NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

MANKATO, Minn. -- According to the summary the Minnesota Vikings released last week of an independent investigation into former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations, long snapper Cullen Loeffler was the only member of the team to corroborate Kluwe's claim that special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer made a homophobic remark during the 2012 season. But if Kluwe contends he was released in part because of his support for same-sex marriage, Loeffler said he never felt in danger of losing his job for telling investigators he remembered Priefer making the statement.

Loeffler
"I was never worried about my job, never worried about the Vikings' support," Loeffler said. "They’ve been very supportive throughout the process. Just wanted me to cooperate, which I did."

Loeffler, who told investigators that he and Kluwe both laughed off Priefer's comment about "putting all the gays on an island and nuking it," said again on Thursday he remembered thinking the remark was a joke. He said he hasn't talked to Kluwe since the former punter published his allegations in a Deadspin piece on Jan. 2, and said he was glad the investigation had come to a close.

According to the summary, Loeffler met with Vikings executive director of player development/legal Les Pico after Kluwe asked him to sign an affidavit confirming the remarks in May 2013. Kluwe told investigators that Loeffler was concerned he would be "blacklisted" from the NFL if he was associated with a controversy involving Priefer. The summary said Pico told Loeffler he felt a need to alert general manager Rick Spielman and vice president of legal affairs Kevin Warren about the situation, even though Kluwe wanted it to remain private and avoid any risk of jeopardizing Loeffler's job status.

Asked about his conversations with Pico on Thursday, Loeffler said, "At the time I wasn’t really sure what was going to come out of it. Really everything that I’ve said is in the report. If you want to address that question you can address it from the report."

Pico has declined comment since the summary was published, referring questions to his attorneys.
MANKATO, Minn. -- After weathering instability at quarterback for the better part of his seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson might be one of the more interested stakeholders in the Vikings' three-man quarterback competition during training camp. And as the Vikings reported to Minnesota State University on Thursday, Peterson had a simple message for coach Mike Zimmer: Pick a QB and stick with him.

Peterson
Peterson
"I felt like it was going to be very important for us [to stick with one quarterback]" he said Thursday. "Like I said, I feel like the coaching staff and the guys up top will evaluate and do what’s best for us. It feels good to know you have a couple guys to lean on, as well. It’s not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn’t played well, but that’s why you bring guys in, you improve as an individual and you try to take steps forward. From what I’ve been able to see from Christian [Ponder] and Matt [Cassel], those guys have done that and that’s the approach that they’re taking. That’s all you can really ask.”

The Vikings used three different starting quarterbacks during a tumultuous 2013 season, eventually settling on Cassel at the end of the season. Zimmer said on Thursday that Cassel enters camp as the No. 1 QB in his mind, but said on-field performance will determine the Vikings' eventual starter. Peterson also put Cassel at the head of the race, for now.

"I feel like we have three good quarterbacks right now," Peterson said. "Basing everything off OTAs and the minicamps, of course Matt Cassel is our guy. With Christian Ponder and [Teddy] Bridgewater, right there, I’m behind them, but those guys are looking good as well. I have confidence in our organization from the top to the bottom, the head coach. We’re going to do what’s best for our team and the best player will play at any position. I’m just excited to get started tomorrow.”

It's already been a busy month for the running back; he proposed to his girlfriend, Ashley Brown, on July 4 -- "an exciting and explosive night," Peterson called it -- and the two were married in a small ceremony on July 19.

"It was kind of funny because we were talking about going to the court and getting married and just did something more intimate at the house," Peterson said. "I only [had] like, 20 people and just the texts I’ve been getting from family members and my brothers, some of my brothers didn’t make it. It was supposed to be something small and do something later, but plans don’t always work out. I’m sure I’ll hear something from [teammates].”

As for a honeymoon? Peterson said that happened at the Starkey Hearing Foundation gala in St. Paul last Sunday.

"Met Forest Whitaker, Hillary Clinton," Peterson said. "John Legend performed, so it wasn’t bad at all.”
MANKATO, Minn. -- Though Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer maintains the team will have an open competition at quarterback during training camp, he does have an incumbent in his mind for now.

Cassel
Cassel
Zimmer said veteran Matt Cassel -- who started the final four games of the 2013 season -- heads into camp as the No. 1 quarterback. Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater got more snaps than Christian Ponder during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp, and while Zimmer said all three quarterbacks will get similar work at the beginning of camp, the Vikings will eventually start tailoring the practice work toward specific quarterbacks.

