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Ex-Coach: Vikes Put Ego on ‘Shelf’

 

Dean Dalton told Sports Headliners the Vikings, who have already won more games than all of last season, are a “team playing for each other.”

Minnesota, 4-1 and tied for first with the Bears in the NFC North, defeated the Titans 30-7 at Mall of America Field yesterday.  During consecutive wins over the 49ers, Lions and Titans the Vikings avoided critical errors and giving up big plays, often playing effectively on offense, defense and special teams.

The Vikings are making use of their talent with consistent and steady play.  Dalton, the former Vikings assistant coach, credited head coach Leslie Frazier with creating a “culture of success” with his leadership after confronting difficult past challenges including last season’s 3-13 record.

Dalton, who hosts a weekly NFL show on Sirius Satellite Radio, said the Vikings have come together as a team by leaving “the ego on the shelf.”  He also said the Vikings could be a playoff club by season’s end.

Vikings center John Sullivan said after the game that Dalton’s evaluation about “team first” is true.  Sullivan added that because Frazier is a former NFL player, the coach relates effectively to the Vikings.

“With a playing background, he really knows what he’s talking about in terms of addressing us from a player’s perspective,” Sullivan said.  “I think he’s done an outstanding job.  We’re 100 percent behind him.”

Worth Noting 

Sullivan, talking about second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, who has thrown only two interceptions this season but six touchdown passes:  “We have the utmost confidence in him.  He’s our leader.  He’s our quarterback.  I think we’re going to do big things with him at the helm.”

Vikings receiver-runner Percy Harvin had a remarkable first quarter touchdown run of four yards where he combined speed, cutting ability and power.  “I am blessed with a lot of ability.  That’s my thing.  I just try to get in open space, ever since I was younger.  If I can get in open space, I feel like I can make things happen. It was a missed tackle by them.”

Harvin was asked what tacklers say who are almost faked out of their shoes: “A couple of them tell me to slow down, that they can’t catch up.  I just look at them and laugh and say that’s my job.”

The Vikings’ only loss was in game No. 2 against the Colts.  Vikings defensive end Jared Allen believes the defense is different now. “…Something clicked after that loss to the Colts.  We were out of body and out of character for what we do but we’ve gotten back to that.  A lot of credit goes to coach (Alan) Williams (defensive coordinator) because he was able to recognize that and listen to some of the vets, take ideas in, and hone in what we do.”

Danielle Kalil, sister of Vikings offensive rookie tackle Matt Kalil, sang the National Anthem before yesterday’s game.

Attendance at yesterday’s game was 57,652.  Attendance for the Vikings’ first three regular season home games has yet to reach 60,000 at Mall of America Field (capacity about 64,000).

Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said it’s likely the team will be playing the 2014 and 2015 seasons at TCF Bank Stadium while the new stadium is being built on the Mall of America Field site.

Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, attended yesterday’s game and said the Vikings have expressed interest in hosting the Super Bowl in 2018, 2019 or 2020 but no decision has been made about the site for those years.

Tickets for tonight’s Manny’s Celebrity Waiters Night with Chad Greenway and Friends are sold out. The event benefits the Vikings linebacker’s Lead the Way Foundation, helping “critically and chronically ill” children in the metro area.  www.chadgreenway.org

Gophers coach Jerry Kill, speaking on WCCO Radio’s Sports Huddle yesterday, was noncommittal on quarterback MarQueis Gray’s availability for next Saturday’s game with Northwestern.  “Not saying he can’t be,” Kill said about Gray who has not played since September 15 because of an injured left ankle and knee.  But Kill cautioned about Gray being ready for Northwestern based on what he saw from his former starting quarterback last week.

Here are Sports Headliners’ second Big Ten power rankings of the season: Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin,  Purdue,  Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

Don Lucia’s Gophers opened their season with a 7-0 exhibition win over Lethbridge Saturday night at Mariucci Arena.  The college hockey season begins in the early days of fall and at Minnesota expectations are for the Gophers to be playing in the spring for another national championship.

Lucia, whose Gophers play Michigan State at home on Friday and Saturday night, has won two national titles at Minnesota.  He said expectations have always been high at Minnesota during his era but social media has added to the environment.

The Gophers lost in a semi-finals Frozen Four game to Boston College last spring and anything less than an encore appearance in the finals will be a disappointment to many.  The Gophers, returning six of their top seven scorers and all six starting defensemen from last season, are joined by Boston College at the top of the early season national rankings.

Lucia, 54, is starting his 14th season as Gophers head coach.  He had health problems a couple years back but told Sports Headliners he’s fine now.  How much longer does he want to coach?

Lucia said a “few more” seasons and quipped he doesn’t plan to be another “Red Berenson,” the 72-year-old Michigan coach now beginning his 29th season in Ann Arbor.

Wally Shaver starts his 20th season of broadcasting Gophers hockey on the radio next Friday night, calling the game on 1500 ESPN.   His father, legendary former North Stars broadcaster Al Shaver, is retired, living on Vancouver Island in his native Canada and turns 85 on October 25.

Various reports have Apple Valley High School junior point guard Tyus Jones visiting Duke’s Midnight Madness practice on Friday.  Meanwhile the Gopher men’s and women’s teams will have their own version of Midnight Madness on Friday at Williams Arena with fans able to watch skills competitions like a dunk contest and team scrimmages.  Admission is free and the arena opens at 7 p.m.  A trip for two is being given away to watch the Gopher men in their late November basketball tournament in the Bahamas.

Fergus Falls High School football coach Richard Risbrudt now has 201 career wins.  In 35 seasons as a head coach Risbrudt’s record is 201-144.

The new release “Trouble with the Curve,” starring Clint Eastwood, is one of the better baseball movies ever made, although not on the level of “Moneyball,” the story of Oakland baseball boss Billy Beane operating on a cheapskate budget running the A’s.

The new movie, “42,” about baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, debuts next April but is already being promoted in theatres and a film trailer is on YouTube.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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