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EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, who suffered a quadriceps injury in Monday night’s 23-10 loss to Green Bay, did not participate in a walkthrough Wednesday, Dec. 25.

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer was not available Wednesday for comment. He said Tuesday that Kendricks was scheduled for an MRI exam but did not provide other details.

Vikings running backs Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and Alexander Mattison (high ankle sprain), who both sat out against the Packers, were listed as limited Wednesday. Sources have said Cook, hurt Dec. 15 at the Los Angeles Chargers, is not expected to play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium but will be ready for the playoffs.

The Vikings are locked into the NFC’s No. 6 seed for the playoffs, so starters could be rested against the Bears. They will open the postseason on the road, Jan. 4 or Jan. 5 against the No. 3 seed.

Kendricks was hurt in the second quarter Monday after recovering his second fumble of the game and did not return. The Vikings also lost linebacker Anthony Barr in the fourth quarter because of cramping but he was not on Wednesday’s injury report.

The injury report also had cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle), defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) and safety Jayron Kearse (foot) listed as full participants. All played against the Packers.

Williams says he’s deserving of hall of fame
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams didn’t do much talking about himself when he played, but he just might be speaking up more when he becomes eligible in a year for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While with the Vikings from 2003-13, Williams was five times named all-pro and made six Pro Bowls. With those numbers, he considers himself deserving of a spot in the Canton, Ohio, shrine.

“I think I have a good resume,’’ Williams said in a phone interview. “If you look at the D-tackles still out there throughout the years, I don’t think too many did the things that I did. But I’ll leave that up to the people that decide that. Would I love be in the hall of fame? Yes. I think I did enough.”

Williams finished his career with Seattle in 2014 and New Orleans in 2015 but didn’t add any additional postseason honors. Because players must be retired for five years, Williams becomes first eligible to be inducted into the hall of fame in 2021.

As for being one day selected to the Vikings Ring of Honor, Williams is hopeful that would be an easy decision.

“Oh, man, I would hope that would be a given, but that’s up to the powers to be,’’ Williams said.

Williams had been hopeful of playing his entire career with the Vikings. But in the spring of 2014, after Mike Zimmer took over as coach from the fired Leslie Frazier, Williams was not a high priority to be re-signed and he ended up with the Seahawks.

Williams said he does commiserate with his good friend and former teammate Jared Allen. After starring for Minnesota for six seasons, the defensive end also departed after the 2013 season, played two more seasons and lost in the Super Bowl. His Carolina Panthers fell 24-10 to Denver in Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.

Allen, who was named all-pro four times and made five Pro Bowls during 12 overall NFL seasons, also becomes eligible in a year for the hall of fame.

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Kicker Jan Stenerud, who is mostly known for his time kicking for the Chiefs, made NFL’s All-Time team it was announced last week.

Stenerud also played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1984-85, the last two seasons of his career. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1984, hitting on a league-leading 87 percent of his field goals.

The Vikings also have former defensive linemen John Randle and Alan Page who have made the team. The team has been put together to celebrate the league’s 100 years.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Rudolph has moved up in the record books.

The Vikings tight end reached 414 career catches, surpassing Vikings Legend Jake Reed and moving into fifth all-time in franchise history.

Rudolph entered Sunday’s game with 410 career receptions and 24 on the season.

His four catches from Kirk Cousins gained 10, 14, 6 and 5 yards, respectively.

Note: This will be updated at the end of Sunday’s game between Minnesota and Denver. The Vikings are trailing the Broncos 23-13 with 13:25 left in the game.

Rudolph has embraced a new-look role in the 2019 Vikings new-look offense. In the scheme under Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, the nine-year veteran has been less involved as a pass-catcher and instead shown off his abilities as a blocking tight end.

With the recent absence of Adam Thielen, however, Rudolph has reminded that he’s still plenty dangerous in the passing game.

He has four touchdowns through 10-plus games, including three over the past two weeks. Against Dallas, Rudolph hauled in two touchdowns and also made a catch for a 2-point conversion to help Minnesota bag the prime-time win.

“Kyle Rudolph, in my opinion, is having the best overall season of his career,” said “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen on this week’s episode of Winning Formula.

Rudolph will need 479 receptions to move past Anthony Carter into fourth all-time.

Hall of Famers Cris Carter (1,004) and Randy Moss (587) hold the first two slots, and Vikings Ring of Honor member Steve Jordan is in third with 498.

