Minnesota Vikings: Larry Dean

MINNEAPOLIS -- Between now and the Minnesota Vikings' first training camp practice July 25, we will break down each position group. We'll look at the linebackers this morning.

Returning players: Chad Greenway, Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole, Larry Dean

Gone from last season: Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell

New this season: Anthony Barr (first-round pick from UCLA), Brandon Watts (seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech), Jasper Brinkley (free agent from Arizona), Dom DeCicco (free agent from Tampa Bay), Mike Zimmer (free agent from Jacksonville)

Position coach: Adam Zimmer (first season)

Biggest issue: As the Vikings begin camp, they've almost got a blank slate at the position. Greenway figures to start, but will it be at middle linebacker or weak-side linebacker? Will Brinkley return to start in the middle? Will Cole be able to lock down a starting spot after playing well at the end of last season? And will Barr be ready for a featured role in the Vikings' defense after the team used the No. 9 pick in the draft on him? There's some young talent at the position, but the Vikings don't have much settled at linebacker, and they'll have to run through a number of permutations to figure out what will work. Hodges -- who struggled as a rookie and didn't seem to play with the edge the Vikings wanted to see -- could also get a chance to turn things around and showcase his quickness in Mike Zimmer's defense.

Player to watch: Barr is the obvious choice -- the Vikings seem to have big plans for him as a pass-rusher that can occasionally set up on the defensive line. He'll have to prove he can handle coverage responsibilities, especially in light of the fact the Vikings toyed with him in their nickel package during minicamp, and he'll have to adjust to offensive linemen that know how to counter his pass-rushing moves. But the Vikings were thrilled to get him, and if he's able to handle the learning curve as a rookie, he's got the potential to unlock a series of different looks for the Vikings defense.

Medical report: Greenway played with a broken wrist last season, but is healthy this season, and Mauti, who had three ACL operations in college, is now 20 months removed from his last surgery.

Help wanted: The Vikings seemed confident enough in their young linebackers not to pursue much help (outside of Brinkley) in free agency, and barring injury, they're likely to head into the season with the group they've got at the position.

Quotable: "When you go into a game with six linebackers, if something happens, they’ve got to be ready to go, so part of the deal with guys is we’re trying to give them a lot of different things to do," Mike Zimmer said. "I’ve always felt like the more you can do, the more valuable you are on game day."

Vikings re-sign LB Larry Dean

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings brought back another one of their free agents on Monday morning, re-signing linebacker Larry Dean, who has made his mark on special teams more than anywhere else during his last three seasons in Minnesota.

The undrafted free agent played all 16 games last season, forcing and recovering a fumble in addition to making 13 tackles. He made $555,000 last season, and was a restricted free agent headed into 2014.

As some of you have pointed out, the Vikings' linebacking group mostly consists of young, unproven players (Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti) and backup types (Dean and Jasper Brinkley) in addition to Chad Greenway and Audie Cole, who got some experience at the end of last season. The Vikings will bring in former Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit Monday, and could pursue Bengals restricted free agent Vincent Rey, who wouldn't cost the Vikings a draft pick if they signed him. Otherwise, though, the Vikings could be relying on a young group and the upcoming draft, where a number of intriguing linebacker options could be there for the Vikings at No. 8.

Dean, though, was mostly brought back to help on special teams, and the fact he's been an important cog there is why he's got a new deal with the Vikings.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the linebackers.


2014 free agents: Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell, Larry Dean (restricted).

The good: The Vikings might have found something at the end of the year at middle linebacker. Second-year man Audie Cole stepped in for Erin Henderson in late November and played well at the position until a high ankle sprain kept him out of the last game of the season. The Vikings hadn't planned to build around Henderson at middle linebacker, as former coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged during the season, and Cole mostly held up well as a blitzer and in pass coverage.