"It’s not exactly even -- one-third, one-third, one-third," Zimmer said. "It’s a little bit more and then some drills it’s going to be a little bit less. You’ll figure it out by watching practice."

Cassel, who signed a new two-year, $10 million contract after opting out of his original deal in February, starts camp with the benefit of the doubt, but Zimmer said again the Vikings wouldn't be afraid to start Bridgewater as a rookie if he's ready.

"They’re going to determine who the starter is on the practice field about how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games," Zimmer said. "I understand the quarterback’s a big situation. Part of the question about answering who the quarterback’s going to be is, what kind of defense do we have? What are we going to ask the quarterback to do? How can we use the quarterback in different ways. I think a lot of that has a factor on who the quarterback will end up being."
MINNEAPOLIS -- For at least one more year, Adrian Peterson has one-upped LeSean McCoy. Or at least the virtual version of him has.

Peterson is the top-rated running back in 'Madden NFL 15,' with an overall rating of 98. EA Sports released its running back ratings for this year's version of the game on Wednesday, and Peterson edged McCoy and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles by a point, a year after carrying a 99 rating and gracing the cover of the next-generation console version of 'Madden NFL 25.' Chicago's Matt Forte and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch are the next-best running backs in the game, with overall ratings of 95 each.

Peterson
Peterson
We got a chance to talk with Donny Moore, who carries the title of "Madden NFL Live Content Producer and Ratings Czar" -- and who might have one of the only jobs in the world we'd think is cooler than ours -- about the process of rating players for the game. Essentially, Moore and his team spend countless hours dissecting proprietary NFL film, reading updates on players and digesting advanced stats in a meticulous (and in the days of week-to-week online updates, continual) effort to make the game as realistic as possible. Their job is to distill all of that information into a player profile, rating each player in the NFL across more than three dozen categories to make his digital doppelganger behave like the real thing.

"The ratings pipe right back into the gameplay," Moore said. "We get so many requests and expectations for game play; it's got to be fun, but it's got to be authentic."

Peterson, Moore said, slipped a point for several reasons: His yards per carry dropped from an otherworldly 6.0 in 2012 to 4.5 last season, he fumbled five times (his most since 2009) and he was hampered by injuries for much of last season. Still, there's no one in the game with the combination of speed and power that Peterson has.

"Everybody says, 'What? How is he the top guy? He certainly didn’t have the 2,000-yard season (in 2013), but the overall rating is still a calculation of their attributes," Moore said. "He's a 97 across the board in the three physical categories that matter the most. I don’t think there’s anyone that has that collection of ratings. He's a 93 (in) trucking, 95 (in) elusiveness. When he’s out in the open, he’s not going to be caught. In contact situations, he'll still succeed better than any running back."

Moore said the most time-consuming part of his job is creating rookies for 'Madden,' since the game developers don't rely much on the corresponding characters in EA's college football games (which were discontinued after last season). The college game was more favorable to players, Moore said, than 'Madden' aims to be, so rookie creation means starting almost from scratch.

Vikings rookie running back Jerick McKinnon, Moore said, was "pretty fun to create," in large part because of McKinnon's eye-popping numbers at the NFL scouting combine. The Georgia Southern product bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times, ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, flashed a 40 1/2-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump. "It's easy to rate his physical attributes very well because of how he timed (at the combine)," Moore said. "How he rates on his trucking or his elusiveness remains to be seen, but between his speed, his agility, his acceleration and his jumping, that's pretty nice for a guy from Georgia Southern."

One more Vikings-related note on this year's game, which will be released on August 26: Teddy Bridgewater -- an avid 'Madden' player who reacted with mock indignation to his rating in this year's game -- is the second-best quarterback on the Vikings' roster, a point behind Matt Cassel. Moore said Cassel, Bridgewater and Christian Ponder are "all bunched up in the high 70s," and while Bridgewater was slated to be the top rookie QB in the game when Moore started putting his ratings together, his stock slipped because of his now-famous pro day, just like it did in real life.

