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Ring Not Money Excites Vikings Joseph

January 09, 2018 - (0) comments

 

Linval Joseph has one Super Bowl ring and the Vikings’ defensive tackle wants another.

Joseph was a 23-year-old second-year pro when he started for the Giants in their 2012 Super Bowl win over the Patriots. This week he and his Vikings teammates are preparing for their playoff game against the Saints, while hoping it will be the first of three tests ending with a Super Bowl title in U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4.

Each player on the Super Bowl winning team will receive over $100,000 but that’s not Joseph’s incentive. “It’s mostly about the ring, (rather) than the money,” Joseph told Sports Headliners. “You really don’t get that much money playing extra games. It’s about the ring and that’s what’s most important right now. Minnesota has never won a Super Bowl, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done here before.”

Not only are the Vikings 0-4 in Super Bowls, but no team has ever played the big game in its home stadium. Joseph believes the Vikings are a better group than the 2012 Giants. “I think this is the top team I’ve ever played on.”

Joseph played four seasons with the Giants before signing as a free agent with the Vikings in 2014. “This team is younger than the Giants (were),” he said. “This team feels as hungry as the Giants were when I played with them in 2010, 2011.

“So this is a great team. I’ve seen the growth in the last four years of this team, and I just can’t wait to go to war with this team.”

Case Keenum (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Joseph is part of an elite defense that Vikings fans expected to excel, but there were doubts about the offense after journeyman quarterback Case Keenum replaced the injured Sam Bradford starting with the October 15 game against the Packers. Keenum has been outstanding, playing a major role in helping the Vikings to 10 wins in the next 11 games.

Joseph played for East Carolina in college and competed against Keenum who was setting NCAA records at Houston. Joseph said he isn’t surprised by Keenum’s success, although some others in football are. Keenum never established himself as a full-time starter playing for two other NFL franchises. Even coming out of college he was labeled too short to be a big time prospect (generously listed by the Vikings at 6-feet-1).

“Case is sneaky really good, and the world got to see him this year,” Joseph said about the Vikings quarterback who wasn’t drafted coming out of college. “I am happy for him… because he works his butt off to get where he is at.”

Joseph said players are labeled—often unfairly—coming out of college into the NFL but that now the Vikings have “a hell of a quarterback.” Keenum was signed as a free agent during the last offseason.

The Vikings, 13-3, are a favorite of odds-makers to win two games in the NFC playoffs and advance to the Super Bowl. What could derail the team? “Not staying focused,” Joseph said. “…We know what we gotta do and coach (Mike) Zimmer is going to make sure we…do that.”

Joseph welcomes the possibility the Vikings could play all three postseason games indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium. Two years ago the stadium hadn’t been completed and playing outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium would have been the alternative for Vikings’ home NFC playoff games.

“I feel the weather (when cold like last week) is a big difference,” Joseph said. “The ball is different; you move different.”

Worth Noting

Joseph, 29, talking about how much longer he wants to play: “Until God tells me I can’t play no more. Right now I feel good. …I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world right now.”

Offensive lineman Joe Berger, 35, is a free agent after the playoffs. Berger told Sports Headliners he considered retiring prior to the 2017 season and remains undecided about his future. “If nobody (the Vikings or another team) calls the decision is easy, right? We’ll see (in) February-March, figure out what we want to do.”

Pro Football Focus tweeted that Viking All-Pro Harrison Smith graded the highest ever for a safety in the last 12 years. Smith was named to the Associated Press first team all-defense last week.

Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen made second-team AP all-pro offense. His 1,276 receiving yards and 91 receptions ranked among NFL leaders. He is only the third undrafted NFL player since 1970 to exceed 90 catches and 1,200 yards. The others are Rod Smith and Wes Welker.

With a playoff bye last weekend, the Vikings had time off and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur reportedly interviewed for NFL head coaching openings with the Bears and Giants in recent days. He has previous head coaching experience with the Browns.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. “I think he deserves it (the interviews), and I know he’ll be a great head coach in this league again. I think it’s a testament to him and the way he’s really brought our offense to a top 10 offense in this league.”

