Vikings Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:35
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • It was just for a series, but Teddy Bridgewater saw first-team snaps for the first time in training camp. He threw on three of his four plays with the first-team offense, handing off to Adrian Peterson once, and spent the rest of the day working with the second team. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-15 in full-team work, though many of his passes were checkdowns to the running backs, and coach Mike Zimmer wasn't as happy with his accuracy as he's been on other days. Matt Cassel was 8-for-13, getting a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and another one nearly intercepted by Xavier Rhodes. Christian Ponder threw just one pass in 11-on-11 work, completing it to Joe Banyard.
  • Linebacker Anthony Barr also saw his first action with the Vikings' top defensive unit, working much of the day at linebacker. He hurried Bridgewater on one blitz, and was used as a pass rusher in sub packages, but Zimmer's report on him wasn't exactly glowing. "The only time I noticed him, he was late on a blitz," Zimmer said. "We talked about that."
  • Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had one of his more impressive days in camp, batting down a pass from Bridgewater and rushing off the edge to hurry Cassel on a throw to Cordarrelle Patterson. Cassel had to step up in the pocket and lofted a pass too close to the sideline for Patterson to catch with both feet in bounds.
  • With Robert Blanton out because of a hamstring injury, competition for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith is wide open. Mistral Raymond got most of the work with the first team, and Kurt Coleman also saw some snaps with the top defense. Blanton could miss several weeks, which would give others a chance to win the spot. It's telling, though, that safety Jamarca Sanford hasn't gotten a chance to work with the first team; Zimmer on Wednesday cited the injury that Sanford had during OTAs and minicamp, but the safety has been participating in practice since the start of training camp. Whatever the reason, it seems Sanford is behind several players at the moment.
  • The Vikings ran a large number of screen passes on Wednesday as they worked on installing their offense, and running back Jerick McKinnon was particularly impressive; he caught four passes from Bridgewater, and surged down the right sideline on one pass after cornerback Kendall James took a bad angle on him. McKinnon ran a 4.41 40 at the NFL scouting combine and has looked smooth as a receiver during training camp. He'll be fun to watch if he gets a chance to work in the open field during the preseason.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings got Cordarrelle Patterson on the practice field for the first time since the start of training camp on Wednesday afternoon, while cornerback Captain Munnerlyn did some side work after returning from a strained hamstring that had him on the physically-unable-to-perform list. While those two players returned -- and two others made progress in their recoveries from injury -- the Vikings had several other players miss practice on Wednesday.

Blanton
Safety Robert Blanton strained his hamstring during a blitz period in Monday's practice, coach Mike Zimmer said, and didn't practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Josh Robinson left with a tight hamstring, which didn't seem to concern Zimmer as much as Blanton's injury did. The safety has seen significant playing time with the first team since the start of the Vikings' OTAs in May, and his injury could alter the team's picture at the safety position opposite Harrison Smith.

A league source said Blanton could miss a few weeks, though his hamstring injury isn't believed to be serious and he could return by the end of the preseason under that timetable. Blanton's absence, though, could open the door for others at the position; Mistral Raymond got some first-team work on Wednesday, and Andrew Sendejo, who hasn't practiced in 2014 while dealing with back and ankle injuries, is nearing a return, Zimmer said.

"I believe he will be starting to come back Monday, when we come back to practice (after an off-day Sunday)," Zimmer said. "That's what I've been told. That's what we're shooting for."

Patterson, who missed the Vikings' first four practices with a minor foot injury, lined up at wide receiver for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. "He looked good," Zimmer said. "He was running good."

Tight end Chase Ford, who broke his foot before training camp, was off crutches and walking in a boot on Wednesday, but Zimmer said he wasn't sure when Ford might be able to return. Tight end A.C. Leonard also left early, but Zimmer said it was simply because of a headache.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Vikings will be back on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, following a day off on Tuesday, and coach Mike Zimmer said the team would likely adjust its practice plan to provide more snaps for players who need the extra work. At the quarterback position, that likely means the Vikings will pare down the snaps for one of their three passers, as offensive coordinator Norv Turner said on Wednesday morning.