"I had to knock his throw power down a point or two," Moore said. "I had him at an 89, and now it's an 87. I think he has the top short accuracy of all the rookie quarterbacks, and his overall accuracy is pretty stellar. His deep accuracy needs to improve. His speed rating is in the low 80s, which puts him in the Aaron Rodgers category (for quarterbacks).
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe plans to file suit against the team this week, in part to obtain the full report from a six-month independent investigation of his allegations against special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. But Kluwe is employing another tool to pressure the Vikings to release the report.

Kluwe
Kluwe
He started a petition on Change.org, asking the Vikings to release the full 150-page report to the public. The team engaged another law firm to review the full report last week and released a 29-page summary of the investigation on Friday evening. In an interview on Saturday, however, Kluwe said the report contained inaccuracies about Priefer's conduct and called again for the Vikings to release the complete report. As of Monday afternoon, his petition had received about 900 digital signatures.

Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen, said on Saturday that he would start the discovery process the same day he serves the Vikings with a lawsuit. Of the report, he said, "We're going to get that within 30 days (of a lawsuit being filed)."

In the explanation of the petition he wrote on Change.org, Kluwe said the Vikings had promised to release the findings from their six-month investigation, and he called a news conference last Tuesday to criticize the team after it informed him it would not release the complete report. Both the Vikings and investigators Chris Madel and Eric Magnuson released statements the same day saying the team had never made or broken any promises to Kluwe about what it planned to do with the report.
video 

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to pay Chris Kluwe $1.45 million in 2013. They paid his replacement, Jeff Locke, $451,048, saving themselves nearly $1 million with a decision that, according to the summary of a six-month investigation released Friday night, most of their decision-makers felt was necessary to upgrade their performance at the position.

Kluwe
Kluwe
Viewed solely through the prism of on-field results, it was the kind of simple, sensible football move teams make all the time. Which makes the Vikings' handling of Kluwe this week even more perplexing.

As the former punter and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, put it Friday, they offered the Vikings the following nonnegotiable terms to settle Kluwe's dispute with the team after the investigation into his allegations against special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer:
  • The team would make the entire 150-page report public, excepting the thousands of citations and footnotes -- some of which contained sensitive personal information -- from investigator Chris Madel's interviews with Vikings players and employees.
  • The Vikings would suspend Priefer without pay for four to eight games for his homophobic remarks and require him to attend sensitivity training.
  • Lastly, the Vikings would donate $1 million to charities supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-friendly causes.

Halunen might have put additional stipulations on a settlement other than the ones he and Kluwe detailed in interviews Friday night. And it's safe to assume the relationship between the parties was frayed by the end of the process, which couldn't have steered negotiations in a productive direction. But if those terms are correct and complete, it means the Vikings walked away from a settlement -- and goaded Kluwe into threatening a lawsuit -- over a $900,000 difference in the donation amount, a one-game difference in Priefer's suspension and a decision to release a 29-page report on the investigation from a law firm they hired to review it rather than the original, independent report itself.

That seems like a minuscule difference for the Vikings to cover to make the episode go away relatively quietly. Instead, six days before players report to training camp for the first time under new coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings had a former player threatening a lawsuit and taking to Twitter to detail all the unseemly things he could divulge during that process. The Vikings should know Kluwe well enough by now to realize he's not one to back down, and they decided to provoke him when a little more transparency and contrition might have dispatched the whole thing. From a strictly legal perspective, they might be on solid footing; they've already reprimanded Priefer, and Halunen would have a hard time disproving the Vikings' claim that they cut Kluwe for performance reasons only. We've heard the full report, if released, will contain more material that paints Kluwe in an unflattering light, and Halunen seemed aware of that possibility Friday, after the initial summary included stories of Kluwe's bawdy locker room humor.

"I know there are things in there that are not flattering to my client," Halunen said. "He made jokes every once in a while. I know they’re going to be there."

But doesn't it worry the Vikings that, knowing all this, Kluwe seems intent on charging forward into the muck anyway?

Even the punter sounded perplexed, and slightly bemused, when discussing it Friday evening. "There was a reason I released the original Deadspin piece [on Jan. 2], so it would get handled at the best time of the year," Kluwe said. "The whole goal [was] to avoid this being handled in the football season. It's the same story going into the football season. It shouldn't be."

The Vikings could be standing on principles, or they could be trying to push Kluwe to the brink, hoping he'll accept a less favorable settlement over a protracted legal battle. But let's say players get asked to give depositions, or are even called to testify in court. Is that process -- and the possible PR hit -- worth the risk for the team?

