The Torii Hunter re-introductory news conference was mostly a smiling affair, with the Twins outfielder reuniting with his old team and chatting with former media members who covered him back before he left following the 2007 season.
Hunter talked about leadership, talked about how he can still play, talked about how his heart is still in Minnesota and generally played the role — genuinely — of a guy who has always been a great quote.
The tenor of the news conference changed toward the end, though, when St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Mike Berardino asked Hunter about criticism he’s received, particularly on Deadspin, about comments attributed to him in the past about homosexuality. Berardino also asked about Hunter’s support of an Arkansas candidate for governor who was against gay marriage.
“It’s something I don’t like to talk about,” Hunter said, talking about politics in general. “But Republican party or Democratic party, divided we fall. It’s as simple as that. You just go with the best person who’s good for the situation. I’m from Arkansas, and I know what’s there. That’s all. It has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat. Just make sure you make the right decision.”
Berardino went back at it for a second go-round, asking if Hunter will address gay marriage going forward.
“Nah. There’s nothing to talk about. You already know. Why keep talking about it? I said it. It is what it is. So, no, I’m not going to talk about it if you bring it up. It’s not even baseball-related.”
After the back-and-forth was done, Hunter referred to Berardino as a “prick.” He had a smile on his face, as he often does, but it was clear he was irritated.
That said, as we noted in an earlier post, it will be interesting to see if this subject picks up traction during Hunter’s second go-round with the Twins.
The former All-Star is 39 years old, and some believe well past his prime defensively. But Hunter and Twins officials aren’t buying sabermetric numbers that ranked him last a year ago among major league right fielders.
The Vikings will reunite with an old friend on Sunday when Percy Harvin and the Jets come to TCF Bank Stadium. And while Harvin hasn’t put up big numbers for his new team, head coach Mike Zimmer said that the Vikings have to be aware of where Harvin is at all times.
“They do everything with him,” Zimmer said today. “They put him in the backfield as a back. They run reverses with him. They run screens with him. They run pretty much everything. He’s definitely a focal point of what they’re doing.”
In five games with the Jets, who acquired him from the Seahawks in a stunning midseason trade, Harvin has caught 19 passes for 182 yards. He has also rushed for 96 yards on 17 attempts — a 5.6 yards-per-carry average. He is still looking for his first touchdown, though.
But his presence could potentially open up things for teammates such as former Gophers wide receiver Eric Decker if the Vikings are scrambling before the snap to figure out where Harvin is and where he will be going. The Jets are using Harvin in a variety of formations to try to create mismatches with personnel.
That’s why Zimmer said that Harvin makes preparation more difficult for a defensive coordinator.
“We’ll know where he is. It’s the other guys, making sure we get the right matchups and everything else,” he said. “They might have three backs and two receivers and he might be lined up as the back. They might have three tight ends and two receivers and he’s the back. He can line up anywhere.”
The last time the Vikings had to worry about Harvin was last season, when he was still with the Seahawks. He only had one catch for 17 yards as he made his return from an injury. But he had a 58-yard kickoff return in a Seahawks win. Harvin now returns kicks for the Jets, too.
The good news for the Vikings is that Harvin will at least be easy to find on those plays.
Outside linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd are not practicing today. Both players are dealing with knee injuries that were re-aggravated in Sunday’s win over the Panthers.
On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer indicated that there was no structural damage with Barr and today he said that the team will have to see how Barr’s knee responds this week before deciding whether he will be able to play against the Jets on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “We’re seeing how he’s going and we’ll see more as the week unfolds.”
Zimmer, meanwhile, said Monday that Floyd was better off this week than he was last.
Also missing practice were running back Jerick McKinnon (lower back), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring). Tight end Chase Ford (foot/hamstring) was limited.
In non-injury news, the Vikings are practicing inside again today — with the doors open, but still — even though it is a balmy 22 degrees in Eden Prairie today. I am going to try to sleep under the bubble that is helping to heat the outdoor field tonight and see if anyone notices me in the morning.
During yesterday’s appeals hearing for suspended running back Adrian Peterson, arbitrator Harold Henderson encouraged the NFL and the NFLPA to engage in settlement discussions, according to a Pro Football Talk report. There have been no talks as of yet, though, according to the report.
Yesterday, Peterson participated in an appeal of his league suspension, which runs until at least April 15, in New York. The league hearing will conclude tomorrow, after Henderson speaks with NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent, who was unavailable yesterday.
The focal point of Peterson’s appeal is his belief that Vincent told him if he went on the commissioner’s exempt list he would get credit for “time served,” plus a two-game suspension.
The Pro Football Talk report also said that settlement talks could begin as early as today.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the suspension last month, but Henderson now has the power to uphold it, reduce it or vacate it all together — unless there is indeed a settlement.