NFC North: Chad Greenway

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A look at the highlights from the first day of the Minnesota Vikings' mandatory minicamp on Tuesday:

1. Loaded for Barr: The Vikings got first-round pick Anthony Barr on the field for the first time with their full team on Tuesday, after he graduated from UCLA over the weekend, and head coach Mike Zimmer didn't hesitate to try out some of the different ways he wants to use the linebacker. Barr was at the strong-side linebacker position the Vikings expect him to play, but he also lined up as an edge rusher on some third downs. At 6-foot-4, he's taller than defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and if he can rush from the line of scrimmage, the Vikings can present a number of different looks to confuse opposing offenses, especially when Griffen's versatility enters the equation.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Anthony Barr
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsFirst-round pick Anthony Barr participated on the field on the first day of Vikings' mandatory minicamp.
2. Robinson returns: Cornerback Josh Robinson was back on the field on Tuesday, after missing the Vikings' organized team activities with a muscle pull. He was also back at an outside cornerback position, following last year's failed experiment at slot cornerback. Robinson got plenty of snaps in the Vikings' first-team defense on Tuesday, and could wind up playing in the nickel package once Captain Munnerlyn moves inside.

3. Quarterbacks look sharp: The Vikings ran plenty of play-action and bootleg plays on Tuesday, and all three of their quarterbacks had a successful afternoon practice. Matt Cassel missed just one of the nine throws he attempted in 11-on-11 and was 5-for-5 in 7-on-7 work. Teddy Bridgewater was 15-for-17 in 11-on-11 action and 4-for-5 in 7-on-7, and Christian Ponder hit all four throws he attempted. Ponder again got fewer snaps than Cassel or Bridgewater, but he looked good in what he was asked to do. "Everyone's getting reps with the ones and twos," Ponder said. "I'm not getting as many reps as the other guys, but I'm trying to take full advantage, and we'll see what happens. I don't know how long the evaluation process is going to be. I'm hoping it goes into training camp and preseason games, but we'll see."

4. Jennings impresses: Wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the Vikings' open OTA last week because of a charity event, caught four balls on the first day of minicamp, and saved his best for last, reaching out for a one-handed grab over the middle on a throw from Cassel in 7-on-7.

5. Middle linebacker plan emerges? The Vikings used Jasper Brinkley, Chad Greenway and Michael Mauti at middle linebacker on Tuesday, noticeably keeping Audie Cole on the outside after Cole played the middle at the end of last season. Brinkley has gotten more first-team work than anyone else in the middle, so far, but Zimmer cautioned not to read too much into that. "We have to line them up somewhere when we go, but I don't look at this guy is the favorite or that guy is the starter," he said. "(Brinkley)'s lined up with the first team right now, but I don't know, once we get him in practice and games and the things that prepare us for games and for the season, that will determine who lines up there on Sept. 7."

6. Safeties still limited: Jamarca Sanford was able to do a little more work after missing OTAs with a muscle injury, but the Vikings were mostly using Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, Antone Exum and Kurt Coleman, with Blanton often pairing with Harrison Smith in 7-on-7 drills. Safety Andrew Sendejo was still limited with a back injury. Tight end Allen Reisner sat out, and running back Joe Banyard was a limited participant. Matt Kalil and Linval Joseph were again limited after knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but Zimmer said he expects both to be ready for training camp.
MINNEAPOLIS -- In her piece published on Saturday, ESPN's Ashley Fox argued that the NFL's offseason rules, which were enacted to guard players' time and give them some semblance of an offseason to recover from the rigors of the previous year, have gone too far. Teams get much less time to teach players under the current collective bargaining agreement than they did before 2011. Things like offseason quarterback schools are all but dead, and coaches aren't allowed to talk football with their players until April. And now that the draft was pushed into the first week of May, there's even less time to get rookies up to speed before training camp.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Mike Zimmer
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt"We're still in the early stages of what we are learning but I do feel like as a team we're starting to work together a little bit better," Mike Zimmer said.
The pendulum swung that way with good intentions, but Fox raises an interesting point, particularly for a team such as the Vikings. Coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner came in with plans to change the Vikings' offensive and defensive systems, but at the start of the Vikings' organized team activities last week, it was obvious players are still trying to digest everything. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has won praise from Zimmer for his ability to pick up the scheme quickly, but he was missing from two OTAs, and the Vikings won't get three of their first five picks -- UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Stanford guard David Yankey -- back in their building until minicamp, since all three players attend schools on the quarters system.

