NFC North: Adrian Peterson

Vikings Thursday practice report

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
3:40
PM ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Some observations from the Minnesota Vikings' practice Thursday afternoon:
  • Peterson
    Peterson
    The Vikings were still without running back Adrian Peterson, who missed practice again Thursday after being gone for personal reasons Wednesday. Peterson wasn't going to play in Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs but is expected to travel to the game with the team. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is still recovering from a bullet wound to his left calf, and linebacker Brandon Watts, who is out with a leg injury, weren't seen at practice. Cornerback Jabari Price and linebacker Gerald Hodges were on the field but were not participating.
  • Much of the Vikings' work again consisted of scout-team offensive snaps against the first-string defense, which meant another busy day for Christian Ponder. The third-string quarterback went 7-for-12, throwing one interception in 11-on-11 work. Matt Cassel hit 11 of his 15 throws and Teddy Bridgewater went 5-for-7. Cassel didn't divulge the Vikings' game plan for Saturday night but said he "expect(s) to play a lot" against the Chiefs.
  • Blair Walsh has hit 47 of 50 kicks in team periods since the Vikings started training camp, according to special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who said he wasn't concerned about a pair of Walsh misses from beyond 50 yards in the Vikings' first two preseason games. "I think he may have missed one from 50, or maybe none, in practice," Priefer said. "If it was one of those deals where he was shanking the ball, I'd be concerned. But he's hitting the ball well. There's a couple things he needs to do with his follow-through, to straighten that out. We've already gone back and looked at a couple game tapes from his rookie year and last year. It's one of those things he's just got to continue to focus on his follow-through and the other little small attributes that make him such a great kicker, compared to other kickers in this league."
  • Priefer said the Vikings used 42 different players on special teams in last Saturday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals as coaches try to evaluate whose special-teams contributions should help them win a roster spot. The Vikings will start to use more consistent special-teams units on Saturday against Kansas City as they prepare for the start of the regular season. They'll also try to get Cordarrelle Patterson a kickoff return or two, Priefer said.
  • The moment of the day in practice came when Chad Greenway dropped an interception and angrily kicked the ball into the trees just east of the Vikings' practice field. The ball got stuck in a tree, and several minutes later, Greenway walked into the woods with another football in his hand to perform the old throw-one-ball-into-the-tree-to-knock-the-other-one-down trick. "Didn't you guys do this as a kid?" Greenway said. Seconds later, he emerged with both footballs, proclaiming it'd only taken him one shot to dislodge the one he'd kicked into the tree.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It appears Adrian Peterson's streak of preseasons without a carry will hit three this year.

Peterson
Peterson
Coach Mike Zimmer said the running back is unlikely to play again on Saturday night in Kansas City, adding "I really don't see the need" for Peterson to play at all in the preseason. The Vikings have shifted Peterson's role in their offense, making him a bigger part of the passing game than he's been in the past, but he's gotten enough work in practices, Zimmer said, that he doesn't necessarily need to get any game action before the Vikings kick off the regular season Sept. 7 against the St. Louis Rams.

"We’re grabbing at the ball pretty good. We’re not tackling him or anything," Zimmer said. "He’s doing a great job with the protections and the routes and obviously he runs really good. The only concern you have is he might not have been hit enough. But our guys are grabbing at the ball a lot. They’re punching at the ball as he’s running in there. I talked to him about those things.”

Peterson didn't sound terribly distraught about sitting out the exhibition season, either. He said it didn't matter to him if he played on Saturday, adding he feels comfortable enough in the Vikings' offense to miss the game. "I'm wired up (for the season)," he said. "I'm ready to go."

The Vikings first held Peterson out of preseason action in 2012, after he was returning from knee surgery, and the plan worked so well -- before Peterson's 2,097-yard season -- that former coach Leslie Frazier decided to keep the ball out of Peterson's hands before last season, too, playing him for one series in the team's third preseason game but not giving him the ball. Now, as Peterson enters his eighth season, he should be as fresh as the Vikings can get him.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings continue to try and establish a pecking order at safety, it appears they'll give Chris Crocker every chance to wind up at the top of it.

The 34-year-old, who signed with the Vikings earlier this month and came out of retirement to play his eighth consecutive season for coach Mike Zimmer, will start alongside Harrison Smith on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Zimmer said the Vikings want to take a long look at four safeties -- Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo -- on Saturday, in hopes of sorting out the position.

That Crocker will start, however, speaks to what could eventually land him the starting job; he's more familiar with Zimmer's defense than anyone else on the roster, and can lend some stability to a position where no one has established a firm hold on the job next to Smith.

Robert Blanton, who is still listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart at strong safety, will miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Josh Robinson -- who's still battling a hamstring injury and appears to be ceding ground to Captain Munnerlyn in the race for a starting cornerback job -- will also sit out. Tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (bullet wound to calf) are the other Vikings players who won't dress.

