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Zimmer Expects Cook & Thielen to Play

 

Enjoy a Wednesday notes column:

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said this morning he expects running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen to play in next Sunday’s game.

Cook, who reportedly hurt his ankle last Sunday, has been a focal point of the offense this fall and taken a lot of hits from opposing players.  Zimmer, though, wouldn’t commit to using his star runner any less, saying every game has different demands. “His health is fine, so we’ll just keep going and try to be smart about how we use him.”

Thielen missed the most recent game because of testing positive for COVID-19. “I think he’ll be ready to go,” Zimmer said.

Kirk Cousins

The coach liked the way quarterback Kirk Cousins, not known for his running ability, scrambled in Sunday’s comeback win over the Panthers. “I just think it’s improving (the scrambling).  It’s always a work in progress, but you don’t want to run when guys are open.  There were times when he was flushed out of the pocket and then made plays with his legs.”

CBS televises next Sunday’s Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium against the 1-10 Jaguars. Beth Mowins, who in 2017 became the first woman in 30 years to call an NFL game, will do play-by-play.

In 14 of the past 16 NFL seasons, at least one team with a losing record after 11 games has qualified for the playoffs.  The Vikings, Patriots and 49ers currently have 5-6 records.

With 24 players on opening weekend NFL rosters, Houston was first among cities producing talent. More 2020 NFL players graduated from high school there than any other community.  Miami was second with 19 natives in the league followed by Fort Lauderdale and Tampa with 14 each.

Eden Prairie has three native sons in Blake Cashman, Ryan Connelly and Carter Coughlin.  Minneapolis has Tyler Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald Jr.  Other Minnesota natives in the NFL include Ben Ellefson, Joe Haeg, Zack Johnson, Kamal Martin, Billy Turner and Maxx Williams.

States with the most NFL players: Florida, 194; Texas, 192; California, 170; Georgia, 134; Ohio, 71; Alabama, 60; Pennsylvania, 60; Louisiana, 59; North Carolina, 59; New Jersey, 57; Illinois, 53; Tennessee, 45; Michigan, 44; Virginia, 44, Maryland, 39; South Carolina, 39.

Although the Gopher football team has cancelled its last two games because of the pandemic, Mohamed Ibrahim still leads the Big Ten in rushing with 817 yards, averaging 163.4 per game.  Next closest in total yards is Iowa’s Tyler Goodson with 564.

Forget about Gophers junior point guard Marcus Carr returning next fall for a senior season.  He is playing like a first round NBA draft choice, averaging 29.7 points per game and making clutch shots with none bigger than Monday night’s three pointer to win the game against Loyola Marymount, 67-64.  In three nonconference games thus far he has made 54 percent of his field goals and 45 percent of three-pointers.

Meanwhile, long range shooting specialist Gabe Kalscheur has converted less than one percent of his three-point shot attempts.  The junior shooting guard is making 28 percent of his field goals.

In three games against mid-major teams (played LM twice), the 3-0 Gophers have just a two rebound edge, 119-117.

Freshman Jalen Suggs, the former Minnehaha Academy guard from West St. Paul and the highest rated recruit ever at Gonzaga, is drawing early speculation as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Word is Timberwolves basketball boss Tom Thibodeau traded Ricky Rubio in 2017 because he thought the former lottery pick wasn’t a physical point guard and defensive standout. Rubio, reacquired this fall by current president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, is the kind of offensive creator who fits the aggressive run and shoot style the Wolves are now committed to.

Here is an obscure name to keep in mind when the Wolves start up their schedule in late December and into January.  Reserve forward Jake Layman, injured and not playing much of last season, had a noteworthy impact on a team with an overall record of 19-45.  Minnesota was 11-12 in games he played.

Monday’s column suggesting Tony Oliva belongs in the Hall of Fame drew reader response, including from local baseball historian Dave Wright who emailed that the three-time American League batting champion ranks far down the list in key career hitting statistics during an abbreviated career:  “…It is a pity that injuries did him in—he  never played an inning in the field after 1972. To me, he just doesn’t cut it. If you let him in, you open the gates for guys like Al Oliver, Rocky Colavito and many others who had some very good moments but they didn’t last.”

Wright agreed, though, with Monday’s reference to another former Twin, pitcher Jim Kaat, being Hall of Fame worthy. “Kaat is a different issue. It has always been a mystery to me because he was a starter, a reliever, a fielder, a decent hitter and was used as a pinch runner at times—a rarity for a pitcher. It is one of the great injustices in the game. …”

St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck, 69, has been selected by the Society for American Baseball Research as one of baseball’s most significant Off-Field figures in the last 50 years. For SABR’s 50th anniversary the organization honored Veeck and others like Buck O’Neil, Bill James, Claire Smith, Frank Robinson, Peter Gammons, Ted Turner and Vin Scully.

Veeck told Sports Headliners yesterday he has no comment on the reported deal making the Saints a AAA Twins farm team until MLB makes an announcement.

It’s all but certain the Twins shopped left fielder and free agent Eddie Rosario in trade talks before placing him on waivers.  Minnesota is likely searching for pitchers while ready to try top prospects to replace Rosario.  Watch to see if ace reliever Brad Hand, from Chaska, becomes a Twin.

Billy Robertson

Bill Robertson, men’s commissioner of the Twin Cities-based WCHA, reports more than 10 schedule changes of games already this fall because of the pandemic.  He has learned more than ever to “take things as they come,” being flexible and ready to adapt.

The WCHA is using regional game officials when possible to minimize travel.  No fans, even family of players, are allowed at games.  Big Ten hockey has the same spectator policy.

The Twin Cities Dunkers, the well-known organization that dates back to 1948, lost its most tenured member when Sid Hartman passed away this fall.  Hartman, who was influential with the organization for decades, joined Dunkers in 1965.

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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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