"It's a tremendous, tremendous value," Zimmer said of the Vikings' time at OTAs. "The things that we get a chance to work on and accomplish, being able to understand where we are supposed to be in zone coverage, how the receivers are supposed to run the routes, the timing of everything, understanding how to play blocks, how to combination blocks on offense, the calls that we make, I mean there are so many things that are so valuable. We’re still in the early stages of what we are learning but I do feel like as a team we’re starting to work together a little bit better."

While Zimmer has said the Vikings have enough time to get everything done, I'm sure he wouldn't refuse more time to work with players, especially younger ones. The CBA's salary structure has led teams toward younger rosters, which means coaches have to do more teaching than they would with a veteran roster, and young players have to absorb playbooks in less time than their predecessors had. The NFLPA fought hard for limits to offseason programs in the 2011 CBA, and union chief DeMaurice Smith told Fox that the current rules catered to the "lowest common denominator," being designed to curb the powers of the most obsessive coaches imaginable.

The current CBA doesn't expire until 2020, so the current system will stand for years. It's worth pointing out, though, just how much teams in situations like the Vikings' current setup have to learn in a shrinking offseason window.

"I probably haven't studied this much football in six or seven years," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who is adapting to a new scheme after playing his entire career in the Vikings' old Cover 2 defense. "It's been a long time. I'm always carrying that iPad and notebook around, trying to learn and ask as many questions as possible. There's a lot of things to learn, a lot of things these coaches know that come up in this scheme that hadn't come up before. They've done a good job presenting it to us, and we're trying to learn and make it right."

Vikings re-sign Charlie Johnson

March, 15, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings will have their entire offensive line intact for a third consecutive season. They agreed with left guard Charlie Johnson on a two-year, $5 million deal on Saturday, according to a league source.

Johnson, who turns 30 in May, had a subpar year with the Vikings in 2013; Pro Football Focus held him responsible for four sacks, and he struggled at times to pick up blitzers. He'd been a solid cog in the Vikings' line in 2012, when Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, and the Vikings evidently wanted to keep the group together by re-signing Johnson.

It seemed possible the team would try to draft a young lineman, or work second-year man Jeff Baca into the lineup. That could still happen, though Johnson's contract likely gives him the benefit of the doubt in the early part of the team's evaluation process. The Vikings had been giving players roster bonuses in lieu of big signing bonuses this week, to push most of the cap charges onto this season's books, and it seems likely they did that again with Johnson. We'll see how the contract looks when the details are available, but the guess here is the Vikings left themselves some flexibility for 2015, in case a young player overtakes Johnson.

The team had restructured the contracts of Chad Greenway, Jamarca Sanford and Jerome Felton to clear an extra $1.75 million in cap space, and had just over $16 million left in cap space, not counting the contract of wide receiver Jerome Simpson, before signing Johnson.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off a frustrating season where he played much of the year with a broken left wrist and heading into a season where he was due to count $8.2 million against the Vikings' salary cap, 31-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway seemed like a possible candidate to restructure his deal with the team. Now, he has.

Greenway
Greenway dropped his base salary to $5.5 million for the 2014 season, saving the Vikings $1 million in exchange for a fully guaranteed salary. The move, first reported by overthecap.com, is the third contract restructuring the Vikings have done in a week, following similar moves for safety Jamarca Sanford and fullback Jerome Felton. All told, the moves saved the Vikings $1.75 million under the cap, and they still have just over $16 million to play with after signing former San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox, with wide receiver Jerome Simpson's contract still not on the NFL Players Association ledger.

The way the Vikings restructured Greenway's deal is reminiscent of what they did with Kevin Williams in 2013 (except the Vikings also voided a year of Williams' contract in that case). It effectively protects Greenway from being cut, since the Vikings are on the hook for his entire $5.5 million salary. Greenway saw his play slip in 2014, though his broken wrist undoubtedly had something to do with it. He will have to adapt to new coach Mike Zimmer's defense, which asks linebackers to be more active than the Vikings' old Cover-2 system did, but the change could also rejuvenate Greenway, who seemed at times like he was trying to cover for the inexperience of other linebackers last season.

