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minnesota vikings

On Aug. 31, the Vikings claimed former Minnesota Gopher MarQueis Gray off waivers when he was released by Cleveland. Gray immediately took to social media, announcing the news to his Twitter followers:

Despite growing up in Indianapolis, the Twin Cities have become home for Gray.  His wife, stepdaughter and twin sons live in Minnesota, so returning to play for the Vikings is a dream come true for the 24-year-old.

At 6’4″, 240 lbs, Gray proves an extremely versatile player. He played both quarterback and wide receiver while at the U of M, and he was listed as a tight end upon his transition to the NFL.

Gray stepped into a full-time QB role as a junior in Minnesota. In 2010, while still splitting time between positions, Gray started seven games at WR, grabbing 42 catches for 587 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, he tallied 119 rushing yards on 23 carries. Gray demonstrates strong athletic ability for his size. At the 2013 NFL Combine, Gray logged a 4.73-second 40-yard dash, coming in as the fourth fastest QB.

Gray signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent, working out as a half back before moving to tight end. He played preseason with San Fran before being cut and then picked up by the Browns. Gray spent the 2013-14 season in Cleveland, in which he got six carries and two catches in 12 games.

If the Gophers alum sticks to the TE position, he will fall into third string behind Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison.

Minnesota released linebacker Larry Dean and offensive tackle Austin Wentworth to clear roster room for Gray and tackle Mike Harris, waived by the Chargers.

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(photo by Chris Price)
(photo by Chris Price)

Last season, Gerald Hodges met criticism for a lack of focus. This season is a whole new story.

There has never been any doubt as to Hodges’ athletic ability. When Minnesota drafted him in the fourth round in 2013, Hodges was coming off his junior season at Penn State. That year he started all 11 games, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and ESPN.com and second-team accolades by the media. He also was named a Pro Football Weekly honorable-mention. Hodges led the team with 106 tackles (60 solo) and ranked in the top 15 in the Big Ten in hits (eighth) and sacks (14th tie with 4.5).

At 6’2”, 243 lbs, Hodges is a machine of a linebacker. He is a safety convert, which brings its own set of advantages. However, Hodges didn’t stand out as fans hoped he would as a rookie. In an Aug. 3 interview, he explained to ESPN’s Ben Goessling part of the problem:

“Last year, I don’t think I came in as focused [as I should have been],” Hodges said. “I was coming from the combine. I wasn’t studying my plays in as much detail as I’m doing this year. I think last year I was focusing on too much instead of focusing on my job.”

Coming into the 2014 season, Hodges has made some adjustments—including working to be in better physical shape this offseason. “I just [want] to be as healthy and in shape as I can be,” Hodges said. “I feel as if I’m ready to run around on the field more effectively, able to get to the ball.”

Hodges expressed a confidence in playing the nickel defense, and says his team mentality has improved. “Each day I come in and work hard […] work on improving the team and improving myself as well.”

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Adam Thielen is, without a doubt, one of the most talked-about guys in Mankato this year. He impressed early on in training camp, and after Friday’s first preseason game, the buzz only increased.

“[Adam]’s a guy that has a lot of toughness, a lot of heart,” head coach Mike Zimmer said during Sunday’s press conference. “He wants to make the football team, and he’s giving his best effort to do it. Guys like him—you can win a lot of football games with guys like him.”

Thielen entered his second year ready to make an impression, and he certainly has. His explosiveness, agility and reception accuracy spoke for itself on the practice field, but the receiver stepped onto TCF Field and proved he is ready for the real stuff.

The Vikings mic’d Thielen for the game, so television viewers could listen in on bits and pieces of the game experience. He laughed, admitting he occasionally forgot that he was wired up. “It was a really different experience, but it was great.” *

Special teams coach Mike Priefer utilized Thielen for punt coverage and returns, and the WR hit the ground running—literally. After Oakland went three and out on its first possession, Thielen fielded Marquette King’s punt and ran for three yards before being tackled at the 30. He immediately jumped up, pumping his arms in a gesture of equal excitement and frustration.

After two weeks in Mankato, Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is ready to face a real opponent. “We just want to go out and play and it’s going to give us a good judge of where we’re at,” Zimmer said in a press conference Wednesday morning.

The Vikings will open the 2014 preseason against the Oakland Raiders Friday night at TCF Banks Stadium.

While training camp practices have been light and mostly in helmet, shells and shorts, facing off against the Raiders will provide a prime opportunity to see how players react in the heat of a game situation. For the 10 rookie draft picks selected by the Vikings in May, it will mark their first chance to put their talent on tape in a full contact NFL contest.

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(photo by Chris Price)
(photo by Chris Price)

In the second full week of training camp, Vikings players appeared energized and ready to rock during the Monday morning walk-through. The practice was a shorter one, having been adjusted last minute to a special teams’ walk-through only.

Zach Line was the first one on the field.

He appeared calm but energized, taking the field and chatting with fellow fullback Jerome Felton. When coaches sorted the group, pulling guys to participate in various drills, it appeared Line fell most closely into the second-string roster—definitely a positive position for the SMU alum.

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