Sunday, July 5, 2015

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While some teams have already established themselves as Super Bowl contenders, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to climb up from the cellar of the NFC North to playoff contenders. A surprise rise from divisional worst to first is not as improbable as you might think.

Parity is at an extreme in the NFL. For eleven consecutive seasons at least one team who finished last in their division turned things around to capture the divisional title the very next year. As a matter of fact, the worst to first campaign has happened 15 times in the NFL since 2003.

Last season the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles both went from the bottom to the top in the first season under a new coaching staff. Will the Vikings follow their lead this season?

Eight NFL teams have a crack at the worst to first feat. Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington face the unenviable challenge of trying to keep the consecutive streak alive. I’m not an odds maker, but I certainly think the Vikings have as good as any chance to pull it off.

So, who was the last NFC North team to go from worst to first? The Chicago Bear did it in 2005. Quarterback Rex Grossman spent most of his first 3 seasons sidelined with injuries and Kyle Orton, a 4th round rookie from Purdue, took the reins in week 2 and lead the Bears all the way to the playoffs. Orton’s play wasn’t the real story behind the Bears’ rise to the top. The defensive unit lead by second year defensive coordinator Ron Rivera made major improvements to finish 2nd in the league in yards per game after being ranked 21st in that category in 2004. The 2005 Bears’ defense also climbed all the way to 1st in points allowed.

If the Vikings aspire to finish on top of the NFC North this season, an improved defense under new head coach Mike Zimmer is an absolute must. And one of the biggest keys to improving the Vikings defense will be finding a way to keep Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith healthy and on the field for most of the season.

A new coaching staff and fresh concepts on the defensive side of the ball, plus personnel acquisitions like DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn and first round draft pick LB Anthony Barr have me optimistic that the Vikings’ defensive struggles are in the rear view mirror.

I’m not expecting a top ten D right out of the gate in 2014, but Zimmer has enough young talent to take a leap forward very quickly. Most Vikings fans have high hopes that sooner or later Zimmer will have the defense ranked near the top of the NFL leader board… and my fingers are crossed for sooner rather than later.


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The press conference Chris Kluwe and his lawyer Clay Halunen elected to hold at 11:00 AM today in response to word they received that the report on allegations regarding homophobic statements special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made has concluded. There are a few key takeaways from the press conference that should be hitting ledes across the Twin Cities now. Before those takeaways, a summary:

Kluwe initially publicized the allegations that Priefer said, with hostile intent that, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows,” on December 2nd in a Deadspin piece.

He further claimed that general manager Rick Spielman and then-head coach Leslie Frazier discouraged him from speaking out on social issues and had an unproductive meeting with team player development director Les Pico about Priefer’s comments shortly before being cut in May.

Priefer has vehemently denied Kluwe’s allegations, and kicker Blair Walsh—while not denying the allegations—spoke in favor of Priefer and defended his character shortly after Kluwe’s allegations were made public.

Now a few notes from the presser:


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[NOTE – Story updated below]

UPDATE5: There’s still a lot of traffic being funneled to this page. For an update on how everything stands after the press conference, head over here.

There are a few signs now that the Vikings’ report (commissioned by the Vikings and created by Chris Madel) on allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe of homophobic behavior from Mike Priefer is going to conclude today with a press conference, and the conclusion probably isn’t good for the Vikings. First there’s this, two weeks ago from Mike Freeman:

Then there’s the fact that the Vikings won’t be releasing the report. Chris Kluwe and his lawyer Clay Halunen have called a press conference specifically because of this fact.

Last night, KSTP reported that the Vikings wouldn’t release the report because it could be “damaging and embarrassing” to the Vikings organization:

A source close to the investigation tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the Vikings and the National Football League (NFL) have completed an investigation into former Viking Chris Kluwe’s allegations against a coach.

The source, who is speaking on condition of anonymity, says the Vikings are now reconsidering releasing the investigative report because it is “damaging and embarrassing” to the organization.

. . .