The bad: There wasn't much else to like at the position in 2013. Henderson had his moments, particularly when he was used to blitz, but often looked like he was guessing in pass coverage. He was also arrested on his second DWI charge in as many months in early January. His future with the team would appear to be tenuous at best. Chad Greenway played with a broken wrist for much of the season that impaired his ability to tackle and also seemed a step late in pass coverage too often. He might have been caught trying to compensate for the instability at the linebacker positions around him. Desmond Bishop had taken the weak-side linebacker position from Marvin Mitchell when he sustained his second season-ending injury in as many years, Mitchell made few impact plays, rookie Michael Mauti excelled mostly on special teams and fellow rookie Gerald Hodges struggled to gain the favor of the coaching staff.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Greenway ($8.2 million), Henderson ($2.25 million), Hodges ($600,027), Cole ($570,000), Mauti ($480,000). Given the fact he turned 31 earlier this month and he is coming off a subpar season, Greenway could be a candidate to restructure his deal if the Vikings wind up in a cap crunch, though there's a good chance they'll have enough flexibility to avoid that. Cutting Henderson would only cost the Vikings $500,000, and in light of the fact he might have an NFL suspension coming, it seems possible the Vikings would part ways with him. The rest of the group is on rookie deals, and the Vikings can decide whether to let go of Mitchell and Dean.

Draft priority: High. The Vikings need an impact player at the position, no matter whether they think they have a solution at middle linebacker in Cole. Buffalo's Khalil Mack has been linked to the Vikings in a handful of early mock drafts, and he could make sense at No. 8. But with Greenway possibly entering the twilight of his Pro Bowl career, and new coach Mike Zimmer instilling a new defensive scheme, it's important for the Vikings to get some things settled at linebacker.
Welcome back to our chronological look at the 10 plays that most shaped the Vikings' 2013 season. Today: Play No. 5.

WHEN: Oct. 27, 2013

WHERE: A 44-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

THE PLAY: Cordarrelle Patterson's 109-yard kickoff return touchdown on the game's first play.

WHAT THEY SAID: Patterson: "No matter where the ball is kicked, I feel like I'm going to return it regardless. I have a coach who believes in me. Wherever the ball is, I'm going to bring it out."

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: It was the longest kickoff return in NFL history, the second 109-yard play in the Metrodome's history and the return that probably cemented Patterson's place on the All-Pro team. His first return touchdown of the year -- a team-record 105-yarder against Chicago -- looked easy compared to this one, when Patterson squeezed through a small hole set by Robert Blanton and Larry Dean, followed Toby Gerhart upfield, bounced off a tackle from Green Bay's Chris Banjo and raced down the left sideline for a touchdown. Patterson would end the night with 228 return yards. After that, he became the return man that teams were afraid to kick to; the Washington Redskins let Patterson touch the ball just twice on kickoffs, and the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles kept it away from him the entire game.

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Before he missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, Rhodes had been turning into one of the Vikings' best cover corners, and the team especially suffered without him in Cincinnati last weekend, when Chris Cook gave up two touchdown passes in a 42-14 loss. If the Vikings were to get Rhodes back on the field, it could help them against Calvin Johnson and give them one more chance to see the rookie against top competition this year. Cook has typically covered Johnson in Vikings-Lions matchups, but if Rhodes is healthy enough to start, he could see time lined up against Johnson.

The Vikings are also trying to get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a sprained ankle, and coach Leslie Frazier said his starters would depend on "how healthy they are."

"They should all be out there tomorrow," Frazier said. "We'll figure out how healthy they all actually are."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart looks like a long shot to play Sunday; Gerhart was not on the practice field again on Thursday with a strained hamstring.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

Vikings missing eight at practice

December, 24, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings won't put out their first injury report of the week until Wednesday, but they had an extensive list of players not practicing on Tuesday.

Running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, cornerback Shaun Prater, safety Harrison Smith, linebackers Larry Dean and Audie Cole and defensive tackles Fred Evans and Letroy Guion were all sitting out of practice during the portion open to the media on Tuesday.

Of the missing players, only Evans registered any surprise; he's had injuries earlier this season, but was not on the injury report before Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

Coach Leslie Frazier said on Tuesday that it looked unlikely Gerhart would get back from a strained hamstring in time for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. Gerhart missed the Vikings' Dec. 15 game against Philadelphia and re-injured the hamstring on the first series of Sunday's game while he was chasing the Bengals' Reggie Nelson on a fumble return.

Smith, Frazier said Monday, is still sore after coming back from injured reserve two weeks ago. Peterson's rest is likely also precautionary, after the Vikings took him out to rest his sprained foot and sore groin on Sunday.

