Vikings notes from training camp and beyond:
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, 33, is in training camp preparing for his fifth season with the Vikings and 11th in the NFL. Is there anything different about Cousins, who often has been harshly criticized by fans and blamed for the team’s failures that include two straight years of missing the playoffs?
The answer is no, per teammate and veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen. “That’s the great thing about Kirk. He is always the same Kirk,” Thielen told Sports Headliners. “He’s a guy that comes out here (and) he doesn’t care what people say about him. He doesn’t care what people think about him. He’s going to come out here (and) he’s going to bust his tail. He’s going to do whatever it takes to prepare.
“I don’t want to see anything different from Kirk. I want to see the same Kirk we’ve seen…the last four years that he’s been here, and a guy that…does everything to try to make his teammates better and help this team win.”
Thielen, 32, is in his 10th season with the Vikings. A zero handicapper, he intends to pursue a professional golf career when finished with football. Does he have a clear plan right now to make that transition?
“I have no idea,” Thielen said. “I just know that I am going to try and get as good as I can get, and see where it takes me.”
Where does his golf game have to improve? “Probably just consistency,” he answered. “I feel like I can kind of do everything at certain times but I am very, very inconsistent.”
Thielen’s best advice to hackers? “Just keep it (the ball) in play. Keep it in play because I feel like that’s one of the things I always struggle with a little bit is I bring trouble into play too much, and swing too hard when I don’t need to, or hit the wrong club. But this game is so much easier if you can just get it around the course, keep it in play.”
ESPN.com recently published top 10 NFL players by position groups as determined by Madden NFL 23 for its upcoming launch. The rankings show a talent discrepancy between the Vikings and Packers who are the betting favorite to again win the NFC North Division.
While Green Bay players are ranked, Minnesota has no top 10 representatives at quarterback, offensive line, interior defensive line, cornerback and edge rusher. The latter will draw the ire of Vikings fans with Green Bay’s Rashan Gary ranked No. 10, while Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are near misses in the rankings.
A sore point for Packers fans? Davante Adams, who Green Bay lost in free agency to the Raiders earlier this year, is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Madden rankings. Justin Jefferson from the Vikings is No. 6.
The Packers had no top 10 safeties, while Minnesota’s Harrison Smith tied for 7th with three other players. Former Gopher De’Vondre Campbell, now with the Packers, ranked No. 9 among linebackers, while Eric Kendricks from the Vikings is in a 7th place tie with Micah Parsons of the Cowboys.
Because of injuries the gifted Hunter missed the entire 2020 season and 10 games last year. He wants to break Jared Allen’s single season franchise record of 22 sacks. “That’s the kind of drive you like to see,” Allen said. “That dude could be insanely special. …The key to his game, stay healthy.”
Allen will become the seventh defensive lineman to be part of the Vikings’ Ring of Honor when he is inducted at the October 30 home game against the Cardinals. There are 21 other players that are Ring of Honor recipients and the largest representation is d-linemen. When Allen played for the Vikings he was aware of the greats who had come before him like “Purple People Eaters” Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Alan Page. “Certain organizations kind of have a knack for certain position groups,” Allen said.
After Allen joined the Vikings in 2008, Marshall soon reached out. Marshall told him players come and go, stats are what they are, but championship banners last forever. “I’ve got a special place in my heart for Jim Marshall,” Allen said.
The Vikings’ three preseason games will be broadcast on Fox 9 and KFAN with a simulcast crew of Paul Allen (play-by-play) and analysts Pete Bercich and Ben Leber. The fourth member of last year’s KFAN crew, Greg Coleman, has retired.
Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen from Fox Sports are likely to be the TV talent for the much anticipated Packers-Vikings game in Minneapolis on September 11. Minnesota’s second game of the regular season will be in Philadelphia for a Monday night national telecast on ABC with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
Remembering Bill Russell
In the late 1950s and into the early 1960s Sunday afternoons were appointment TV viewing for NBA fans across the country. The barnstorming league was trying to establish itself on the same level as baseball, the NFL and college football. There were only eight teams in the NBA in the 1950s and up to 1960 no franchise on the West Coast until the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
Sunday afternoon viewers got a steady diet of match ups between Bill Russell’s Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain’s Warriors. Watching these extraordinary athletes compete against one another was a rivalry and show not seen before or since. Russell, a lean 6-9, and Chamberlain, 7-1 with legendary strength, had contrasting physiques but put up rebounding, shot blocking and scoring performances for the ages. Theirs was a battle of not only bodies but wits.
News of Russell’s passing Sunday prompted national mourning for the man and the basketball player. Chamberlain, although two years younger than Russell, died in 1999. Both were players with skills ahead of their time. Russ and Wilt could drop into today’s NBA and be superstars.
Sid Hartman wrote in his autobiography Sid that the Minneapolis Lakers tried to secure Russell by getting the No. 1 NBA draft pick in 1956. The Lakers were faltering during the 1955-56 season and Hartman, who worked for the team, wanted to trade muscular forward Vern Mikkelsen to the Celtics who coveted rebounding help. Trading Mik would have nosedived the Lakers and probably resulted in the league’s worst record and being rewarded the first pick in the draft.
Hartman said the Celtics agreed to take Mikkelsen in exchange for three Kentucky players who were in military service but that Lakers owner Ben Berger nixed the deal. In Hartman’s book he wrote: “We argued for a few minutes, and I said, ‘Fine, Bennie. I’ll call Walter Brown (the owner of the Celtics) and cancel the deal, and we can regret it for the rest of our lives.’ “
That may not be an exaggeration. Russell’s Celtics won 11 NBA titles and perhaps saved the Celtics franchise from relocation. If Russell had joined the Minneapolis Lakers it’s possible the team never would have left for Los Angeles in search of better home attendance and fan support.