Fred Evans will start at nose tackle for Joseph, and Matt Asiata will again start at running back in place of Adrian Peterson, who will sit out for a second consecutive week.

Vikings wake-up call: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
10:10
AM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Minnesota Vikings training camp:

Today's schedule: The Vikings will hold their final practice at Minnesota State for the season this afternoon at 3 p.m. CT, then head back to the Twin Cities after that. They'll begin with a morning walk-through from 10:30-11:30; coach Mike Zimmer and quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater are scheduled to speak to reporters after the walk-through.

More observations from Wednesday's practice:
  • Safety Chris Crocker continued to get work with the first-team defense on Wednesday, and it's looking like the 34-year-old will get every opportunity to claim the starting job opposite Harrison Smith. He could start on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, and though Robert Blanton is still listed first on the Vikings' depth chart this week, his hamstring injury is providing opportunities for others to win the spot. Considering Crocker's history with Zimmer, he has a good shot to win the job.
  • Bridgewater has thrown five interceptions in his last two practices, but neither Zimmer nor running back Adrian Peterson seemed overly concerned about the spate of turnovers. "If we are going to get beat, let’s get beat out here in practice, let’s learn from what we do out here," Zimmer said. "I think that is for every position. This is where we learn and when we go out to play, we have a better feeling of our talent and the guy we are going against. But his confidence is not shaken, he is fine." Said Peterson: "That's how you find out if a guy is resilient or not."
  • Speaking of interceptions, Zimmer had an interesting point about how he wants his defensive backs to operate in practice. While fans and reporters might get excited about players jumping routes to pick off passes against teammates, Zimmer said he doesn't always want players operating that way when game situations won't afford them so much familiarity. "I know what routes Kyle Rudolph likes to run when I am covering him. It doesn’t help me as a defender to guess and be on the right thing," Zimmer said. "When I go against somebody that I don’t know, then I am guessing and cheating or I am playing it differently. I think it is important that we learn how to play football first. I had Terence Newman when he first came back to Cincinnati and he jumped in front of a route and intercepted the ball. Then I said, 'Terence, I don’t want you doing that yet. I want you working on your technique, I want you working on what you need to do to get better. When you get that part down, then you can use your intelligence about where you are at playing football, then you become a much better player.' He understood and we went from there. To me, it is about getting us better, it’s not about not defeating our offense or defeating our defense. It’s about getting us better, because that is what will stand the test in the long run when we have to go play 16 ballgames. A guy can jump a route two times and get an interception then gets beat 10 times; that is not a good day."
They said it: "I try to whisper stuff in his ear every now and then and I hope that he is listening. ‘Hey, just go out and play your game. Just control what you can control.’ He’s out here learning a difficult system. Like I tell him, ‘You’re going to make mistakes.’” -- Peterson, on helping Bridgewater develop as a rookie.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's only his second NFL training camp, but the Green Bay Packers are taking a veteran approach with running back Eddie Lacy.

Maybe not quite the Adrian Peterson tactic, but close.

Lacy
The reigning NFL offensive rookie of the year was held out of Saturday's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans and indications are Lacy might not do much, if anything, in the remaining three exhibition games.

It's not an injury issue; the 24-year-old Lacy has taken on a full workload in practice. But just like the Minnesota Vikings do with Peterson, the Packers may be taking a similar approach with their workhorse running back when it comes to the preseason.

"It's not my goal for his workload to be very high in preseason games," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday.

Peterson, 29, played one series in the third preseason game last summer, but before that had not carried the ball in the exhibition season since 2011.

Lacy said Tuesday he did not know if that was going to be the Packers' approach but doubted he would go into the regular-season opener at Seattle on Sept. 4 without any game action.

"That's definitely something else that you would have to ask the coaching staff," Lacy said. "But as far as me as a player, whatever opportunities I'm given, whether it's [playing in] preseason or held out until the first game -- which I highly doubt that -- whatever work I get will definitely help as far as getting timing and rhythm down."

If anything, Lacy's snaps in practice have increased. McCarthy wants to turn Lacy into a three-down back and practiced him extensively in that role during the early portion of camp.

But when it came time to suit up against the Titans, Lacy joined quarterback Aaron Rodgers in sweats on the sideline. James Starks started in place of Lacy and picked up where he left off last season, when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry as Lacy's primary backup. Starks rushed for 49 yards on just six carries, including a 20-yard touchdown, against the Titans.

Matt Flynn got the call in place of Rodgers, who is expected to start Saturday against the St. Louis Rams and again in the third preseason game against the Oakland Raiders but almost certainly will not play in the finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, one week before the opener.

"That's usually how it goes," McCarthy said of the preseason plan for Rodgers.

Questions about Lacy's durability have followed him since his days at Alabama. But his pounding style largely held up last season. He missed one full game and most of another because of a concussion early in the season and then missed half of another late-season game because of ankle injury. In 14 games, he rushed for a Packers’ rookie record of 1,178 yards.

