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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Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Johnson's journey, Vikings with something to prove and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 28th at 10:48am 273008371

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— DT Tom Johnson took a long, winding path to the NFL and the Vikings.

— What does Mike Zimmer want to see from QB Christian Ponder tonight?

These four Vikings players have something to prove against the Titans.

— I did a Vikings chat at the airport yesterday, so I was cranky and I apologize for that.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— The Packers are already worrying about Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch.

— Lions players are looking forward to seeing former coach Jim Schwartz.

— These Bears players are on the bubble heading into tonight.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings wrap up the preseason against the Titans tonight in Nashville. The game starts at 7.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

ESPN crunched the numbers and they think the Vikings will win four games this season. I will eat this blog if that happens. Don’t ask me how I will actually do that, just know that I promise I will.

Zimmer on what he wants to see from Ponder: `Just have the poise, when he's getting rushed, to make the right throws'

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 27th at 1:33pm 272909181

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked Tuesday what he’d like to see from third-string quarterback Christian Ponder in Thursday night’s final preseason game at Tennessee. His answer summed up what everyone has been waiting to see in Ponder since the Vikings selected the Florida State QB 12th overall three years ago.

“Just have the poise, when he’s getting rushed, to make the right throws,” Zimmer said.

That sentence, and Ponder’s consistent inability to fulfill it, sums up Ponder’s fall from future franchise quarterback hopeful at age 22 to current third-string insurance policy/trade bait/one-more-year-afterthought at age 25.

Ponder has enough physical talent to play the position. Zimmer said he thinks Ponder’s arm strength is underrated. And maybe he’s right. But it’s hard to tell since Ponder usually appears either too slow to decipher and/or unwilling to trust his arm for fear of making a mistake. Sometimes, you’d like for him to just make a bad decision as opposed to, well, no decision when it comes to passing the ball.

“I’d like to see him do what he does out here in practice,” Zimmer said. “He made, like, three great throws [Tuesday].”

Ponder proved in 2012 – the year the Vikings went 10-6 and made the playoffs — that he can make the necessary throws. However, what he didn’t prove was he can make them consistently when the pocket collapses and the pass rush is in his face. And in case you haven’t noticed, that happens regularly in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner was talking back in May about evaluating college quarterbacks. He said he looks for the guy who “can make the NFL throw” because “I can get 100 guys who can come in here and make the college throw.” Then he showed some film of rookie Teddy Bridgewater making some quick, strong and accurate throws with the pocket collapsed and defenders crowding his legs.

Whether this is something that can be taught is tough to say since each quarterback and quarterback teacher is so different and develops so differently.

Bridgewater has credited Turner with already managing to speed up his dropback, which in turn has helped him buy more time to read the defense, aim at the target and let the ball fly.

Bridgewater most likely will start Thursday night as the Vikings rest No. 1 quarterback Matt Cassel and several starters. Ponder also is expected to play most of the game, so we’ll get a look at his progress or lack thereof for the first time since the preseason opener.

At this point, it appears Ponder will make the final roster and serve as an insurance policy against an injury. Those who don’t like that idea probably would feel differently if Cassel was injured in the first quarter at St. Louis and the Vikings had to play ¾ of that game with just Bridgewater and the next 15 with Bridgewater and some young street free agent who hasn’t been practicing Turner’s offense since March.

Having some experience and mobility at the No. 3 quarterback spot should be viewed as insurance money well spent. Just throwing in the towel if Cassel and Bridgewater were hurt would be admitting it’s OK to just waste another year of Adrian Peterson’s career.

Peterson is having a Hall of Fame-type career. But he’s also 29 years old and has experienced just one playoff victory.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Peterson wants to be the best ever, Joseph speaks and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 27th at 7:03am 272854411

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— RB Adrian Peterson is driven by one thing: becoming the best NFL player ever.

— NT Linval Joseph spoke with the reporters for the first time since he got shot.

— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater will likely start against the Titans tomorrow.

— Rookie OLB Anthony Barr sat out another practice with a sprained ankle.

— CB Jabari Price and OLB Gerald Hodges returned to practice yesterday.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

AROUND THE NFC NORTH

— RB Reggie Bush appreciates the rest the Lions have been giving him.

— The Packers reached an injury settlement with rookie TE Colt Lyerla.

— Bears rookie QB David Fales will play the entire preseason finale.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are traveling to Nashville today for their preseason finale against the Titans.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

ESPN recently conducted a survey of 30 of their “insiders” to rank the NFL’s 32 head coaches. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer came in 24th on the list, which is fair considering he is a first-time head coach. But it is worth noting that Zimmer ranked the highest among the NFL newbies, including Texans coach Bill O’Brien, Browns coach Mike Pettine and Redskins coach Jay Gruden.

Zimmer on Vikings bubble boys, Barr's injury and others, and the quarterback plan for Thursday

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated August 26th at 4:06pm 272770831

With only the preseason finale standing between the Vikings and final roster cuts, head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff must make their final evaluation of a bunch of bubble boys Thursday night.

So what is he hoping to see from the Vikings players who are battling for jobs against the Titans?

“Instead of trying to play cautious, they play aggressive,” Zimmer said of the fringe players who typically stand out. “They’re going to fight for what they want to achieve. I think that part of it. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in there and they kind of spit the bit. They don’t really want to run that day. They’re more about not getting beat as opposed to beating the guy that they’re up against.”

Of course, some players who are still in limbo won’t get another chance to make an impression on Zimmer due to injuries. Outside linebackers Mike Mauti (foot) and Brandon Watts (leg), safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) and cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder) will not play against the Titans.

Nor will nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf), right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and outside linebacker Anthony Barr (sprained ankle), but those guys don’t have to worry about keeping their roster spots.

Wide receiver Rodney Smith (neck) and outside linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee) are also expected to sit out, though the fact that Hodges practiced today gives him hope that he might be able to go.

As for the quarterback plan, Zimmer was vague with us because he hadn’t yet told some players his plan for playing time. He left wiggle room that Matt Cassel could play, but said there is a “good chance” that Teddy Bridgewater will start before eventually giving way to Christian Ponder.

“If he does start the game, it’s good for us to see how he takes the beginning of the game,” Zimmer said of the rookie quarterback, who did not start any of the team’s first three preseason games.

One other comment piqued my interest in Zimmer’s powwow with reporters. When asked about cornerback Shaun Prater, he said he could see the Vikings shifting him to safety “down the road.”

“Prater, obviously he was with me before [in Cincinnati], but he’s a tough, feisty kid that can do a lot of jobs,” Zimmer said. “He can play nickel. He can play corner. I’m not too sure we shouldn’t look at him some at safety, just because of his temperament and he’s doing things a lot better now.”

With that praise for Prater, it sure seems like we can pencil him onto the team’s 53-man roster.

Evans, Price, Hodges return to practice; 8 others out

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 26th at 3:54pm 272759081

Linebacker Gerald Hodges, cornerback Jabari Price and defensive tackle Fred Evans all returned to practice on Tuesday. While Hodges has a knee injury, it has not been disclosed what sidelined Price and Evans.

While three Vikings returned, eight were held out. Wide receiver Rodney Smith, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf) were at practice but did not participate. Smith’s injury is also unknown, but he landed awkwardly on his recovering an onside kick late against the Chiefs on Saturday.

Safety Chris Crocker, linebackers Anthony Barr, Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts were not present. It’s the second straight practice they’ve missed in preparation for the Titans, though it is also unknown at the moment why they’ve been absent from practice this week.

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