Saturday, April 25, 2015
Blog Page 190

The Vikings have concluded their rookie minicamp, and the release of Chris Kluwe wasn’t the only roster movement of note, so here is what we know:

DURON CARTER:  I will be travelling to Middletown, Ohio today where Cris Carter will be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance in his hometown.  As Carter speaks to a group of students, I would expect to hear him relay an important message that will draw on his experiences as a troubled young man that had to overcome numerous demons before becoming one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history.  His son, Duron, will also have to overcome his fair share of adversity if he wants to have a successful NFL career.  It appears that the Vikings will not be offering the younger Carter a contract after he tried out with the club over the weekend.

BRANDON KEITH:  The 28 year-old tackle was a seventh round selection of the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.  He started 20 out of 26 possible games as a Cardinal, but knee injuries derailed his career and he sat out the entire 2012 season.  Keith was reportedly at the Vikings minicamp on a tryout basis, but the Vikings signed him to a contract, as announced on Monday.  Keith is listed at 6′ 5″ and 335 pounds.

ADAM THIELEN:  The Minnesota State-Mankato wide out is 6′ 1″ and 192 pounds and also was signed to a contract after his tryout.  Last season, Thielen posted 74 catches for 1,176 yards and eight touchdowns.  Thielen, prior to the Draft, participated in a set of regional combines with hopes of catching the eye of an NFL scout or two.  At his pro day he ran a 4.49 second forty yard dash and could try to establish himself as a viable return man option.  A long shot to win a final roster spot?  Sure.  But he has already beat out some competition, as wide out Nicholas Edwards who was signed last week.  This is a significant vote of confidence for Thielen, however, as the Vikings gave Edwards a $5,000 signing bonus which is pretty high for an undrafted rookie.

ZACH LINE:  The ‘tweener fullback was signed as an undrafted rookie and the Vikings gave him the largest signing bonus of all the undrafted rookies.  He received an $8,000 signing bonus in exchange for his services.  If you think that the size of a signing bonus might be an indication as to how serious the Vikings are about developing these young prospects, 1500 ESPN has a full list of bonus amount which you can view right here.

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Every offseason, at about this point in the year, we have dozens of new wide receivers entering the NFL as rookies every year you hear the same thing.

“I model my game after Randy Moss.”

Or Jerry Rice.  Or Calvin Johnson.  Or Larry Fitzgerald.

Those are all incredible receivers that others should strive to play like, but I can’t help but notice how seldom you hear these rookies say they want to play the game the way Cris Carter did.

Why?

Because that would be too damned hard.

Cris Carter played the position like no other.  His presence and leadership on the field, his toe-tapping sideline awareness, his one-handed grabs, and his tendency to catch touchdowns just made him too unique to replicate consistently.  While the ability to take the top off a defense is rare, the ability to do this is almost unheard of even in today’s world of bigger, stronger, and faster athletes.

That is why it is a crime that Carter had to wait as long as he did to be voted into the Hall of Fame, but now that the induction ceremony is closing in, the patience has paid of and Carter is enjoying the notoriety that the ballot holders have denied him of for too long.

On Monday night, Carter threw out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds game, with his brother behind home plate.  His brother, Butch, will be presenting Carter with the “Hometown Hall of Famer” award.  The award, an honor from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company, will result in a plaque being placed in the Middletown, Ohio high school.

Carter’s first football play on record, at the age of eight, was an 80 yard touchdown at Barnitz Stadium in Middletown.  As part of his hometown honors, the football field will now be renamed after him which Carter calls a “most humbling experience.”  Tuesday has been deemed “Cris Carter Appreciation Day” by Middletown and a 45 pound bust of the great wide out will be donated to his high school.

This, of course, is simply a warmup for what will be the main event.  Circle August 3rd on your calendar  as that is the day Carter will officially be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Last offseason, the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh which generated collective groans from Vikings fans that felt it was a waste.  About eight days later, after Walsh showed up in good health to the rookie minicamp, the Vikings released long-time kicker Ryan Longwell.  Walsh then went on to have one of the greatest seasons, as a rookie, of any kicker in franchise history.

Fast-forward to this offseason, after the Vikings selected punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round of the Draft, and even the biggest Chris Kluwe supporters has accepted what was going to happen following this year’s rookie minicamp.

The Vikings expectedly released Kluwe.

“So long, Minnesota, and thanks for all the fish!” Kluwe proclaimed on Twitter.  The “fish” reference comes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy book series, which serves as just one more reminder of the culture and humor Kluwe brought to his fans over the years.

“Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,” his tweets continued. “And thank you everyone for your support. Remember, one label does not define who you are as a person :)”

Kluwe met with Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier for about five minutes on Monday, where he was informed of his release, and he was not provided any specifics on the reasoning.  Of course, plenty of attention will be drawn to the fact that the Vikings released the most vocal gay rights advocate in professional sports only days after the NBA had a player announce his sexuality on the national stage and thanking Kluwe by name.