But given the his penchant for contact, it's worth wondering how long Lacy can last.

"That's kind of a tough question," Lacy said. "It doesn't matter if you're a power back or a speed back, as long as you're a running back, nobody knows how long you can play the game."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The biggest question surrounding the Minnesota Vikings when Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in January was the team's future at quarterback. The tallest task facing Zimmer when he accepted the job on Jan. 15 might have been remaking the Vikings' defense.

Zimmer's résumé as a defensive coordinator earned him the chance to work with a group that allowed more points than any in the NFL last season, and more than all but one defense in the Vikings' 53-season history. The coach began a detailed remodeling process almost as soon as he got the job, walking scouts and front-office members through what he'd need to succeed, and the trademark of his on-field work with players over the past two months has been an exacting adherence to details. The first concrete signs of progress came in the Vikings' preseason opener last Friday night, when the first-team defense forced a pair of three-and-outs against the Oakland Raiders. When he watched the film the next day, Zimmer saw some semblance of what he'd outlined for Vikings decision-makers months ago.

"It was a little bit like I envisioned this football team to look like. We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ball game. We competed very well; we got up in people’s face on defense," Zimmer said. "I think that we are starting to develop a physical mindset with this football team. I like how we practice and the way we practice is showing up when the lights come on and we get ready to go play. We need to continue to practice at the same tempo, we need to continue to improve on the mistakes and we've still got a long way to go."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. If Matt Cassel (or Teddy Bridgewater) can help the Vikings move beyond the quarterback turmoil of 2013, the team has enough weapons to catch up to the prolific offenses in the NFC North. Cordarrelle Patterson could be in for a breakout season in Year 2, Greg Jennings worked well with Cassel last season and Kyle Rudolph dropped 15 pounds in an effort to adjust his game to offensive coordinator Norv Turner's downfield passing game. The Vikings, of course, still have Adrian Peterson, and they're excited about the potential of third-round pick Jerick McKinnon, who could be the change-of-pace back Turner has typically had in his offenses.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Anthony Barr
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Barr should start at strongside linebacker, though the Vikings night unveil some creative packages for the rookie.
2. First-round pick Anthony Barr should start at strongside linebacker, where he'll be featured as part of a defense that should be more aggressive than recent Vikings teams. While he was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, Zimmer sent five or more pass-rushers just 172 times last season (the seventh-fewest in the league), according to ESPN Stats & Information, but he'll bring pressure from more places than the Vikings did under Leslie Frazier. The Bengals, for example, blitzed a defensive back on 30 more snaps than the Vikings did last season.

3. General manager Rick Spielman has picked seven players in the first round of the past three drafts, assembling a core of young talent that could help the Vikings improve as quickly as it can develop. Third-year safety Harrison Smith is back from a turf toe injury that cost him half the season, second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes is a good fit with Zimmer's press coverage scheme and Sharrif Floyd could become the Vikings' answer to Geno Atkins, the outstanding three-technique tackle Zimmer had in Cincinnati.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Vikings will be counting on better depth in the secondary than they had last season, which means a number of unproven players will have to fill large roles. After the Vikings' experiment with Josh Robinson at slot cornerback backfired last season, he should be more comfortable on the outside, where he could start or play in the Vikings' nickel package once Captain Munnerlyn moves inside. But Robinson hasn't been asked to play much man coverage in his career, and the Vikings will need Rhodes to be their top cover corner in Year 2. They'll also need a starting safety to emerge alongside Smith, though the signing of 34-year-old Chris Crocker could help there.

2. There's little set at the linebacker position, where Chad Greenway is trying to rebound from the worst season of his career, Barr is developing as a rookie and Jasper Brinkley, in his second tour with the Vikings, is trying to hold off third-year man Audie Cole for the middle-linebacker job. In a scheme that leans on active linebackers, the position is one of the most unsettled on the roster.

3. Of course, there's the quarterback position. Cassel performed respectably at the end of last season, and seems comfortable in Turner's offense, but probably hasn't been among the top half of the league's quarterbacks since 2010. If he isn't faring well at the beginning of the season -- and the Vikings get off to a rough start against a schedule that includes dates with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers by Oct. 2 -- how soon do the Vikings turn things over to Bridgewater? Whether they're counting on a veteran whom they signed last season as a backup or a rookie, the Vikings again begin the season as the only NFC North team with uncertainty about its starting quarterback.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIf Matt Cassel struggles, how quickly will the Vikings turn to Teddy Bridgewater?
OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Vikings have used Barr as a defensive end in pass-rushing situations and could unveil more creative packages for the rookie this week. Zimmer has plenty of flexibility with his defensive fronts, considering Everson Griffen has played defensive tackle in the nickel package and Corey Wootton and rookie Scott Crichton have rushed from the inside. The Vikings have also toyed with dropping defensive end Brian Robison -- who began his college career as a linebacker -- into coverage in their nickel package.

