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Mike Zimmer Still Confident about Kicker

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November 27, 2018

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Enjoy a Tuesday notes column focusing on the Vikings.

Mike Zimmer is working with his fourth kicker in five seasons as Vikings head coach. There have been enough ups and downs to write a book about those experiences, with the latest tribulation coming Sunday night when Dan Bailey missed on two of three field goals.

“I still have a lot of confidence in this kid. I believe in him,” Zimmer told KFXN-FM after the game. “I watch him every single day. It was big for him to go out there and get that last one.”

Bailey’s 37-yard third quarter field goal against the Packers put the Vikings ahead 17-14 in a vital game they went on to win 24-17. The subject of field goals in a Packers game is a touchy one after Minnesota rookie Daniel Carlson missed three in the opening game for both teams in September.

That game ended in a 29-29 tie that doesn’t do much for the Vikings’ postseason ambitions. At 6-4-1 Minnesota is pursuing an NFC North Division title, or a wild card entry, to make the playoffs. Tight games in the fourth quarter could mean Bailey’s leg will be the difference in winning during the five remaining games on the regular season schedule and qualifying for the playoffs.

Bailey has made 75 percent of his field goals since joining the Vikings and all but one of his extra points. In seven previous seasons with the Cowboys he converted on 88.2 percent of his field goals.

Meanwhile, Carlson, who was cut and replaced by Bailey after the Green Bay opener, is seven of eight on field goals and a perfect eight for eight on extra points after playing in five games for the Raiders.

Former Viking Pete Bercich talking to Sports Headliners before Sunday night’s game about defensive end Everson Griffen, who rejoined the team in late October: “I think he’s working his way back. I think with defensive ends a lot of it is timing. Being out as long as he was, it’s going to take him a little bit, and conditionally, (being in the best shape). I think he’s dong all right.”

Griffen missed five games earlier this season. In six games he has 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks, with totals of 7 and 2.5 since rejoining the team for the New Orleans game October 28.

Griffen was a Pro Bowler last season for the third straight year but because of his missed time this fall the Vikings did not include him among players spotlighted to the media on Sunday encouraging Pro Bowl voting. The eight players who are being promoted for promoting and playing in the 2019 Pro Bowl are quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, defensive end Danielle Hunter, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, tight end Kyle Rudolph, safety Harrison Smith, wide receiver Adam Thielen, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

In Pro Bowl voting totals released last week by the NFL, Smith was the top vote getter among free safeties. Hunter was second among defensive ends.

Although the Vikings offensive line had one of its better games against the Packers Sunday night, the unit remains among the lower rated groups by NFL authorities. A Vikings source, who didn’t want his name in print, said the club is well aware of the line’s limitations.

His view is the Vikings will have to change some personnel among starters to improve. The club wanted to prioritize offensive linemen in the most recent NFL draft but their options were limited when other teams were better positioned to make selections.

The source said his team got an athletic tackle in rookie Brian O’Neill who was taken on the second round. He said O’Neill needs to become stronger and while he won’t become a perennial All-Pro he can be a solid lineman. Earlier this season Pro Football Focus rated him the third best rookie offensive lineman in the NFL.

After Sunday’s game the Vikings ranked 30th in NFL rushing with 85.3 yards per game. That is an indictment of the offensive line and the source stressed even in today’s pass-happy NFL having an effective running game is important to creating a balanced offense.

Blake Cashman and other Minnesota natives who play for the Gophers were recognized on the field during the Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium for their team’s upset win Saturday against Wisconsin. The players displayed Paul Bunyan’s Axe in front of an appreciative crowd. Cashman simulated rowing a boat, an acknowledgment of coach P.J. Fleck’s well-known mantra.

David Raih, the Packers wide receivers coach and an Edina native, is a classic work your way up from the bottom success story. In 2008 he quit a lucrative sales job to accept an unpaid internship in the football department at UCLA, per a 2016 ESPN story. The 38-year-old Raih attended St. Thomas Academy before being a reserve quarterback at Iowa from 1999-2003.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs turns 25 on Thursday, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will have his 28th birthday on the same day.

Mike Grant

Despite speculation Mike Grant, 61, said yesterday he isn’t planning to retire as Eden Prairie’s 11-time state champion football coach. With humor, Grant mentioned he gets along well with the EP athletic director. (For those who don’t know he is both the head football coach and AD at the school).

The Eagles lost last Friday in the 6A title game to Lakeville North. It was the second time in 2018 the Panthers have defeated EP and Grant praised Lakeville as the better team.

Eagles senior quarterback Cole Kramer, who plays for the Gophers next year, is the only 6A QB ever to start in three consecutive state title games.

Tonight there will be a dedication ceremony to rename the Hutchinson High School gymnasium for Lindsay Whalen. The legendary Hutch native, now in her first season as Gophers women’s basketball coach, will direct Minnesota against Syracuse on Thursday night at Williams Arena. Both teams are in the Associated Press top 25 with Syracuse No. 12 and Minnesota No. 20.

Whalen speaks to the Capital Club on December 20 at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul. Minnesota Wild general manager Paul Fenton talks to the group on December 12 in downtown St. Paul at the 317 on Rice Park Event Center. The networking group features prominent speakers, many of them from athletics. More information about the Capital Club is available at Capitalclubmn.com, or from Patrick Klinger, patrickklinger@klingercompany.com.

Janel McCarville, Whalen’s Final Four teammate during playing days with the Gophers, has been playing professionally this year in Sweden.

The Wild play Arizona tonight at home, and fans will continue to evaluate coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision to split up top pair defensemen Matt Dumba and Ryan Suter.

 

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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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