Monday, February 8, 2016

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The Minnesota Vikings, despite their respectable improvement in performance over last year, has had a constantly rotating corps of new starters come in and play for them despite what was once the best injury-avoidance and conditioning unit in the NFL. But instead of simply listing the list of starters, it is perhaps more striking to combine them in one easy-to-explain but annoying-t0-have-to-digest image. Or several, rather. The offense, followed by the defense:

Offensive Injury Chart 4

Defensive Injury Chart

The defense has had to worry about a lot less than the offense in terms of having to replace players. In some sense, this impresses upon us the difficulty that NFL teams go through every year, but in other ways it feels like a representation of the luck the Vikings have had overall—it certainly seems like a more extensive list than a similar list for another randomly chosen team.

On the other hand, it isn’t unique. The Browns have been rotating through running backs as they figure out their center and quarterback situation, while the New England offensive line was constantly rotating while they were waiting Rob Gronkowski’s return. The Vikings seem to be struck with unusually bad luck, head coach Mike Zimmer deserves particular leeway (which he has received), but we shouldn’t assume a team stays 100% healthy or available throughout the year.

So, that’s one picture of the season.

After an agonizingly stupid waiting game, the NFL announced that arbitrator Harold Henderson has denied Adrian Peterson’s appeal against the severity of the NFL suspension regarding his incident, which means his suspension is upheld. The suspension is for at least six games will continue into the next season, starting immediately—meaning he will miss at least three weeks to start the 2015 season though right now is technically suspended indefinitely.

In April he will be able to reduce his suspension from indefinite to merely six games (meaning he could be reinstated and play for Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season) end his suspension. Contrary to previous reports, the suspension is for the remainder of the season, not six games. He will need to prove some degree of remorse and complete or make significant progress in parental counseling in order to be reinstated. Peterson will retroactively serve the six-game suspension by paying back the three game checks for the games he was on the Exempt List during his appeal after the ruling, per Ed Werder of ESPN.

From Harold Henderson, via the NFL’s spokesperson, Greg Aiello: “I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent. He was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.”

This means he found the process by which Adrian Peterson was suspended to be fair within the constraints of the Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement.

In full, his conclusion reads (emphasis mine):

The facts in this appeal are uncontested. The player entered a plea which effectively admitted guilt to a criminal charge of child abuse, after inflicting serious injuries to his four-year old son in the course of administering discipline. No direct evidence of the beating was entered in the record here, but numerous court documents, investigative reports, photographs and news reports, all accepted into evidence without objection, make it clear that Mr. Peterson’s conduct was egregious and aggravated as those terms are used in the Policy, and merits substantial discipline. His public comments do not reflect remorse or appreication for the seriousness of his actions and their impact on his family, community, fans and the NFL, although at the close of the hearing he said he has learned from his mistake, he regrets that it happened and it will never happen again. I reject the argument that placement in the Commissioner Exempt status is discipline. I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent; he was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.

For the entire PDF of his decision, click here.

This isn’t a surprise. The NFL’s bylaws were written in a way that affords the NFL a significant amount of power over its employees and a reading of the NFLPA’s response was not compelling given what we know of NFL rules. Though it is grossly unfair to impose an expectation of “remorse” during a pending legal case, the finding of remorse allows the NFL to say it found an “aggravating circumstance” that gives them the ability to implement a particularly harsh punishment.

The NFLPA is expected to take this outside of the constraints of their labor agreement and bring it to federal court.

The NFLPA released this statement:

The NFLPA expected this outcome, given the hearing officer’s relationship and financial ties to the NFL. The decision itself ignores the facts, the evidence and the collective bargaining agreement. This decision also represents the NFL’s repeated failure to adhere to due process and confirms its inconsistent treatment of players. Our union is considering immediate legal remedies.

This is going to be fun.

I imagine it is unlikely that the courts will implement an injunction, which means Adrian Peterson’s suspension will begin immediately instead of being further delayed. The legal avenue could potentially take longer than Adrian Peterson’s suspension, which means the NFLPA is fighting to preserve the broad rights of their players instead of Adrian Peterson specifically.

The NFL is committed to sending the signal of a tougher Personal Conduct Policy, though recent changes in the policy to immediately suspend players with pay upon accusation are probably anti-competitive and a bad idea. Regardless, it’s a good thing that more clear guidelines are being put in place, so long as the NFL sticks to one set of guidelines for more than one calendar year at a time.