Felton's base salary drops $500,000 for next season, and Sanford's deal saved the Vikings another $250,000. According to overthecap.com, Felton is also able to void the final year of his deal after the 2015 Super Bowl.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings approach the close of a busy first week of free agency, they're not done looking at possible additions to the team, general manager Rick Spielman said on Friday.

Where the Vikings go from here could take a more measured approach, given the fact the team has about $16 million in cap space left and needs to reserve some money to sign draft picks, as well as for other contingencies that could come up. But the Vikings have several players coming in for visits next week, Spielman said, and could still add to their roster from the open market.

"We'll continue to monitor the market. We'd like to still fill some holes," Spielman said. "We're not, by any means, saying we're completely finished. You don't know what's going to happen. There are some guys looking for a lot of money at this point, and a week from now, that could potentially change."

As the Vikings pick through the market, they've still got several ways they could go on defense. Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton visited the Vikings on Thursday, and was scheduled to head to Seattle and Dallas next. "You've got to go with the pace of the player, too," Spielman said.

One player who would likely be affected by Melton is defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has talked with the Vikings about returning for a 12th season but appears to be in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. If the Vikings signed Melton, they might not have room for another three-technique tackle like Williams.

"We talked with his agent a few days ago," Spielman said. "I told him we'd leave it open, but we were trying to address some other needs that we definitely wanted to get done first. There's no decision that's been made on Kevin Williams at this point."

Spielman said the Vikings are working to bring back left guard Charlie Johnson, who has received interest from several teams, and said he's fine at the moment with the Vikings' linebacker depth, adding the Vikings could use linebacker Chad Greenway in some different ways than he's been used in the past.

"I know he's played on the weak side in our nickel package and stuff," Spielman said. "They do a lot of things from a defensive side that are a little different than we've done in the past."

Vikings re-sign LB Larry Dean

March, 10, 2014
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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.

Dean
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 -- If the Minnesota Vikings aren't able to land a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft in May, one popular alternative is for them to take a linebacker -- possibly Buffalo's Khalil Mack or Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- who could help shore up the middle of their defense.

They might, however, have another option worth considering before then. The Cleveland Browns released linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Wednesday, parting ways with the leader of their defense instead of paying him $4.1 million in bonuses on March 15.

Jackson is 30 years old, and reportedly already had interest from seven teams after the Browns cut him, so the Vikings would have to decide how much they'd want to pay for a linebacker entering his eighth season. They unsuccessfully tried a similar tack with former Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop last year, though injuries were a major risk factor with Bishop while Jackson has been durable for most of his career. But Jackson, like Bishop, is well-respected around the league and might be worth a look from the Vikings, especially considering how much their new coaching staff already seem to know about him.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner were on the Browns' staff with Jackson last season, and though they wouldn't have coached him directly, they could vouch for his character and leadership abilities. Similarly, coach Mike Zimmer and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer wouldn't have game-planned against Jackson while they were in Cincinnati, but they'd at least have had two chances to watch him each season.

Jackson has been a solid tackler throughout his career, though he's historically not been the kind of linebacker you look to for a huge number of impact plays. The Vikings already have a linebacker like that in Chad Greenway, who turned 31 in January, and there's an argument to be made for younger, cheaper middle linebacker options like Audie Cole and Michael Mauti. But the Vikings defense suffered a leadership void when the team released Antoine Winfield last March, and Jackson could help provide some direction for a defense that figures to change dramatically under Zimmer this season. That alone might be enough for the Vikings to take a look at him.
INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings started preparations for the 2014 league year, they always did so knowing they would have money to work with. The Vikings have just over $100 million in cap commitments heading into 2014, which is currently the sixth-smallest cap figure in the league. With Jared Allen's $17 million cap hit coming off the books, the Vikings could plan to have money to spend.

Allen
Now, it appears they might be able to plan on having a little more.

