Defensive end Brian Robison, cornerback Jabari Price and tight end Kyle Rudolph weren’t practicing during the portion of practice open to reporters this afternoon.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury, and guard Vladimir Ducasse, who missed last week’s game because of a knee injury, were back in pads.
Cornerback Josh Robinson, who played last week despite being questionable because of an ankle injury, appeared to be limited toward the end of the open period.
Rudolph, who is recovering from hernia surgery, was running off to the side of the practice field.
We’ll have updates when the official injury report is released after practice.
Quarterback Matt Cassel made an appearance in the open locker room today and was in much better spirits than he was five weeks ago, when he said he was “devastated” his season was over.
Cassel was all smiles when he scooted into the locker room, his surgically-repaired left foot still elevated on a cart, and he acknowledged it took a little time for him to come to grips with his injury.
“Anytime you have an injury and you’re out for a substantial amount of time, especially since this has been the longest I’ve been out at any time during my career, being out for the season,” the veteran said, “it’s always difficult at first. I think you try to find different ways to still be involved.”
Cassel attends meetings and will point out things to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“I think Teddy’s done a tremendous job in a difficult situation,” Cassel said.
He also asked the coaching staff for projects to work on, such as a review of their red-zone offense.
“Oh, I miss it. Anytime you get something taken away, especially your job, it’s always difficult,” he said. “But I’m staying involved. I’m coming in every single day. I’ve been in meetings every day. That part has kept my moral high. I’ve spent a little extra time with the family. That’s been great. But at the same time, you definitely miss the competitiveness of being out there on a daily basis and Sunday.”
Cassel said his recovery is going well. The shattered bones in his foot are healing. And in a couple of weeks, the three wires that were inserted into his foot to keep some of the bones in place will be removed, allowing him to start walking and perhaps by the end of the season throwing footballs.
Cassel has even found a silver lining with the wires that are sticking out of his foot.
“So for Halloween, I think it would probably be a pretty good look,” he joked.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fielded questions Wednesday about his similarity to Washington QB Robert Griffin III, politely brushing the notion aside while complimenting the playmaking ability a healthy Griffin has. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer fielded similar questions about the two QBs, saying he prefers not to make comparisons at all.
That’s good because the two QBs couldn’t really be much different. Yes, they were both first-round draft picks. Yes, they both happen to be black — a similarity that should matter zero when it comes to comparisons.
Griffin is a magnificent athlete — so much so that Washington rode his unique gifts and an unconventional read-option offense to the playoffs in his 2012 rookie season. He can be a good pocket passer, too, but the threat of him running is the thing that gives him the biggest edge.
Bridgewater is a classic pro-style passer who is nimble enough in the pocket to buy himself time and can run when he has to, but in his past two starts he has run a total of two times. (Griffin, by contrast, has averaged 7 rushing attempts per game in his career). He’s a good athlete — all QBs are, to some extent — but he does not rely on athletic gifts to succeed. Rather, his game is built around accuracy and being able to read defenses, skills that will take some time to build in the NFL.
As a matter of fact, he more closely resembles a different Washington QB in terms of his skill set: Colt McCoy. Yes, Bridgewater should have a higher ceiling and was a first-round pick compared to McCoy’s third round selection, but if you compare the scouting reports from NFL.com on the two pre-draft, it’s uncanny:
Bridgewater: A calculated, football-smart, precision-matchup rhythm passer, Bridgewater would be best suited entering a warm-weather or dome environment such as those most common in the South divisions. Would stand to benefit heavily from operating a short, dink-and-dunk rhythm passing game. Compensates for a lack of elite arm talent and prototype measureables with the intangibles and football intelligence that could elevate the other 52 players around him.
McCoy: McCoy is a natural leader with high character. Played with a lot of intelligence in Texas’ system which he mastered. Was extremely productive. Possesses a quick release. Displays great accuracy in the short passing game and puts the ball in a position to set up his receivers for run after the catch. Has the foot-speed to avoid the rush and buy extra time. … McCoy lacks a cannon for an arm. Can fit the ball into spots on intermediate routes at times but will struggle with the deep ball.
It’s unclear whether McCoy — who was quite good for Washington in Monday’s upset over Dallas — or Griffin will play Sunday against the Vikings. Our best guess, on a short week and after a strong game, is McCoy starts and Griffin gets another week to heal. If it is Bridgewater vs. McCoy, you’ll see two very similar QBs — far more so than if it’s Bridgewater vs. Griffin.
We’ve been accused in years past of having an overly optimistic view of the Timberwolves going into seasons, only to see great expectations (or, let’s face it, even modest ones) blow up in another lost season. This optimism even explains the piece of art you see with this post; friends say our annual “the Wolves could be better this season” blog season preview is a good reminder to check your smoke detector batteries.
As such, we’re trying something a little new this season: tempered realism. We’ll let the Wolves try to exceed our modest expectations. Under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the way to get ahead in 2014. As such, here are five things we think about this year’s team:
1) In the long run, we think the Wolves are better off having made the Kevin Love trade. We don’t think he could be the No. 1 player on a great team, and we don’t think the Wolves could have added anyone better than him without trading him. So we stand by this post from a few months ago: David Kahn, in botching Love’s contract, quite possibly saved the Wolves. It forced them to trade Love in his youthful prime, and we can’t imagine ever getting a better haul than what Flip Saunders achieved this offseason.
2) That said, we most definitely think there will be a drop-off in victories this season from last year. Our gut says even when you factor in all the close losses last season, Love was worth an extra 10 victories from last year to this one. So we’re saying this year’s Wolves are a 30-win team.
3) While including Thad Young in the Love trade could be construed as a sign the Wolves aren’t fully committed to a rebuild (they could have had a future first-round pick instead), we do like what Saunders is doing with the roster. Having a few veterans sprinkled in with all this youth is a good thing, in our mind, and it was encouraging to hear Saunders talk after the Wolves cut J.J. Barea about the move being geared toward the future and not wanting to give up on a promising young player like Glenn Robinson III instead.
4) Of all the young players on the roster, we think Zach LaVine will need the longest leash when it comes to figuring out just how good he is. LaVine is a great athlete, but his freshman year at UCLA was nothing special. Sounds a lot like Russell Westbrook (3.4 ppg, less than 1 rebound and assist per game as a UCLA freshman). We’re not saying LaVine is the next Westbrook. That would be crazy. But this was a pick that will take a couple of years to judge.
5) The Wolves should have a pretty nice bench this season. We look at their roster and see a lot of useful players and not a ton of roster filler. The downside is we’re not sure the starting five will be all that much better than the next five. We’re also not entirely sure how this team is going to score points on a nightly basis, which is half of the object of the game, but we certainly foresee this being a more motivated team and a better defensive team than in the Rick Adelman years. Maybe that adds up to a few more close wins. Maybe the youth comes together more quickly than we think. For now, though, 30 wins is our guess. But check those batteries anyway.
Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr has been named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave the Vikings a 19-13 overtime victory Sunday.
Barr, the ninth overall pick in May’s NFL draft, recorded eight tackles and a sack in the win. And on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, he forced a fumble after a catch by Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scooped it up and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.
Barr is the first Vikings player to win the Defensive Player of the Week award since cornerback Antoine Winfield in 2010 and the first Vikings rookie to win since cornerback Cedric Griffin in 2006.
Barr is the sixth rookie linebacker to win the award since 2006. The others were DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly. That’s pretty good company right there.
Barr ranks second on the Vikings with 54 tackles this season and his three sacks are tied for third on the team. He has forced one fumble and recovered three of them, which is tied for the NFL lead.