"You can't work three [quarterbacks] for a long time, so the reps will get divided up differently," Turner said.

Based on what we've seen so far, it seems likely Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater will continue to get more work than Christian Ponder, as the Vikings try to settle on a starting quarterback to begin the season. Turner said on Wednesday preseason games will factor "heavily" into the final decision, but added he doesn't need to see full-contact situations to see how well Bridgewater handles pressure.

"He doesn’t look at the line; he feels it," Turner said. "He keeps his eyes up the field, makes throws with people around him and throws in real tight quarters where he doesn’t have real much room to work. That’s not a big concern. I think that’s one of the best things he does right now.”

Bridgewater hit 53.5 percent of his throws under pressure last season at Louisville, and was the best of any quarterback in this year's draft class under pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His quick release has helped him get the ball out in tight situations, and he's done a nice job of stepping up in the pocket as it closes.

The Vikings will work heavily on playbook installation again in practice on Wednesday, and while Turner said the current collective bargaining agreement -- which affords teams more meeting and walk-through time instead of lengthy practice sessions -- actually makes it easier to teach quarterbacks what to do. There's less time, however, to teach them exactly how to do it.

"You have to make the most of the work you get on the field, like we did on Monday night," Turner said. "I think from a quarterback position, getting them up to speed in terms of what to do, this system is outstanding for that. You don't get as many team reps, so when we're throwing routes against air, we're throwing balls to their backs, we're working with the tight ends, we've got to mentally create a game environment for them, so you're simulating the reps they would get if they were practicing in the morning."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The full details of Kyle Rudolph's five-year extension with the Minnesota Vikings are in, and if he plays well enough to earn all of the money in the deal, he'll be the sixth highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

Rudolph
According to ESPN Stats & Information salary data, Rudolph can earn a total of $18.5 million guaranteed, if he stays on the roster through 2017; his contract paid him a signing bonus of $6.5 million, and is set to pay him base salaries of $4.9 million in 2015, $5.65 million in 2016 and $5.15 million in 2017. Rudolph's 2015 and 2016 base salaries are currently guaranteed for injury only but would become fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2015 and 2016 league years. Additionally, $1.45 million of Rudolph's 2017 base salary is currently guaranteed for injury but would become fully guaranteed under the same terms.

The tight end, who signed his contract extension Sunday, would also earn roster bonuses of $125,000 and workout bonuses of $100,000 in all five years of the extension. The deal is worth $36.5 million, but Rudolph can earn up to $40 million if he realizes incentives in the contract. He carries a cap value of $2,773,134 this year, and will not carry a cap hit of more than $7.175 million in any year of the deal.

Of all the tight ends in the NFL, only Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Jared Cook are scheduled to earn more guarantees in their current deals than Rudolph. Additionally, only Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Witten, Davis and Gates have deals with a higher yearly average than Rudolph's.

Anthony Barr impressing in camp

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
10:00
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ESPN.com Minnesota Vikings reporter Ben Goessling discusses Anthony Barr's strong training camp start.

Vikings wake-up call: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
9:00
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Minnesota Vikings training camp:

Today's schedule: After a day off, the Vikings are back on their normal schedule today at Minnesota State. They will hold a morning walk-through from 10:30-11:30, and their afternoon practice will run from 3:30-5:10. Coach Mike Zimmer is scheduled to talk to reporters after the morning walk-through.