According to ESPN's John Clayton, the 2014 NFL salary cap is projected to rise to $132 million, up $9 million from 2013's cap figure. That would give the Vikings nearly $32 million to spend before 2014, putting them in position to improve their defense through a major free agent signing if they choose to do so.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (who played for coach Mike Zimmer) and Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner (who played for new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray) could be candidates to join the Vikings. But the infusion of new cash, coming partially from the league's new TV deals, could also mean a more robust bidding war for free agents.

Assuming the cap figure is $132 million, 14 teams would have at least $20 million in cap room at the start of the new league year. There could be plenty of teams who would decide not to spend to the cap, but a $9 million spike in the cap certainly would provide players and agents with more leverage. The Vikings, though, are well-positioned for the 2014 market, and would be in even better shape if the cap figure winds up at $132 million.

The Vikings currently have just $1.78 million in dead money, which is the ninth-least in the league. They could clear more cap space by restructuring the deals of players like tight end John Carlson or linebacker Chad Greenway, but a cap figure that high might prevent the Vikings from having to redo many contracts.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings aren't likely to use their franchise tag, general manager Rick Spielman said on Thursday, meaning the only way defensive end Jared Allen is coming back to Minnesota is on a new contract.

Allen
Allen's return has seemed unlikely since before last season, when the Vikings decided not to pursue a contract extension with the 31-year-old defensive end. The team signed Brian Robison to a four-year contract extension during the season and also has to decide if it wants to bring back pending free agent Everson Griffen on the defensive line. Allen, who carried a $17 million cap figure last season and would have made more than $11 million with a franchise tag, seemed a likely candidate to move on.

It will be interesting to see what kind of market Allen finds in free agency. He's said he would retire before accepting a job as a situational pass-rusher, but he might find that kind of a job -- which would let him chase quarterbacks without playing the run and adding extra wear and tear to his body -- more appealing than he initially thought. That role would also mean a lower salary, but if Allen can sign with a contender, it might be a way for him to make a late run at a championship.

Spielman also said the Vikings could cut or restructure the deals of players who are currently under contract. Linebacker Chad Greenway, who struggled last season while playing with two broken bones in his wrist, has an $8.2 million cap figure for 2014. Tight end John Carlson, who restructured his deal before last season and saw his year end early because of a concussion, is slated to count $5 million against the cap in 2014 and could be a prime candidate for release or restructuring.

Countdown to combine: Vikings LBs

February, 18, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- We're back at it with our Countdown to combine series, looking at four positions where the Vikings need help heading into the 2014 draft. It all leads up to our coverage of the NFL scouting combine from Indianapolis.

Position of need: Linebacker

In many ways, this has been a position that's needed upgrading for years. Chad Greenway made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012, but the Vikings' production at middle linebacker has suffered since E.J. Henderson retired, and it became obvious last year they needed a dynamic, playmaking linebacker, as well as a permanent solution in the middle of their defense. It's possible both of those needs could be met in the same player.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Khalil Mack, Buffalo: The 6-foot-3 linebacker has been linked to the Vikings in a number of mock drafts and with good reason; he'd be the kind of athletic linebacker who'd make offenses take notice. As dependable as Greenway has been, the Vikings haven't had a true thumper in their linebacking group for some time. Mack would likely start at weakside linebacker, assuming the Vikings liked what they saw of Audie Cole enough to give him another try in the middle. If Mack played there, he might also give the Vikings some of what they thought they'd get with Desmond Bishop in that spot last year -- a physical linebacker who can rush the passer.

C.J. Mosley, Alabama: If the Vikings were looking for a middle linebacker, Mosley might be their best option. He's particularly strong in pass coverage -- where Erin Henderson flailed at times last year -- and he's got the size to help in the run game, as well. Mosley sustained a nasty knee injury in the 2012 BCS National Championship, and dislocated his elbow last year, but if he shows himself healthy enough to merit first-round consideration, he could get a strong look from the Vikings at No. 8. General manager Rick Spielman has also talked about the possibility of trading back for more picks, and if the Vikings did that, they might still be able to get Mosley at, say, No. 10 or 12.

Anthony Barr, UCLA: He could be gone by the time the Vikings pick at No. 8, particularly if there's a team that sees him being able to bulk up enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but he'd be another strong option at outside linebacker. Barr is 6-4 and nearly 250 pounds, so he'd certainly have the size to be an imposing outside linebacker. His best fit could be with a team looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but Barr's pass-rushing skills could make him an attractive fit in the Vikings' scheme, as well.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the linebackers.

