactly have the best offensive line in the NFL, but Everson Griffen had an impressive pass-rushing performance over the weekend. While Griffen is still looking for his first preseason snap, he had three quarterback hits and two hurries in 18 snaps as a pass-rusher. The Vikings are paying him big bucks for sacks, of course, but those numbers suggest they will come.

Simpson missed practice to appeal suspension

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 18th at 8:08pm 271764631
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was excused from Monday’s practice to appeal a three-game suspension stemming from a DWI arrest last year.
Simpson was in New York with his lawyer, David Valentini, for a disciplinary hearing with the NFL, Valentini said.
Simpson, 28, avoided jail time in January after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree DWI from a Nov. 9 arrest. He was placed on one-year probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service in public schools.
The Vikings re-signed the wide receiver in the offseason on a one-year deal for the third consecutive season despite a possible suspension looming from the incident. When the team first signed Simpson in 2012, he faced a three-game suspension by the NFL from a drug arrest in September 2011.
Simpson was indicted on a felony drug-trafficking change, but later plead to a lesser felony charge of “being involved in a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.” He was sentenced in Kentucky to 15 days in jail in April 2012.
Simpson had a career-high 726 receiving yards on 48 receptions with one touchdown last season with the Vikings.
He had one catch for 19 yards in the Vikings’ 30-28 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday.

Practice recap: Defenders still struggling to cover Rudolph

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 19th at 7:22am 271749641

If the first half of Saturday night’s preseason game wasn’t enough to prove the Kyle Rudolph is one tough dude to cover, Monday’s practice at Winter Park was another convincing argument.

SETTING THE SCENE: Today’s practice seemed flatter as the as the Vikings returned to Winter Park, where the final two weeks of training camp isn’t open to the public. At one point, the offense was moving so slowly that offensive coordinator Norv Turner reminded the players that the particular segment wasn’t designed to be run at three-quarters speed.

YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORD: Veteran Matt Cassel’s comfortable, if not insurmountable, lead over rookie Teddy Bridgewater continues to be obvious based on practice reps. Cassel took all of the first-team reps, while Bridgewater ran the second unit. The third unit didn’t see any reps during 11 on 11 segments of practice.

During the first team competition, Cassel went 4 of 5 with a couple of particularly accurate throws that Rudolph caught softly in tight coverage. Bridgewater also went 4 of 5.

In the second team competition, both went 2 of 3. Again, Cassel and Rudolph were too tough to beat on a completion over the middle.

WRIGHT HOBBLED: Bridgewater’s worst throw of the day was a misfire to Jarius Wright, who was surrounded by four defenders. Wright sprained an ankle and didn’t return.

RUDOLPH A TOUGH MATCHUP: As we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, Rudolph is a tough matchup for a defense. The Cardinals got a look at the leaner, faster version of Rudolph on Saturday. The result was a four-catch first half that produced 89 yards, including a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

Today, strong safety Chris Crocker had tight coverage on Rudolph on two occasions when it didn’t matter. On a crossing route, Cassel hit the window and Rudolph grabbed the ball as Crocker dived and was left behind. Crocker also couldn’t stop a short out pass despite having good position. Later, while going against the second unit, Rudolph was covered by a linebacker, Michael Mauti. He was fairly tight in coverage, but again, Rudolph caught an accurate ball in stride as Mauti tumbled.

NOISE MAKER: Unlike a lot of coaches, Mike Zimmer said he doesn’t place any more significance on the third preseason game. For a lot of coaches, the third preseason game is the only one they game plan for. They also play their starters into the third quarter. Zimmer said his routine this week “is still about us,” still about focusing on installing the new schemes. He said the coaches aren’t doing any in-depth game-planning for Saturday night’s game in Kansas City. But one thing was different today. As the Vikings prepare to play their first road preseason game of the year, Zimmer had a big speaker on the sideline to blare simulated crowd noise.

INJURY UPDATE: Other than Wright, no other players appeared to be injured while participating in practice today. We updated the other injuries on the blog earlier in the day. Matt Vensel also updated the excused absences of defensive end Brian Robison and receiver Jerome Simpson.

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