The truth is, however, that Kluwe is on the wrong side of 30 and was owed a sizeable salary for his position.  There is nothing about how Rick Spielman has gone about rebuilding this roster that should suggest Kluwe’s activism had anything to do with his release.  Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Cullen Loeffler are currently the only members of the team over the age of 30.  Prominent veterans like Longwell, Antoine Winfield, and Steve Hutchinson have been shown the door in similar fashion under the new management structure.

“Chris has meant a great deal to the Vikings both on and off the field in his eight seasons here,” said Rick Spielman in a statement. He contributed to many victories and we wish Chris and his family the best and thank him for his contributions to the Vikings organization. Out of respect to Chris, we decided to release him now and allow time for him to sign with another team.”

The outspoken punter has plenty of off-field endeavours that include a rock band, a pseudo-professional video game habit, and advocacy efforts for numerous causes.  The one that has drawn the most attention has been his support of equal rights for gay people, but it would be unfair to the Vikings to construe anything they have ever said as a condemnation of his efforts.

Actually, last season’s comments from Mike Priefer are the only thing I can find in terms of a coach being frustrated with Kluwe, and that came after Kluwe had been fined for using his uniform to protest Ray Guy’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame.

“Those distractions are getting old for me, to be quite honest with you,” Priefer said on December 13th. “Do I think Ray Guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But there’s other ways of going about it, in my opinion.”

“To me it’s getting old. He’s got to focus on punting and holding,” Priefer continued.

He was then asked if he had shared these sentiments with Kluwe himself.

“Nah,” said Priefer. “He don’t listen.”

Kluwe then embarked on a Twitter campaign to, essentially, chastise Priefer’s comments over the course of about five months.  He was constantly taking to Twitter to sarcastically let fans know just how focused he was on being focused about focusing.  He is a witty guy, and his point was mostly well-received by his followers, but acting out at an employer publically is typically not going to be a smart move no matter who you are.

I most of the important categories, Kluwe can easily be considered the best punter in franchise history, but the Vikings have good reason for moving on.  A run-first team that is about to play two seasons outdoors, where Kluwe has had his struggles, has to consider field position as one of their highest priorities on every single game day.  Locke represents an upgrade, a cheaper and younger upgrade, and Kluwe’s release is another step in a rebuilding process that has produced plenty of heartbreaking moments for many Vikings fans.

 

The Vikings opened up their rookie minicamp on Friday, and it was the one day that will be open to the media, so we have some actual football tidbits to pass along.  Second-year hopefuls, this offseason’s draft class, and undrafted free agent signings intermingle with players in on a tryout basis to try and shine in front of the coaching staff.  Here is what we know from Day One:

ROOKIE CLASS:  It is apparent, when watching these guys go up against each other, why the Vikings selected the guys they did at the top of the NFL Draft.  All reports seem to indicate that Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, and Cordarrelle Patterson are clearly superior to the rest of the talent that was taking part in the practices.

COLIN ANDERSON:  Chris Kluwe might not be the only special teamer looking over his shoulder these days.  Furman tight end Colin Anderson is an accomplished long snapper and could potentially end up being competition for the team’s longest tenured player, long snapper Cullen Loeffler.  Loeffler is 32 years old and will carry a base salary of $915,00 this season and $1.135 million in 2014.  Anderson claims, however, that he is at Winter Park trying to make the team as a tight end.

MICHAEL MAUTI:  The Vikings didn’t make a huge investment when they selected Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti in the seventh round, but they are hoping to get huge returns.  Mauti is still rehabbing his knee injury, though, and patience will be necessary for those eager to see what he brings to the table.  Still, coach Leslie Frazier was unwilling to crown Erin Henderson the starter at middle linebacker, and says they will take a look at a number of options.

JEFF LOCKE:  Snow forced the Vikings minicamp indoors and fifth round selection Jeff Locke headed to the Metrodome to punt in front of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.  He then returned to Winter Park to take some reps as a field goal holder.  By all accounts, including Locke himself, the first day went well.  We could see Kluwe released as soon as Monday if the Vikings decide they got what they bargained for when they drafted Locke last month.

XAVIER RHODES:  He intercepted the first ball thrown in the first minicamp of his first year in the NFL.  As omens go, that isn’t too shabby.  Rhodes continued to impress throughout the practices and is an early favorite to win a starting job at cornerback, alongside Chris Cook.

DURON CARTER:  The son of the Vikings all-time leading receiver Cris Carter has a rough start to the minicamp, dropping the first three footballs going his way.  Carter improved throughout the day and is hoping to turn his tryout into a roster spot, but he will need to show more improvement if he wants to stick with the Vikings for the long haul.

 

A week ago tonight, Vikings fans were eagerly awaiting the results of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and those results were indeed something to be excited about.  With the Draft now over, and with a little time to digest, let’s take a look around the web at what everyone is talking about now:

 

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