Local

Wolves' Williams knows his many roles, and he's happy about them

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 22:13
Mo Williams, a former All-Star, fills demand for combo guard and leader.
Categories: Local

Twins have little left to spend with projected 2015 payroll

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 22:07
Millions in commitments along with self-imposed payroll restrictions leave the Twins with few options.
Categories: Local

Vikings offensive line has been weak point

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 21:00
Zimmer will consider personnel changes to improve pass protection.
Categories: Local

TFD: Announcer who called Sunday's Vikings game battled with angry fans on Twitter

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 16:37
Mike Goldberg, who normally calls UFC events for Fox, made his NFL debut Sunday for the Vikings/Lions game. It did not go well.  At all. Like, we really mean it. Goldberg butchered plenty of plays, at one point confusing Golden Tate and Greg Jennings (who are both wide receivers and who both wear No. 15, but do not happen to play for the same team). Fans took him to task on Twitter — many of them not as politely as the ones we highlighted above. Instead of turning the other cheek, Goldberg unloaded on them in a series of (since-deleted) tweets that included high volumes of profanity, as noted by Pro Football Talk. The real fun, though? Goldberg is slated to again be the lead guy when the Vikings play the Bills on Sunday. We look forward to many TD passes from Kyle Orton to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Categories: Local

Mike Zimmer backtracks on postgame comments

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 16:10
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer backtracked on Monday from some of his critical statements made after the 17-3 loss to the Lions on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. “It’s not the first year I’ve flown off the handle,” said Zimmer, who has been known to speak his mind during his time as an NFL assistant coach. The biggest issue he addressed in his opening statement was player fines, which Zimmer said after the game more players were late last week than usual. Zimmer corrected his initial comment, noting that two practice squad players missed a lifting session on Saturday and it lingered in his mind. “I know one of the hot topics was this fine thing,” Zimmer said. “That was probably Zimmer being Zimmer. I was not in the best frame of mind at the time. The team has not had an issue, continually an issue, of being late.” Zimmer also called the Vikings undisciplined after the game, which he rephrased on Monday. He noted the tardiness and some of the mistakes on the field for his reasoning. “I don’t think that we’re undisciplined,” Zimmer said. “I think we can be more disciplined than we are.” He still remained bothered by players jarring at the officials, though. Zimmer said he’s warned players since the first preseason game not to speak the officials. Wide receiver Adam Thielen received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty two weeks ago against the Packers to arguing with an official, and Zimmer felt there were more people on the sideline talking to the official against the Lions. “They don’t need to do that,” Zimmer said. “They need to concentrate on playing football. And that includes coaches, so I addressed it again this morning.” Zimmer said he won’t change his mentality despite recanting some comments made after the game. He said he plans to remain honest when speaking about his team even with more eyes and microphones on the first-year head coach. “Maybe do a better job of trying not to let some things bother me as much,” Zimmer said. “I am learning, trying to be a good head coach. I am trying to learn. I’m trying to do a better job every day, every game. I’m not perfect, just like the players aren’t. “I want them to understand that it’s not OK to lose. That’s what I want them to understand.”
Categories: Local

Vikings considering changes on the offensive line

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 15:23
After quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked eight times in Sunday’s 17-3 loss to the Lions, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said today the team is considering changes on the offensive line. “We are evaluating all that and I’m not opposed to it,” Zimmer said at his Monday news conference. Zimmer, who didn’t want to speak specifically about any one lineman, said that a variety of factors led to the Lions spending so much time in the backfield, including Bridgewater being indecisive at times. According to Pro Football Focus, the rookie QB was pressured on 24 of his 47 dropbacks. “One time we held the ball too long. One time we got the protection the wrong way. There were some times we got beat. One time a guy tripped on another guy and fell backwards and the guy sacked him. It was a number of different things. One time we got stuck on a game. Some of it was guys not getting open,” Zimmer said. “It’s easy to rush the passer when you’re down, 17-3.” Zimmer, who said he stands behind coordinator Norv Turner and his staff “100 percent,” expected the offensive line to be a strength this season. But the Vikings have allowed 22 sacks in six games. “I feel like we have the ability and the talent to play better than what we have,” Zimmer said, later adding, “The guys overall are not bad football players. They’re just not playing real good right now.”
Categories: Local

