StarTribune.com

March 2008


It’s official: Vikings to open on Monday night

Monday, March 31st, 2008

The NFL announced this afternoon that the Vikings will play the Green Bay Packers in the Monday night opener at 6 p.m., Sept. 8 at Lambeau Field on ESPN. As has become the custom, it will be the first game of a Monday night doubleheader on the network. The game will be the first for the Packers in the post-Brett Favre era. (Do you think there will be a little talk about Favre that night? Guessing Aaron Rodgers will feel a bit of pressure.) The MNF nightcap that day will feature Denver at Oakland at 9:15 p.m. in an AFC West game.

ESPN’s top Monday night announcing team of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser will call the early game at Lambeau Field. The crew for the second game will be announced later this offseason.

The Vikings also played on the opening Monday night of the 2006 season when they beat Washington in Brad Childress’ first game as head coach.

Last season, the Vikings made only one Monday night appearance. That came Dec. 17 at the Metrodome. Of course, the 2007 schedule was done long before Adrian Peterson proved himself to be one of the NFL’s top running backs and marquee attractions. Overall, the Vikings finished with two prime-time games last season. The Dec. 23 matchup against Washington was moved to Sunday night on NBC under the league’s flexible scheduling system.

For those of you who live in the Twin Cities area and don’t get ESPN, you don’t have to worry. Under NFL rules, the network must find a local station to simulcast the coverage. It’s likely that station will be KSTP (Ch. 5).

The NFL announced key dates associated with the opening week today at the league’s meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. As expected, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants will play host to Washington at 6 p.m. on Sept. 4 on NBC. Kickoff will be 90 minutes earlier than the start time of the traditional season opener due to the Republican National Convention, which NBC News will cover following the conclusion of the game.

Chicago and Indianapolis will play in the Sunday night primetime opener at 7:15 on NBC on Sept. 7. That will be the first regular-season game at the Colts’ new Lucas Oil Stadium.

The rest of the NFL schedule will be announced later this month.

This will be the sixth time the Vikings have opened against the Packers. A look at their previous meetings in season openers:

Sept. 16, 1962: Packers 34, Vikings 7 at Green Bay (Vikings finished 2-11-1)

Sept. 15, 1974: Vikings 32, Packers 17 at Green Bay (Vikings finished 10-4)

Sept. 6, 1992: Vikings 23, Packers 20, overtime, at Green Bay (Vikings finished 11-5 in Dennis Green’s first season)

Sept. 4, 1994: Packers 16, Vikings 10 at Green Bay (Vikings finished 10-6)

Sept. 7, 2003: Vikings 30, Packers 25 at Green Bay (Vikings finished 9-7)

Draft party: The Vikings draft party will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 26 at the team’s Winter Park headquarters. General admission tickets are $15 and go on sale Tuesday. They can be purchased at all Vikings Locker Room stores, by calling Ticketmaster at 651-989-5151 or by going to http://www.ticketmaster.com/. There will be interactive games as well as the chance to have your photo taken with Adrian Peterson’s MVP trophy from the Pro Bowl.

For those who want to spend more, a special section called the Red Zone will have reserved seating and provide a few benefits. Those tickets will cost $70. Owners of those tickets will receive a private autograph session with a current Vikings player and free food and beverage coupons.

 

Another visit

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

And the list continues to grow.

Dre Moore, a 6-4, 305-pound defensive tackle from Maryland, will visit the Vikings on April 9-10, according to Scout.com. During that same time period, former Notre Dame defensive tackle Trevor Laws also is scheduled to be at Winter Park. Moore led Maryland with six sacks last season and led the team with 63 tackles.

The Vikings are allowed to bring in 30 prospects before the April 26-27 draft. Here is the updated (and partial) list of players expected to be in Minnesota:

– DT Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina 

– QB Brian Brohm, Louisville

– QB Joe Flacco, Delaware

– WR Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma

– DE Kendall Langford, Hampton 

– DT Trevor Laws, Notre Dame

– DT Dre Moore, Maryland

– WR Devin Thomas, Michigan State

Meanwhile, there is some sad news today involving a player who had been expected to be taken in the draft. Heath Benedict, an offensive lineman from Newberry College in South Carolina, was found dead at his home in Jacksonville, Fla. Here is the story.

Afternoon update: Scout.com reports that Langford was in town today for his visit and that the Vikings also were supposed to meet with Louisville wide receiver Mario Urrutia.

 

Looking ahead

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

With the NFL draft approaching, there are plenty of folks on the Internet who are guessing how the first round will shake out on April 26. Here’s a look at who some “experts” think the Vikings will take at No. 17 overall.

Rob Rang, The Sports Xchange: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville

Rang’s reason: Free-agent additions of defensive linemen Kenderick Allen and Ellis Wyms lessens the need for a pass rusher here. Without a monster arm, Brohm doesn’t fit every NFL scheme, but his accuracy and poise make him a good fit in the West Coast Offense.

Matt Mosley, ESPN.com: Calais Campbell, DE, Miami 

Mosley’s reason: Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson wants more help at receiver, but the addition of Bernard Berrian in free agency probably means Minnesota will head in a different direction. The Vikings desperately need help rushing the passer. Erasmus James is on the verge of bust status, and the other starter, Kenechi Udeze, is battling cancer.  