  • Zimmer wants safeties who can hold up in coverage, and he has unveiled a few nickel packages that feature three safeties and two corners. Considering how much time teams spend in nickel packages, safeties who can cover slot receivers and hold up against the run provide some additional flexibility. That's why Crocker -- who has played the past seven seasons for Zimmer in Atlanta or Cincinnati -- is back with him again.

  • Depth at tight end could be a concern, especially early in the season; Chase Ford looked like he could be a solid receiving option behind Rudolph until he broke his foot before the start of training camp, and the Vikings cut promising undrafted free agent AC Leonard last week. Rhett Ellison has mostly worked as a run blocker so far in his career. Especially if Ford starts on the physically unable to perform list, the Vikings will have to hope Rudolph stays healthy a year after missing half the season with a broken foot.

  • Running back Matt Asiata could carve out a role for himself in the Vikings' offense, especially now that Toby Gerhart is gone to Jacksonville and the Vikings need another running back who can hold up in pass protection. Asiata ran for 115 yards in the Vikings' final game of the 2013 season and has shown some ability as a downhill runner between the tackles.

  • With punt returner Marcus Sherels nursing a hamstring injury, second-year receiver Adam Thielen has shown he can be a solid No. 2 option, returning three punts for 53 yards in the Vikings' preseason opener. As a receiver, Thielen has been one of the big stories in Vikings camp, displaying sure hands over the middle of the field and working well with Bridgewater in front of the same fans who cheered him at Division II Minnesota State, which hosts Vikings training camp.

