Vikings Expectations Still on Rise
Offseason optimism about the Vikings ranks with the highest in franchise history and tonight’s NFL Draft will only add to the hype. After last season’s 13-3 season and near Super Bowl, the Vikings can add a first round draft choice tonight at No. 30 and eight total selections over the next two days of the draft.
Count 16-year Vikings radio play-by-play man Paul Allen among those passionate about the 2018 team. He believes this is a franchise that can play with and defeat the NFL’s best. “Given that they upgraded at the quarterback spot and they’re going to get the return of Dalvin Cook, yeah, I believe it’s a better team already, and I really like some things I think they’re going to do in the draft,” he told Sports Headliners.
Allen agrees with the prevailing prediction the Vikings are likely to focus on offensive line prospects in the draft but adds that because general manager Rick Spielman has such a talented team he doesn’t have to be “desperate” and can select the best player available regardless of position. There certainly is no road map for NFL teams drafting over the next three days and that’s why general managers may have 50 scenarios of what can play out on their selection boards.
“…I’ve hammered so many different scenarios over the last three days,” Spielman said on Tuesday. “I can’t tell you all weekend how much film we watched and how many scenarios we have put ourselves in. Not only at 30, but if we trade back (later rounds) these players are available. Are we just as happy getting one of these players and another pick?
“We went through scenarios through to the bottom of the second and bottom of the third round right now. That’s the exciting part because you don’t know what you’re going to experience because it seems like you experience something new every year.”
Spielman made Kirk Cousins the NFL’s highest paid quarterback during the offseason, replacing Case Keenum who went to Denver. Cousins has never played on successful playoff teams but aspirations are for that to change in Minneapolis. What’s it like to be on a team with such high expectations?
“It is what it is,” Cousins said. “I don’t want to be on a team with low expectations, do I? I think that it’s part of being in this league. There is pressure on everybody. It would be immature for us to focus on the expectations.
“I am just focused on being the best quarterback I can be today. …The rest will take care of itself, and if we do our job each and every day, and having the best OTAs we can have, then the results that everyone is looking to see and care about in the fall, those will take care of themselves.”
Cousins and his teammates and coaches have been getting acquainted at the Vikings’ practice facility. What are first impressions about them and the organization? “It’s the real deal,” he said. “I wasn’t fooled on the free agency visit; what I saw then has been the truth. There’s no aloof personalities in the locker room, everybody has been very down to earth, there’s humility there.
“There’s a formula here for success. I sit in the team meetings and I see the organization. I see the attention to detail. I see the professionalism and it’s no surprise why they were successful last year, and it’s no surprise why I wanted to be here. I’m very, very impressed with what I’ve seen, but at the same time was expecting all along.”
The Vikings had an NFL Rookie of the Year candidate last season in running back Dalvin Cook but he tore his ACL in week four. In a smart move in last year’s draft, Spielman moved up in the second round selection process to secure Cook who veteran pro football writer Peter King predicted would be one of the NFL’s five best running backs by late October.
Cook is expected to make a full recovery from surgery, participate in summer training camp and be ready for the opening game in September against the 49ers. Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman has been working with Cook through the rehab process, just as he did several years ago with Adrian Peterson when he recovered from a torn ACL.
“Yes, we took some of that stuff that we did with Adrian and transferred it right to Dalvin who really has attacked his rehab with the same approach that Adrian did, and hopefully he will have the same success at the end of the day,” Sugarman told Sports Headliners.
Peterson wowed observers with his determination during rehab and Sugarman sees a similar attitude with Cook. “He (Cook) does have unbelievable spark. The thing to me is that ACL rehab is tough because it’s nine months. It gets boring. It’s tedious.
“There’s not a day that he didn’t walk in this building, or Winter Park, with a without a smile on his face. Just a pleasure to work with. Been fun to watch him go from injury to rehab, to now on the field, and hopefully scoring touchdowns in the future.”
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said teammate and wide receiver Michael Floyd is still living with Rudolph and his family in Minnesota, but also spends time in Scottsdale, Arizona. “He’s back and forth,” Rudolph said.
High school football games will be played at the Vikings’ newly opened Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan. Would Eden Prairie, the defending Class 6A champions and coached by Mike Grant, be a target for the first game there ever? Grant, son of legendary Vikings head coach Bud Grant, said he hasn’t been contacted.
Because the Eagles play only four home games, Grant said it’s difficult to give one up. The games are important, he explained, to “so many people” at the school and in the community. The home games also impact revenues through the booster club and ticket sales.
Condolences to the family and friends of Twin Cities native Mark Merrill who died earlier this month. The former Kellogg High School athlete was a second team All-Big Ten tackle for the Gophers in 1977.
Twins president Dave St. Peter told Sports Headliners tickets remain for all Twins’ home games including the anticipated series with the Angels June 8, 9 and 10 when rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani may pitch.
Media reports are that a signed Ohtani rookie collector card is valued at over $6,000. The Japanese phenom has impressed this spring as both a pitcher and designated hitter.
St. Peter said among similar size cities, only Mobile, Alabama will have more National Baseball Hall of Famers than St. Paul when Jack Morris is inducted this summer. Morris joins St. Paulites Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield in the hall. Mobile has five enshrined in Cooperstown including all-time home run leader Hank Aaron.