According to Sid Hartman at the Star Tribune, the Vikings are seeking to reduce Adrian Peterson’s salary by half and is the major “sticking point” for the Vikings when it comes to Adrian Peterson’s 2015 playtime. I doubt the Vikings will reduce it by that much, but expect some renegotiation to give the Vikings some cap relief, or pending that, a trade.

Before the decision, the Minnesota Vikings had announced the implementation and creation of a domestic violence education program, which Ben Goessling of ESPN reported on earlier today

He wrote about it more in his ESPN piece:

The program, which is expected to start in January, is designed to reach all levels of the organization — from executives to coaches and players — and family members of team employees will be invited to participate as well. The source said the Vikings eventually hope to offer the program to the entire community, partially through local colleges and high schools. The Vikings will consult experts in the areas of domestic violence and child endangerment to measure the program’s effectiveness — and the experts will be looking specifically for a drop in the number of domestic incidents involving team personnel, the source said.

It is good for the Vikings to begin focusing on ways to reduce incidences of domestic violence. That the NFL played the waiting game for this long is not.

Chris Tomasson, reporter for the Pioneer Press, loves to bring up Pro Football Focus grades for better or worse when talking to and about players and he did so once again when talking to struggling Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil (ranked as their third-worst offensive tackle). Kalil, like head coach Mike Zimmer had earlier in the season, didn’t take too kindly to Pro Football Focus’ grades (or their use in reporting, blogging or generic fan impressions).

“You can’t listen to some people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who want to go on Pro Football Focus, the website who they hire random fans and give them a training camp on how to grade people,’’ Kalil said Thursday. “And people want to live on that site when it’s not really a credible site.

“I’m not going against them because they hammer me. But I mean, it’s not a credible site. … They don’t know the blocking schemes, they don’t know who’s fault (a bad play might be).’’

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After a Week One performance that made it appear as if utility man Cordarrelle Patterson was ready to build on his impressive rookie season, something changed and he has been fading into the background of this Vikings team with haste.

Speculation has been everywhere regarding Patterson’s sudden dropoff in production and playing time.  There have been theories about undisclosed injuries or personality issues or clashes with the coaches.  The most popular theory, and the one that makes the most sense, is that Patterson is still the project we thought he was when he was drafted and that he needs to improve his route running before he can expect an increase in playing time.

The release of Jerome Simpson opened the door for Charles Johnson in Minnesota, but nobody can honestly tell you they expected Johnson to surpass Patterson on the depth chart at the time of his signing.  But that is exactly what has happened and it is clear, despite public endorsements of Patterson from Zimmer, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner clearly prefers Johnson in the lead wide out role.

Patterson has opened up at times throughout this frustrating season, previously expressing that he is not having as much fun in his sophomore season, but he recently took his concerns straight to the man in charge of the Vikings roster.

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Every now and then we get someone that wants to give this ol’ blogging thing a try.  Of course, we are happy for the added content and often hope the author succeeds as a Vikings writer, either here or elsewhere.  This is another post, of which I am particularly impressed with, so I hope you will all give Seth Forst’s first article here at VT and give him some supportive comments.


Author:  Seth Forst

One year ago, at this time, Teddy Bridgewater had just turned 21 years old. He was enrolled for his junior year at the University of Louisville, beginning preparation to play the University of Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  Between then and now, Teddy has been up, down, and in-between.

From fans calling for their team to “Tank for Teddy” to the debacle that was his Louisville Pro Day, his perceived draft stock fluctuated in a volatile way. Fast forward to the afternoon of September 28th – Viking fans at TCF Bank Stadium loudly expressed their satisfaction with the play of Bridgewater (TEDDDDY, TEDDDDY, TEDDDDY), as he led the Vikings to a victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Then came the inevitable rookie struggles perhaps summed up by his performance in Chicago on November 16th, when Bridgewater finished the game 18/28 for 158 yards (5.6 YPA), 1 TD, and 1 INT. That’s a passer rating of 76.2 and a QBR of 21.3, for those keeping track at home.

Since the Bears game, however, the general consensus has been that Bridgewater is improving, and things are once again looking up (TEDDDDY, TEDDDDY, TEDDDDY).

Is perception reality? Let’s take a look at the passing numbers, and see what they tell us. I included his total ‘yards in air’, passing yards before any yards after catch, as a reference to how much he’s pushing the ball down the field. This can also shed light on completion percentage, given shorter passes are more likely to be completed than deep throws.

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