Tuesday, December 1, 2015

demarcus love

Yesterday I referenced a report that the Vikings had roster exemptions for Jerome Felton (suspended) and Christian Ballard (left team) which allowed them to only cut 13 players.  I also wondered why the didn’t get an exemption for the suspension of DeMarcus Love.

Viking Update was kind enough to respond to a message I sent them requesting a clarification of their report, and they turned around and got the answer directly from the NFL, according to their response.

As of right now, and Monday when the Vikings made their cuts, the Vikings have two roster exemptions.  One is for Ballard and the other is for wide out Greg Childs who has been placed on the PUP list and won’t be eligible for action until week seven.

The Vikings will indeed get two exemptions for the Felton and Love suspensions, but the suspensions will not go into effect until Saturday, thus there are no exemptions until Saturday.

Essentially, this means that the Vikings get to keep four bubble players around until/unless these guys are able to report for duty.  At the time of their return the Vikings will have to choose between having them back and cutting someone else, or simply letting them go.  In Felton’s case the answer is simple, as he will be brought back, but the other three each present unique situations and the Vikings could simply choose to release them in favor of guys already on the roster.

The Vikings have had a pleasantly quiet offseason, with nobody really being “that guy,” but Thursday’s news of DeMarcus Love’s four game suspension for violating the NFL’s policies against performance enhancing drugs is somewhat of a damper.

“I’m really hurt about it,” Love told Access Vikings after Thursday’s practice.

He should be.  Love was selected by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft, but was inactive throughout his entire rookie season, and then was placed on injured reserve for all of 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle.  This latest setback could very well spell the end of his run with the Vikings and could possibly end his career before he ever got to play a single snap.

“He won’t be on the field with us, won’t be able to practice with us, won’t be able to play with us,” Leslie Frazier said of the situation. “So that can’t help your development if you’re not on the field. But while he’s here, we’re going to work as hard as we can to help him come along.”

There as certainly no guarantee that Love would have made the final roster heading into September before this suspension, even with depth somewhat lacking at offensive tackle, as he was truly considered a “bubble” player that needed to have a good training camp as recently as yesterday.  It is for that reason, however, that I think Love’s chances of being a Viking in September may have actually been helped by the suspension.

If the Vikings are awarded a roster exemption during Love’s four game suspension then the Vikings would have very little, if anything, to lose by keeping him around until week five of the regular season.  They could push the decision to keep him or not off until he is eligible to return, which would be after four weeks of football have been played and four weeks of injuries have been sustained.  If the four weeks is up then they could easily part ways with him and his $550,000 salary.

If the Vikings don’t get a roster exemption and he still remains on the roster then that is a sign that the team both believe in his abilities as a player and also believe that his remorse over this situation is genuine.

“I was shocked, man,” Love said on Thursday. “I’ve never cheated and never will. Not intentionally. Unfortunate it’s something I can’t change. It happened. It didn’t work out in my favor and so I’ve got to face the consequences.”

He knows that the suspension could be detrimental to his career, but hopes that his tale will be one of caution to other players on the Vikings roster, at the very least.

“One thing about it is it’s bad for me,” he said. “But it also gives other guys a heads up so they know that you really have to watch what you put in your body. Because whatever it is, they’ll find it. And you’ll eventually have to pay for it.”

Love was given the same “heads up” when Kevin Williams had to face a two game suspension in 2011, Love’s rookie season, for the whole StarCaps saga.  That apparently wasn’t enough to keep Love from making a similar mistake.

The Vikings now, more than ever, have a glaring vacancy at the backup tackle position.

Back when mid-season reports broke that the Vikings were in talks with right tackle Phil Loadholt I opined that they need not rush into a blockbuster deal with a simply above-average option that played better during his contract year, especially with a whole lot of options existing in free agency and the Draft.

A Pro Football Talk article recently confirmed that this notion exists in NFL front offices.  With so many tackle options, especially right tackle options, set to be available to teams there seems to be little reason to shell out the big money.

Loadholt is not a bad option moving forward, especially with continuity always acting as an added bonus, but he is far from the only option.

Left tackle isn’t going to be a priority this offseason, with Matt Kalil looking like the real deal, but things are unsettled on the right side and towards the bottom of the depth chart.  Lets take a look at what options exist:

Top Tier

1.  Sebastian Vollmer, NE

You are going to see most rankings have Jake Long or Ryan Clady in this spot, but they will demand left tackle money, and the Vikings are set on the left side with Kalil holding down the post.  It isn’t that Kalil or one of these guys couldn’t play on the right side, it’s that the Vikings probably don’t want to pay them to.  Vollmer is arguably the best right tackle in the NFL and will demand a fair amount of money, but in my mind would present a clear upgrade over Loadholt.

This preseason, the Vikings lost two young offensive players to injury that have yet to play in a regular season NFL game.

Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love has to have a torn pectoral muscle operated on last month and only recently regained full motion and will soon begin his rehabilitation.  Love was a sixth round selection from Arkansas in 2011.

“This is my last week in my sling,” Love said on Thursday. “So, now, it’s just basically starting the rehab and getting everything back stronger.”

“It’s frustrating, but I can’t dwell on it,” Love continued. “Got to go ahead and move forward. It is what it is.”

Fourth round 2012 selection Greg Childs, also out of Arkansas, tore the patellar tendons in both knees on the same play this preseason.  He was spotted this week rehabbing his knees at Winter Park, and by all accounts was walking well with a positive attitude.

“I like to do things that people think other people can’t do,” Childs told reporters. “I’ve got a strong head. You can ask any of the players in here. I come in here attitude good every day and trying to get right, trying to get back on the field. I’m going to do everything I can to step back on the field for next season.”

The Vikings will certainly welcome that added competition that Love and Childs would bring to their respective positions next preseason, and if their rehabs go as well as these two hope they will then the two might be ready to legitimately compete for roster spots next August.

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