If it's not, it's certainly tantalizing to ask why the Vikings passed on an opportunity to avoid it for roughly the sum of what they'll pay a backup defensive lineman this season. Or, slightly less than what they saved by keeping a rookie punter over a veteran who was about to become a very big thorn in their side.
Examining the Minnesota Vikings' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
The Vikings could free up some roster space if they carried only two QBs and traded Ponder for a late-round pick at some point, but it seems likely they'll carry three into the season. Ponder could still have some value in an emergency, if the Vikings aren't ready to put Bridgewater on the field and they need someone to fill in if Cassel is injured or ineffective.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Joe Banyard could push Asiata for the third running back spot, especially if he shows he can fit into the offense as a receiver. Zach Line also will be competing for a spot after a solid training camp and preseason last year.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman singled out Thielen -- who spent last year on the Vikings' practice squad -- as a player who had improved from last year during the Vikings' minicamp. He could stick as the fifth receiver, and Colter (who got an $8,000 signing bonus) might fit in as a return man if the Vikings look to get Patterson some breaks on kickoffs.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Ellison's ability to be the "F back" in Norv Turner's offense -- a hybrid fullback/tight end who can catch passes and line up in a number of different spots -- could help him beat out Line and undrafted free-agent A.C. Leonard for a roster spot. Rudolph is looking for a big year, and a new contract before he becomes a free agent next spring.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

The only starting spot up for grabs might be at left guard, where Yankey could compete with Johnson. Undrafted rookie Antonio Richardson could get a long look at tackle, too, and if the Vikings don't put him on their roster, they'll likely try to sneak him onto their practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

This might be the deepest position group on the Vikings' roster, and in Mike Zimmer's defensive line rotation, they could all play; Wootton and Crichton give the Vikings a pair of versatile backups who can play inside or outside, and Johnson and Evans figure to be the primary backups at three-technique and nose tackle, respectively. The Vikings will be counting on Floyd taking a big step forward in Year 2.

LINEBACKERS (6)

In Cincinnati, Zimmer had linebacking groups of just six and five players after training camp the past two seasons. If the position is similarly staffed this season, it could mean the Vikings will cut seventh-round pick Brandon Watts. There are plenty of questions at the position overall -- none of the three spots in the Vikings' base defense is completely solidified -- but in Barr, Hodges, Mauti and Cole, the Vikings have some young talent to work with.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)

The Vikings will keep one more defensive back than they did last year to add some depth at cornerback in light of all the prolific passing attacks they'll see early this year. Kurt Coleman will have to fight for one of the last safety spots; the Vikings seem to like Exum's potential as a safety, and Blanton got quite a bit of work with Smith in the Vikings' first-team defense during minicamp.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The group returns unchanged from what the Vikings had on their roster last year; Locke punted better toward the end of the season, and has already put in some work getting to know the wind patterns at TCF Bank Stadium.

Camp preview: Minnesota Vikings

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's Ben Goessling examines the three biggest issues facing the Minnesota Vikings heading into training camp.

Quarterback: This will be the biggest storyline surrounding the Vikings in training camp until head coach Mike Zimmer settles on a starter. Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have pledged to hold an open competition during training camp, though the race really figures to boil down to two quarterbacks: veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who both got a significantly larger share of snaps during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp than Christian Ponder. Bridgewater was impressive in his first work with the Vikings this spring, but unless he's clearly the best of the Vikings' quarterbacks in training camp, Cassel figures to start the season as the quarterback. The Vikings re-signed Cassel so they wouldn't have to rush a young quarterback, and in the process, they created a situation in which they can afford to be patient with Bridgewater. If he's the best man for the job, it doesn't seem likely Zimmer will wait to play him. But if he's not fully ready by the end of camp, there's nothing forcing the Vikings to play the rookie.

Remaking the defense: The Vikings committed $20 million in guaranteed money to defensive end Everson Griffen and guaranteed another $16.95 million to secure the services of defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. But until training camp, when players put on pads, cornerbacks play press coverage and there's actual contact at the line of scrimmage, it's difficult to assess where the Vikings are in their effort to rebuild a defense that allowed more points than any other unit in the league last season. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr only had a minicamp with the team as classes at UCLA kept him out of the team's OTAs, but he'll be a prominent figure as the Vikings plan to use the 6-foot-5 linebacker in several different ways. With questions at linebacker (does Jasper Brinkley start in the middle?) and in the secondary (is Josh Robinson good enough to get significant playing time at cornerback?), the Vikings will have plenty to figure out on defense.