Word is WCCO Radio and legendary Sid Hartman, who turns 98 in March, have been talking contract extension. Hartman has been part of programming at the station since the 1950s.

American singer, song writer and actress PINK will sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, the NFL announced Monday.

Don’t be surprised if an announcement is made soon that two college basketball games will be played on the same date in U.S. Bank Stadium next December. It’s been known the Golden Gophers will play one game there to help the facility and NCAA with 2019 Final Four preparations, but there could be a second game, too, so watch for more.

Nancy Lindahl, who along with her husband John Lindahl have been generous donors to University of Minnesota athletics, is the 2018 “Head Coach” of the Twin Cities Dunkers. In her role she presides over meetings, and also schedules guests for the organization that recognizes and pays tribute to athletic achievers.

The Cavs defeated the Timberwolves six consecutive times by an average of 17.7 points prior to last night’s loss at Target Center. The Wolves led by 35 points going into the fourth quarter and won the game 127-99. The Wolves have now held six straight opponents under 100 points.

Minnesota, 26-16, and leading the Northwest Division, has won as many games as the 26-14 Cavs, a team among the favorites to win the NBA title in 2018.

The best player on the floor last night was Wolves forward Jimmy Butler whose defense against LeBron James was superb, helping to hold the superstar forward to 10 points. Butler scored 21, with nine assists and eight rebounds.

The Gophers and college basketball’s elite are recruiting Rochester John Marshall power forward Matthew Hurt who is among the top players nationally in the class of 2019. Ed Rauen, the longtime Rochester radio man who has seen all the state’s best high school big men dating back to the early 1950s, told Sports Headliners the athletic Hurt can be better than any of them.

The Minnesota Football Coaches Association is helping promote the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Mini-Camps for middle and high school football players during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The training sessions, covering various experiences, will be held at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine downtown.

The Gophers men’s tennis team is in Australia for a 10-day preseason training trip. The team left Minneapolis last Thursday for the 9,500-mile trek. Minnesota opens its season January 20 against North Carolina State at the Baseline Center.

 

Jim Dutcher Upbeat on Gophers

January 07, 2018 - (0) comments

 

It’s been a difficult couple of days for the Golden Gophers basketball program after losing two starters indefinitely, but Jim Dutcher is keeping an optimistic perspective for now. News came late last week that senior center Reggie Lynch is suspended from games and sophomore forward Amir Coffey is unable to play because of a shoulder injury.

If Coffey can play again after a short absence Dutcher believes Minnesota could pull off a fourth place final finish in the Big Ten. A return before long by Lynch, too, may result in third place, according to Dutcher who was the Gopher head coach from 1975-1986.

The Gophers struggled last night without Coffey and Lynch, losing to Indiana 75-71. The defeat left Minnesota with a 2-2 Big Ten record, with 14 more games remaining on the conference schedule. “They still got a lot to play for,” Dutcher told Sports Headliners.

Jim Dutcher

Dutcher, though, acknowledges “all bets are off” if the Gophers must play without Lynch and Coffey for several weeks. Lynch is appealing a decision by the University of Minnesota to ban him from campus for more than two years for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. Athletic director Mark Coyle announced a suspension of Lynch from playing in games on Friday. Although Lynch is practicing with the Gophers, it might be likely he will never play for Minnesota again. Even if the University reversed itself after appeal, Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino could decide Lynch doesn’t meet his standards for being on the team.

Pitino isn’t creating any specific timeline for the return of either Lynch or Coffey, whose shoulder injury apparently is significant enough to cause speculation he could be out for many weeks. Challenging, too, is the schedule ahead that has the Gophers playing five road games between now and February 4. During that period Minnesota plays twice at home and also has a neutral court game on January 20 in New York City against Ohio State.