Vikings camp report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer's fiery side was on display late in the afternoon practice after defensive end Everson Griffen jumped offsides in an 11-on-11 drill. Zimmer immediately called for the entire team to drop and begin pushups on the field. (I lost count but I believe it was 10.) "It was spur of the moment," Zimmer said. "The period before, a couple guys jumped offsides, and I got tired of it."
  • Veteran safety Chris Crocker, signed Monday, got some work with the first team Tuesday. Zimmer acknowledged he has long planned to bring in Crocker, who played for him during most of the past seven seasons, and envisions him as a facilitator of the defensive system to younger players. "I thought it would be good for him to be around," Zimmer said. "We've got a pretty young secondary, a pretty young defense. He knows the system well. I thought he would be in that defensive back room to help these guys understand exactly what I'm looking for. He's been with me for a little while."
  • That Crocker got work with the first team speaks to the Vikings' situation at safety opposite of Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton, who had been working with the starters, is trying to come back from a hamstring injury. Zimmer said Blanton's timetable appears more optimistic than once believed, but said: "Blanton's got to get back out here. He was looking good early. Now he had to get back out here and show what he can do."
  • The Vikings are beginning to prepare for Friday's preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium. Zimmer planed to speak with to the team Tuesday night about the value of a home-field advantage. Temporary digs have not usually been kind to NFL teams, but Zimmer said: "Maybe we can be the first." Meanwhile, Zimmer indicated that tailback Adrian Peterson won't play. That sounds like a good plan. Peterson is healthy and doesn't need preseason work, whether or not the Vikings are installing a new offense.
  • The Vikings are scheduled for a walk-thru practice Wednesday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. local time. Their primary practice will go from 3 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. local time.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
7:40
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • For the first time in Vikings training camp, we've seen an interception in full-team drills. Actually, there were two of them on Thursday, both coming off rookie Teddy Bridgewater. First, Audie Cole made what might have been the play of the day, jumping in front of a pass to the flat and picking it off with what would have been a clear lane to the end zone. Then, Derek Cox snatched away a short pass intended for Adam Thielen in a 2-minute drill. Matt Cassel was nearly picked off, as well, when Xavier Rhodes made a nice play to drive on a sideline throw intended for Jerome Simpson. He got his hands on the pass, but couldn't bring down the interception.
  • Captain Munnerlyn returned to team drills on Thursday, and got some work in the Vikings' base defense opposite Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings will need to see if Munnerlyn can play in their base defense, as opposed to only the nickel package, but they were treating him like a member of their top base defense on Thursday. Cornerback Josh Robinson had also returned from a minor hamstring injury that caused him to leave early on Wednesday. Tight end AC Leonard, who left Wednesday's practice with a headache, did not return on Thursday.
  • Adrian Peterson got most of the day off, with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon getting most of the first-team work at running back. Asiata, to me, looks quicker through the holes than he was last year, when he averaged 3.8 yards on 44 carries. He could get some carries in relief of Peterson this year, and he's big enough to be a forceful downhill runner if he can do a better job of getting through the line with some speed this season.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson got his first work of camp on kick returns, after sitting out the first four practices with a minor foot injury. The Vikings have worked a number of other return men in his place -- Marcus Sherels, Thielen, Jarius Wright and McKinnon among them -- as they try to figure out who can take over if Patterson has a bigger role in the offense. But once he got back in his familiar position on Thursday, Patterson gave a brief reminder of what made him an All-Pro return man last year: He hit a hole on the left side of the Vikings' wall and surged down the sideline for a nice return.
  • Referee Carl Cheffers and his crew were in town for their first day of work with the Vikings on Thursday. They met with the media to outline rule changes this season and were scheduled to meet with the Vikings on Thursday night before doing some more work with the team on the practice field the rest of the week. In his presentation to the media, Cheffers spent a good deal of time covering the NFL's 2014 officiating points of emphasis: Cracking down on illegal hands to the face and taking a stricter view of contact between cornerbacks and receivers. He also covered the league's new replay policy, which will involved NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino in reviews. Officials will now be able to talk to the league office in New York, as well as other members of the officiating crew, via a "Janet Jackson headset," as Cheffers called it. Referees will still wear stadium microphones on their lapels, and both microphones will need battery packs. Of course, they'll carry a flag and a bean bag, and -- as everyone does in 2014 -- they'll carry a pager.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Robert Blanton's bid for the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith continues to pick up steam; Blanton was again working next to Smith in the first unit on Sunday, while Jamarca Sanford -- who missed most of the Vikings' offseason program with a pulled muscle -- took second-team snaps. Coach Mike Zimmer said how impressed he was with Blanton's coverage skills on Sunday afternoon and wanted to see how the Notre Dame product fared in run support. Blanton came on strong at the end of last season after injuries forced a move to slot cornerback, and the coverage skills he flashed there could translate well to the safety position. The Vikings want to be able to put their safeties in man coverage at times so they can stay in their base defense and still handle three-receiver sets. "Robert has honestly impressed me with being in the right place all the time," Zimmer said. "He has really good ball skills, and he has made a couple really, really nice plays on the ball. He has been very solid and steady, he understands the checks and really the communication in the back end of where he is supposed to be."
  • Chad Greenway got some work at middle linebacker on Sunday, and it still seems possible he ends up there. The Vikings would be able to put Greenway in charge of their defensive huddle, knowing he'll likely stay on the field in nickel situations and could provide some continuity there. Greenway will have to earn the job, though, and he made a nice play in the Vikings' first padded practice on Sunday, driving Adrian Peterson back into Matt Cassel on the way to a sack. If the Vikings moved Greenway to the middle, they'd be able to put a couple of younger, athletic linebackers on either side of him. Gerald Hodges got some work at Greenway's usual weak-side linebacker spot, while Audie Cole continued to receive snaps on the strong side. Cole played in the middle last season, but if Anthony Barr isn't ready to grab the starting job, Cole could be a good option there.
  • It was another strong day for receiver Adam Thielen, who's easily become the darling of Vikings camp so far. Thielen, who went to college at Minnesota State and is going through training camp at his alma mater, has had a good connection with Teddy Bridgewater since this spring, and it showed again on Sunday, as Bridgewater hit him on a difficult deep out connection along the right sideline. Thielen said he spent his winter working out in the Twin Cities, trying to get faster and stronger, and he looks more impressive this year than he did last year. He also has some of the best hands on the team and has continued making the kinds of catches in traffic he was making during the Vikings' minicamp.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks worked in the same order today, with Cassel running the first team, Bridgewater the second team and Christian Ponder the third. They started practice with a handful of screen passes, again setting up Peterson for a number of impressive gains, and didn't take many shots downfield on a windy and rainy day. In 11-on-11 drills, Cassel went 10-for-13, Bridgewater went 9-for-11 and Ponder went 6-for-7.
  • An odd day of weather made the Vikings' first padded practice feel more like October than July. The team started practice under a threatening sky, and the clouds opened up while the Vikings were still stretching, sending many of the fans and media members in attendance looking for shelter. Zimmer kept the Vikings on the field, though, and continued practice during a heavier period of rain later in the afternoon. In previous years, the Vikings have moved such practices inside, but it's worth remembering that the Cincinnati Bengals -- where Zimmer was the defensive coordinator the past six seasons -- are one of the only teams in the NFL without an indoor practice facility. Especially with the Vikings playing home games outdoors this season, the threshold for moving practices inside will likely be much higher.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks were more efficient on Saturday than they were in the team's first practice on Friday, though we didn't see Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder take quite as many shots down the field. Cassel again took most of the first-team snaps, finishing the day 10-f0r-13 in 11-on-11 drills, while Bridgewater went 8-for-11 and Ponder was 6-for-7. Cassel had one pass broken up by Linval Joseph, who had also batted down a pass on Friday, but he did connect with Greg Jennings on a long throw that drew one of the day's biggest rounds of applause. Bridgewater and Adam Thielen, who seemed to click during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp, were in sync again on Saturday. Three of Bridgewater's last four passes were targeted for Thielen, and the two connected on a long play-action pass late in practice. Bridgewater mostly worked with the Vikings' second team, and Ponder's snaps were with the third team.
  • With Munnerlyn out, the Vikings tried several different players at the slot cornerback position; rookies Jabari Price and Kendall James got some work there, as did Shaun Prater. Price got some first-team snaps and handled himself well. He said he played the slot corner position as a junior at North Carolina before moving back outside as a senior, so as the Vikings try to identify players who can handle the job in the event Munnerlyn gets hurt, Price could make his case for a roster spot that way. "It's definitely a harder job, but you can't put it on the back burner," Price said. "Other teams get those fast receivers in on third down. It's definitely a change-up for corners, but it's something that's got to be done."
  • Nearly a third of the Vikings' 24 completions in team drills went to running backs, and they put a particular emphasis on setting up screens for Adrian Peterson. Peterson caught one from Matt Cassel, did a masterful job of letting his blockers get out in front of him and raced down the left sideline for a big gain. By my count, Peterson was targeted with four passes, catching three. "There are times where he'll double-catch it a little bit, but most of the time, he's pretty darn good," Zimmer said. "People are afraid of his speed, which gives him some areas to go underneath or beat people to the perimeter. I think he'll be a good weapon. I think when I was in Atlanta (in 2007), he caught a (60)-yard swing pass (in his first NFL game) for a touchdown. Once he gets the ball in his hands, if it's in the open field, it's bad news." Zimmer was also impressed with Matt Asiata, who's making a strong case at the moment to be the No. 2 running back. "He's elusive," Zimmer said. "He's got a little bit of shift, a sneakiness about him the way he goes. He's been good."
  • For the second day in a row, the Vikings used a nickel package with three safeties, and Zimmer said he also has a three-corner, one-safety base look that he'll unveil at some point. "We're introducing them, and we'll continue to add some," Zimmer said. "We'll get to some more exotic things, I guess you'd say, later on in camp."
  • It seems like Norv Turner's offense will employ pulling guards more often than Bill Musgrave's scheme did; the Vikings had rookie David Yankey pulling on a number of plays. There will still be some zone blocking, but it doesn't seem like the Vikings will be as married to that style of offensive line play as they were with Musgrave.
MANKATO, Minn. -- After weathering instability at quarterback for the better part of his seven seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Adrian Peterson might be one of the more interested stakeholders in the Vikings' three-man quarterback competition during training camp. And as the Vikings reported to Minnesota State University on Thursday, Peterson had a simple message for coach Mike Zimmer: Pick a QB and stick with him.