Gophers get commitment from Louisiana cornerback Alonzo Craighton

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 13:59
Craighton is the 15th player to commit to the Gophers in the 2015 class, and the fourth defensive back.
Categories: Local

Wild practice: A little fun during a long wait

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 13:57
After starting the season 2-0, the Wild doesn't play again until Friday in Anaheim. The team--including a healthy Justin Fontaine and NHL honoree Darcy Kuemper--combined work and pleasure in Monday's practice.
Categories: Local

Gophers men's hockey holds No. 1 spot, women drop to No. 2 in polls

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:35
Gophers men's hockey opens season with Ice Breaker Tournament title.
Categories: Local

Monday (Can the Gophers contend in the Big Ten?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 11:23
My, how the narrative has changed (again) with the Gophers. Last year, so much of the focus was on Jerry Kill’s health … until the team ripped off a four-game Big Ten winning streak for the first time in 40 years, answering many questions about the coaching staff’s ability to work through any road blocks in its path. This year, after the Gophers looked overmatched against TCU and completed just one pass against San Jose State, the talk shifted to an offense that looked either one-dimensional or just plain bad depending on your preference. But consecutive victories over Michigan and Northwestern have re-established this team’s identity: very good on defense, sound in the running game and — this is key — able to throw enough to win. Mix in some solid special teams and the ability to hold a lead after halftime, and the Gophers have the makings of a team that can compete in any conference game this season. That, of course, raises an interesting question: Are they good enough to not just join the discussion, win 4 or 5 conference games and go to a decent bowl game … but instead legitimately compete for a Big Ten title? The schedule certainly breaks that way and allows one to dream a little. Without putting wins in the bank, you look at the next two (home against Purdue and at Illinois) and think it is very possible the Gophers will be 4-0 heading into a huge home game against Iowa (which also could be 4-0 in conference play at the time). Winning the Big Ten West will almost certainly necessitate winning that Iowa game, too, since the closing stretch — home against Ohio State, then at Nebraska and at Wisconsin — are three major tests. But even if the Gophers went 1-2 with that closing group, they could at least find themselves in a tie for the West title. Win 2 of 3, and they would very likely win it. That’s a long way to go, and it assumes a lot of wins that will require a lot of effort. But it’s not crazy to think about — nor is, perhaps, sweeping the three big trophy games (Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin).
Categories: Local

