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NFL Insider: What really happens at the bottom of those NFL piles?

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 20:31
Vikings players discuss what they have seen and done at the bottom of pileups
Categories: Local

Ricky gets a rest for tonight's game in Cedar Rapids

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 18:43
Rookie Zach LaVine will start at point guard while Ricky Rubio gets the night off for the Wolves, who play a preseason game against Milwaukee in Cedar Rapids.
Categories: Local

Wild will try to spoil Anaheim's home opener; Lineup updates

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:47
The Wild, on break since Saturday, enter tonight 2-0 after outscoring Colorado 8-0 -- and for the second straight game skate in a building with a division championship banner already hanging.
Categories: Local

Gophers show off Big Ten hockey championship rings

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:23
Gophers celebrate bye week with another piece of hardware.
Categories: Local

Zimmer 'minor procedure' unscheduled, came after coach became ill

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:03
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had an unscheduled minor procedure performed earlier today and is feeling well enough to return to the team Saturday morning, offensive coordinator Norv Turner told reporters after practice today. “He was uncomfortable and he wasn’t feeling real good [this morning],” Turner said. “So, obviously, that’s where that’s at. I just talked to [head athletic trainer Eric] Sugarman and [Zimmer] is doing great and will be ready to go in the morning.” Asked what was wrong with Zimmer, Turner said, “Right now, nothing because he’s gone through the procedure.” Zimmer was doing well enough for Turner to crack a joke when asked what he told the 2-4 Vikings about Zimmer when he huddled them after today’s practice. “I told them six weeks with them and look what they’re doing to the guy,” Turner said. ” So let’s go play better and win. Right?” Greenway likely a game-time decision Listed as out on the injury report are tight end Kyle Rudolph (hernia surgery), defensive end Corey Wootton (lower back) and linebacker Gerald Hodges (hamstring). Listed as questionable are defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (elbow), who was limited in practice today after missing practice on Thursday, and linebacker Chad Greenway, who had full participation all week but might still be a game-time decision because of his  broken ribs and broken wrist. “It’s going to be a deal where they continue to evaluate [Greenway],” Turner said. “It’ll probably be a decision made Sunday morning.” Listed as probable are nose tackle Linval Joseph (ankle), receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (hip), cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring), tight end Chase Ford (foot), free safety Harrison Smith (ankle) and linebacker Michael Mauti (illness).
Categories: Local

Minnesota gets some conference-wide love at Big Ten media day

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:01
Gophers notes and happenings as the season approaches.
Categories: Local

Zimmer absent, having 'minor procedure' done

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:46
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn’t with the team today because he’s having a “minor procedure” done, according to Bob Hagan, Vikings executive director of public relations. Zimmer will return to the team tomorrow and will coach Sunday when it plays at Buffalo, Hagan said. Meanwhile, we just finished the portion of practice that’s open to reporters. Defensive end Corey Wootton (lower back), linebacker Gerald Hodges (hamstring) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (hernia surgery) were not practicing. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (elbow), who sat out Thursday’s practice, was back practicing. Also practicing for the third straight day is linebacker Chad Greenway, who missed the past three games because of a broken wrist and broken ribs.
Categories: Local

Friday (Norv Turner, excuses and explanations) edition: Wha' Happened?

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:07
A simple Google search for “Norv Turner Genius” will reveal all you need to know about an offensive coordinator with a long resume and reputation. For every positive story about Turner’s pedigree, there’s a negative article or comment in the other direction. Turner this season has already been involved in those highs and lows — a nice week 1 plan and a 500-yard outburst against Atlanta, but four weeks in which the Vikings failed to top 300 yards or 10 points. An offensive coordinator is a lot like a pitching coach in baseball — influential in dictating a lot of strategy and performance, but ultimately at the mercy of the athletes executing the plan. Here, then, is an attempt to differentiate between the things that are relevant explanations for the Vikings’ offensive woes and which are just excuses, as they relate to Turner. *Adrian Peterson: Four of the five games the Vikings have played without Peterson have been dismal. We can argue about the wisdom of building an offense around a running back in 2014, but we cannot argue about the influence of Peterson’s absence. Conclusion: 70 percent explanation, 30 percent excuse. *Injuries: In addition to missing Peterson, the Vikings have also sustained key injuries at QB, tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and on the offensive line (Brandon Fusco). Rudolph figured to be a key member of the offense, while playing three starting QBs in the first six games is hardly ideal. That said, every team is going to deal with injuries during a season. Conclusion: 50 percent explanation, 50 percent excuse. *Offensive line play: In two wins, the Vikings have given up 0 sacks. In four losses, Minnesota has allowed 22 sacks. There’s no doubt poor offensive line play has influenced the offensive woes, and Fusco’s injury has played a part in that. But if we’re doling out percentages based on what Turner and other offensive coaches have control over and what is beyond their control, offensive line play would seem to be coachable. Conclusion: 50 percent explanation, 50 percent excuse. *Play-calling: This would seem to be something Turner has 100 percent control over and therefore there is no excuse, but it’s also influenced by how much confidence the offense has in the line play, the quarterbacks, the receivers and the running backs. You can only scheme so much. Conclusion: 30 percent explanation, 70 percent excuse. Overall: Basically it’s a split. There are circumstances that have led to the Vikings’ offensive woes and hurt Turner in his ability to do his job … but they don’t fully explain why the offense has been as bad as it has been. We asked Turner on Thursday how often he has gone from being a “genius” to “not a genius” in a short amount of time. “Anyone who has coached a limited time or a long time in this league knows this is a week-to-week league, and every week presents a whole new set of circumstances, a whole new challenge,” Turner said. As of now, there have been more down weeks than good weeks. If that continues, and the Vikings fail to adapt (and score), it will be more than fair to wonder if Turner should shoulder even more of the blame.
Categories: Local