His 45 career scores rank fifth in Vikings history behind Cris Carter (110), Moss (92), Anthony Carter (52) and Sammy White (50).

Eight days after celebrating his 30th birthday, Rudolph may be considered one of the elders in the league but clearly has plenty left in the tank.

“My 30s have been good for me so far,” he said Thursday with a smile.

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Dan Endy, Sr., spends his game days recording the actions of Vikings defenders.

It’s only fitting that a commemorative jersey presented to Endy on Dec. 8 before Minnesota dominated Detroit’s offense featured a 50.

No, the 90-year-old Endy wasn’t going to step in for Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson.

Instead, the No. 50 jersey presented by Vikings Vice President of Football and Media Communications Bob Hagan celebrated Endy’s 50 years with the Vikings.

“Dan Endy has been one of those unsung employees for the Vikings,” Hagan said. “He has a great history with the Vikings and the NFL. It’s been an honor to have him work for the Vikings for 50 years, and we look forward to many more.”

Endy said it’s been a joy to be on the stats crew with “an amazing group.”

“There’s been very little turnover. There’s been a constancy to it,” Endy said. “I think the people that are involved in our crew, it’s more of a labor of love. … It’s a love of the game and a desire to be involved.”

Dan Endy, Sr. Recognized For 50 Years in Vikings Press Box
View photos of Dan Endy, Sr. who was recently recognized for his 50 years of service in the Vikings press box.

Originally from Philadelphia, Endy moved to Minnesota in February of 1969.

He stopped by the Vikings offices to ask Jim Finks and Bill McGrane, the general manager and public relations director at the time, if they had any opportunities.

The first couple of seasons, Endy handed out play-by-plays in the press box.

His first regular-season game with the Vikings was the day that Joe Kapp tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes as Minnesota walloped the defending NFL Champion Baltimore Colts 52-14.

That Vikings squad outscored opponents 379 to 133 en route to a 12-2 record, the NFL Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl IV.

The Purple People Eaters era and a decade of dominance built on defensive prowess began.

“At that time, they didn’t even do defensive statistics,” Endy recalled. “I think it may have been about 1972 when they started that. Merrill Swanson, who was the PR guy at the time, said, ‘Would you do defensive statistics?’ ”

“ ‘Yeah, I’d love to,’ ” he replied. “That’s when it started, and here I am.”

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Endy, who records defensive stats by each team and worked Super Bowls XXVI and LII, described the early days as “rather primitive.”

“It was not as technologically sophisticated as it is today. I mean we would say, everything was done by name, ‘[Fran] Tarkenton passes to [Paul] Flatley. Tackle by [Dick] Butkus.’ Everything was written down manually, and at the end of the game, there was a guy with one of those old-fashioned mimeograph things, cranking the stuff out.

“It was primitive, but it was effective, I guess,” he continued. “It worked for a while, and gradually things changed to the way they are now.”

Computerized reports have replaced handwritten or typed play-by-plays, which has made tracking defensive stats “far more sophisticated and far more accurate,” Endy said.

“I guess the one thing that’s remained constant in my view, the middle linebackers are always the ones that seem to dominate, and that continues today,” Endy said. “In the early days, it was Jeff Siemon and Scott Studwell, then Jack Del Rio.

“Those names cropped up more and more, I guess for obvious reasons,” he continued. “They’re in a position to make more tackles.”

Eric Kendricks, the team’s current middle linebacker, has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first four pro seasons and is on track to do so again in 2019.

The volume of tackles by the likes of Siemon, Studwell, Del Rio and Kendricks are certainly impressive, but Endy said he also enjoys watching defensive backs because he thinks it is the most difficult position to play.

“You’re out there on an island … and having to turn plays inside or defend passes and make tackles,” Endy said. “I just have a lot of respect for those guys, but that’s not to diminish the respect you have for a guy like Danielle Hunter.”

Hunter coincidentally recorded 3.0 sacks against Detroit, including the 50th of his career to set an NFL record, shortly after Endy received the 50 jersey.

As for the defensive backs, Endy can still visualize the way an opponent fell after a tackle by Joey Browner, as well as standing in amazement of what Antoine Winfield was able to accomplish.

