Vikings DT Stephen Has Knee Surgery; OT Bykowski Has Shoulder Surgery

Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that defensive tackle Shamar Stephen had arthroscopic knee surgery and offensive tackle Carter Bykowski had shoulder surgery, the Associated Press reports.

Stephen was in the rotation as a rookie last year and started three games when Sharrif Floyd was hurt. Zimmer said he expects Stephen to return by the regular-season opener Sept. 14. Stephen has been bothered by knee trouble throughout training camp.

Safety Antone Exum has also been out of practice this week because of a hamstring problem. He’s been challenging Robert Blanton for the starting strong safety spot.

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon Shares How He’s Getting Set for the 2015 Season

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings

Bryan Altman at CBS in Minnesota has written a fantastic piece on how Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon is getting set for the 2015 season and what he does to prepare.

Here’s just a snippet of the piece by Altman on what McKinnon had to say:

The first couple of weeks of rehab after my back surgery in December I didn’t really do anything except walk on the treadmill. It was tough at first, you know, having that surgery and then having to get your balance back. You really have to start slowly, really slowly start working out again, and you definitely don’t have your wind anymore. You’re out of shape and everything is a struggle.

But it’s something where, no matter what kind of surgery or what kind of setback you’ve got, you just have to attack the rehab full force and eventually the results are going to come. That was my main focus, just trying to work back as hard as I can, get my wind back, get into great shape, but at the same time staying on top of the exercises and things that I need to do to make sure that my back stays good or kept feeling good and kept getting better throughout the process.

Now that I’m done with that, I’m ready to go, I’m all good.

This offseason I kind of bounced around a little bit because of rehab but as soon as I got done with rehab I trained with Kyle Rudolph out in California for a month and a half. Then I came back and we had mini camp, OTA’s, stuff like that. After that I shot down to Houston and I trained with A.P. for like two or three days while I was down there.

It’s for sure worth the rest – you can see the rest of Bryan’s piece HERE

Video: New Vikings WR Mike Wallace Talks About a Fresh Start

Minnesota Vikings OTA's

Mike Wallace talks to Pete Prisco about his exit from Miami and his excitement about the Vikings offense.

Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer Speaks at Training Camp

Mike Zimmer

We placed Casey Matthews on reserved injured, placed Josh Robinson on active PUP and placed Shamar Stephen and DaVaris Daniels on the active non-football injury. It was good to get out here and had a good little walk-thru. Guys were crisp. They seemed to have some recall. It looks a lot different than it did a year ago at this time. Guys are pretty focused and into it. I like this team.

Q: When did Casey Matthews’ injury come to the surface?

A: He said it happened during going over hurdles or something in the offseason program.

Q: Looking at the wide receiving corp, there are lots of battle. Is that one position that goes to the top of the list?

A: I feel good about the guys that we have there. We have some talent, some young guys that look like they have a chance to contribute. Stefon Diggs, I think he’s got a chance to be a real NFL guy. Adding [Mike] Wallace and the guys we had before in CJ [Charles Johnson] Cordaralle [Patterson] and Jarius Wright. Then Adam [Thielen], he has always done such a great job especially when he gets in, he does a great job. I don’t know if I really look at as a positional battle. I just look as we got some pretty good guys in there. We’re going to try and keep as many guys as we can as long as they continue to prove that they’re worthy.

Q: We saw Anthony Barr out there on the field moving pretty well. Is he good to go?

A: Yeah, he feels much better. He has had a really good last two weeks. He is not in the best physical condition right now so he is going to go through the walk-thru, he is going to go through individual, and then we’re going to go condition him and rehab him during practice. Then he is going to come back and watch. So we’ve got that with a couple guys that we’re rehabbing that weren’t prepared to take the conditioning test yesterday.

Q: Any surprises with the conditioning test?

A: No, actually we had one guy that didn’t make it but other than that they were great.

Q: What have you seen from Mike Harris at that right guard spot?

A: He went in there last year and played some and did a good job against Buffalo. He has played it in the past. We just felt like we weren’t ready to stick a rookie in there right away and say, “Hey you’re the guy.” So we are going to let these guys battle it out see where it goes.

Q: How many players do you have competing for that right guard spot?

A: Actually, quite a few. We just have to see who ends up going there and where they go. We decided we are probably going to keep T.J. Clemmings at tackle. I think that is his best position after going through all of OTA’s and minicamp. Tyrus Thompson is in there. We’ll probably give [Joe] Berger some reps in there at some point. There is still [David] Yankey and we felt like Carter Bykowski who we had in there for a while will probably be best at tackle.

Q: What would you say is Harrison Smith’s best quality as a football player?