New roles for Peterson, Patterson: At age 29, Adrian Peterson is intent on cruising along with his career at a time when most running backs his age start to break down. In Norv Turner, Peterson has a new offensive coordinator who is intent on using him differently. Peterson will be more involved in the Vikings' passing game this season, as Turner and Zimmer seek to convert some of his carries into receptions, giving him more room to work in the open field and making him less likely to take a pounding. Turner also has big plans for second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whose emergence late last season made many wonder why the Vikings waited so long to make him a big part of the offense. Patterson, who played mostly at split end last season, moved to different spots during the Vikings' offseason program, and Turner seems interested in getting the explosive receiver the ball as much as he can; general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine in February that Turner already had designed about 10 plays for Patterson. If the Vikings can turn him loose in Year 2, he could emerge as one of the NFL's premier playmakers.
video
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the dozens of celebrity softball games she's pitched, like the one she played at Target Field on Sunday night, former U.S. Olympic pitcher Jennie Finch will inevitably get asked to fire her famous rising fastball in toward a hitter. It makes for good theater with the fans who call for it, and because she usually grants the request spontaneously, Finch is able to surprise (or perhaps terrify) hitters used to seeing pitches lobbed to them.

In the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday, though, Finch said she experienced something for the first time: A hitter actually asked her to dial up the heat.

That hitter would be Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who began ribbing Finch during a Sunday afternoon batting practice session. Peterson only played a handful of baseball games as a kid, he said, and hadn't played in 15 years. If he'd taken any swings since then, he surmised, they might have come when the Minnesota Twins sent him a bat as a gift.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsAdrian Peterson challenged pitcher Jennie Finch at the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday in Minneapolis.
But when he dug in for his second at-bat of the night, he again told Finch not to take it easy on him.

She didn't. She blew the first fastball by Peterson, whose Herculean hack caught only air, and fired two more to the 2012 NFL MVP. What happened next was a matter of some dispute -- Peterson got credit for two foul balls, he said "it's possible" he made contact with one, and Finch contended he didn't connect with any of them. "No -- he's full of it!" she cried with mock indignation when told what Peterson said.

That Peterson even wanted the challenge, though, impressed the gold medal-winning pitcher, who once struck out 24 major leaguers in an episode of "This Week in Baseball."

"I mean, I'm pretty confident -- I expect them to strike out," Finch said. "But he was ready -- he was digging in there. Normally, I catch them off guard."

When Finch brought the speed back down, Peterson grounded out for the second time in the game. He hit a hard grounder to third in the first inning, but rapper Nelly -- wh0's become a regular in the All-Star weekend exhibition and won MVP honors with two home runs -- actually made a slick play to throw Peterson out.

Batting second and playing center field for the American League team, Peterson soon wound up where most defensively-challenged outfielders do: first base. He tried to make a leaping catch in the second inning, but dropped the ball.

"I just missed that one," he said.

Peterson said he enjoyed the experience -- which had him on a team with Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise and retired slugger Jim Thome, among others -- and got a raucous ovation from the Target Field crowd when he was introduced before the game. His swings and misses against Finch also drew the biggest laughs of the night.

"I said, 'Don't take it easy on me. I want you to come with a fastball,' " Peterson said. "She said, 'What else?' I said, 'Changeup.' Initially, I thought she was going to continue to throw them underhand, but she saw I was serious."

Said Finch: "He kept saying, 'You've got to bring it. You've got to bring it.' So, I brought it."

You'll have the opportunity to judge for yourself whether Peterson made any contact in his at-bat; the game airs on Monday night after the Home Run Derby on ESPN.
Gary AndersonAP Photo/Beth A. Keiser
This is the play voters and ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling picked as the most memorable in the team's history, beating out Brett Favre's interception in the 2010 NFC Championship Game and Tommy Kramer's Hail Mary pass to Ahmad Rashad to beat the Cleveland Browns in the 1980 "Miracle at the Met."