“I was walking back up the ramp at the old Metrodome, Antoine Winfield was right beside me, and I looked over and said, ‘This guy is not much bigger than I am,’ ” Endy recalled. “So many of his tackles, going in there low and hard and hitting these big running backs. I thought, ‘How can a guy like that do it?’

“It was a very revealing experience to see all of those giants out there, and Antoine Winfield was a relatively small guy,” he continued. “I recall that they listed him as, like, 185 pounds, but he seemed to hit like 285.”

There’s playing larger than life, and then there’s some players whose personalities have jumped off the pages.

“John Randle happens to be a good friend of my son, and I still see him at the golf course,” Endy said. “It’s interesting, today you see him and he seems like such a mild-mannered, gentle guy, but my recollection of him as a player, he was a bulldog. He was tenacious.”

Randle’s intense style helped him record 114 of his 137.5 career sacks with Minnesota, and his colorful personality made him a favorite subject of NFL Films.

Endy’s contributions to the game run much deeper than quantitative stats.

In addition to his incredible run with the Vikings, Endy also played a role in the qualitative storytelling that helped football become America’s most beloved sport to watch.

Endy’s pro football career began with his work on highlight films in the 1950s and ’60s. He was based in Philadelphia at the time when the league had 14 teams. The seven weekly games were compressed into a half-hour highlight film that was syndicated and shipped across the country on 16-mm film.

The problem, Endy said, was that company’s approach was not “ ‘How well can you do something?’, but, ‘How cheaply can you do it?’ ”

Endy started his own company, acquired rights to the Pro Bowl and met Ed Sabol. They hatched out a plan to pursue more NFL rights.

Endy’s working connection with announcer Chris Schenkel led to an appointment with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

“Ed Sabol and I went up to New York, and I schlepped a 16-mm projector — I don’t know if you’ve ever carried one of those, but they’re heavy — from Grand Central Station in a cab up to the league office,” Endy said. “As an example of the type of work that I thought we could do, we showed him the Pro Bowl film, and he was impressed with it.”

Endy and Sabol won the bid for the 1962 NFL Championship between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants at Yankee Stadium, and Schenkel provided the voice-overs for the film.

One could consider the meeting, the game and the completion of the production as NFL Films’ protracted birth.

“It was both financial and an artistic success,” Endy said. “We had a premiere at Toots Shor’s in New York City. That place is now out of business, but Toots Shor was an old impresario and restauranteur, a big sports guy.

“At that showing, Pete Rozelle said it was the finest football film he had ever seen,” Endy continued. “It was called Pro Football’s Longest Day, and you can still get copies of that from NFL Films. That was really the launch pad for starting NFL Films at the end of that year.”

The acclaim rewarded the leap of faith by Endy and Sabol in purchasing the rights fees for the 1962 title game. Two other companies that had bid on the championship game made proposals to start NFL Films, but the NFL selected the bid presented by Endy and Sabol.

NFL Films has been owned by the NFL ever since, providing fans with a signature storytelling built on unique access, vivid imagery and colorful characters.

“It played a really important role, and to their credit, NFL Films always did an excellent job,” Endy said. “It was just the opposite of the old company. We didn’t worry about cost. It was not what it cost, it was how well you could do it. They set some standards that still exist.”

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He was “The King” long before LeBron James and even before Elvis Presley.

Hugh McElhenny earned that nickname when he was a star running back for the San Francisco 49ers from 1952-60. After that, he was picked up by the Vikings in the 1961 expansion draft, and in the team’s first season played in his sixth and final Pro Bowl at age 33.

The pro football hall of famer, now 90, is the oldest living former Vikings player.

“Is that right?” McElhenny said in a phone interview from his Henderson, Nev., home. “I’ve got to figure I’m one of the three or four oldest hall of famers. I’m just an old fart trying to make it day to day.”

McElhenny is the fourth-oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Older than him are running back Charley Trippi, 97, and coaches Marv Levy, 94, and Bud Grant, 92. Grant coached the Vikings from 1967-83 and in 1985.

McElhenny played two seasons with the Vikings before closing out his career with the New York Giants in 1963 and Detroit in 1964. During his 13-year NFL career, he had 5,281 rushing and 3,247 receiving yards, and he remains one of just five running backs all time to average 7.0 yards or more per carry in a season.

“He was a great open-field runner,” said Carl Eller, who as a University of Minnesota student watched McElhenny play before he became a hall of fame defensive end with the Vikings from 1964-78. “It was beautiful to see him run. He really had that grace.”