Peterson
Peterson
"I felt like it was going to be very important for us [to stick with one quarterback]" he said Thursday. "Like I said, I feel like the coaching staff and the guys up top will evaluate and do what’s best for us. It feels good to know you have a couple guys to lean on, as well. It’s not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn’t played well, but that’s why you bring guys in, you improve as an individual and you try to take steps forward. From what I’ve been able to see from Christian [Ponder] and Matt [Cassel], those guys have done that and that’s the approach that they’re taking. That’s all you can really ask.”

The Vikings used three different starting quarterbacks during a tumultuous 2013 season, eventually settling on Cassel at the end of the season. Zimmer said on Thursday that Cassel enters camp as the No. 1 QB in his mind, but said on-field performance will determine the Vikings' eventual starter. Peterson also put Cassel at the head of the race, for now.

"I feel like we have three good quarterbacks right now," Peterson said. "Basing everything off OTAs and the minicamps, of course Matt Cassel is our guy. With Christian Ponder and [Teddy] Bridgewater, right there, I’m behind them, but those guys are looking good as well. I have confidence in our organization from the top to the bottom, the head coach. We’re going to do what’s best for our team and the best player will play at any position. I’m just excited to get started tomorrow.”

It's already been a busy month for the running back; he proposed to his girlfriend, Ashley Brown, on July 4 -- "an exciting and explosive night," Peterson called it -- and the two were married in a small ceremony on July 19.

"It was kind of funny because we were talking about going to the court and getting married and just did something more intimate at the house," Peterson said. "I only [had] like, 20 people and just the texts I’ve been getting from family members and my brothers, some of my brothers didn’t make it. It was supposed to be something small and do something later, but plans don’t always work out. I’m sure I’ll hear something from [teammates].”

As for a honeymoon? Peterson said that happened at the Starkey Hearing Foundation gala in St. Paul last Sunday.

"Met Forest Whitaker, Hillary Clinton," Peterson said. "John Legend performed, so it wasn’t bad at all.”
MINNEAPOLIS -- For at least one more year, Adrian Peterson has one-upped LeSean McCoy. Or at least the virtual version of him has.

Peterson is the top-rated running back in 'Madden NFL 15,' with an overall rating of 98. EA Sports released its running back ratings for this year's version of the game on Wednesday, and Peterson edged McCoy and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles by a point, a year after carrying a 99 rating and gracing the cover of the next-generation console version of 'Madden NFL 25.' Chicago's Matt Forte and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch are the next-best running backs in the game, with overall ratings of 95 each.