Behind Enemy Lines: Kyle Orton, Bills defensive line and more with beat writer Jay Skurski

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:06
For the Vikings Week 7 road trip to Buffalo, we reached out to Jay Skurski, who covers the Bills for The Buffalo News, for this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Skurski about the game. 1. Has the offense been more efficient under quarterback Kyle Orton the last two weeks? JS: The offense has averaged about a half yard more per play under Orton (5.1) than it did in Manuel’s two straight losses (4.55), so it’s been better, but not by a great deal. Orton, though, does have a significantly better completion percentage (66.7) and yards per attempt (7.49) than Manuel did (58.0 and 6.4, respectively), so the Bills are throwing the ball better since the quarterback change. The switch did sacrifice mobility at the position. Orton has been sacked seven times in two games, while Manuel was sacked just six times in four starts. 2. Why have the Bills struggled to run the ball with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson? JS: You can divide that answer into thirds among the running backs themselves, the offensive line and the coaching staff and be pretty close to having the right answer. Spiller in particular has a bad habit of kicking runs outside when he should just take what’s in front of him. The offensive line, though, hasn’t helped either running back. Starting right guard Erik Pears has the lowest grade at his position in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, and rookie left guard Cyril Richardson is only four spots ahead. That has made running up the middle a big challenge. The coaching staff also needs to do a better job of getting the ball in Spiller’s hands in space, whether that be in the screen game or by calling more sweeps or runs of that nature. 3. What has made the Bills defensive line so good in pass rush situations? JS: Start with the fact they’re just really good. Three of the Bills’ defensive linemen — Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams — made the Pro Bowl last season. The one who didn’t, Jerry Hughes, had 10 sacks. Mario Williams is a freak, plain and simple. There are very few players in the history of the game who have his combination of size, strength and speed. Marcell Dareus has developed into a do-it-all defensive tackle, adept at clogging running lanes and rushing the passer. Kyle Williams remains an excellent interior pass rusher, even though he’s dealing with a knee injury. Hughes has excellent speed off the edge and has come along as a run defender. 4. How have rookies Sammy Watkins and Preston Brown looked so far? JS: Watkins has been up and down. He was the best player on the field in a Week Two win against Miami, and had a huge catch to set up a game-winning field goal against Detroit in Week Four. But the Bills haven’t looked his way often enough, including last Sunday when he wasn’t targeted in the first half at all against Darrelle Revis and the New England Patriots. He was slowed early in the season by bruised ribs, but is 100 percent now. I’d expect the Bills to look his way early Sunday. Brown has been a valuable defender specifically because of his versatility. He can play any of the three linebacker positions for the team, and has done so through the first six weeks. He leads the team with 45 tackles and has a fumble recovery. He’s also taken the most defensive snaps of any defensive player on the team. 5. What do the Bills need to do to win this game? JS: Establishing the run game — which last year was the strength of the team — will be a top priority. The Vikings’ run defense numbers suggest that should be possible. On the other side of the ball, the Bills’ defensive line is surely licking its chops after Minnesota gave up eight sacks to Detroit a week ago. If the Bills can get the Vikings into difficult down-and-distance situations and bring the crowd to its feet, they should be able to harass a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road. If that happens, it could lead to turnovers — an area the Bills have had a good differential in this season.
Categories: Local

Souhan: Chip Hale realizes dream as a major league manager

Star Tribune Sports - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 00:49
The dugout was his classroom when he played for Tom Kelly.
Categories: Local

Wild must shake off the rust in return to action

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 22:36
After a little team-bonding, Wild face Ducks on Friday.
Categories: Local

Banham named Big Ten's preseason player of year

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 21:45
The Gophers point guard was named the conference’s preseason player of the year.
Categories: Local

Hartman: Purdue won't be pushover for Gophers

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 21:44
The Boilermakers are improving and will test the Gophers after scoring 31 vs. Michigan State.
Categories: Local

College football mystery: Why don't students go to games?

Star Tribune Sports - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 21:33
The U and other schools are trying to figure out why so few students go to football games.
Categories: Local

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