Guion injured his quadriceps on Sunday, Prater sprained his ankle, Dean has been dealing with a knee injury and Frazier already said Cole will miss Sunday's game with a high-ankle sprain.

The Vikings did, however, get cornerback Xavier Rhodes back on the practice field Tuesday. Rhodes has missed the Vikings' last two games with a sprained ankle, but Frazier is hopeful he'll be able to play on Sunday.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice on Thursday, getting treatment on his sprained right foot, but coach Leslie Frazier said he still expects Peterson to play on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peterson did some limited work in practice on Wednesday, which was his earliest practice of the week in more than a month, but Frazier thought it best to hold Peterson out for precautionary reasons on Thursday.

"We just thought it'd be wise to give him a day inside with our training staff, to work through some of the kinks from yesterday's practice," Frazier said. "Unless something comes up tomorrow that I don't foresee, he should be ready to go on Sunday."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart, who joined Peterson on the Vikings' inactive list last Sunday with a strained right hamstring, should be ready to go on Sunday. The same, however, might not be true for tight end John Carlson or defensive back Xavier Rhodes.

Both missed practice on Thursday -- Carlson wasn't feeling well after sitting out last Sunday with a concussion, and will have to clear some aspects of the NFL concussion protocol before he can practice again. Rhodes, meanwhile, is still unable to practice with a sprained ankle, and if neither one is able to practice on Friday, it seems unlikely either would play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings got back on the practice field, they had an unusual participant: Adrian Peterson took part in a Wednesday practice for the first time since Nov. 13, working in a limited role as he tries to come back from a sprained right foot in time for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Vikings also had running back Toby Gerhart, who missed Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a strained right hamstring, as a limited participant, and coach Leslie Frazier seemed optimistic about both playing on Sunday. Peterson has been missing practice time because of a groin injury, which isn't completely healed yet, but after he was unable to do more than light work last week and missed Sunday's game, Peterson will likely get more work in the middle of the week than he has recently.

"If he's healthy, we'd like for him to get some work," Frazier said. "We think that helps with the timing and helps the offensive line as well."

Frazier also said tight end John Carlson has cleared NFL concussion protocol; Carlson practiced Wednesday, and seems likely to play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While the Vikings are waiting to see whether running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are able to play Sunday, they'll have to figure out how to handle one of the league's hottest offenses with a secondary that is looking increasingly thin.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a sprained ankle, coach Leslie Frazier said Friday, and cornerback Chris Cook showed up on the Vikings' injury report for the first time Friday with a knee injury that limited him in practice. The oft-injured cornerback is listed as questionable, and if both he and Rhodes were to miss the game, it would leave the Vikings without their top three cornerbacks Sunday.

Frazier said he would likely start Marcus Sherels in place of Rhodes, but he would have to figure out another plan if Cook were unable to go. The Vikings have been using safety Robert Blanton at cornerback, and he would likely play there Sunday. Shaun Prater is also healthy, and the Vikings have cornerbacks Kip Edwards and Robert Steeples on their practice squad. They also worked out several cornerbacks this week, Frazier said.

"When we’re getting as thin as we are, everybody is a candidate to be moved around," Frazier said. "So you don’t rule out any possibilities at this point."

The Vikings have the league's second-worst defense this season as it is, and with so many players missing in the secondary, they could be easy prey for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles on Sunday.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Gerhart did some work in practice Friday, though Frazier said the Vikings didn't test his quickness as much as his overall stride. They will continue to evaluate him Saturday and possibly Sunday. "To get out there and move around, I felt pretty good," Gerhart said. "We'll take it day-to-day, keep getting treatment, keep evaluating and see what happens."
  • Tight end John Carlson will miss Sunday's game with a concussion, leaving the Vikings with only Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford at the position.
  • Cornerback Josh Robinson (fractured sternum) is still out.
  • Guard Brandon Fusco (knee) did not practice Friday and is doubtful for Sunday's game, though Frazier said Fusco "has a chance" to play. The Vikings had guard Jeff Baca -- who has been inactive for all but one game this season -- working in Joe Berger's special-teams spot Friday, indicating they would likely put Berger at Fusco's right guard spot.
  • Linebackers Larry Dean (knee) and Chad Greenway (wrist) are probable for Sunday's game. Greenway, who has been playing with a broken wrist all season, said he has been able to function better now that he's playing with a pad on both sides of his wrist, rather than a full cast, and sounded optimistic Friday that he wouldn't need surgery to set the bone after the season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings were still waiting on many of their injured players to get back on the practice field on Thursday, and coach Leslie Frazier is holding out hope that several of them will be able to practice Friday and play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Chief among those players are running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, both of whom sat out again on Thursday. Peterson worked his sprained right foot in a pool, and will try to practice on Friday. Frazier still sounded more optimistic about the chances of Gerhart, who has a strained hamstring, playing than he did about Peterson. "[We need] to see if he can burst a little bit with a hamstring," Frazier said.

