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Vikings’ Center Looks for Better Season

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May 27, 2020

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Garrett Bradbury, the Vikings’ top draft choice in 2019, met with the media via Zoom today, and he acknowledged the inconsistency of his rookie season last fall.

Minnesota used its No. 18 pick in the first round to choose the athletic 6-foot-3, 305-pound Bradbury, who once was a college tight end and also an offensive guard. Center is a leadership position and the hope in the franchise office is the intelligent and personable Bradbury can be a fixture at the position.

Outside the organization critics didn’t give Bradbury high marks for his rookie season, particularly faulting his pass blocking. Quick out of his stance and mobile in college at North Carolina State, Bradbury has the skills to get past the line of scrimmage and block for Minnesota’s running game—a priority focus by head coach Mike Zimmer.

A question that will nag at Bradbury until he improves his pass blocking is whether his arm length at 31¾ inches is a liability in gaining leverage against pass rushers. Other NFL centers have more arm length than that. He can’t be known as a blocker often pushed back by the pass rush.

A year ago January Bradbury had to devote time to preparing for the NFL Combine, and then when the Vikings drafted him he was challenged to learn a new offense. This year the time has been there to concentrate on analyzing what went right and wrong in the 2019 season and learn from it.

“I think in terms of improvement, consistency is kind of the biggest thing for me,” Bradbury said today. “…My goal this coming season is just to be better in year two, and make the improvements that I want to.”

Offensive line is not an easy assignment, regardless of position, and those who play there often show impressive improvement from year one to year two. “There’s nothing better than experience, having those reps,” Bradbury said.

This season will offer the benefit, too, of Bradbury playing with many of the same personnel on the line. “Chemistry is everything with the offensive line,” he said.

Worth Noting

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck is doing a June 10 private autograph signing of helmets and other items that come with Beckett certificates of authenticity. Promoter Total Sports Enterprises is that cautioning multiple categories of items may sell out prior to June 10. More at Tseshopmn.com.

Fleck speaks to the Twin Cities Dunkers via Zoom June 3 and will be joined by Gopher defensive coordinator Joe Rossi and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. The 72-year-old social club usually hosts programs with prominent speakers at the Minneapolis Club, but for now is convening members via Zoom.

Gopher seniors Winston DeLattiboudere from football and Sarah Werking from women’s cross country/track & field are Minnesota’s 2019-2020 Big Ten Conference Outstanding Sportsmanship Award recipients, the league announced today (Wednesday).

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retirement celebration for prep football coaching legend Ron Stolski has been rescheduled again, moving from June 13 to September 19 at Cragun’s Legacy Clubhouse in Brainerd. Instead of gifts, donations to the Ron Stolski Scholarship Fund are welcome. The fund is part of the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation. Stolski coached football in Minnesota for 58 years, including the last 45 at Brainerd.

If the Vikings play their exhibition and regular season home schedules without fans in US Bank Stadium, they might lose $7 million or more each game based on NFL estimates circulating on the Internet. The Twins and other MLB teams playing in empty stadiums could lose about $640,000 per game.

While use of the designated hitter in both the National and American Leagues is expected for sure when MLB opens up this summer, many fans would welcome experimentation with rules to increase pace of play and length of games. Ideas could include aggressive enforcement of policies to speed up time between pitches, and in extra innings the team at bat starts with a runner in scoring position.

Speculation is Gopher junior right-handed pitcher Max Meyer could be a top-10 selection in the upcoming MLB Draft. Meyer, from Woodbury, was named an All-American yesterday by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper for a third consecutive year.

A consensus preseason All-American, Meyer finished his Gopher career with a lifetime 2.07 ERA (fourth best all-time in the program), with 187 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched. His 18 saves are the third-most in 132 seasons of the program’s history. Baseball is the oldest program of the 25 sports at Minnesota.

Meyer was named a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, as was teammate and second baseman Zack Raabe, a sophomore from Forest Lake. Raabe hit .463 for Minnesota this season and his 31 hits led NCAA Division I teams.

Raabe’s dad, Brian Raabe, played on Minnesota coach John Anderson’s 1988 Big Ten title team and made it to the big leagues as an infielder. “He reminds me of his dad in a lot of ways, and Zack has a chance to play professional baseball,” said Anderson who predicted the younger Raabe will be among the nation’s better college hitters next year.

Bill Robertson

The recent news Alabama Huntsville is discontinuing its hockey program gives WCHA men’s commissioner Bill Robertson even more to do regarding league membership for the 2021-2022 season. Only Alaska and Alaska Anchorage are now committed to WCHA participation for that season as most member schools are exiting next spring for a new league.

“It’s going to be the ultimate challenge,” Robertson said about the search for new WCHA members.

Robertson, whose WCHA offices are based in the Twin Cities, is in discussions with multiple schools about joining the WCHA for 2021-2022 including Arizona State, Lindenwood, Long Island and Simon Frazier (Burnaby, British Columbia).

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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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