Senior Bakary Konate replaced Lynch at center last night, while sophomore Michael Hurt had Coffey’s forward spot. Lynch was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season and entered the Indiana game with about three times more blocked shots than any other Gopher. Coffey, a Big Ten all-freshman last season, is Minnesota’s third leading scorer and perhaps the team’s most versatile and unselfish player.

Konate scored two points against Indiana in 27 minutes. He had four rebounds and blocked three shots. Hurt, in 31 minutes, took one shot and didn’t score. He had four rebounds, all of them in the first half.

Late last summer Minnesota lost its best bench player for the season. Promising sophomore forward-center Eric Curry is sidelined following knee surgery. Now with Lynch and Coffey out, the Gophers are without three of their top six players.

“They went from having a Big Ten championship as a goal, to (now) trying to qualify for the (NCAA) Tournament as a goal,” Dutcher said. “They’re not going to win the Big Ten championship.”

Worth Noting

Dutcher believes Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan will finish one, two and three in the final Big Ten standings. MSU is not only the league favorite but could win the school’s first national championship since 2000.

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to promote the old Minneapolis Lakers jerseys, and the team wore them in a game last week at Target Center against the Timberwolves. The popular MPLS jerseys prompted a telephone call to Bob Stein, the Timberwolves first president, to ask if franchise ownership and management considered naming the team Minneapolis instead of Minnesota back in the late 1980s. Stein didn’t recall serious discussion about using the city’s name, noting the franchise wanted to represent the larger Minnesota market despite the history of the state’s first NBA team being named Minneapolis.

Regarding the choice of Timberwolves as the nickname, Stein said a naming contest open to the public generated many suggestions including the Minnesota Mosquitoes. Others that drew amusement from the team’s front office were:

Minnesota Taxes$; Minnesota Fats; Minnesota Uff Da’s; Minnesota Loona-Ticks; and Minnesota Yumpin’ Yacks.

Timberwolves was a fan favorite but Stein said the organization’s inner circle “winked” on the final tabulation of voting by the public. The outcome, he suggested, was not unlike some “alleged political elections.”

SI.com’s famous NFL writer Peter King, writing last Thursday, predicted the Vikings will win Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis with a 27-23 victory over the Patriots.

SI.com announced its NFL individual award winners last week including Coach of the Year. Sean McVay from the Rams won the award, while the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer was runner-up finishing 25 points behind in voting.

Patrick Mader

Patrick Mader, the Northfield-based author who wrote the book Minnesota Gold detailing the lives of many Minnesota Olympians, emailed this historical note to Sports Headliners: “In the late 1940s, a young, energetic, and politically ambitious American city mayor was on an Olympic Committee bidding to host the 1952 Summer Games which ended being runner-up to Helsinki, Finland. The mayor was Hubert Humphrey and the runner-up city (tied) was Minneapolis.”

Next month’s Winter Olympics will be in South Korea. Mader predicted Jessie Diggins, a graduate of Stillwater High School who is from Afton, has “a good chance” to win the first Olympic medal in cross-country skiing ever by an American woman. A 2014 Olympian who has an outstanding World Cup record, the 26-year-old is expected to be named to the 2018 Olympic team later this month.

When the Twins go to spring training it will be interesting to see if Brian Dozier is finally moved out of the leadoff spot in the batting order. The team’s power hitting second baseman has led the club in home runs (76) the last two seasons but has batted leadoff because Minnesota didn’t have anyone more suited for the spot that requires foot speed and consistency at the plate. With center fielder Byron Buxton hitting around .300 for part of last season and showing extraordinary speed, it appears the fourth-year Twin could be the new leadoff man, with Dozier moving down to third or fourth in the batting order.

Carl Pohlad, the deceased Twins owner who passed away in early January of 2009, would be pleased his farm system developed most of the franchise’s promising core of position players that includes Buxton, Dozier, third baseman Miguel Sano, left fielder Eddie Rosario, right fielder Max Kepler and shortstop Jorge Polanco.