Frazier said the Vikings could wait until Sunday before declaring Peterson or Gerhart out for the game, depending on how they look Friday, but it's safe to say both running backs would have to give the Vikings some hope with how they look on Friday.

Asked about Peterson's chances, Frazier said, "Everything he's done has been in a pool, so it would be premature for me to suggest that it was possible. We'll have to wait and see."

Tight end John Carlson still has not cleared NFL concussion protocol, and if he doesn't do so in time to practice on Friday, he would likely miss Sunday's game as well. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes missed his second day of practice, and will be "touch-and-go" with his sprained ankle, Frazier said. Given how well Rhodes has played in the last two weeks -- and how tall of a task the Vikings will have against the Eagles' offense -- the rookie might be nearly as important as the two running backs.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
  • Did not practice: RB Adrian Peterson (groin/foot); RB Toby Gerhart (hamstring), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), TE John Carlson (concussion), CB Josh Robinson (chest), G Brandon Fusco (knee).
  • Limited participant: LB Larry Dean (knee).
  • Full participant: LB Chad Greenway (wrist).
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As coach Leslie Frazier said they would do on Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Vikings held both running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart out of practice on Wednesday. Frazier said both would likely sit out until Friday, as the Vikings try to get either one healthy enough to play on Sunday.

Frazier said he was more optimistic about Gerhart -- who has a strained hamstring -- than Peterson, who is trying to come back from a mid-foot sprain. A source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Monday that it was unlikely Peterson would play Sunday, but added the Vikings would know more once they see Peterson run.

The reigning NFL MVP is determined to play, but as ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell said earlier this week, a mid-foot sprain often leaves players feeling like they don't have enough power in their foot to run or cut effectively. She recalled Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew's experience with the injury, saying he told her it felt like he was running in sand, and though Peterson's healed quickly in the past, it was telling that Frazier seemed doubtful about Peterson's status for Sunday.

"If it seems to be a problem, we'll err on the side of caution with him for sure. So we’ll see how he does," Frazier said.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Tight end John Carlson still has not been cleared to return from a concussion, and if he's not able to play Sunday, the Vikings would be left with Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford at the position. Carlson's history of concussions could make the Vikings more cautious with him, though Frazier said doctors haven't told him to take extra caution with Carlson if he does pass the NFL concussion protocol. "If they clear him and they tell me he’s cleared to play, then we’d play him," Frazier said. "But if they told me because of his history we’d need to be careful, then that’s a different story.”
  • Cornerbacks Josh Robinson (fractured sternum) and Xavier Rhodes (sprained ankle) were both out, as was guard Brandon Fusco (strained knee).
  • Linebacker Larry Dean (knee) was limited; linebacker Chad Greenway (fractured wrist) practiced in full.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson missed his second consecutive day of practice, in what is becoming a weekly routine to limit wear and tear on last year's NFL MVP. But coach Leslie Frazier doesn't expect Peterson, who has carried 67 times in the last two games despite a strained groin, to be limited on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

"It just tells you how amazing he is," Frazier said. "Not only does he play, he plays extremely well. It's just incredible, when you think of what those injuries can do for any position, let alone a running back. He's a special guy. His body is definitely unique. He's different in a lot of ways."

Peterson still leads the league with 1,208 rushing yards, and he might have more if he were able to run at full speed. "I know this: Some of those 20-yard runs could be 40- or 60-yard runs. We've seen that," Frazier said. "He's working as hard as he can, but it's tough to get [to] 100 percent in two or three days [of practice]."

