The Vikings will kick off the NFL preseason on August 9 when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The game will be played in Fawcett Stadium in Canton one day after the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015, which includes legendary Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, is formally enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC’s Sunday Night Football at 7:00 p.m. CDT.
“This is a tremendous honor for our organization to be featured in the Hall of Fame Game,” head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement released by the team. “It will give our players and coaches an extra week to prepare for the regular season and an additional opportunity for us to evaluate our roster. Pairing the game with Mick going into the Hall of Fame, it will be a special weekend for the Minnesota Vikings and our fans.”
This will be the Vikings’ first appearance in the Hall of Fame Game since 1997 and their fourth overall appearance.
“We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to kick off the 2015 NFL preseason on a national stage,” Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said in the statement. “This trip will give our young team a chance to appreciate the many players and individuals who have made the game what it is today.”
The Vikings’ inclusion in the Hall of Fame Game means they will play five preseason games in 2015.
Sometime between now and the start of the offseason program, second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater plans to get together with a group of his Vikings receivers for informal workouts while also getting in a little bit of off-the-field bonding time.
While the Vikings were surely hoping that Bridgewater would organize informal workouts in the offseason, they aren’t allowed under the collective bargaining agreement to tell him to do so.
It turns out they didn’t need to.
According to quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, Bridgewater approached both him and his father, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, after the season ended about getting all the guys together.
“That’s got to be up to the players. But it’s something that’s good with a young player, that he’s taken that initiative and that’s the kind of steps that we’re talking about with Teddy as far as getting leadership and organizing things like that,” Scott Turner said this week in a phone interview. “And it’s absolutely important for those guys to develop rapport. … It’s more so not even the football aspect of it, but just team-building. It’s a very good exercise for those guys.”
As of a few days ago, the sessions had not been formally scheduled. Bridgewater and some of his teammates, including wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen, were down in Arizona for the Super Bowl. Bridgewater has also been splitting his downtime between Florida and California and may continue to do so. The group might end up meeting up in California.
“Before OTAs in April, he’s heading to California for a little bit. I might head out there with him and meet up with him and a few other guys,” wide receiver Charles Johnson said Saturday. “We talked when leaving the facility at the end of the season about getting together, and we will.”
Whether it’s Fort Lauderdale, where Teddy has been working out, or California, count on that meeting place being somewhere warm.
Not every NFL starting quarterback organizes such workouts. For example, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady put together informal offseason workouts in the past, but when I was in Baltimore, Joe Flacco did not (giving the sports talk radio guys something to fill air time with in the offseason).
It’s not a necessity, but for a young quarterback and a mostly young group of receivers, it certainly can’t hurt. Turner certainly thinks it’s a good thing that Bridgewater has something in the works.
“You see a lot of veteran quarterbacks doing that,” Turner said. “I didn’t say anything to him about that. No one did. But it was good to see him take that initiative on himself.”
We had another round of old-school sports vs. new-fangled technology last night, and — as usual — nobody won. This time it was in the NBA, a pleasant diversion at least from the typical stats war in baseball. It started when Rockets GM Daryl Morey — a proponent of using analytics and advanced stats to help inform roster decisions and other critical organizational matters — ripped TNT’s Charles Barkley on Twitter for “spewing misinformed biased vitriol disguised as entertainment.”
Barkley then upped the ante with a rant that, depending on which side you’re on, could be construed as just that.
He lit into Morey and the whole analytics side of the NBA, which has been quite prominent in the league for a while now and has been used by several teams — including the model franchise Spurs, who were at the forefront. The money quote was straight out of the “get these young guys off my lawn” playbook.
Said Barkley: “The NBA is about talent. All these guys who run these organizations who talk about analytics, they have one thing in common — they’re a bunch of guys who have never played the game, and they never got the girls in high school, and they just want to get in the game.”
At the heart of the matter, as usual, are two things: fear and a power struggle. Those with ideas that break from conventional wisdom (such as the increased use of an evolving number of advanced metrics in sports) tend to feel the need to shout to be heard over the din of the skeptical masses. They are also a smart bunch, and often they come off as downright haughty.
The old guard, like Barkley, want to diminish things that don’t fit into their narrative and often find tired arguments to beat down the “nerds” who dare see their game in a different way.
The sad part, as usual, is that the truth does not rest at the extremes. A good statistical tool/model in basketball — to us, at least — should help confirm what you see with the naked eye … or make you re-evaluate what you think you see. It does not replace the actual sweat, talent, execution or playing of games, but rather hopes to explain or project in order to gain even the slimmest of edges in player evaluation and on-court execution.
But merely trusting a data set is just as dangerous as merely trusting the eye test. The synergy of the two is where the real power lies, as the Spurs — and others — have demonstrated year after year.
Morey probably knows this; maybe Barkley, in spite of all the bluster, knows it as well. Ego, though, is a difficult thing to check. In a power struggle like this one, meeting in the middle is often both the hardest and smartest thing.