A: He is a great competitor. He plays real hard, practices real hard, he is instinctive. Somebody texted me about him the other day and I said to them, one of the things about him that I probably admire the most about him is that he works really hard on any deficiences that he has. So he has improved in a lot of areas from last year during spring ball to OTA’s to where we are at now. A lot of it is because of his determination to work on his deficiencies.

Q: What specifically do you want Harrison Smith to work on?

A: I don’t really want to talk about his deficiencies in the media, but we talk about some of these things. I think he has improved quite a bit. I am just trying to get him to be an all-around really good player, like some of the great safeties that I’ve had before. He has a lot of those attributes but the biggest attribute he has is inside. I think that’s what I admire the most about him.

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to guys like Trae Waynes?

A: Make plays. That’s the easiest way to do it. Play with great technique. I think a lot of young guys they come in and they’re confident but they’re not sure that they’re confident. A lot of times, it’s important that they continue to develop that and don’t lose their confidence. They’re going against great receivers every week now and in practice, they’re going to be beat at times, but they’re just going to have to understand. That’s part of that position anyway, playing the corner position, you have to eliminate those negative plays that you had and focus on the positive ones and have a short memory, basically.

Q: What’s Shamar Stephen’s injury and how long will he be out?

A: We think it’s probably going to be a maximum of three days. He got a massage on his knee because it was a little tender and then he got on an airplane and swelled up. It’s nothing.

Q: What’s going on with Josh Robinson?

A: He’s on PUP [physically unable to perform].

Q: Do you have an idea for how long?

A: I do

Q: Are you not disclosing that?

A: No

Q: How much confidence do you have in Adam Thielen?

A: I think Adam does a lot of great things and he’s a guy that cares an awful lot. It’s important to him. He’s a smart guy and I think he’s continued to improve from, at least from the time I saw him, to where he is now. It’s really a tribute to his hard work, his dedication and his determination.

Q: What are you looking for from Audie Cole at the middle linebacker spot?

A: It’s a spot that’s up for grabs and I just want the best guy to come in there and do what he needs to do. Audie made a lot of tackles against that last game against Chicago. His communication has improved tremendously from a year ago at this time, so that’s part of it. I think he understands the defense much better now than he did a year ago and really the things that we’re asking him to do. He just needs to continue to really carry on from where he finished – making plays, being physical, understanding the pass concepts and the pass games because that’s such a big thing now for linebackers. It’s not just playing the run anymore or the play actions. They need to understand where they need to be in the passing game.

Q: What do you see from the guys you have in the nickel situation with Captain Munnerlyn and Trae Waynes?

A: We’ll see. I don’t know, we’ll keep throwing guys in there and keep looking at them and see where it goes. But I kind of have a little plan but we’ll see if my plan works out or not.

Q: Is there something you learned last year in your first training camp as head coach that you’re applying coming in this year?

A: I took notes last year on a lot of different scenarios and I wrote them in a book. I kind of tried to continue to do that. Honestly, I feel so much more comfortable with the team, especially the offensive guys and the special teams guys. I’m around the defense quite a bit. Being able to go talk to them and coach them and tell them things that defenses are trying to do with them like players. Just the communication level between Teddy [Bridgewater] and myself, even Adrian [Peterson]. Just all of the different things. Honestly, the other thing that really helps is that basically we have the same coaching staff back for another year, so the meetings that we have as coaches are a little bit shorter just because we already know the practice schedule is going to be like this, we might change something here and there, but we don’t have to sit there and discuss a lot of different things. We’re able to get it going and go from there. I feel more confident about the way we’re doing things.

Q: Do you think it matters staying at home versus going away from training camp?

A: With the facilities here and us having 90 players at Winter Park, it would be tough, so I do think that the situation we’re in right now is the best for us to get ready as a football team. I think Mankato does a great job of helping us feel welcome and the university here as well, so at this particular time, I believe that this is the best way to go for us.

Q: With all of the pectoral injuries that you have, did you look into see what’s happening there?

A: We did. I’ve had our strength coach research; I’ve had our trainer research. We sat that and talked about all of the different things, what causes pectoral injuries, what we can do to prevent them and what we can do to help. We’ve monitored a lot of things, and a lot of people have told us that it’s just freak luck, but sometimes when we’re bench pressing and if a guy bounces off the chest, that’s where he gets the tears. We’re going to work on strengthening the rotator cuffs much more than we have. We’re going to warm up better than we’ve had. We’ve addressed that and always when we get more than one type of injuries, and especially pectoral that is, it’s more of an unusual injury, you have to figure out. Sometimes when you’re benching and you get a pec, you have a strong surface, but when you’re out on the field, you don’t have anything behind you to hold you back. I’ve actually talked to these guys that had the injuries and asked them if they were fatigued at the time, I’ve asked them what set it was, if they were benching at that particular time. Most of them have happened on the field. I asked Phil Loadholdt, I said, “How about during the week at practice, did you bench more that week? Did you do more push exercises? How did you feel?” And he said, “Coach, I felt great that whole week.” We’ve researched it and we’re hopefully on top of it.