As the NFL celebrates its 100th anniversary, McElhenny has a well-earned spot in league history. With the 49ers in the mid-1950s, he was a member of the legendary Million Dollar Backfield that included hall of famers Y.A. Tittle at quarterback and running backs Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

As a rookie in 1952, McElhenny caught a 77-yard pass from Tittle against the New York Giants — a play that featured him running nearly 50 yards after his helmet had been knocked off. It was ranked No. 93 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 plays in league history.

McElhenny marvels at how far the NFL has come since his playing days.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “I was making $25,000 (with the Vikings) and now they’re getting two or three million dollars a year.”

McElhenny watches the Vikings when they are on television in the Las Vegas area. He has had some recent difficulties, most notably his wife of 70 years, Peggy, passing away in April.

“I’m kind of just getting over that now,” he said. “Being my age, I’m feeling all the aches and pains from my earlier years. I’m on a cane, I’m walking slow and being careful, but I’m alive.”

McElhenny rushed for 570 yards with the Vikings in 1961 before the team went to younger backs in 1962, when he ran for just 200 yards. He said he enjoyed his time in Minnesota despite playing for an expansion team that went 5-22-1 in his two seasons.

“I was happy about going to the Vikings,” he said. “The 49ers were going through a lot of changes and Red Hickey was named head coach, and as far as I was concerned he was an idiot. I liked playing for (Vikings coach Norm) Van Brocklin. He was a hard-nosed coach, but he was fair, and it was fun.”

McElhenny had his share of fun over the years. Mike Mercer, a Vikings kicker from 1961-62, said he will never forget how the team’s biggest star showed up for the first training camp at Bemidji State in July 1961.

“We practiced right on (Lake Bemidji),” Mercer said. “I was there early with the rookies, and then when the veterans were due, up pulls Hugh McElhenny pulling this great big boat. If he was driving a boat like that to training camp, I knew he had to be pretty good.”

McElhenny scored a touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Fran Tarkenton in Minnesota’s first game, a stunning 37-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. Later that season, he just missed the first 100-yard rushing game in Vikings’ history, carrying 12 times for 99 yards against Green Bay.

“McElhenny, he was fun to watch,” said Jerry Reichow, a Vikings receiver from 1961-64, who is now a consultant for the team. “He was such a classic runner. He wouldn’t drive into you and bang into you and all that stuff. He would set you up, and he read his blocks better than anybody I played with. He was our best player by far.”

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Asked how he wants to be remembered in NFL history, McElhenny didn’t point to anything he did on the field. He mentioned how active he was working with children’s charities.

“I think I contributed a great deal, not much maybe on the football field but off the field,” McElhenny said. “I gave so much of my time to my charities, and my wife did, too. We had a lot of fun playing golf, raising money, speaking at various churches and schools, and it was a contribution of many helping us.”

Eller, 77, has seen McElhenny a number of times over the years at hall of fame events in Canton, Ohio. Eller always has been impressed with his modesty.

“I’m glad he’s still around,” Eller said. “He’s a legend.”

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The Falcons are a couple of days away from playing their final home game of the 2019 season and, more importantly, trying to win a third straight game for the first time all season when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty of questions and comments, so let’s get to them now.

And we’re off.

Kaleb from Baxley, GA
Hey Beek, merry early Christmas! Do you think Atlanta should aim for an offensive lineman because I still don’t feel like Matt Ryan’s protection is where we thought it would be after last year’s draft?

Matt: Thanks, Kaleb! I definitely think the Falcons should bolster the offensive line – whether it’s through free agency or the NFL Draft. Successful teams are strong up the middle and in the trenches. Don’t forget that. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you, too.

Beek, why do you still sound like Matt Ryan is still best for Atlanta Falcon football?? Matt Ryan is not good year after year … Yes, he’s had some better years than this year, but why in the world would you suggest he’s still a good NFL quarterback?? The Falcons need a new QB … To move forward with Ryan is accepting today’s mediocrity. My question is, do you really believe Ryan will play better in the future years? I know he’s giving 100%, unfortunately that is not enough for the Falcons anymore!! I think he’s a professional and a nice guy too!! If the Falcons keep Ryan, it’s the same mistake they make with all their quarterbacks. The Falcons keep their quarterbacks three years too long!! Think of Steve Bartkowski and Mike Vick!!