Score: Falcons 30, Vikings 27
Date: Jan. 17, 1999. Site: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Well, voters, we agreed on this one. For a team that has played in four Super Bowls and has been in five NFC title games since its most recent Super Bowl appearance, there were plenty of memorable moments. But this play, which kept the most prolific offense (and possibly the most dominant team) in Vikings history from securing a fifth Super Bowl bid, was tough to top.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Vikings' history?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,147)

The most striking thing about Gary Anderson's 38-yard miss with 2:18 left in the 1999 NFC Championship Game was how swiftly it pulled the bottom out from under a team that had an air of inevitability about it to that point. Yes, the Vikings had some injuries going into the NFC title game, but their offense had been so explosive (607 points in 17 previous games), and they'd been so dominant at home (winning all nine of their games by an average of 23.22 points) that it didn't seem like an upstart Falcons team had any chance of coming into the Metrodome and halting the Vikings' march to the Super Bowl. It certainly didn't seem that way when Anderson -- who hadn't missed a kick of any kind all season -- lined up for an easy field goal attempt that would have put Minnesota up by 10.

But Anderson's miss gave the Falcons life, and the Vikings seemed too stunned to recover after that point, with coach Dennis Green calling for Randall Cunningham to take a knee after the Falcons' game-tying touchdown and the team punting twice in overtime before Morten Andersen's game winner. As a kid growing up in Minnesota at the time, it was stunning to watch that Vikings team -- so brash and aggressive to that point, so certain of its superiority, particularly in the raucous Metrodome -- on its heels. The Vikings probably never would have reached that point had Anderson's kick sailed through the uprights. Instead, they lost the game, they've endured two more NFC Championship Game defeats since, and their Super Bowl drought is at 37 years and counting.

The fact is it all could have been so different, if not for a miss from a heretofore perfect kicker. That's what made Anderson's miss the most memorable play in Vikings history.

Vikings' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:00
PM ET
Over the next three seasons, as the Minnesota Vikings begin the tenure of head coach Mike Zimmer, play in two home stadiums and likely wind down the days of Adrian Peterson's prime, the key to their success will be finding some stability at a position where they haven't enjoyed much of it in the last decade.

Bridgewater
Other than two seasons with Brett Favre, the Vikings' quarterback position has essentially been in a state of flux since Daunte Culpepper was traded to Miami following the 2005 season. Since then, the Vikings haven't had a quarterback start 16 games in back-to-back seasons. Even when Favre was at the helm, the Vikings knew they needed a long-term solution at quarterback. Now that they have Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, much of their future success will hinge on the rookie's development.

Bridgewater figures to start training camp behind Matt Cassel, though he'll get a shot to win the job before the season. Even if he sits on the bench for much of 2014, though, Bridgewater will likely be the starter by the time the Vikings open their new stadium in 2016. Assuming he claims the job sometime in the near future, the first-round pick will have to develop quickly if the Vikings want to make the most of Peterson's remaining years as one of the league's best running backs.

Peterson turned 29 in March and will likely see a larger role in the passing game as the Vikings seek to find more balance on offense than they had under coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. That means the quarterback, not Peterson, will likely be the focal point of the Vikings' offense, and eventually it will put the burden on Bridgewater's shoulders to carry the Vikings.

The rookie was impressive during OTAs and the Vikings' mandatory minicamp, though it's hard to accurately assess his progress in such a controlled setting. When he is ready to play, though, Bridgewater will have a clear charge: He'll be asked to create a foundation for the Vikings at the most important position in the game.
Gary AndersonAP Photo/Beth A. Keiser
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is the third of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Vikings history, following Brett Favre's interception in the 2010 NFC Championship Game and Tommy Kramer's Hail Mary pass to Ahmad Rashad to beat the Cleveland Browns in the 1980 "Miracle at the Met." Please vote for your choice as the Vikings' most memorable play.

Score: Falcons 30, Vikings 27
Date: Jan. 17, 1999 Site: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Vikings' history?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,147)

Description: Behind rejuvenated quarterback Randall Cunningham and rookie receiver Randy Moss, the Minnesota Vikings had rolled through the league in 1998, scoring 556 points on the way to a 15-1 record. They had beaten the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoffs the week before, and were 11-point favorites to beat the Falcons and advance to Super Bowl XXXIII. For weeks, a local radio station had been playing a parody of Will Smith's "Miami," with lyrics suggesting a trip to South Florida for the Super Bowl was inevitable.