Peterson
Peterson
We got a chance to talk with Donny Moore, who carries the title of "Madden NFL Live Content Producer and Ratings Czar" -- and who might have one of the only jobs in the world we'd think is cooler than ours -- about the process of rating players for the game. Essentially, Moore and his team spend countless hours dissecting proprietary NFL film, reading updates on players and digesting advanced stats in a meticulous (and in the days of week-to-week online updates, continual) effort to make the game as realistic as possible. Their job is to distill all of that information into a player profile, rating each player in the NFL across more than three dozen categories to make his digital doppelganger behave like the real thing.

"The ratings pipe right back into the gameplay," Moore said. "We get so many requests and expectations for game play; it's got to be fun, but it's got to be authentic."

Peterson, Moore said, slipped a point for several reasons: His yards per carry dropped from an otherworldly 6.0 in 2012 to 4.5 last season, he fumbled five times (his most since 2009) and he was hampered by injuries for much of last season. Still, there's no one in the game with the combination of speed and power that Peterson has.

"Everybody says, 'What? How is he the top guy? He certainly didn’t have the 2,000-yard season (in 2013), but the overall rating is still a calculation of their attributes," Moore said. "He's a 97 across the board in the three physical categories that matter the most. I don’t think there’s anyone that has that collection of ratings. He's a 93 (in) trucking, 95 (in) elusiveness. When he’s out in the open, he’s not going to be caught. In contact situations, he'll still succeed better than any running back."

Moore said the most time-consuming part of his job is creating rookies for 'Madden,' since the game developers don't rely much on the corresponding characters in EA's college football games (which were discontinued after last season). The college game was more favorable to players, Moore said, than 'Madden' aims to be, so rookie creation means starting almost from scratch.

Vikings rookie running back Jerick McKinnon, Moore said, was "pretty fun to create," in large part because of McKinnon's eye-popping numbers at the NFL scouting combine. The Georgia Southern product bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times, ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, flashed a 40 1/2-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump. "It's easy to rate his physical attributes very well because of how he timed (at the combine)," Moore said. "How he rates on his trucking or his elusiveness remains to be seen, but between his speed, his agility, his acceleration and his jumping, that's pretty nice for a guy from Georgia Southern."

One more Vikings-related note on this year's game, which will be released on August 26: Teddy Bridgewater -- an avid 'Madden' player who reacted with mock indignation to his rating in this year's game -- is the second-best quarterback on the Vikings' roster, a point behind Matt Cassel. Moore said Cassel, Bridgewater and Christian Ponder are "all bunched up in the high 70s," and while Bridgewater was slated to be the top rookie QB in the game when Moore started putting his ratings together, his stock slipped because of his now-famous pro day, just like it did in real life.

"I had to knock his throw power down a point or two," Moore said. "I had him at an 89, and now it's an 87. I think he has the top short accuracy of all the rookie quarterbacks, and his overall accuracy is pretty stellar. His deep accuracy needs to improve. His speed rating is in the low 80s, which puts him in the Aaron Rodgers category (for quarterbacks).

Camp preview: Minnesota Vikings

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's Ben Goessling examines the three biggest issues facing the Minnesota Vikings heading into training camp.

Quarterback: This will be the biggest storyline surrounding the Vikings in training camp until head coach Mike Zimmer settles on a starter. Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have pledged to hold an open competition during training camp, though the race really figures to boil down to two quarterbacks: veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who both got a significantly larger share of snaps during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp than Christian Ponder. Bridgewater was impressive in his first work with the Vikings this spring, but unless he's clearly the best of the Vikings' quarterbacks in training camp, Cassel figures to start the season as the quarterback. The Vikings re-signed Cassel so they wouldn't have to rush a young quarterback, and in the process, they created a situation in which they can afford to be patient with Bridgewater. If he's the best man for the job, it doesn't seem likely Zimmer will wait to play him. But if he's not fully ready by the end of camp, there's nothing forcing the Vikings to play the rookie.

Remaking the defense: The Vikings committed $20 million in guaranteed money to defensive end Everson Griffen and guaranteed another $16.95 million to secure the services of defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. But until training camp, when players put on pads, cornerbacks play press coverage and there's actual contact at the line of scrimmage, it's difficult to assess where the Vikings are in their effort to rebuild a defense that allowed more points than any other unit in the league last season. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr only had a minicamp with the team as classes at UCLA kept him out of the team's OTAs, but he'll be a prominent figure as the Vikings plan to use the 6-foot-5 linebacker in several different ways. With questions at linebacker (does Jasper Brinkley start in the middle?) and in the secondary (is Josh Robinson good enough to get significant playing time at cornerback?), the Vikings will have plenty to figure out on defense.