Matt: Let me simply ask you this, Cyril: Never mind the salary cap implications (which would be significant to say the least), who do you think is out there right now that the Falcons could realistically acquire that is so much better than Matt Ryan? Who? There’s no one who is scheduled to become a free agent. Nor are the Falcons going to use a first-round pick on a quarterback (and not for at least two, three or maybe even four seasons). So, considering that, let me know when you come up with the name. The quarterback play here in Atlanta has been so good for the last decade that fans have forgotten how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback. And I think you should go back and start with the Falcons quarterback history – go through the entire list. That alone should be an eye-opener. Do you know this franchise has only had five quarterbacks throw for more than 10,000 yards? Five.

Matt Ryan (2008-2019): 50,489 yards
Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985): 23,470
Chris Miller (1987-1993): 14,066
Chris Chandler (1997-2001): 13,268
Michael Vick (2001-2006): 11,505
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AP/Tim Sharp
Tony from Norcross, GA
With the Patriots in another scandal … Do you think there is any validity to them cheating on us during the Super Bowl against them? The playbook came up missing. The drone over the practice field, etc.

Matt: Oh, boy. More conspiracies (SFTB, Dec. 13)! I’m not going to comment on what’s currently going on with the Patriots. The two other incidents you mention – the drone and playbook – are nonsense. There’s absolutely no validity to them in terms of cheating. None. Zilch. The drone belonged to someone who lived near the Rice University campus. Peter King of TheMMQB.com reported that a neighborhood resident apparently flew the drone over the field. Security officers grounded it and verified it. As far as Kyle Shanahan’s playbook goes, it was indeed mistakenly picked up – Jarrett Bell of USA Today discovered that San Francisco Examiner writer Art Spander had accidentally picked up the bag containing Shanahan’s playbook and Super Bowl tickets – and it was returned 15 minutes later. The tablet containing the playbook was locked. Conspiracy debunked.

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AP/John Hefti
Dee from Toccoa, GA
Been a long-time Falcons fan. Just saying that we should keep DQ – can’t keep changing. And to the other fans out there: Matt Ryan is not the problem. We need a line up front. We get a good line for him and free, let’s see what happens.

Matt: I’ve pointed to a number of examples now of why continuity with the head coach is important. On Thursday (SFTB, Dec. 19), I asked readers here where do you think the Saints would be without Sean Payton as head coach, noting when the Saints finished 7-9 for three straight seasons, from 2014 to 2016. I also used the Steelers as an example back in November (SFTB, Dec. 14), when I noted that Pittsburgh has only had three head coaches since 1969 – and while the Steelers have won six Super Bowls, they’ve also had their fair share of ups and downs in the process. So, I agree with you, Dee. You can’t keep changing for the sake of change. With change comes adjustment periods, learning new systems and, well, setbacks. And change does not guarantee success. The Falcons need to get stronger up the middle and in the trenches, first and foremost.

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AP/Peter Read Miller
Imani from Portsmouth, VA
What do you think about using Julio Jones to acquire some picks to help fill all these holes we have? I’m sure we could get some good pieces in return for an all-time great. Hate to see him go but we’re not going anywhere the way we’re currently constructed and he’s the biggest and most valuable chip we have to play with. What you think?

Matt: Do you remember when the Dallas Cowboys traded Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings? It’s considered to be one of the best (and most lopsided) trades in NFL history, and I think that’s where you’re going with this suggestion, Imani. To sum it up, the Cowboys sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings for five players and six draft picks. And those draft picks yielded the likes of RB Emmitt Smith, DT Russell Maryland, CB Kevin Smith and S Darren Woodson (and multiple Super Bowl wins). It’s fun to think about the “what if” scenarios, but the Falcons aren’t trading Julio Jones. First of all, the salary cap hit alone would be massive. I wouldn’t even consider Jones to be a chip, as you put it. Plus, the Falcons want to see Jones finish his career here. He, along with quarterback Matt Ryan, is still playing at a very high level and is a one-of-kind threat. With Antonio Brown in the league, Jones is the unanimous top receiver in the league. My advice is to enjoy him and this Golden Age of Falcons offense. You won’t see it again anytime soon.

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Do you have a question about the Falcons that you want answered Straight from the ‘Beek? Ask a question here and it could be posted on AtlantaFalcons.com.