 

Nanne: Zach Parise Timing to Come Fast

January 04, 2018 - 1 Comment

 

A Thursday notes column:

Zach Parise made his season debut with the Wild Tuesday night after being sidelined following back surgery. How long will it take for the star forward to have his timing return to normal?

“Within 10 days he should be perfect,” Minnesota hockey authority Lou Nanne told Sports Headliners.

What contributions does Nanne see ahead for the Wild’s 33-year-old wing? “Well, I think that you’re going to see a guy that never stops working. He’s a leader on the team. He’s a guy that can score some goals and he should be a good addition to the lineup.”

Parise had back surgery on October 24 and played solidly on Tuesday night in his debut game. He is expected to play again tonight when Minnesota hosts the Sabres.

Parise scored 42 points in 69 games last season including six power goals and four game winners.

The Wild has been disappointing this season, lacking consistency and goal scoring. Minnesota might struggle to make the playoffs even though owner Craig Leipold said before the season that anything short of winning the Stanley Cup will be disappointing.

What kind of pressure does that put on individuals and the organization? “I don’t know what it does,” Nanne said. “It says he’s got high expectations.”

The Wild defeated the Sabres 5-4 November 22 in Buffalo—the only previous game this season between the two teams. Wild assistant coach Bob Woods was an assistant with the Sabres last season.

In January of 2015 the Wild shutout the Sabres 7-0, the largest margin of victory in franchise history.

The Gophers were able to defeat Illinois 77-67 last night because All-Big Ten point guard Nate Mason played after being sidelined for awhile with a sprained ankle. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told Sports Headliners the Gophers being without Mason is like the powerhouse Ohio State football team not having quarterback J.T. Barrett. Both are that kind of catalyst for their teams, Fraschilla said. Mason and forward Jordan Murphy scored team highs of 17 points last night.

Tre Jones

Fraschilla believes it’s likely Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duvall will declare for the NBA Draft after this season, opening the way for Apple Valley senior Tre Jones to become a starter for the Blue Devils next fall.

Minnesota native Brian Dutcher is in his first season as San Diego State head basketball coach. Injuries have been a problem, although the Aztecs beat top 25 ranked Gonzaga in San Diego and defeated Georgia on a neutral court.

The Aztecs are 2-1 in Mountain West Conference games and 10-4 overall, while former Timberwolves assistant coach Eric Musselman has Nevada off to an even better start. Nevada is 2-0 in Mountain West games and 14-3 overall.

Gopher Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham told Sports Headliners the $166 million University of Minnesota Athletes Village will be ready for use by mid-January. Approximately $105 million of the project is secured with fundraising ongoing. The construction cost is also being financed through bonds.

Bill Robertson, the men’s WCHA commissioner based in Bloomington, is excited about his league as the New Year begins including the Minnesota State team ranked No. 7 in the country in the latest USCHO poll. “I think they have a legitimate shot to end up in St. Paul (playing for the national title).”

Robertson is also enthusiastic about Bemidji State senior goalie Michael Bitzer, who has already played over 1,000 minutes and looks like a candidate for college awards recognizing both the player and goalie of the year. “He continues to do marvelous things,” Robertson said. “In my mind he will be a Hobey Baker contender as well as a Mike Richter contender this year, both awards.”

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve recently signed a multiyear contract extension and also assumed the general manager’s title and role with the local WNBA franchise. Reeve speaks to the CORES lunch group January 11 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Lunch reservations must be made by January 8. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

Players and others associated with the 1968, 1969 and 1970 Big Ten champion Gopher baseball teams will be recognized May 12 at Siebert Field when Minnesota plays Michigan State.

Jerry Kindall was an assistant coach to Dick Siebert on those teams.  Kindall, a former Minnesota Twin before going into coaching, passed away late last month.  The St. Paul native was also an assistant basketball coach for the Gophers and went on to become head baseball coach at Arizona where he won national titles.

 

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