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder still hasn't cleared the NFL's concussion protocol, and he did not practice on Thursday. While Ponder could practice Friday if he is cleared, Frazier said it's "probably not" realistic to expect Ponder to be active on Sunday. Frazier said Wednesday the Vikings planned to start Matt Cassel.
  • Safety Jamarca Sanford, who missed practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury, returned to practice in a limited role on Thursday, and it appears likely he will play on Sunday.
  • Linebacker Larry Dean (knee) was out of practice again, as was cornerback Josh Robinson (chest). Defensive end Jared Allen (finger), linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (illness) were limited.
  • Safety Harrison Smith has looked good in practice, Frazier said, and the Vikings still expect Smith to return from turf toe and come off injured reserve on Dec. 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) has been unable to practice this week. The Vikings had hoped to get him back on the practice field, Frazier said, but will now likely have to wait until next week.
  • Wide receiver Greg Childs, who has been out all season after tearing the patellar tendons in both knees during training camp last year, has practiced the last two days, but Frazier wasn't sure if the Vikings will activate him from the physically unable to perform list or put him on injured reserve. The Vikings must make a decision on Childs next week.

Vikings injury report: Sanford out

December, 4, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings practiced without safety Jamarca Sanford, who has already missed three games this season and sat out Wednesday because of an ankle injury.

Sanford was questionable for the Vikings' game against Green Bay on Oct. 27 with an ankle injury (he ended up playing), but his absences this season have been because of a groin injury. His status for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens is uncertain, but if Sanford were to miss the game, his absence would continue the theme of injuries in the Vikings' secondary that has persisted throughout the year. Starting safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Josh Robinson are both out this week because of injuries, and cornerback Chris Cook has also missed time this season.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Running back Adrian Peterson (groin) did not participate, which shouldn't be a surprise; the Vikings have been holding Peterson out of practice to rest him the last several weeks, before giving him two of his three biggest career workloads, in terms of carries, over the last two weeks.
  • Linebacker Larry Dean (knee) missed practice, as did Robinson (chest) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot).
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder has still not been cleared to practice after sustaining a concussion last Sunday; Frazier said Matt Cassel will likely start on Sunday.
  • Defensive end Jared Allen (finger) joined linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) among the Vikings' limited participants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil, who was questionable to play against the New York Giants because of back tightness, is active for Monday night's game.

Kalil said on Saturday he expected to play unless he had a setback before Monday's game, and he'll man his normal spot, protecting Josh Freeman's blind side in his first start against a Giants pass rush that has struggled to get to the quarterback. New York has just five sacks this season -- the fewest in the league -- and is one of three teams with fewer sacks than the Vikings' 10 this season.

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson is inactive with a sprained ankle, and quarterback Matt Cassel -- who started last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers -- is inactive as the Vikings' third quarterback, as expected, with Christian Ponder as the Vikings' backup. With so many teams reeling from quarterback injuries around the league, the Vikings might be able to find a market for Cassel before next week's trade deadline, and it's possible the 31-year-old would be amenable to a move.

The only other inactive player of note for the Vikings is rookie Gerald Hodges, who looked like he might get some playing time with Desmond Bishop heading to injured reserve. The Vikings said they'd seen a sense of urgency from Hodges now that he is only one spot behind Marvin Mitchell on the depth chart, but the Vikings evidently will staff the weak-side linebacker position another way if Mitchell gets hurt. As much as the team is in nickel, and as much as other linebackers -- Larry Dean, Audie Cole and Michael Mauti -- contribute on special teams, Hodges might have lost out there.

We'll see in about 70 minutes whether the Vikings can get their second win of the year. I'll be chatting about the game through the night with ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano. Come join us here.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings rewarded safety Andrew Sendejo, one of their key contributors on special teams, with a contract extension, his agent Erik Burkhardt announced on Twitter this afternoon.

Sendejo, who was due to become a restricted free agent after the season, will reportedly earn $2 million over the next two seasons, with $400,000 guaranteed.

The fourth-year safety played 13 games for the Vikings last year, and made the team out of training camp largely because of his role on special teams. He has not played a defensive snap yet this year, but is one of the three Vikings players (along with Larry Dean and Robert Blanton) who sees the most work on the Vikings' kickoff and punt teams.