The same source says the Vikings have already made changes in their organization and are approaching this very seriously and are taking responsible action to “correct any homophobic culture that exists within the organization.” The source says there is no new information about a separate legal agreement that is being negotiated by the Vikings and Kluwe.

Kluwe has threatened a workplace discrimination lawsuit if the Vikings do not acknowledge and address his concerns.

It’s good that the Vikings are internally getting ahead of the investigation of course, but this is a bad look heading into training camp. We’ll learn more as the day goes on.

UPDATE4: The Vikings have released a statement, claiming they’ve never made or broken any promises to Kluwe and his team:

Magnuson, Madel and others spent nearly six months conducting an exhaustive investigation. After the Vikings were given the investigative materials from Magnuson and Madel, in order to further maintain objectivity and integrity, the team engaged a nationally-prominent law firm in employment matters – Littler Mendelson P.C. – to evaluate employment law matters and provide findings and recommendations to the Vikings. Those recommendations are to be provided to the team this week.

As Magnuson and Madel confirmed today, the Vikings have never made or broken promises as Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen have claimed. The Vikings have also never engaged in the various comments that Kluwe and Halunen have provided to the media over the past six months. This Thursday, July 17, the team has a meeting scheduled between Halunen and Vikings attorneys to discuss next steps

As we have consistently communicated throughout this process, the Vikings will have further comment when the investigation is entirely complete and the team has made determinations on next steps.

Of note, the Vikings not only have claimed never to have made a promise to make the results of the investigation public, they took a shot at Kluwe and Halunen for how the case has been handled by them to the media.


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[Editor’s note: This is another GIF-heavy article from Darren Page. Previously, some readers have indicated that they have had trouble loading pages that have this many GIFs embedded at once, so a mobile-friendly version with the GIFs implemented as links instead of embedded images is available here - Arif]

The Minnesota Vikings made their first of multiple secondary selections by drafting Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Exum started 32 games between both the safety and cornerback positions going into his senior season at Virginia Tech.  A torn ACL and lateral meniscus in his right knee suffered during a pick-up basketball game cut into his final season in Blacksburg. He would return for two full games in 2013 as a shell of himself. An ankle injury suffered against Miami in his third start ended his season.

The shame of it was that Exum was coming off a heralded junior year in which he was named second team All-ACC in a talented group of cornerbacks that included current Viking Xavier Rhodes. Exum led the Hokies with five interceptions. He also logged 48 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 16 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Exum won time at both free safety and a “rover” position during the 2011 season. He was technically a safety ever since he arrived at Virginia Tech, only platooning at cornerback the one season. That experience at safety will be important, because Exum is listed as a safety for the Vikings.

Let’s dig into the meat of Exum’s cornerback play in 2012 and translate it to safety play before looking at how the Vikings may plan on using him.

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If you haven’t been following on twitter, you might have missed this but it’s important to say: we’ve reached our goal! We’ve raised more than 4,000 dollars and not only will I be able to attend training camp in full, I’ll be able to do it with additional coverage tools, including full photography and video!

With any luck, I’ll have finished my 50,000+ word camp guide in the coming days so that everyone who donated enough to receive one can get one in time to digest before training camp truly starts. As I’m winding down, I still have a ways to go, but it should be fun. The final formatting still has a lot of work to get done, but here’s a preview of the type of content in there:

Training Camp Guide - Receivers

I know you can’t read it easily, but I don’t want to give everything away to people not getting the guide! The scouting section includes a summary of strengths, weaknesses and the chances, in my opinion, a player has to make the roster. The image above has the scouting reports on three receivers. While the bottom of the roster won’t have as extensive of a scouting section on them, the idea is to have a good idea of every player heading in to camp.

Aside from that are record books, a jersey/roster guide with athleticism scores, a small “how to watch players at training camp” guide and a few more pieces about camp and the players heading in. All of it is exclusive to the camp guide.

You can also still get posters. We’ll be getting shots of all 90 players and naturally a lot more shots of the most exciting players: Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Teddy Bridgewater, and so on.

The more we can raise the better!  Donate here.

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