More observations from Monday's practice:
  • Sanford
    Safety Jamarca Sanford was back to getting some first-team snaps, after he had mostly been working out with the second team in the first part of camp. Zimmer has spoken highly of Robert Blanton, who has made the most of his time with the first team while Sanford sat out the Vikings' spring program with a pulled muscle, and at the moment, Blanton would seem to have the inside track on a job next to his former Notre Dame teammate, Harrison Smith. But Sanford, who has been the starter the past two seasons, appears healthy enough to make a bid for the job. We'll see how much more time he gets this week with the first team.
  • For all the times Marcus Sherels is forgotten because of his small stature, the cornerback keeps coming back to assert himself in training camp, year after year. He had a textbook pass breakup during individual drills, and after an outstanding season as the Vikings' punt returner in 2013, he appears to be well ahead of any challengers for that job. "He has gotten better every year," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "Every year we have taken a little bit, I don’t want to say more chances, but we have been a little bit more aggressive with him every year and we are going to continue to do so this year."
  • Undrafted free agent Kain Colter is fighting for one of the Vikings' receiver spots after playing quarterback in college, and he showed his athletic ability early in Monday night's practice, leaping to make a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone during a red-zone drill.
Munnerlyn
What I'm watching: The Vikings activated Captain Munnerlyn from the physically-unable-to-perform list, and should get him back on the practice field on Wednesday. I'm curious to see how they will work him into their defense; he has been adamant that he will start at cornerback in the base defense, rather than just playing in the slot in the nickel package, but Josh Robinson looks more comfortable now that he is on the outside again. The Vikings might have to ease Munnerlyn into practice once they do get him back, but how they use him in the next week or so will give us an idea of whether he is going to be playing in their base defense as well as their sub packages. The guess here is Munnerlyn will wind up with the starting spot.

They said it: "Everson is a very difficult person to replace. He is such a great athlete. I think Scott has the size; he is not quite the athlete that Everson is, but he is a bigger guy. We will be able to utilize him in lot of different phases. I am excited about working with him, and again, Everson is a very tough person to replace athletically, but I think Scott will be doing some of the things that Everson did when he was playing special teams." -- Priefer, on the possibility of using rookie defensive end Scott Crichton to replace Everson Griffen on special teams now that Griffen is starting at right end.

Ted Wells hired by Vikings

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
2:03
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are gearing up for the next steps in their battle with former punter Chris Kluwe.

The Vikings will retain Roberta Kaplan, the prominent New York attorney who successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court last year, and Ted Wells, whose independent investigation of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal led to a 144-page report on Jonathan Martin's allegations of workplace misconduct earlier this year.

"We pride ourselves on the workplace environment that we have created, centered on diversity, tolerance and respect," Vikings executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren said in a statement. "In consideration of our standards and the great sensitivity to the issues raised by Chris Kluwe and his attorney -- and their potential litigation -- the Vikings have retained Roberta Kaplan and Ted Wells, two well-respected and extremely experienced partners at Paul, Weiss, as well as Minneapolis-based Joseph Anthony, founding shareholder and chief executive officer of Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A., to serve as the team's counsel."

"Ted Wells and I have reviewed the investigative findings and firmly believe that the Vikings have worked incredibly hard to achieve an environment of tolerance within the team and organization," Kaplan told ESPN.com in a statement.

Kluwe published allegations in a Jan. 2 Deadspin piece that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made multiple homophobic statements during the 2012 season and that the Vikings cut him in May 2013 because of his support for same-sex marriage.


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LSU position breakdown: RB

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
10:00
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Editor’s note: This week, we’ll take a quick look at each of LSU’s position groups as the Tigers prepare to open preseason practice next week. Up next are the running backs.

RUNNING BACK

Returning starters: Fullback Connor Neighbors (7 catches, 92 yards in 2013). Neighbors started seven of the last eight games after overtaking J.C. Copeland at fullback. He figures to share time with converted linebacker Melvin Jones (1 catch, 7 yards, TD) this fall.

Starters lost: Running back Jeremy Hill. After rushing for 1,401 yards and setting an SEC record for a back with at least 200 carries with 6.9 yards per carry, Hill turned pro and went to the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the draft. He ended the season by rushing for a career-high 216 yards in the Outback Bowl win against Iowa.