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Do you have a question about the Atlanta Falcons (or anything football-related) you’d like to ask Matt Tabeek? If so, hit the link. Please remember to include your home state (or country if you live outside the U.S.). Thanks for reading SFTB!

Falcons Audible: Inside stunning win over 49ers
From Julio Jones’s game-winning catch to yet another strong outing from the defense, Matt Tabeek, DJ Shockley and Dave Archer break down the Falcons’ huge win in San Francisco on the latest episode of Falcons Audible presented by AT&T.

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Henry Thomas believes the Vikings defense is the real deal.

“The defense is unbelievable,” Thomas told Vikings.com during a visit to Winter Park for alumni weekend earlier this month. “It surpassed what I thought.”

As a former standout defensive tackle himself, Thomas recognizes talent when he sees it.

Thomas played for the Vikings from 1987-1994. During that span, he racked up 640 tackles, 56 sacks, two interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. He received Pro Bowl nods after his performance in the 1991 and 1992 seasons and was later named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings.

Now looking at Minnesota’s current team, Thomas said he had expected the defense to be strong this season, but he’s been impressed nonetheless. He’s focused mainly on the defensive line and said there is an immense amount of talent there.

As of Week 5 when Minnesota defeated Houston to enter the bye week 5-0, the Vikings defensive line ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL with 17.0 sacks for 132 yards. The unit ranked fourth overall in total tackles with 77, behind the Dolphins (93), Giants (89) and Bengals (85).

“They have a great group,” Thomas said. “The thing that really stands out is that they’re learning their techniques.

“But it’s exceeded anything I thought it was,” he added. “These first few games have been unbelievable.”

Thomas enjoyed the opportunity to attend a Vikings practice along with other alumni. Afterward, he reunited with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson, and the two exchanged old stories and thoughts on Patterson’s current group.

Despite their obvious connections to the purple and gold, Thomas and Patterson actually met outside of Vikings territory, when Patterson assumed his first NFL coaching role with New England in 1997.

As Thomas’ NFL career would begin to wind down, Patterson’s was just beginning. When the coach joined the Patriots as a defensive assistant, Thomas had already played eight seasons for the Vikings and two with the Lions.

“I was blessed to coach Hank,” said Patterson. “He might think that I taught him things, but he taught me a lot of stuff. I was a young first-year coach in the NFL, and he knew all the secrets. So I would snuggle up to him all the time: ‘Tell me what you see. Why do you do this? Why do you do that?’ So a lot of stuff that I teach, I stole from this guy.”

Thomas laughed, nodding along as Patterson reminisced.

“A year later, I wind up being with the Vikings [in 1998],” Patterson continued. “So I came here and ended up coaching Johnny [Randle] and those guys. A lot of that stuff that I stole from Hank, I still use today.”

It seems things have come full circle.

Talk to any one of the eight defensive linemen on Minnesota’s roster this season, and they’ll hand credit to Patterson, who also thanks Thomas. Patterson’s players appreciate his coaching style that uniquely addresses each one’s individual skillset. Thomas said it’s an important concept to have as a coach.

“Some guys aren’t speed rushers. Some guys aren’t going to have the corner, but you’ve got the ability to get up field and get underneath it, or you’ve got the ability to do a double move on them,” Thomas explained. “You have to hone that up, because if a guy doesn’t have speed around the corner, you can’t teach him speed around the corner.”

Thomas said a good coach will find a player’s strength and help develop it.

“We like to say, ‘We put the tools in the toolbox for you to use. We’ll get you a little bit more and a little bit more based on what you do well,’ ” Thomas said.

Patterson often talks about the depth in the defensive line room, and Thomas echoed the importance of having multiple options at a position. Shamar Stephen has played well while stepping in for the injured Sharrif Floyd, joining a three-man rotation with Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson to provide different looks depending on opponent and offense. Danielle Hunter also has rotated with Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and all three have 4.0 sacks this season.

Thomas joked that he didn’t know how Patterson got his players to buy in to the concept of rotating in and out of the line.

“We’d get mad to get pulled off the field,” Thomas said. “Especially if we were winning, I’d be like, ‘Man, we aren’t getting off. They’re about to throw the ball.’ ”

Patterson responded with a laugh, “You just have to kind of lay the groundwork.”

The foundation Patterson has built in Minnesota is working.

