Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020


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Vikes’ Zimmer: Cook ‘Feeling Really Good’

 

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, talking this morning, didn’t rule star running back Dalvin Cook out for Sunday’s home game against the Atlanta Falcons.  “I talked to him today. He said he’s feeling really good,” Zimmer said.  “We’ll just see how it goes.”

Another option could be for Cook, who sustained a groin injury last Sunday, to sit out the Falcons game, and gain additional rest with a bye date coming up October 25 for the Vikings.

Zimmer was asked if there is an update on another top playmaker, defensive end Danielle Hunter, who has been inactive through the first five games because of a neck injury.  “No, not really. Still kind of mulling his options, I think.”

The Minnesota Vikings are about one-third through their 2020 season and with a 1-4 record, at the bottom of the NFC North standings.  This is not a bad team, though, and indicative of that is the Vikings have been competitive most of the season including two losses by a total of two points.

The goal of making the playoffs is all but gone but the silver lining is improving and promising players.  Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney are progressing and that’s a major step forward for a team having to rely on rookie cornerbacks.  Fourth-year linebacker Eric Wilson, replacing the injured Anthony Barr, looks better in pass protection and had an interception in Sunday night’s game with the Seattle Seahawks. Rookie defensive tackle James Lynch played in his first game Sunday and showed the aggressiveness that helped him set a single season sack record of 13.5 at Baylor. Rookie defensive end D.J. Wonnum has also impressed.

Second-year running back Alexander Matison has been outstanding in relief of Cook and certainly could start in Sunday’s game. “Very conscientious kid.  Works real hard,” Zimmer said.  “I think he tries to learn from Dalvin as much as he can.”

The Vikings have an NFL all-rookie team candidate in wide receiver Justin Jefferson who is going to make impact plays this season and beyond. The much criticized offensive line has been effective run blocking and at times given quarterback Kirk Cousins adequate time to throw.  That has helped the offense improve its time of possession including in the Seattle game.

Mike Zimmer

Zimmer will make sure his team plays with effort in the last 11 games, regardless of the team record.  He labels his players fighters and the fiery Zimmer wouldn’t have it any other way.  Now that doesn’t make up for the decision to pass up on a closing minutes field goal against Seattle, but it does give assurance the Vikings will continue to be watchable as the season progresses.

Worth Noting

Look for an announcement today about a new nonprofit organization called Minnesota Sports & Events established by local leaders from the hospitality, sports and business communities.  The goal is to bring more major sports and entertainment events to the Twin Cities.

Gopher men’s and women’s basketball season ticket holders were notified by email Tuesday there will be no season tickets for the 2020-2021 home schedule. Seat locations will carry over to the 2021-2022 season.  The email referenced the possibility of a limited number of individual tickets being distributed on a game-by-game basis but provided no further details.

Former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, now with the Carolina Panthers, ranks sixth in total passing yards in the NFL with 1,460.

Former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is off to an impressive start with the Buffalo Bills, his new team, and his stats rank among the best in the NFL through five games. With the Bills 4-1, general manager Brandon Beane has emerged as an early season favorite for NFL Executive of the Year including for his acquisition of Diggs from the Vikings during the last offseason.

Although Diggs had a reputation as a problem player in Minnesota, former Gopher and Green Bay Packer Jim Carter had an engaging experience with him.  Last year Carter and other former ex-Packers were in Green Bay to celebrate the career of the late Bart Starr. “All the Viking players trotted past our group of broken down old players, except one,” Carter recalled in an email. “Number 14 (Diggs) stopped, fist bumped quite a few of us (I’m sure he didn’t have a clue who any of us were. …). He smiled and said a couple of friendly ‘thanks for being here’ and ‘congratulations.’ Class act!”

To save money, apparently there was talk of the Gopher men’s hockey team playing at Ridder Arena this season, the small facility that hosts the women’s team.  But coach Bob Motzko said in an October 8 story on the Therinklive.com the Gophers will remain at 3M Arena at Mariucci to better celebrate the 100th anniversary of the program.

Candidates will be lining up for the University of St. Thomas men’s hockey coaching opportunity. The Tommies will be Division I starting in 2021-2022 and joining the CCHA. Jeff Boeser will not coach beyond this school year.  “This will be a plum D-1 job,” a source wrote via email.

He said candidates could include two former Golden Gophers assistants, Mike Guentzel and Scott Bell, who turned around Hamline’s program. Guentzel is presently a scout for the Arizona Coyotes, while Bell scouts for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two sources said St. Thomas is looking at building a hockey arena.

If any Minnesota Timberwolves player in franchise history were 25 years old who would you choose as the best ever?  The answer here is Jimmy Butler, a complete player who makes teammates better and excels during a game’s biggest moments when he wants the basketball.  His departure from the Wolves blew up the Tom Thibodeau era after Butler led Minnesota to the playoffs in 2018, the team’s only postseason since 2004.

Butler, who deserves to be ranked with the NBA’s best players, may have not liked the efforts of teammates in Minnesota and later the Philadelphia 76ers, but playing for the Miami Heat he has found a home.  In the NBA Finals he carried the Heat with triple double performances before losing to the Lakers.

Managers on a Mission, reported on in this space in the past, has changed its name and brand to better communicate its focus on developing Christ-centered leaders involved with sports. The St. Louis Park-based organization, led by former Gophers basketball manager Drew Boe, is now the Uncommon Sports Group. “Serving more than just student and equipment managers, the program aims to develop any collegiate or professional ‘future leader of the sports industry,’ ” according to a news release. More at Uncommonsg.org.

Good news: today is National Dessert Day.

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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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