Wednesday, July 1, 2015

leslie frazier

Chase Baker, George Johnson and Troy Kropog were long shots to make the roster just four weeks ago, but hard work and consistent effort paid off for these young players.

 Chase Baker might have the best chance to stick. The undrafted rookie from Boise State had 11 tackles during preseason working on the inside of the defensive line. Standing at 6-1 298 pounds, Baker has just enough meat on his bones to earn a few snaps as a backup rotational depth player this season. During camp and preseason, he has been asked to learn the three-technique position while also staying focused on the nose tackle spot as well. Jared Allen said, “He has probably grown the most of all the young guys I’ve seen in camp. That is good because he just might be asked to play a role on this team. We’re hurting at D-tackle right now.” 

Lady luck has been on Baker’s side as Christian Ballard left the team for personal reasons, Sheriff Floyd and Kevin Williams have been banged up a bit which opened the door for Baker to get plenty of reps needed to win a roster spot. After spending his rookie year on the practice squad, Baker might be ready to take the next step in 2013.

George Johnson, the 6-4 265 pound 4th year DE beat out D’Aundre Reed and Lawrence Jackson to win the 4th and final DE roster spot. Johnson was promoted to the Vikings 53 man roster in late December of 2012 and has impressed the coaches enough this off-season to make the final cut in 2013. In 2010, Johnson was signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers. Johnson worked his way up to playing in 2 games for the Buccaneers in 2011 before an injury put him on IR. Johnson looks to build on his 7 total career NFL tackles. Johnson’s 5 solo tackle in preseason lead all Vikings’ DEs, but in the regular season he will have a hard time taking snaps away from Jared Allen, Brian Robison or Everson Griffen.

Troy Kropog won the swing tackle position, at least for the next four weeks until DeMarcus Love comes back from his suspension. The 6-6 308 pound tackle from Tulane has been in the NFL for 4 years. Kropog was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. The Vikings promoted Kropog from the practice squad to the 53 man roster last season when Percy Harvin was placed on IR. Kropog has played in 7 games with 0 starts in his NFL career. It will be interesting to see what the Vikings do with the backup tackle position in the next few weeks. Will Kropog stick when Love comes back, or will the Vikings look to upgrade the backup tackle position by signing a free agent? Frazier had talked about finding a swing tackle in the 2012 draft, but that did not appear to have happened. Was that just a smoke screen? Do the Vikings have confidence in Love or Kropog? Stay tuned… I don’t think this story has reached the final page.

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.

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Buried at the bottom of my bucket list, right above win a mirror ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars, is a desire I’ve been craving for nearly 40 years – watch the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl World Championship. If I believe what Adrian Peterson is saying, and I have no reason not to, I just might be checking one of those items off my list in the near future.

Last year at this time, I was hearing Peterson say he was planning to come back better than ever by week one. My heart was telling me “that sounds great,” but my mind was focused on how good Toby Gerhart was going to play while filling the gap until I actually saw a healthy #28 on the football field. Little did I realize that Peterson was speaking the truth. Toby would be nothing more than an afterthought as Peterson chased Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record.

At the Pro Bowl, Peterson predicted he would win the NFL’s MVP award. He was right. On that special night in February when All Day accepted his MVP trophy… he told the world he was going to win it again next year, then looked at coach Frazier with a twinkle in his eyes and added, “I’m going to win the most important award, the team award, the Super Bowl.

A couple months later, Peterson told Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated in a video interview, “I want a couple of rings. We’ve got to start at one and we need to get it this year. We have the potential to get to the Super Bowl and win. It’s all about coming together”. The big quote that stole the show was when Peterson said “I’m going to let the chips fall. I got my bar set at 2500 yards. If that happens, the record will be shattered.”