Key newcomers: No. 1 overall prospect Leonard Fournette and running back Darrel Williams (three stars, No. 77 running back) both joined the team this summer. Fournette should make an instant impact, while Williams could also contribute in the Tigers’ depth-deprived backfield alongside seniors Terrence Magee (626 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and Kenny Hilliard (310-7).

Player to watch: Fournette. The New Orleans native is arguably the most heavily hyped prospect ever to enroll at LSU, with comparisons to no less than Minnesota Vikings superstar Adrian Peterson following him to college. He brings an impression of size, power and speed to the position, so all the tools are there. LSU’s coaches and veteran backs will unquestionably need to help manage the freshman and the expectations he faces, since few players must deal with this level of fan excitement so early in their careers.

Overall: Magee averaged a whopping 7.3 yards per carry last season and Hilliard has always been an effective power back, so the Tigers have a pair of solid seniors who can help ease the youngsters’ path into college. The big question is how much the freshmen will add to the backfield. LSU fans will probably be disappointed with anything less than immediate stardom for Fournette, while Williams -- a 2,000-yard rusher last season as a high school senior -- has the ability to join the backfield timeshare as a rookie. LSU’s backfield depth is not ideal, which is part of the reason that Jones played some tailback during spring practice, but as long as they avoid any major injuries, the Tigers should be OK on that front.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The test was not going to be difficult. David Yankey had taken enough U.S. history classes growing up in Roswell, Georgia, that he had little trepidation about his ability to pass an American citizenship exam. There would be a different set of emotions when he sat down to take the test this spring.

There would be pride, from having completed a journey that meant so much to his Ghanaian-born father, David, Sr. There would be a sense of community, from joining his mother and his two younger brothers as citizens of a country his family had moved to when Yankey was 8-years old. And there would be wistfulness, from imagining how happy his dad would be to see him now, a full-fledged American about to graduate from Stanford University and begin a career in the NFL.

"He loved football, and he would have loved to see that, as well," Yankey said. "But I think he would have been ecstatic to see me graduate."

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's David Yankey
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallDavid Yankey, who became a U.S. citizen earlier this year, was born outside of Sydney, Australia, to a father from Ghana and a mother from Czechoslovakia.
Yankey has made it now, becoming a U.S. citizen two weeks after the Vikings selected him in the fifth round of the NFL draft and two weeks before he graduated from Stanford. He's been called a possible steal in the draft, after some projections had him going in the second or third round, and he could eventually push Charlie Johnson for the starting left guard job. He's arrived in Minnesota, as the next stop on a rich journey that took Yankey from Australia to Georgia, then to California. His dad, though, won't be there to see what comes next. David Yankey, Sr., passed away last fall, from causes that aren't completely clear. He'd had some heart issues in the past, but had gotten himself in better shape before his unexpected death last fall.

His legacy, though, includes a son who's made his family proud.

David Yankey, Jr., was born just outside of Sydney, to a father who'd followed his brothers from Ghana to Australia for work with a foresting company and a mother who'd escaped Communist rule with her family in Czechoslovakia. They met and married in Australia, and David Yankey, Jr., grew up as the oldest of three boys, in a house crackling with linguistic diversity.

Yankey never learned any of the tribal dialects his father spoke, but his parents told him he was fluent in Slovak as a toddler. "I eventually refused to speak it, for some reason," Yankey said. "I think it was just before I could have really maintained it and kept remembering it, unfortunately."

English was the language both of his parents knew, and became the common tongue of his family. But Yankey, who lived in Australia and the Deep South, somehow didn't wind up with an accent from either place.

His family moved to the United States in 2000, when his father took a job as an IT professional. "He'd always wanted to come to the States," Yankey said. "It was always kind of a dream of his, especially growing up in Africa."