Snap counts from Sunday: Smith one of five defenders at 100 percent

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 11:19
Let’s try to find some meaning in the snap counts from the Vikings’ 17-3 loss to the Lions on Sunday … OFFENSIVE SNAPS: 68. QUARTERBACK:Teddy Bridgewater 68. Thoughts: Pulling Bridgewater for his own physical safety would have risked doing damage to his development mentally. So the coaching staff had no choice but to let the kid take the medicine that rookies not named Luck or Wilson or Roethlisberger are force fed. OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 68, LG Charlie Johnson 68, C John Sullivan 68, RG Vladimir Ducasse 68, RT Phil Loadholt 68. Thoughts: The initial thought is, wow, Atlanta’s defensive line has to be the worst in the league. Two weeks ago, the Vikings manhandled the Falcons up front. Sunday, the Lions looked like they had four fathers playing against their children in the backyard. Minus the fathers letting the children win, of course. Not having Brandon Fusco at right guard hurts. But the consistent breakdowns throughout the line has been a recurring issue for two years now. RUNNING BACKS: Jerick McKinnon 46, Matt Asiata 16, Joe Banyard 7, FB Jerome Felton 5. Thoughts: It was good to finally see McKinnon move ahead of Asiata as the starter and primary back. We’ll see if it’s a permanent deal, but one has to assume it is. Asiata is a hard worker and gets the most out of what he has, but McKinnon is the guy who gives the team the best chance at those explosive runs of 12 yards or more that are sitting on the exempt list next to Adrian Peterson. Felton hasn’t played much this season, but getting only five snaps tells us the Vikings knew they couldn’t just line up and run straight at the best defensive front in football. RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Greg Jennings 64, TE Chase Ford 53, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 52, WR Jarius Wright 44, TE Rhett Ellison 29, WR Charles Johnson 14, WR Adam Thielen 9, TE MarQuies Gray 1. Thoughts: Well, we hate to open up another line of questioning that goes “Why aren’t the Vikings using [FILL IN THE BLANK] more!?” But Wright sure seems to be more visible when he’s on the field than Jennings is when he’s on the field. Jennings typically plays the most snaps. And, granted, he’s hamstrung by quarterbacks who aren’t very good or aren’t experienced. But he played 20 more snaps than Wright and saw the same number of balls thrown to him (four). Wright caught four of them. Jennings caught three. Something strange is going on there. Patterson played a little fewer snaps than usual, possibly because of that hip injury that’s nagging him.  Johnson got 14 snaps in part because of  Patterson’s slight reduction in snaps. Patterson caught only two of the eight balls thrown his way. Bridgewater’s red-zone interception — in which the safety baited him into throwing the ball to Patterson — is a prime example of how bad an idea it is to force the ball to a particular receiver, no matter how good he is. It is surprising, however, that we don’t see more of those Percy Harvin-type bubble screens for Patterson. Ford is overlooked, but is becoming a player to watch. That’s why he played 53 snaps and caught four of the five balls thrown to him. DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 70. SECONDARY: CB Captain Munnerlyn 70, CB Xavier Rhodes 70, FS Harrison Smith 70, SS Robert Blanton 70, CB Josh Robinson 39. Thoughts: Right off the bat, the first thought is Vikings fans should be thrilled that they have Smith at a key position on defense. Not only is he capable of becoming a Pro Bowl and even an All-Pro performer one day, he’s also one tough dude. He played 100 percent of the snaps even though he entered the game with a 50 percent chance of playing because of an ankle sprain. He wasn’t at his best, but he and the rest of the secondary did some decent work. For the final 56 minutes, Lions QB Matthew Stafford was held to 15 for 29 passing for 116 yards and no touchdowns. Blanton hasn’t missed a defensive snap this season. He’s the only defender to play every snap. He’s erasing his rap as an injury-prone player. But one has to think his playing time also is a sign that safety will be a priority in the draft next season. LINEBACKERS: Anthony Barr 70, Gerald Hodges 66, Jasper Brinkley 31, Audie Cole 3, Michael Mauti 1. Thoughts: This was Brinkley’s best game. He played less than half the snaps, but tied for the team lead in solo tackles with six, had a sack and two tackles for loss. Hodges missed only four snaps after tweaking his hamstring. He said it wasn’t a big deal, but that’s an injury to keep an eye on as Chad Greenway gets closer to returning from a broken hand and broken ribs. DEFENSIVE LINE: Everson Griffen 65, Brian Robison 65, Linval Joseph 45, Sharrif Floyd 39, Shamar Stephen 34, Tom Johnson 21, Corey Wootton 10. Thoughts: Johnson was by far the most efficient with the number of snaps he had. A sack and a QB hurry in which he blasted Stafford with a helmet to the chest showed a continuation of Johnson’s comfort with his role as a nickel pass rusher. Perhaps he should be getting more reps or even starting. Griffen had six tackles and was credited with a sack that he didn’t do much on as Stafford fell to the ground. It’s a different defense, so the sack totals aren’t going to be as high as in past seasons. So Griffen and Robison are being taught to rush more responsibly. That means they can’t abandon containment or the running game while striving for double digit sack totals. SPECIAL TEAMS: Four players played a team-high 21 snaps on special teams: Thielen, Mauti, S Andrew Sendejo and S Antone Exum. Team high snap total: Blanton, 78 (70 defense, 8 special teams).
Categories: Local

Wild puts Bickel on waivers; NHL honors Kuemper

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 11:15
Stu Bickel was made expendable especially by the recent signing of Ryan Carter, who brings grit and toughness to the fourth line.
Categories: Local

Big Ten honors Wilson, Myrick with co-player of week honors

Star Tribune Sports - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 09:38
Damien Wilson was named co-defensive player of the week, and Myrick was named co-special teams player of the week.
Categories: Local

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