Adrian Peterson has earned the right to talk. In 2012, he had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history falling just nine yards short of Dickerson’s rushing title. Unfortunately for Viking fans, all the experts are saying Peterson’s goals can’t be reached. They say the odds are stacked against the Minnesota Vikings and their superstar. The consensus is the goals are simply too unrealistic even for the immortal Adrian Peterson.

Nope, I’m not buying that. No way. No how. ESPN and all the naysayers need to take notice. Adrian Peterson and the upstart Minnesota Vikings will contrive the greatest multi-game sports event since Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire battled it out for the MLB home run title in 1998. One thing is for sure, America will slow down this fall to soak it all in.

Keep talking Adrian. I believe. Coach Frazier and your young impressionable Vikings’ teammates believe… and the world will soon follow.

As Adrian speaks, so may it be written and so shall it be truth!

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The final minicamp practice on Thursday signaled the beginning of the darkest period of the NFL offseason, with more than a month’s time between now and the start of training camp, and Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier wants his players to stay on the right track.

It has been almost a full year since I was visiting reader Fran the Man at his Alaskan lodge and we simultaneously dropped our jaws in disbelief upon hearing the news of Adrian Peterson’s arrest in a Houston club.  The good news is those charges seemed bogus and were eventually dropped, and the better news is that it is the last time a Vikings player is known to have been in trouble.

“Just reminded them about the things they’ve got to get done in this time away,” Frazier said of his send off speech, “and remember that they represent us in their hometowns or wherever they travel at, that we all represent one another, and take care of their bodies.”

Frazier and G.M. Rick Spielman seem to be putting together a squad of high character guys that are focused on becoming champions.  Time and again we have heard Frazier preach to his players that none of them want to be “that guy.”

Provided the circus-like atmosphere surrounding New England right now, thanks to their star tight end getting himself embroiled in a murder case, it is refreshing to have an offseason where the biggest controversy involves an activist punter.

Stay out of trouble, Vikings.  We are all looking forward to seeing you play on Sundays this year.

Jared Allen’s contract situation isn’t keeping him awake at night, and neither are any lingering injuries, and he says he is now getting the best sleep he’s had in years.  This is important because Allen is the only Viking that has yet to make an appearance at the OTA practices that took place this week.

“I’m excited to be playing ball and especially I’m excited to be healthy this year. That’s the biggest thing,” he told SiriusXM via Scout.com. “My contract has been so far out of mind because I’m finally able to train this year. My shoulder is back. I didn’t know how rehab was going to be, this being the first surgery I’ve ever had. I’m just excited that my strength is coming back; I’m sleeping again at night. Two years of not sleeping very well, it wears on you.”

Allen spent the week celebrating his anniversary and Leslie Frazier says, according to the Pioneer Press, that Allen will join his teammates after this weekend.

Earlier this offseason, Allen said he would be “out the door” if the Vikings approached him about a pay cut, and so it appears he is perfectly content entering the final year of his contract without any guarantees that extend into 2014 or beyond.

“I’m not hostile. I love the Minnesota Vikings. They got me out of a situation in Kansas City where I was very unhappy and put a lot of faith in me,” Allen said. “The whole point is I don’t worry about my contract, and I don’t. I’ve always been a person that says my play will take care of everything else. ”

“As long as I perform on the football field, you have options in front of you,” he continued. “As far as where I’ll end up, I don’t know. I’m playing this year for this year. I loved being a Viking. I love being a Viking. I want to win a Super Bowl as a Viking.”

Injuries have been cited as a contributor to Allen’s “down year” in 2012, but he still registered 12 sacks and played well enough to not yet be a candidate to be put out to the pasture that Rick Spielman has been sending plenty of veterans to lately.  Considering the young defensive end talent on this team, Allen’s potential contract demands, and the huge dip in value placed on veteran pass rushers this offseason, it is reasonable to wonder if this season will be his last as a Viking.

For now, however, a healthy Jared Allen has plenty of financial motivation to couple with his desire to win a Super Bowl and that is a pretty good formula for short-term success.

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