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Vikings Dodged ‘Bullet’ on Bradford Deal

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November 9, 2017

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A Thursday notes column…

The Vikings made the right decision in not signing quarterback Sam Bradford to a new and expensive contract earlier this year that would have committed the franchise to him starting in 2018. It could have been that general manager Rick Spielman hesitated on a new deal based on Bradford’s age and history of knee issues, despite setting a NFL completion record of 71.6 percent of his passes in 2016.

Bradford, who turned 30 yesterday, has only started two games and finished one this season because of pain and lack of mobility in his left knee. His week to week status has been somewhat of a mystery but he reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on the knee recently and yesterday the Vikings placed him on their injured reserve list.

Sam Bradford (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Spielman acquired Bradford just prior to the 2016 season to replace Teddy Bridgewater who badly hurt his knee, and was just activated to play again this week. Despite playing behind a bad offensive line last year, Bradford avoided injury and gave the team its best quarterbacking since Brett Favre in 2010.

Spielman could have let his ego dictate a new contract for Bradford during the offseason but he didn’t.  A new deal would now be problematic with the quarterback’s future health uncertain. Bradford has had two ACL surgeries on the left knee and it’s uncertain when—or perhaps if—he will continue his NFL career. A big contract would have left a negative impact on the Vikings’ salary structure in 2018.

The Eagles traded Bradford to the Vikings for draft choices, willing to take a gamble on then rookie quarterback Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. Part of their strategy may also have been based on Bradford’s age and history of knee issues. The Eagles didn’t know how healthy Bradford would remain but they may have been cautious, just as it appears the Vikings were last winter.

It will be an interesting next few months and early offseason in 2018 when Spileman will have to sort out the Vikings quarterback roster. If Bradford doesn’t retire, not only will he be a free agent but so too will Bridgewater and Case Keenum who has been the team’s starter for most of this season.

After this week’s quarterback shuffling with Bradford being taken off the playing roster and Bridgewater put back on, promising rookie Kyle Sloter remains at No. 3 on the depth chart. Although he has yet to play in an NFL game, Sloter tries to stay ready on the sidelines. “I feel like mentally I am going through each and every play,” he told Sports Headliners. “I try to be part of the huddle when they call timeouts and all that kind of stuff.

“I try to stay loose over there (on the sidelines) as much as I can. You get a little tight…if you’re not moving around, or throwing the ball…around a little bit.”

Adam Thielen is sixth in total yards (627) among NFL receivers. The four-year pro wide receiver is having a breakout season with the Vikings but told Sports Headliners he can improve.

“I think there’s just little things in my game I could get better at,” Thielen said. “Whether it be the run after the catch, catching and keeping on my feet, and things like that.”

The Gophers football team has lost five of its last six games and coach P.J. Fleck hears criticism from fans. How does he handle it?

“It doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t take me off my course,” Fleck said.
“It doesn’t frustrate me but I think that as people go (over time), they’ll start to see the big picture. They’ll start to see the reason why we took the job. They’ll start to see the winning and recruiting. They’ll start to feel the difference in how this program develops, but when you don’t have a result right away, it’s hard for people that are result-oriented to jump right in and say, ‘I’m in.’ …”

Fleck respects “everybody’s opinion,” and when he was head coach Western Michigan he kept letters, both positive and negative. He is doing the same at Minnesota and predicted when success comes to the Gophers he will write and say, “Told you. ”

The Gophers, 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten, play a Nebraska team Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium that has lost three of its last four games. With 4-5 and 3-3 records, the Cornhuskers’ bowl hopes are about as precarious as Minnesota’s. Mediocrity is not the Nebraska way, with the Cornhuskers the winningest major college football program in America the last 60, 50 and 40 years.

Redshirt freshman J.D. Spielman from Eden Prairie has emerged as a playmaker for the Cornhuskers in his first season. As a wide receiver and kick returner he has 1,154 all-purpose yards. He is 105 yards from equaling the Nebraska freshman all-purpose yards record of 1,259 yards set by Ahman Green in 1995.

Gopher redshirt senior Ryan Santoso leads the Big Ten in punting average at 44.5 yards per kick. He averaged 48.5 yards on eight punts at rainy Michigan last Saturday.

FS1 telecasts Saturday’s Gophers-Huskers game with former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber providing analysis while working with play-by-play man Brian Custer.

Prior to last night’s Timberwolves game at Golden State, the Fox Sports North TV ratings for Minnesota’s NBA team were up 62 percent over a year ago. It was the franchise’s best ratings start in the last four years, according to Fox.

Tre Jones

It will be a who’s who of prep basketball at the Boys’ Tip Off Classic at Hopkins Lindbergh Center Saturday, December 9. There will be 17 games with the first at 9 a.m. and the last starting at 9 p.m. Duke-bound guard Tre Jones will lead Apple Valley against Minneapolis North in one “circle it game.” Fans can also watch Gopher 2018 commits Daniel Oturu from Cretin-Derham Hall and Jarvis Omersa (formerly Thomas) of Orono go against each other in another game that begins at 7:30 p.m.

Byron Buxton, voted this week as the 2017 American League Gold Glove winner for center field, is known as baseball’s fastest player. Older brother Felton, though, might be faster. Byron said during an interview on ESPN’s Gold Glove awards show Tuesday night he might settle the matter in a foot race this fall.

Two former Gophers pitchers, D.J. Snelten and Ben Meyer, are impressing in the Arizona Fall League, according to Minnesota assistant coach Rob Fornasiere. Snelten is with the Giants organization and Fornasiere predicted he could be part of the San Francisco bullpen next season. Meyer, with the Marlins organization, had a 2.02 ERA as a starter last season pitching for two Class A teams.

Fornasiere recalled a funny story from several years ago when Gophers players, including Snelten, were preparing to lay sod at Siebert Field. Snelten was too well dressed for such a dirty job and confessed to Fornasiere he had no experience with laying grass. “The green side goes up,” Fornasiere said.

Packy Casey, the grandson of legendary Twins public address announcer Bob Casey, is in his fifth season as a Gophers assistant baseball 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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