From the 21-year-old Hunter to Brian Robison in his 10th season, Thomas said he recognizes the abilities each of the Vikings defensive linemen possesses and how they all work together to find success.

Thomas is a self-proclaimed fan of Robison’s, who lives near Thomas in Texas. The former defensive tackle said he admires the way Robison has embraced evolving roles over the past two seasons, sometimes moving inside to play tackle instead of end in different situations.

“When you’re a player with the skillset B-Rob has, you get a little older, and some of those change,” Thomas said. “To move inside is like, ‘I have another opportunity.’ For him to have that attitude, you can’t stop a guy like that.

“Most guys will say, ‘Oh man, I’m not that guy,’ but he embraces it,” Thomas added. “He sees it as another opportunity to do something better. And it shows.”

In addition to veteran performance, Thomas is excited by the young players on the line, as well. He said he especially appreciates watching Hunter on the field.

“Danielle loves the game,” Thomas said. “That’s what I see when he’s out there. He wants to learn it, and he wants to be the best at it. You can see it when he plays, and that’s what I’m excited about. You can do anything you want with a guy like that. You can mold him into something really great.”

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EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and the rest of Minnesota’s front office currently have eight selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, which begins tonight in Nashville.

The Vikings will look to bolster their roster over a three-day period as they look to fill both short and long-term needs.

Minnesota’s first pick is currently slated to be the 18th overall pick in the first round, a spot the Vikings have been in twice before. The Vikings chose a defensive player both times … will they do the same this time around?

This is a look at what the Vikings have done in franchise history with their current stock of draft picks.

There is a current player included in this group, along with a host of players who made notable contributions in their time in Purple, headlined by Ring of Honor linebacker Scott Studwell.

Studwell, who played from 1977-90, has been in the Vikings personnel department since 1991. He is working his final draft before retiring, which added a heaping dose of sentimentality to the week.

Here are the 14 players that have been selected from spots that correspond with Minnesota’s 2019 slots:

Round 1, No. 18 Overall

Previous selections: CB Dewayne Washington in 1994 (Round 1); DE Erasmus James in 2005 (Round 1)

Washington spent four seasons in Minnesota and recorded 10 of his 31 career interceptions. He later played for Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Kansas City. James recorded 5.0 sacks in three seasons with the Vikings, but was traded in 2008. He played just four total seasons in the NFL.

Round 2, No. 50 Overall

Previous selection: RB Ed Marinaro in 1972 (Round 2)

Marinaro, the only player drafted by Minnesota out of Cornell, rushed 306 times for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns and caught 125 passes for 1,008 yards and seven scores in four seasons with the Vikings.

Round 3, No. 81 Overall

Previous selection: None

The Vikings have never selected a player with the 81st overall pick in any draft.

Round 4, No. 120 Overall

Previous selections: T Frank McClendon in 1965 (Round 9), DB Jim Ferguson in 1974 (Round 5), WR Hassan Jones in 1986 (Round 5); CB Kenny Wright in 1999 (Round 4); LB Gerald Hodges in 2013 (Round 4); LB Ben Gedeon in 2017 (Round 4)

Jones’ best season came in 1990 when he had 51 catches for 810 yards and seven touchdowns. He played seven seasons in Purple and caught all 24 career touchdowns with Minnesota. Wright started 27 games for the Vikings and eventually played for five teams in nine seasons. Hodges made 10 starts and appeared in 29 games for Minnesota, but the Vikings traded him in October of 2016. Gedeon has started 17 games in two seasons in Minnesota’s base defense and is known as a strong special teams asset. McClendon and Ferguson did not make the team.

Round 6, No. 190 Overall

Previous selection: LB Mike Nattiel in 2003 (Round 6)

Nattiel played just two seasons in his NFL career, both with the Vikings. His career highlight was an 80-yard interception return against the Seahawks in Week 14 of the 2003 season.

Round 6, No. 209 Overall

Previous selection: WR Howard Twilley in 1966 (Round 14)

Twilley was also selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 12th round of the American Football League’s final draft. He opted for South Beach instead of the North Shore and totaled 212 receptions for 3,064 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 seasons with the Dolphins.