Q: Did you guys do all that research before Josh Robinson hurt his pec?

A: No, that was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back right there. That was kind of a freak one too – he fell on it. Sometimes, these injuries happen. I don’t know if they’re preventable but it’s my job and our responsibility to look into every possible way that we cannot have those.

Q: Do you think some of it might be from machines to free weights?

A: No I don’t believe so. I know one thing, that we’re stronger. The way we’re doing things, we’re more physical in our mentality. I changed the weight program because I want our football team to have a certain type of mentality. I want them to have a certain type of aggressiveness. I believe that’s a lot about mindset as well. When you’re down there and you hear those weights banging and guys working and sweating their rear ends off together, I think it’s important that we do it that way. Maybe I’m just old school, but I believe that.

Q: How much has changed the way you go about lifting because of the pecs?

A: We’re not changing how we’re lifting. We’re changing the preparation of how we’re lifting and some of the areas that we’re trying to strengthen more. If your rotator cuff, from the information that I gathered, if you’re strong in that area and strong in the other areas around the pec, that helps to keep those things from happening. But again, like I’ve said, with [Brandon] Fusco, [Phil] Loadholdt, Josh Robinson – they were all on the field. Brian was actually in the weight room and I asked him what set he was on and he said “second set,” and I asked if there was a lot of weight on there and he said, “No.” The other thing is the way we spot. We’ve added another strength coach here for these couple of weeks to help with some of the spotting, to make sure and also educating our football team that when you’re spotting a guy, it’s part of your job to keep him healthy. You can’t be over sitting over talking or sitting and listening to music. You’re paying attention to what’s going on here.

Q: Now that Linval Joseph is healthy, how good can he be compared to last year?

A: I have two thoughts on that. The first one is, almost always the guy that comes in as a free agent into a new system, his second year is almost always much better than the first year. And him with missing all of the time with all that he missed last year because of the injury. Honestly, he’s looked very, very good in OTAs so I anticipate he’s going to have a very, very good year. I’m tempered a little bit just because of the fact that we haven’t been in pads yet and we won’t get out there for a couple of days, but if he does the things that he’s done in the OTAs and continues that way, I anticipate because he’s a big, strong man, his body is in good shape. He came in at about 316 pounds, I believe, and he’s a very, very good athlete.

Vikings Ink Kicker Blair Walsh to Four-Year Extension

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The Vikings have found a dependable and solid kicker in Blair Walsh, and don’t plan on him leaving the team anytime soon.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports today that Walsh has come to agreement on a new extension with the team, one that will keep him with the Vikings for four more years – a deal worth up to $14 million.

Here’s the official presser from the Vikings:

Mankato, MN (July 26, 2015) – The Minnesota Vikings have announced that Blair Walsh has signed a contract extension with the club. Walsh had the best debut by a kicker in NFL history, setting an NFL record with 10 consecutive FGs of 50 yards in a season (2012) and 3 of 50 yards in a game (at St. Louis, 12/16/12). He tied the Vikings record for longest FG with a 56-yarder (at Houston, 12/23/12). Walsh started his career 12-12 on 50 yard FGs, an NFL record. For his career, Walsh has 17 FGs of 50 yards which is tied with Phil Dawson (SF/Cle) for the most in the NFL during that 3-year span (2012-14). The 17 FGs of 50 yards are the most in team history. The former Georgia Bulldog has connected on 3 game-winning FGs (9/9/12 vs. Jacksonville, 12/30/12 vs. Green Bay, 12/1/13 vs. Chicago) in his young career. His game-winning FG vs. Green Bay sent the Vikings to the 2012 playoffs. Walsh earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2012. His 141 points in 2012 was the most by any rookie in team history and 2nd most in NFL history to Kevin Butler who has 144 points in 1985. Walsh was drafted in the 6th round (#175) in 2012 and was the 3rd kicker selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. The 25-year-old Boca Raton, FL native is entering his 4th NFL season.