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.
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the simplistic terms, the Minnesota Vikings went from a soft-spoken father figure who rarely showed any signs of anger on the sideline to a demonstrative, fiery head coach with a strong command of four-letter vocabulary. Their switch from Leslie Frazier to Mike Zimmer could be viewed in terms of one of the most reliable cliches in coaching -- that when a team fires a coach, it always hires the opposite of what it just had -- but that makes it hard to know what to do with this:

When the Vikings fired Frazier, numerous players talked about what he'd meant to their lives, and running back Adrian Peterson -- who'd campaigned for the Vikings to keep Frazier -- was so upset he wouldn't talk to reporters about it until we caught up with him this week. Zimmer comes to Minnesota with an equally fierce adoration from the players he's coached, and retired linebacker Scott Fujita -- who was one of the game's most perceptive and thoughtful players -- penned this ode to Zimmer for Fox Sports.

[+] EnlargeMike Zimmer
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsMike Zimmer will bring a different coaching style to Minnesota than the one the Vikings had under Leslie Frazier.
That's as impassioned an homage to a coach as I've seen a player write, and in it, Fujita raises a good point: The definition of what constitutes a "players' coach" is probably too simple.

"I honestly don’t even know what a players’ coach is and in the past few days, I’ve read reports that describe Zimmer as such," he writes. "Well if being a players’ coach means that the players have a long leash, and that the coach 'takes care of his guys' and is quick to throw them a bone, then I don’t know if I’d describe Zim that way. I think the more important questions about whether someone is a players’ coach should be this: Do his guys want to play for him? When he stands in front of the room, do they respect him and respond to him? Is he able to reach his players? From personal experience, I can answer yes to each of those questions as it relates to Mike Zimmer."

The funny thing is, I'd say Frazier got the same response out of his locker room. The success of coaches like Tony Dungy -- under whom Frazier worked in Indianapolis -- has done plenty to break down the stereotype of how a football coach has to behave, and from what I've heard players say about Zimmer, he doesn't necessarily fit into the typical hard-headed disciplinarian mode, either. He'll likely be louder, more blunt and more direct with criticism, but he also seems to exude a passion for the game that players love.

Can both approaches be effective? Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who played for Kirk Ferentz (a Bill Belichick disciple) in college, had Mike Tomlin as his first defensive coordinator and spent the last seven years with Frazier, says yes.

"I think all different styles can work," Greenway said. "You see guys from Tony Dungy to Belichick to (Bill) Parcells all win in different ways. It's more about who can get results. A change was made, and it'll be a different approach. I hope that breeds success. We'll get a new system with a little bit different style, and hopefully it leads to wins."

Both defensive end Brian Robison and fullback Jerome Felton had close friends who'd played for Zimmer and raved about him; Robison talked with Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who had Zimmer as his first defensive coordinator, and Felton spoke with Bengals safety Taylor Mays, who played for Zimmer the past three seasons. Both got the same report on Zimmer: Tough, profane, emotional and direct, both with criticism and praise.

Felton, who loved playing for Frazier, sounded particularly optimistic about that last trait.

"One of the most stressful parts about the NFL is wondering where you stand," Felton said. "If you can get an idea of where you stand, gives you a chance to know what you need to work on. You can just focus on football, rather than wondering, 'What’s going on? Why is this the situation happening?' When everybody asks what you want from a coach, I always talk about being an authentic person."

If there's going to be a major difference between Frazier and Zimmer -- both former Bengals defensive coordinators under Marvin Lewis -- it might be more in the scheme than anything else. The days of Frazier's Tampa-2 scheme are probably gone; Zimmer hasn't blitzed much more than Frazier in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information, but he's been known to play more aggressive man coverage and use a number of different stunts to get his defensive linemen to the quarterback.

He coached in a 3-4 under Parcells, but has largely used a 4-3 scheme over the years, and Greenway expects the Vikings will stay with something similar to the 4-3 defense Zimmer called in Cincinnati.

"It's not that Coach Frazier and his ways can't win. It just wasn't working for us last year," Greenway said. "A new scheme, to a point, will be refreshing, and I hope, successful."

