Matt Kalil knew he was struggling earlier this season. Through the first three games, the Vikings left tackle had allowed a league-high 14 pressures and he got beaten for a pair of sacks in a Week 3 loss to the Patriots. Kalil knew his opponents could sense that his confidence was waning a little bit.
“At left tackle, you get beat and you get down on yourself, those guys smell that blood,” Kalil said.
After the Patriots game, Kalil got a phone call from his brother, Ryan, a center for the Panthers. Ryan knew his younger brother would be down after that performance and called to offer support.
The words of wisdom from afar helped, but more importantly, Matt Kalil said he cleared a mental roadblock that had been affecting his play. Kalil had offseason knee surgery, forcing him to miss OTAs. He said he was “probably still lagging a little bit” in training camp and the preseason and did not play up to his expectations. When Week 1 rolled around, he still wasn’t feeling like himself.
“I’d get beat because I wasn’t back to where I was. My confidence kind of diminished a little bit,” Kalil said. “But I’ve had a few good games in a row now. I’m building that confidence back up.”
In the past two weeks, Kalil allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and four hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. The five total pressures are still not ideal for a blind-side protector. But the numbers suggest Kalil, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2012, may be heading back in the right direction.
“[It was] just a mental thing. My knee is fine,” Kalil said. “I just had to get past that block and once I did, it’s kind of getting a little easier now. And that’s a good thing.”
Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson participated in Tuesday’s practice after his arrest over the weekend.
“Business as usual,” Johnson said.
Johnson has been advised by his agent and attorney not to discuss the early Sunday morning incident at Seven steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis, where the 30-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing early Sunday morning.
“For me, I just feel like people in authority should be accountable,” Johnson repeatedly stated. “If they do something negligent, they should be accountable just like anyone else.”
Johnson would not go into detail about the statement. He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct.17. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said the arrest shouldn’t impact Johnson’s status for Sunday’s home game against the Lions.
The window dressing suggests the Twins want to interview candidates who are not currently within the organization, such as John Russell, Torey Luvollo and Chip Hale (though Russell and Hale have previous ties to the Twins). The smart money remains that they pick someone from within, like Paul Molitor or Doug Mientkiewicz.
It sounds like it could be a while until anyone is picked, which gives us a chance to hit the pause button and say this: there is no specific “type” of manager or coach in big-time sports that is better than another. It’s all about matching the right person to the right situation. For evidence, let’s look at five local teams:
The Gophers football team hired a proven program builder in Jerry Kill who had never had a head coaching job at such a high level as the Big Ten.
The Vikings hired Mike Zimmer, a lifelong coordinator waiting for his chance to lead a team.
The Gophers men’s basketball team hired someone they believed to be a young up-and-comer in Richard Pitino, similar to what the Wild did with Mike Yeo.
And the Timberwolves went with a recycled coach in Flip Saunders, albeit one who has had, by far, the most success of anyone in franchise history.
Those are a lot of different approaches, and we dare say all five of those hires look anywhere from decent to very good right now.
The Twins could go with an up-and-comer like Mientkiewicz, thinking that someone younger could be a good fit for a rebuilding roster (much like Gophers hoops and the Wild did). Or they could go with a veteran first-timer in Molitor, similar to what the Vikings did. Or they could pick any number of outside candidates who fit a different mold.
None would immediately be the right or wrong choice, as there are no perfect answers as to what fit is best for any team.
The Vikings started off their work week with some good news.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returned to practice today after missing last Thursday’s loss to the Packers with a sprained left ankle. Bridgewater suffered the injury in the Week 4 win over the Falcons and only practiced once — on a limited basis in a closed practice — last week before the team decided to hold him out in Green Bay.
I’m not an athletic trainer, but Bridgewater didn’t seem to be too bothered by the ankle today during the individual drills we were allowed to watch. The quarterbacks were more or less warming up while practice was open to media, but Bridgewater wasn’t grimacing or showing signs of discomfort.
There was some not-so-good news, though.
Safety Harrison Smith, who has been the team’s best defender this season, was not at practice today. He injured his ankle in the Packers game and was spotted on crutches last Friday.
Also not practicing during the portion of today’s practice open to media were wide receiver Jarius Wright, outside linebacker Chad Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Wright is a new absentee.
As for the new practice-squad guys, they were all present and accounted for today.
The Vikings this morning added three players to their practice squad — including two who had been on it previously — and released quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson from the practice squad.
The Vikings brought back quarterback Chandler Harnish, the third-year pro out of Northern Illinois who backed up Christian Ponder against the Packers. Harnish was signed to the practice squad last week after Teddy Bridgewater injured his ankle and was promoted to the 53-man roster on game day. He did not play in the game and was waived the following day in the hopes of putting him back on the practice squad. He cleared waivers yesterday, and now he is back.
The Vikings also signed wide receiver Donte Foster, who made the practice squad out of training camp, and safety Pierre Warren, who spent the preseason with the Saints, to the practice squad.
Foster is a rookie from Ohio and Warren is a rookie from Jacksonville State. Both went undrafted.
Bethel-Thompson spent two weeks on the practice squad but it was telling that Harnish got the call for backup duties last Thursday over Bethel-Thompson despite only being here a few days.
The Vikings might not have to worry about trying to short-circuit Megatron this weekend.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said at a news conference today that he will “strongly” consider holding star wide receiver Calvin Johnson out of Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
Johnson caught just three passes for 19 yards the past two games while playing through a sprained right ankle. He reinjured the ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Bills and left the game.
Caldwell said Johnson could sit out against the Vikings to rest his injured ankle.
“I thought about it last week and, just kind of looking at him and just being straightforward, I’m going to think about it again this week, strongly,” Caldwell said. “So we’ll see.”
Johnson has 62 catches for 873 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games against the Vikings.