The Vikings had a 13-point lead in the first half and a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and after they stopped the Falcons on fourth down from the Minnesota 24, the Vikings had a seven-point lead and the ball with 6:07 left. They drove to Atlanta's 21 with 2:18 to play, and put kicker Gary Anderson on the field, needing only a 38-yard field goal to go up 10. But Anderson -- who had not missed a field goal or an extra point all season and had become the first kicker ever to have a perfect regular season -- yanked the field goal left, and the Falcons drove 71 yards in eight plays, tying the game on a Chris Chandler touchdown to Terance Mathis (Vikings fans will point out that safety Robert Griffith dropped what would have been a game-ending interception in the end zone four plays before the touchdown).

Minnesota had the ball on its own 27 with 37 seconds left in regulation when coach Dennis Green ordered Cunningham to take a knee, grounding the most prolific offense in the game, and Anderson never got a chance to atone for his miss; two Vikings drives sputtered in overtime, and Falcons kicker Morten Andersen sent Atlanta to its first Super Bowl with a field goal from 38 yards: the same distance from which Anderson had missed.

The Vikings have lost five NFC title games since their last Super Bowl appearance in 1977, but it's tough to suggest any one hurts more than their 1999 loss. The Vikings had the most dominant offense in the league, and all they needed to effectively lock up a Super Bowl trip was for Anderson to make one more kick. Instead, that kick drifted left.
.
Kyle RudolphTimothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsVikings tight end Kyle Rudolph expects his production to improve under new coordinator Norv Turner.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It generally isn't until about now, with training camp just around the corner, that Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph starts keeping a close eye on his weight. He has always worked out in the offseason, with an eye toward getting ready for the season, but Rudolph will admit he has also used his training regimen as justification to cut some nutritional corners.

(We'll pause here and let those of you who have never sneaked a couple extra cookies after a hard workout cast the first stones.)

"It was more of just a focus on my diet in February and March, versus, you are out in California, you work out every day, so you feel like you can eat whatever you want," Rudolph said. "Nothing really changes, because you make up for it with the workouts, but when I really focused on eating lean meats, eating the salads, you see the results."

Rudolph started keeping a closer leash on his diet in February, with an eye toward slimming down before the Vikings' voluntary veterans' minicamp in April. He is now about 260 pounds, he said, after playing at 275 last season, and with a more active role in the Vikings' passing game likely awaiting him this season, Rudolph has been working to refine his skills as a receiver. He is working out at Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's training camp this week, training with the All-Pro wideout and a group of receivers for the fourth year, and has been drilling his speed in and out of his cuts with Fitzgerald's trainer, Bill Welle.

In a scheme that has traditionally rewarded tight ends, Rudolph could see the payoff this season.

"Becoming more explosive in and out of cuts, that was the big emphasis for me, going back and watching a ton of (Cleveland) Browns tape (when Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the coordinator there last year)," Rudolph said. "I've always watched a lot of (San Diego Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates (who played for Turner from 2007-12), and I don't know that there's anyone as good as him at getting in and out of breaks. That's been the big point of emphasis for me the whole year, and getting the weight down has helped a ton, I think. I feel like I run a lot smoother than I did at 275."

It's no secret that Turner's offense will use Rudolph differently than Bill Musgrave's scheme did, but based on what Gates and Browns tight end Jordan Cameron have done, the change figures to be stark. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Cameron ran 322 pass routes from the slot last season, which was the second-most of any tight end in the league. Gates was third at 290. Though he only played in eight games last season, Rudolph was flexed into the slot just 76 times.

He said there are also plenty of situations that call for him to be in the same spot he's always occupied, but in a two-point stance. In any case, Rudolph will get opportunities to put his route-running work into practice.

"As a bigger guy, if I'm just running, I can pretty much run with anybody," Rudolph said. "I'm very comfortable with that. But being bigger and taller, it's harder for me to get my weight down, and a lot of times, we focus on getting in and out with the fewest steps possible. I don't think I really felt comfortable running our new routes until about halfway through OTAs. We drilled it over and over again, and it just started clicking."

Rudolph has said many times, and said again on Tuesday, that he would love to sign a new contract to keep him in Minnesota beyond this season. He's clicked with Turner, whom Rudolph said is more hands-on in practices than the Vikings' previous offensive coaches, and wants to be with the team when its new stadium opens in 2016. But with training camp just 2 1/2 weeks away, Rudolph said he is not focused on a contract extension, concentrating instead on the kind of big season that could land him a lucrative deal.