Vic Carucci, NFL.com: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

Carucci’s reason: With Erasmus James still bothered by knee trouble and Kenechi Udeze undergoing treatment for leukemia, the Vikings need an edge rusher who can make an immediate impact.

The NFL Schedule

It’s been mentioned a few places that the NFL’s regular-season schedule will be announced on April 3. However, a league spokesman said this morning that he’s heard that date might not be right and that it might be a week or two later when the schedule is unveiled on the NFL Network. Still, it’s something to look forward to before the draft.

The Vikings, of course, know who they will be playing in 2008 and are just waiting for dates and times. (Records are for 2007.)

HOME: Indianapolis (13-3), Green Bay (13-3), New York Giants (10-6), Houston (8-8), Carolina (7-9), Detroit (7-9), Chicago (7-9), Atlanta (4-12).

AWAY: Green Bay (13-3), Jacksonville (11-5), Tennessee (10-6), Tampa Bay (9-7), Arizona (8-8), Detroit (7-9), Chicago (7-9), New Orleans (7-9).

 

 

 

Wiggins wants to return — to NFL

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Former Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars near the end of training camp last year, is hoping to get another shot in the league, according to NFL.com. The website reported Wiggins has spent the past three-plus months in Atlanta training and has dropped 15 pounds. That puts him at 250 pounds. Wiggins has talked with the Falcons and Dolphins.

Sapp signs with Vikings

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

The Vikings signed cornerback Benny Sapp to a one-year deal that will pay him close to $800,000. Sapp visited the Vikings on Monday after having visits with Cleveland and Detroit earlier in free agency. He had been set to go to Green Bay but decided against making that visit after talking to the Vikings.

“This was more of an opportunity move than a money move,” said Alonzo Shavers, who serves as Sapp’s agent. “We had more money on the table [elsewhere] but this was the best opportunity and best fit for him.”

Said Sapp: “I love the opportunity the coaches are giving me and loved the coaching staff. It’s really family oriented and that’s what I wanted to be a part of. When you have a team like that you can go far.”

Sapp, 27, an undrafted player from Northern Iowa, spent the past four seasons as a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Sapp will provide the Vikings with depth and also has the ability to play on special teams.

“I’m coming in to compete for a cornerback job,” Sapp said. “There’s an opportunity everywhere to compete. I don’t downplay anybody’s game. You just have to go in and compete and the best man wins.”

Sapp could get the chance to push Cedric Griffin for the job at the right corner and also challenge cornerback Charles Gordon for a job in the nickel defense. It helps that Sapp played in a very similar defensive system with the Chiefs.

“He’s very familiar with the defensive scheme there,” Shavers said. “After talking to the coaches and evaluating game tapes it fits into his style of play. Plus, Kansas City and Minnesota practice in the preseason so they have a good understanding of one another. The Vikings knew who he was and he had some level of familiarity with who they were and what type of scheme they run. It was a good mesh.”

The Vikings also found out this morning that free-agent defensive end James Hall won’t be coming here. Hall, who was released by the Rams in February, re-signed with the team, according to the Associated Press.

Notes

 West Virginia free safety Ryan Mundy told Sirius NFL Radio that he has a visit scheduled with the Vikings. Mundy started playing college football at Michigan before spending his senior year at West Virginia.

Check out this Houston Chronicle story. Texans coach Gary Kubiak is trying to convince everyone that the fact his team signed Quinn Gray doesn’t mean it wants to trade Sage Rosenfels. But if the Vikings do agree to send Houston a second-round pick for Rosenfels — Minnesota previously offered a third-rounder and the Texans wanted a second-rounder — chances are Houston will say yes.

 

Leber pleased Frazier will return

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Count linebacker Ben Leber among those who was happy that Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier didn’t leave this offseason. Frazier interviewed for head coaching jobs in Miami and Atlanta but didn’t get either.

“I was on [the] profootballtalk [website] every day,” Leber said. “Probably four or five times a day. Just seeing where he was interviewing, what was going on. I was pretty involved, checking it out.”

Leber played his first season with the Vikings in 2006 under coordinator Mike Tomlin, who left to become the Steelers head coach after that season. Tomlin’s departure opened the door for Frazier.

“I think anytime you have a coaching staff and a system implemented for a long period of time it’s only beneficial,” Leber said. “You can really get into it more, you can break it down more. The players are more comfortable with the coaches, knowing where they come from. Knowing what to expect on Wednesday and Thursday and during the work week. It’s just going to benefit us as a team, and I think it’s going to help Leslie kind of know the players a little bit better. He’s going to adjust his coverages and his philosophy also.”

Members of the Vikings defense spent a portion of last week watching film of what went wrong last season. The unit was ranked No. 1 in the league against the run but was at the bottom of the NFL against the pass for the second consecutive season.

“Last week wasn’t a lot of fun watching film,” Leber said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement and I don’t think we’re going to do anything crazy. We do have to concentrate on some of the coverages and some of the fits that we just didn’t have a lot of time to get into last year. We ran some defenses that we were comfortable with last year. But now’s the time to really get in and massage it and really get it down.”

Asked why those things might not have been fixed in 2007, Leber said: ”I think that’s more of a product of just not having a lot of time during the season. We would play some coverages and we would play them well. But now we really get to break down just the nuances of them. A little more detailed stuff. It’s not that we were doing anything wrong it’s just more detailed. So we’ve got to use this time to focus in and sharpen up those run fits and coverages.”

 

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