The Frazier-vs.-Zimmer comparison will be done ad nauseam in the coming weeks, but the NFL has a wider scope of coaching personalities today than it probably ever has. If Zimmer succeeds in Minnesota, it won't be because he's the opposite of what the Vikings had before. It will be because he can maximize what they have now.

"It's my first time going through a true coaching change, after Leslie taking over for Brad (Childress in the middle of 2010)," Greenway said. "It will be a lot of new things. That's not bad; it's just new and different."
MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Minnesota Vikings do plan to fire coach Leslie Frazier this week, they might first have to hear a counter-argument from their franchise player.

Peterson
Peterson
Running back Adrian Peterson said again that on Monday he plans to talk to Vikings ownership, adding he's already told the Wilf family he wants to see Frazier stay as the coach. The Vikings have reportedly been considering candidates to replace Frazier, whose contract expires after next season and who has a 21-33-1 record as the Vikings coach.

Several prominent players -- Peterson, defensive tackle Kevin Williams, defensive end Brian Robison, linebacker Chad Greenway, and quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder among them -- supported Frazier after the game, but Peterson was the boldest in backing the coach.

"He's just a man of God, first off. Great coach," Peterson said. "When you sit there and you listen to him talk and not do it every time we're in meetings, you're always gaining great knowledge from him. You've just got to be able to hold on to that and really listen and understand where he comes from. A lot of people like the rah-rah type guy. I'm more about words and what's being said. No matter how it's said, you can hold on to it and learn from it. He does a great job of being a teacher. I feel like that's what this organization needs."

Peterson also said he plans to be more involved in staying on top of the moves the front office is making, stating his feelings about what the Vikings need and hearing the team's plans for the future. He'll be 29 before next season, and though Peterson said on Sunday he plans on "being the best" well into his 30s, he's also clearly aware that his prime won't last forever. If the Vikings do fire Frazier, it will be very interesting to see how the move plays with Peterson.

Asked if he thought he could convince ownership to keep Frazier, Peterson said, "I hope so," before adding with a laugh, "But I don't want all the pressure on me.

"I hope that's that not the case (that the decision has already been made)," Peterson said. "He's a great coach, and I would love to see him stay around."
It stands, at least for a few more weeks, as a monument to sports’ unvarnished past, when stadiums were less about modernistic flourishes (Club seating! Craft beers! TV monitors in every seat!) and more about the games played inside them.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was built first and foremost to house a lot of them -- it is the only U.S. venue to host a Super Bowl, a Final Four, an MLB All-Star Game and a World Series, and in 1989, it was home to three professional teams and a college football team. It had the utility, and the feel, of one of those giant retailer warehouses where you can stock up on jumbo rolls of toilet paper, buy a box of frozen pizzas and find a new set of tires for your car. Its best structural thrills were cheap -- exiting the stadium with a rush of wind at your back as air from the pressurized roof left the building, and watching baseballs ping-pong off the plastic, right-field wall nicknamed "the Hefty Bag" -- but damned if the Metrodome wasn't going to show you a noisy, greasy, rollicking good time.

It managed to do that mostly because of the moments it staged for 31 years. The Fab Five’s first Final Four happened here, five months after Jack Buck immortalized Kirby Puckett’s 1991 World Series Game 6 walk-off homer (“And we’ll see ya ... tomorrow night!”) and Jack Morris threw a 10-inning shutout the next night in Game 7. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway saw his first baseball game in August of that year, and won a Big Ten championship with the Iowa Hawkeyes 11 years later, when the team’s fans tore down the goalposts after a win against the Minnesota Gophers -- and tried to make off with them through the Metrodome’s revolving doors.

[+] EnlargeJack Morris
AP Photo/Mark Duncan, FileJack Morris threw one of the great games in baseball history on Oct. 26, 1991 in the Metrodome when he shut out Atlanta for 10 innings in a 1-0 victory by the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series.
“We’re good at winning games, but not smart enough to open the doors,” Greenway quipped.