"I love it here. I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to stay here," Rudolph said. "It's a very exciting time to be a Minnesota Viking. But first for me, it was learning the new offense, so I can go out there and let my ability take over. Now, at this point, I'm comfortable with the offense. It's just getting in the best shape possible, so when we report on July 24, I can have the best training camp I've ever had."
Ahmad Rashad, Bob Bruer, Brent BoydAP Photo
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Minnesota Vikings history. We looked at Brett Favre’s interception in the 2010 NFC Championship Game on Monday, and we’ll feature Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the 1999 NFC Championship Game tomorrow. Please vote for your choice as the Vikings’ most memorable play.

Score: Vikings 28, Browns 23
Date: Dec. 14, 1980 Site: Metropolitan Stadium.

Description: The Vikings' 1980 NFC Central Division championship was the last of 11 titles they'd win under coach Bud Grant, and they clinched it on one of the most dramatic finishes in team history.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Vikings' history?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,147)

Trailing the Cleveland Browns by a point with 14 seconds left, the Vikings got the ball on their own 20 with no timeouts left. They needed just nine seconds to move to the Browns' 46, thanks to a hook-and-lateral pass that wound up in the arms of running back Ted Brown. Then, quarterback Tommy Kramer -- whose 456 passing yards are still the most by a Vikings quarterback in a non-overtime game -- lofted a pass toward the right side of the end zone as time expired. Three Browns defenders leaped for the ball, but tipped it back to receiver Ahmad Rashad, who reached out and caught the ball as he backpedaled across the goal line. Vikings players piled on top of Rashad -- who finished with nine catches for 142 yards and two scores -- in the corner of the end zone, and both teams poured off the field before the extra point could be attempted.

The victory secured the division title for the Vikings with a week to go in the season and set up a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Vikings lost the game, 31-16, and by the time they reached the playoffs again, in the strike-shortened season of 1982, they had already moved into the Metrodome. That meant the "Miracle at the Met" was the last great moment of Grant's coaching career at Metropolitan Stadium, and with the Vikings set to move back outdoors for two seasons starting this fall, the old footage of players mobbing Rashad on a frigid day (wind chill at kickoff was 11 degrees) is particularly poignant.
Tracy Porter, Brett FavreAP Photo/Bill Haber
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is the first of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Vikings history. The others include Tommy Kramer's Hail Mary pass to Ahmad Rashad to beat the Cleveland Browns in the 1980 "Miracle at the Met" and Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Vikings' most memorable play.

Score: Saints 31, Vikings 28
Date: Jan. 24, 2010 Site: Louisiana Superdome

The last pass Brett Favre ever threw in a playoff game -- an interception to Tracy Porter to cost the Vikings a chance at their first Super Bowl trip since 1977 -- might never have happened if not for the penalty the play before.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Vikings' history?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,147)

The Vikings were driving for what would have been a game-winning field goal and had called a timeout before huddling up on third-and-10 from the Saints' 33. Problem was, the Vikings had talked during the timeout about running the same play out of two different personnel groups, and fullback Naufahu Tahi got sent into the game as a 12th man in the Vikings' huddle. That resulted in a 5-yard penalty to push Minnesota back to the Saints' 38, forcing the Vikings to call a pass play to get back into Ryan Longwell's field goal range.

With 19 seconds left, Favre rolled to his right, but instead of hitting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe or wide receiver Bernard Berrian -- both were open on the play -- or trying to run for several yards, Favre threw across his body into coverage for Sidney Rice, and Porter stepped in front of the pass, intercepting Favre and ending what turned out to be the Vikings' final drive of the day. The Saints won the coin toss in overtime, drove for a 40-yard Garrett Hartley field goal and won Super Bowl XXIV two weeks later.

The loss was the Vikings' fifth in as many NFC title games since their last Super Bowl trip, and it ended a dream season that had begun with the team signing Favre in August. The 40-year-old quarterback beat his old team (the Green Bay Packers) twice, had what might have been the best statistical season of his career and threw for 310 yards in an NFC title game now famous for the Saints' attempts to knock Favre out of it. But the interception -- and the bizarre penalty that preceded it -- ended the magical run in a way that Vikings fans know all too well.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8