And now that he's a citizen, Yankey finds himself even more at home in the U.S. He'd always rooted for Australia during the World Cup, and nervously refrained from taking a side in the Ghana-U.S. matches during the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. But this year, after he'd become a citizen, Yankey proudly supported the U.S. team during its group stage victory over Ghana last month.

Even Minnesota has a familial feel for him. He played with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson's son, Nick, at Stanford, and Jeff Davidson's May trip to the West Coast allowed him to both visit his son and work with Yankey, who couldn't attend the Vikings' organized team activities until Stanford's classes concluded in June.

Yankey said he's happy among a veteran group of linemen, who have played together under Davidson for three seasons and combined to start 157 out of a possible 160 regular-season games the past two seasons.

"Minnesota, I think, was a really awesome place for me to end up," Yankey said. "These guys, they know so much, they do the right things, they're all pros."

His latest stop, so far, feels like a rewarding destination. And Yankey will carry with him the man who put him on his journey in the first place.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
11:58
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings have a day off on Tuesday, and coach Mike Zimmer will use it to meet with his staff and decide which players need more practice snaps and which ones might get less work. It's getting harder and harder to see the team's quarterback competition as anything other than a race between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel and Bridgewater got most of the work in the Vikings' night practice, which was heavy on playbook installation; Cassel again took the first-team snaps, while Bridgewater worked with the second team and Ponder with the third. Cassel hit 5 of his 9 passes and found a wide open Greg Jennings on a nice throw down the right sideline. Bridgewater went 12-for-13, and Ponder went 1-for-2. All three quarterbacks had a dropped pass, which means Bridgewater and Ponder technically didn't miss a receiver all night. But when the Vikings are giving Cassel the work with the starters -- and using much of their remaining time on Bridgewater -- it doesn't say much for Ponder's chances. Bridgewater hit 4 of his 12 completions to running backs, and had to be bailed out by his receivers on a couple throws, but he did a nice job stepping up in the pocket, made a solid throw to Rodney Smith on the run and again connected with Adam Thielen. He's continued to impress.
  • Blair Walsh got his first chance to kick during training camp, and made seven of his eight field goal attempts. His lone miss was from 44 yards out, and Walsh finished the session by drilling a 52-yarder.
  • First-round pick Anthony Barr showed his speed as a pass-rusher in a sack, so to speak, of Cassel during 11-on-11 work. Barr surged through the middle of the Vikings' line on a blitz, getting to Cassel as the play was blown dead (quarterbacks, of course, aren't allowed to get hit during training camp). He's mostly worked with the second team, but has had a handful of first-team snaps. He might have to get past Audie Cole for the starting strong-side linebacker job early in the season, but Barr's size and speed has the Vikings excited about what they're seeing.
  • The Vikings did their first goal-line work on Monday night, and it was easy to see why Zimmer wanted to keep Adrian Peterson out of the session. The Vikings were practicing at "thud" tempo, where defenders initiate contact without taking ballcarriers to the ground, but the drill featured some live hitting, like when Jasper Brinkley drilled Matt Asiata for a loss on the first snap of the drill and the third-string defense hammered undrafted free agent Dominique Williams.
  • The evening practice had a special guest: Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who is in Mankato for a summit with the team's ownership group, watched the session from the top row of Blakeslee Stadium, sitting with general manager Rick Spielman.
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Is Cordarrelle Patterson ready to break out in 2014?
MANKATO, Minn. -- The process that led to Kyle Rudolph earning a new contract from the Minnesota Vikings, which culminated in a hug and words of congratulations from general manager Rick Spielman after Sunday's practice, seemed about as devoid of drama and tension as either side could have wanted.

Rudolph
Rudolph made it known at the end of last season he wanted to stay in Minnesota; the Vikings spoke highly of the big tight end and said they wanted the same thing. They hired an offensive coordinator with a history of featuring tight ends; Rudolph responded by taking a more serious look at his offseason nutrition program, dropping 15 pounds and sharpening his technique as a receiver. He said he hoped to get a contract done before the season; the Vikings met with his agents in the Twin Cities on July 15 to begin discussions on a deal.