New roles for Peterson, Patterson: At age 29, Adrian Peterson is intent on cruising along with his career at a time when most running backs his age start to break down. In Norv Turner, Peterson has a new offensive coordinator who is intent on using him differently. Peterson will be more involved in the Vikings' passing game this season, as Turner and Zimmer seek to convert some of his carries into receptions, giving him more room to work in the open field and making him less likely to take a pounding. Turner also has big plans for second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whose emergence late last season made many wonder why the Vikings waited so long to make him a big part of the offense. Patterson, who played mostly at split end last season, moved to different spots during the Vikings' offseason program, and Turner seems interested in getting the explosive receiver the ball as much as he can; general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine in February that Turner already had designed about 10 plays for Patterson. If the Vikings can turn him loose in Year 2, he could emerge as one of the NFL's premier playmakers.
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In the dozens of celebrity softball games she's pitched, like the one she played at Target Field on Sunday night, former U.S. Olympic pitcher Jennie Finch will inevitably get asked to fire her famous rising fastball in toward a hitter. It makes for good theater with the fans who call for it, and because she usually grants the request spontaneously, Finch is able to surprise (or perhaps terrify) hitters used to seeing pitches lobbed to them.

In the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday, though, Finch said she experienced something for the first time: A hitter actually asked her to dial up the heat.

That hitter would be Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who began ribbing Finch during a Sunday afternoon batting practice session. Peterson only played a handful of baseball games as a kid, he said, and hadn't played in 15 years. If he'd taken any swings since then, he surmised, they might have come when the Minnesota Twins sent him a bat as a gift.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsAdrian Peterson challenged pitcher Jennie Finch at the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday in Minneapolis.
But when he dug in for his second at-bat of the night, he again told Finch not to take it easy on him.

She didn't. She blew the first fastball by Peterson, whose Herculean hack caught only air, and fired two more to the 2012 NFL MVP. What happened next was a matter of some dispute -- Peterson got credit for two foul balls, he said "it's possible" he made contact with one, and Finch contended he didn't connect with any of them. "No -- he's full of it!" she cried with mock indignation when told what Peterson said.

That Peterson even wanted the challenge, though, impressed the gold medal-winning pitcher, who once struck out 24 major leaguers in an episode of "This Week in Baseball."

"I mean, I'm pretty confident -- I expect them to strike out," Finch said. "But he was ready -- he was digging in there. Normally, I catch them off guard."

When Finch brought the speed back down, Peterson grounded out for the second time in the game. He hit a hard grounder to third in the first inning, but rapper Nelly -- wh0's become a regular in the All-Star weekend exhibition and won MVP honors with two home runs -- actually made a slick play to throw Peterson out.

Batting second and playing center field for the American League team, Peterson soon wound up where most defensively-challenged outfielders do: first base. He tried to make a leaping catch in the second inning, but dropped the ball.

"I just missed that one," he said.

Peterson said he enjoyed the experience -- which had him on a team with Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise and retired slugger Jim Thome, among others -- and got a raucous ovation from the Target Field crowd when he was introduced before the game. His swings and misses against Finch also drew the biggest laughs of the night.

"I said, 'Don't take it easy on me. I want you to come with a fastball,' " Peterson said. "She said, 'What else?' I said, 'Changeup.' Initially, I thought she was going to continue to throw them underhand, but she saw I was serious."

Said Finch: "He kept saying, 'You've got to bring it. You've got to bring it.' So, I brought it."

You'll have the opportunity to judge for yourself whether Peterson made any contact in his at-bat; the game airs on Monday night after the Home Run Derby on ESPN.

Vikings' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:00
PM ET
Over the next three seasons, as the Minnesota Vikings begin the tenure of head coach Mike Zimmer, play in two home stadiums and likely wind down the days of Adrian Peterson's prime, the key to their success will be finding some stability at a position where they haven't enjoyed much of it in the last decade.

Bridgewater
Other than two seasons with Brett Favre, the Vikings' quarterback position has essentially been in a state of flux since Daunte Culpepper was traded to Miami following the 2005 season. Since then, the Vikings haven't had a quarterback start 16 games in back-to-back seasons. Even when Favre was at the helm, the Vikings knew they needed a long-term solution at quarterback. Now that they have Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, much of their future success will hinge on the rookie's development.

Bridgewater figures to start training camp behind Matt Cassel, though he'll get a shot to win the job before the season. Even if he sits on the bench for much of 2014, though, Bridgewater will likely be the starter by the time the Vikings open their new stadium in 2016. Assuming he claims the job sometime in the near future, the first-round pick will have to develop quickly if the Vikings want to make the most of Peterson's remaining years as one of the league's best running backs.

Peterson turned 29 in March and will likely see a larger role in the passing game as the Vikings seek to find more balance on offense than they had under coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. That means the quarterback, not Peterson, will likely be the focal point of the Vikings' offense, and eventually it will put the burden on Bridgewater's shoulders to carry the Vikings.

The rookie was impressive during OTAs and the Vikings' mandatory minicamp, though it's hard to accurately assess his progress in such a controlled setting. When he is ready to play, though, Bridgewater will have a clear charge: He'll be asked to create a foundation for the Vikings at the most important position in the game.

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