“I’m extremely excited to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings moving forward. I’d like to thank Rick Spielman, the Wilf family, Coach Zimmer, Coach Priefer and Rob Brzezinski for giving me this opportunity. I’m proud to be able to stay with the team that drafted me coming out of college and I look forward to what is in store for the future of this organization.” – Blair Walsh

“Blair has been a vital part of our special teams success since we drafted him and we felt it was very important to secure his future with our organization. His consistency on kickoffs and on long range field goals can help change the game for our team and we’re excited for his future here in Minnesota. This extension stays true to our philosophy of drafting young talent, developing them in our system and rewarding their success.” – Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman

Vikings Place LB Matthews on IR; Make Other Roster Moves

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles

2015 training camp has started for the Vikings, and already the team is making moves as they have started to get on the field for the first time.

The team put Casey Matthews on the injured reserve list, and also put Josh Robinson on the PUP List. Shamar Stephen and DaVaris Daniels were put on the NFI list to start camp as well.

Matthews wont’ take the field in 2015, as he’s trying to make it back from a knee injury. He was signed by the team after four seasons with the Eagles.

The “Worst Non-Active Player” in Vikings History? SI Gives Their Pick

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Sports Illustrated has put out a piece on the “Worst non-active player by franchise” for each and every franchise, the Vikings included.

The player that the author the piece, Doug Farrar, picked was one of the franchises worst – wide out Troy Williamson, a player that came with a lot of hype who did very little.

Troy Williamson
WR, Minnesota Vikings

After trading Randy Moss to the Raiders, the Vikings had a need for speed in their receiver corps in 2005. They tried to solve this problem by taking former South Carolina star Troy Williamson with the No. 7 pick. At 6’1″ and 203 pounds, and running a 4.28 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, Williamson seemed to have all the base attributes for NFL success. Except for one thing: he couldn’t catch the ball. He dropped 11 passes in his rookie season to the 24 he actually caught, and his career catch rate with the Vikings was an absurdly low 47.3%. Williamson famously blamed this on depth perception issues, and then even more famously challenged then-Vikings head coach Brad Childress to a fight after he was traded to Jacksonville. Childress’s response was beyond classic. “Do you need my reach? I’m not like a woman; I’ll give you my weight. It’s 190 pounds of twisted steel and rompin’, stompin’ dynamite. Is that enough humor for you?” Sure is, coach. Williamson couldn’t turn it around in Jacksonville, either, and left the game with 87 catches for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career.

Vikings and RB Adrian Peterson Agree to Restructured Deal

Minnesota Vikings OTA's

The Vikings announced that they and Adrian Peterson have mutually agreed to restructure the final three years of Peterson’s contract. Per team policy, contract details will not be disclosed.

“This agreement is a win for both Adrian and the Vikings and is a positive step toward Adrian finishing his career as a Minnesota Viking,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “As we have consistently said, Adrian is a valuable part of the Vikings organization and we look forward to his return to the field.”

“I appreciate the Vikings for working together on this restructured contract, which provides additional security for me but also allows opportunities for me to further prove my value to the team and within the NFL,” said Peterson. “It was important for me to continue my career in Minnesota, and I cannot wait to get on the field in front of Vikings fans again.”

 

Can First-Round Pick Trae Waynes Start on Day One for the Vikings?

The Vikings will have an interesting summer when it comes to the corner position, and one decision in camp that will be fun to watch is that of first-round Trae Waynes and if he can make it to the starting lineup right away.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote today about the competition between Waynes and 36-year-old Terence Newman, who is in the way of the rookie starting.
Here’s the piece:

No. 11 overall picks like Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes usually start in Week 1. That’s especially true when the primary competition for said draft pick is a 36-year-old.

But there are early indications that journeyman veteran Terence Newman is in pole position to start opposite Xavier Rhodes. Master Tesfatsion of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote this week that the “safe money” is on Newman starting. Last with the Cowboys, Newman been working with the starting unit opposite Xavier Rhodes this offseason. Captain Munnerlyn is expected to be the team’s nickel back.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has worked with Newman before in Cincinnati. Zimmer has asked Waynes to learn multiple positions and many coverages. The coach said in June Waynes is still sometimes “unsure” of where he should be.

Even if Waynes doesn’t start day one – he will be a big part of the Vikings defense moving forward.

Bridgewater Sends Out Warning to Vikings Fans – “We Have a Long Way To Go”

Minnesota Vikings OTA's

Second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wants to temper expectations for the Vikings this upcoming season.

Although he is optimistic, he is realistic. “I have high expectations for myself, and this team has high expectations also,” Bridgewater told Tom Pelissero of USA Today

“Right now, we’re not as good as what we think,” Bridgewater said. “We know that the ceiling is very high and the expectation level is very high — not only for the players, but from a coaching staff also. We know what’s being asked of us, but we have a long way to go.”