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Stakes Jump for Bradford, Vikings

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September 17, 2017

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Less than a week after an impressive opening game win over the Saints, the Vikings embarrassed themselves today in a penalty-infested 26-9 loss to the Steelers. The outlook for a big season also seems more in doubt then it was last Monday night.

Quarterback Sam Bradford, named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against the Saints, never saw the field. Bradford wasn’t allowed to play because of a sore left knee—with the Vikings hoping there won’t be a long-term problem. “He couldn’t play; there really was no (other) decision,” head coach Mike Zimmer said on the Vikings Radio Network after the game.

A concern is that Bradford has injured the knee in the past including 2014 when he had ACL surgery. The Vikings aren’t likely to make the playoffs without Bradford, who perhaps will play as soon as next Sunday against the Bucs, one of the NFC’s best teams. The 29-year-old could be in line for a big contract with the Vikings after this season but that won’t happen if he misses a lot of games and under performs.

Mike Zimmer

The Vikings are among the NFC preseason favorites to make the playoffs. With the club not having won a playoff game since 2010—and an extraordinary opportunity waiting if the Vikings could play in the 2018 Minneapolis Super Bowl—there are high expectations for this team. That pressure extends to longtime general manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer who is in his fourth season.

Today in Pittsburgh, Minnesota players made too many mistakes that don’t characterize playoff teams. Case Keenum, filling in for Bradford, was sometimes slow in his progressions and inaccurate with throws. While not having Bradford’s skill as a passer, he was the victim of an offensive line that often didn’t protect him. In addition, multiple linemen had penalties during the game.

The Steelers scored a touchdown in the first quarter after an off-side penalty on defensive end Brian Robison, and a pass interference call on Xavier Rhodes kept a drive alive. In the second quarter a pass interference call on Trae Waynes gave Pittsburgh a first down near the goal line, setting up a second touchdown.

Early in the third quarter it looked like the Vikings, trailing 14-3, had avoided a Steeler field goal when Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell missed on a long attempt. A penalty on the Vikings, though, moved the ball close to the goalposts and Boswell made the score 17-3.

Other penalties also factored in the game’s outcome. For the day the Vikings were penalized 11 times for 131 yards.

Kicker Kai Forbath missed an extra point in the game, his second this season for the 1-1 Vikings. “It’s disheartening,” Zimmer said on the radio. “You go down and score, and then you miss an extra point and it kind of deflates you a little bit.”

Worth Noting

A Vikings spokesman said via email the NFL has not yet determined how many seats will be sold for Super Bowl LII in U.S. Bank Stadium, nor has the league determined the allotment for each NFL team. If the Vikings are one of the teams in the Super Bowl, the organization can offer a ticket lottery to season ticket holders. The two participating teams receive more tickets than the other 30 NFL franchises.

Gophers basketball sophomore forward Eric Curry will have surgery on his left knee this week. Late last month the key reserve was playing in a pickup game when the Gophers reported he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus. Curry will miss the upcoming season.

Coach Richard Pitino and his team begin regular practices September 29.

P.J. Fleck might be the most media-prominent Gophers football coach ever. Fox 9 airs the P.J. Fleck show Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and the Gopher pregame program at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays. Fleck’s KFAN Radio show is at 11:30 a.m. Thursdays and he is also a regular on WCCO Radio’s “Sports Huddle” program Sundays.

Casey O’Brien, son of former Gophers defensive backfield coach Dan O’Brien, is a freshman walk-on holder for Minnesota. When Gopher senior quarterback Conor Rhoda was playing at Cretin-Derham Hall, Casey was the football team’s ball boy. Casey, who has beaten cancer twice in his teen years, was a holder and golfer at Cretin-Derham Hall.

Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners attendance could exceed 37,000 for Saturday’s 1 p.m. first-ever football game at Target Field between host St. Thomas and traditional rival Saint John’s. The Twins won’t be back in town until September 29 and St. Peter is confident there will be no negative impact on the grass field. The game will set a national record for Division III attendance.

Target Field will also be the site of the August 31, 2019 game between host North Dakota State and Butler. St. Peter said there have been preliminary discussions about other football games at Target Field. He promised, though, games will never be played on a conflicting date with the Gophers, or involve FBS teams.

“That was a commitment I made to (former athletic director) Norwood Teague and now to (present AD) Mark Coyle and P.J. Fleck,” St. Peter said. (The Gophers have a bye on their schedule this Saturday and don’t play on August 31, 2019).

The Twins hit four home runs today, with Eddie Rosario hitting two, and Byron Buxton and Joe Mauer also homering, including his first grand slam since 2012 in a 13-7 win over the Blue Jays. Mauer is hitting .400 since August 10, the second best average in Major League Baseball.

The Twins’ Brian Dozier, with 46 home runs, has homered more times than any player in Major League Baseball since the 2016 All-Star Break.

Dick Jonckowski

Popular Shakopee-based emcee and speaker Dick Jonckowski is booking events for fall and winter (952-261-3013). As usual, Jonckowski emceed last Thursday’s CORES program in Bloomington where speaker Matt Birk told stories about his football career and drew an audience of 175.

Jonckowski is a fan of the Lynx, and asked what Lindsay Whalen and former Timberwolf Ricky Rubio have in common? Both are point guards with pro career highs in points of 33 each.

Birk, the former Viking center and Cretin-Derham Hall alum, is living in the Twin Cities area and works as a youth football consultant for the NFL. He has eight children including five sons he encourages to play football if they are interested.

Birk and others including former Minnesota prep coach Jim Dotseth believe fear about concussions from playing football is overhyped. They cite statistics showing other sports, starting with soccer, cause more concussions. “I don’t think I ever had a kid with a concussion,” Dotseth said about his 30 years as a head coach.

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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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