And in 32 seasons, some of the NFL’s most remarkable plays happened under the Dome’s Teflon-coated roof. Tony Dorsett ran for an NFL-record 99-yard touchdown in the Metrodome’s first “Monday Night Football” appearance on Jan. 3, 1983. Adrian Peterson broke the league’s single-game rushing record with 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007, the same day San Diego’s Antonio Cromartie ran a short field goal back 109 yards for a touchdown. Gus Frerotte hit Bernard Berrian for a 99-yard touchdown on Nov. 30, 2008, and just two months ago, on Oct. 27, Cordarrelle Patterson set a NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return against the Green Bay Packers, giving the Dome one more historic play in its final season.

I was born in the Twin Cities, and have been watching games at the Metrodome since I was 8 years old and my parents moved our family back to Minnesota after four years in San Diego (that's right -- my dad willingly chose a job transfer out of the finest weather in America and back to a city where it snowed in eight consecutive months from October 2012 to May 2013. As trades involving Minnesota go, this one was only slightly less perplexing than the Herschel Walker deal).

My first trip to the Dome was for a Twins game in August 1991 -- a day before Greenway's, it turns out. The outfield seats were cheap, if not particularly good; we needed binoculars to see home plate, and in that game and many others, my sister would commandeer the binoculars to look for the guy selling the $2 malt cups once the game got out of hand.

The years to come brought trips to the Dome for different reasons. During my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, a couple buddies and I each bought full-season, upper-deck Twins ticket packages for $160 (binoculars not included), and made regular pilgrimages to the stadium for Dollar Dog Night, which, for three college freshmen, was both a bargain and a venue for competition. We saw the Atlanta Braves come to town for the first time since the 1991 World Series, and watched the Twins beat them in what felt like Game 8 -- Cristian Guzman doubled off the Hefty Bag with two out in the 15th inning, and sloth-like catcher Tom Prince scored all the way from first to beat a tag at the plate, sending the three of us out into the pouring rain, taking off our shirts and whipping them above our heads as we sprinted back to our cars. But I was already wet before our euphoric exit from the building; the same deluge outside caused the roof to leak, which meant I spent the 14th-inning stretch with drops of rain falling on my head.

I saw Dwyane Wade and Brandin Knight trade coast-to-coast drives in a wonderful Sweet 16 game between Marquette and Pittsburgh in 2003, sitting with my cousins and my uncle in seats that initially belonged to Ray Romano (it's a long story). And while the Vikings are warning fans not to lift souvenirs from the Metrodome on Sunday, I've already got one, courtesy of the Gophers' collapse during the first game of Tim Brewster's disastrous tenure as the football coach. I had a hunch Brewster was nothing more than a slick-talking salesman, and when the Gophers lost in overtime to Bowling Green on an elementary, flood-right play, reality hit my friends, too, and one of them took it out on the plastic cupholders affixed to the seats that were only pulled out for football games, stomping on it until it broke off.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Genevieve RossAdrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards in the regular-season finale last year at the Metrodome, sending the Vikings to the playoffs.
The Vikings memories are vivid, too; mustering up the courage to talk to Emmitt Smith when I was a stringer for the Associated Press in college, sitting in the auxiliary press box and watching Randy Moss flip a no-look lateral over his head to Moe Williams for an incredible hook-and-ladder touchdown in 2003, and covering the climax of Peterson's remarkable 2,097-yard season, when he ran for 199 yards in the Vikings' season-ending, playoff-clinching 37-34 victory against the Packers a year ago.

A few of these memories, I suppose, have something to do with the Dome and its idiosyncrasies, but most of them are about the great players who competed there and the drama they created on the field. That will always be true of sports stadiums, no matter how fancy their accoutrements or how many first-of-their-kind boasts their architects can make. Someday, too, the Vikings' new $975 million palace will be out of date, marked for extinction by the people who are now pining for its grand opening. And in the end, probably sometime in the middle of this century, all that will be left from that place are the memories of grand performers and unforgettable moments.

The Dome got that, on as deep of a level as an inanimate object can. It stood on ceremony for no one, welcomed everyone, and let them witness a little bit of everything -- some good teams, some bad teams, some odd moments and some historic ones.

On its best nights, the Metrodome didn't just send you out its doors with a rush of pressurized air; it urged you out with a rush of adrenaline, spilling you into the streets buzzing about what you'd just seen.

Old or new, that's the best our stadiums can ever do for us. Fans in Minnesota will be lucky if the Dome's successor does that half as well as it did.
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
Peterson
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:

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