There seemed to be little chance of the Vikings letting Rudolph get to free agency next spring, not when they had taken him in the second round of the 2011 draft, not when he was one of the only viable candidates for a contract extension before next season. But the toothy smile Rudolph flashed when talking about the contract on Monday let everyone know even an inevitable payoff was sweet.

"Being the organization that took a chance on me out of the draft, being hurt at the time and still drafting me when they did and now giving me this extension, it shows the faith that they have in me," Rudolph said. "Certain people have the opportunity to change your life, and I can't thank Rick and (assistant GM) Rob (Brzezinski) enough for that opportunity."

Now comes the hard part for Rudolph. He will have to play well enough to maximize the value of his contract, which pays him a $6.5 million signing bonus and effectively guarantees his $956,343 base salary in the final season of his rookie deal. The five-year, $36.5 million deal could be worth up to $40 million if Rudolph triggers incentives in the contract, and though another $12 million of the deal is currently guaranteed for injury only, that money will become fully guaranteed by the start of the 2016 league year, coming to Rudolph in separate chunks on the third day of the 2015 and 2016 league years.

But the tight end, as usual, seemed sensible about the contract on Monday. He said he didn't plan to buy himself anything special, adding his only plan was to fulfill a promise to his old strength coach and pay to remodel the weight room at his alma mater, Elder High School in Cincinnati.

As for the Vikings, Rudolph wants to make sure they get a good return on their investment.

"Essentially, if you look at this from a business side, I'm here for the next three years (anyway) because of the last year of my deal and opportunity to be franchised twice," he said. "So they felt like it was important to keep me here for a long time. It instills a responsibility to become one of the veteran leaders in the locker room. We have a lot of young guys on this team and it's weird for me to see that now, four years later I'm one of the veterans in the locker room who have to bring those guys along so we can win football games."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings won't see Cordarrelle Patterson and Captain Munnerlyn on the practice field until Wednesday at the earliest.

Coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday afternoon that the Vikings will hold the receiver and cornerback out of the team's night practice at Blakeslee Stadium to give each one a little more time to treat a foot injury and a strained hamstring, respectively. The Vikings are off on Tuesday, and Zimmer said he's hopeful both players will be able to return soon after the off day.

Patterson, who did not participate in the Vikings' morning walkthrough, will again do some individual drills during the team's practice on Monday night. Munnerlyn, who said he initially strained his hamstring while working out in Mobile, Alabama, before the start of Vikings training camp, said he will stay in Mankato through the Vikings' off day to do more rehab work on his hamstring.

"I think it will be real close to when we get back. Maybe. I don’t know," Zimmer said. "They’re going to work him out again. I think he’s real close. It won’t be long.”

 
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Now that offensive coordinator Norv Turner has arrived, bringing what should be a more aggressive scheme to the Minnesota Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson said he's playing in the offense he's "been looking for for the past seven years."

And in the process of talking about Turner, Peterson admitted just how staid he thought the Vikings had become.

"Let's call it what it is: I thought in the past, we've been predictable," Peterson said. "I'm sure you guys wrote stories about us being predictable the past seven years. You won't be able to write that story this year. That's pretty much all I'm saying. You won't be able to do that, because this offense is so versatile."

During the first seven years of his career, Peterson played in offenses that were generally accused of being predictable or overly conservative. That charge got particularly loud the last three seasons, with Bill Musgrave running the offense under head coach Leslie Frazier, but Peterson largely held his tongue while he was playing for those coaches.

The Vikings plan to get Peterson more involved in their passing game, something he's said he wanted for a long time, and they've been giving him plenty of chances to work on that part of his game early in training camp.

He said he hasn't talked yet with coaches about whether he'll need to play in preseason games to get a better feel for the offense, but coach Mike Zimmer said Peterson won't get "many" carries in the preseason.


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