Round 7, No. 247 Overall

Previous selection: TE Rich Kotite in 1965 (Round 18)

Kotite didn’t make the Vikings roster, but he did play for the Giants in 1967 and the Steelers in 1968 before returning to New York and playing another three seasons for the Giants. He totaled 17 receptions for 213 yards and five touchdowns. Kotite eventually became head coach of the Eagles (1991-94) and Jets (1995-96).

Round 7, No. 250 Overall

Previous selections: DB Tom Sakal in 1968 (Round 10); LB Scott Studwell in 1977 (Round 9)

Sakal, a Gophers alum and captain of the 1967 Big Ten Champions, did not play for the Vikings. Instead, he was drafted by the Army and sent to Vietnam in 1969 as a combat soldier. Studwell is one of five Vikings to appear in more than 200 regular-season games (201). He set franchise records for tackles in a game (24 against Detroit in 1985), season (230 in 1981) and career (1,981 on defense and special teams).

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Custom Harry Newsome Jersey Large

When Harry Newsome was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the eighth round of the 1985 draft, he was being asked to replace the incumbent punter Craig Colquitt. It wasn’t the first time that Newsome was facing an obstacle like this.

Newsome grew up in Cheraw, SC, a town that held just 4,000 people. One of those people was Dale Hatcher, a man who would be drafted in the third round of the same draft by the Los Angeles Rams . The two friends would attend many of the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competitions together as children.

It was Hatcher, while growing up together, who was lauded for his punting ability. Newsome, however, was an exceptional athlete in his own right. He played quarterback, strong safety, and place kicker in high school. He was also an excellent baseball player who got scholarship offers from such powerhouse programs like Arizona State University and Stanford University.

When it was time to go to college, Hatcher became an All-American punter at Clemson University, while Newsome also chose to stay close to home by choosing Wake Forest University so that he could also play football.

Newsome would be named All-ACC three times in college, yet his friend Hatcher was a member of the 1981 National Championship Tigers. Hatcher is a member of Clemson’s Centennial Team after becoming the only Tiger to average over 40 yards a punt in four seasons and lead the team in punting for four straight years.

While Newsome set records himself, the Deamon Deacons never qualified for a bowl game in his time at the school. He ranks third in career punting average, and holds the record for punting average by a junior.

Colquitt, part of a long line of Colquitt’s to play for the University of Tennessee and the first of three to play in the NFL, was drafted in the third round of the 1978 draft to replace Steelers legend Bobby Walden. He was a member of the 1978 Super Bowl winning team and had just come off one of the better seasons of his career.

Newsome beat him out for a roster spot, and he would not return to the NFL again until 1987. He played one game that year and attempted three punts, including having one blocked the only time in his career, before being cut. Craig Colquitt never played in the NFL again.

The 1985 year was successful for both Newsome and Hatcher. Newsome was given the Joe Greene Performance Award, which names the Steelers Rookie of the Year. Hatcher made his only Pro Bowl squad that year, yet he would be cut by the Rams after the 1991 season despite leading the NFL in punting yards in 1987 in just 15 games played.

Hatcher returned to the NFL in 1993 with the Miami Dolphins , but his career ended after the season was completed. He is perhaps known by some for participating in the first game in NFL history to be decided by a safety.

The Rams were facing the Minnesota Vikings , and former Steeler Mike Merriweather blocked Hatcher’s punt through the end zone in overtime. Both of the Cheraw natives would have a punt blocked in their rookie years as well.

Though he was the holder on place kicks for Pittsburgh, Newsome also served as the emergency quarterback. During a game against the Chicago Bears in 1986, the Steelers lined up for a field goal attempt. The snap was bad, so he threw the ball 12 yards to tight end Preston Gothard for the only touchdown of his career.

Blocked punts became a theme for Newsome during his time in Pittsburgh. He had an NFL leading three punts blocked in that 1986 season. After having another one blocked the following season, he would then face a season in 1988 that no punter would ever want to encounter.

Hall Of Fame head coach Chuck Noll was known to many as one of the best coaches in NFL history, but special teams was one area that Noll did not have much interest in. He did not have his teams practice on special teams until Saturdays. Pittsburgh went through several long snappers during this time, but could not find a consistent player at the position.

Six players tried to long snap for Pittsburgh during Newsome’s time with them. Noll even used Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, but Webster’s bent up fingers from all of the games he had played prevented him to long snap well enough to help.

No season spotlighted the Steelers special teams problems more than 1988. They went through four long snappers that year, which caused major problems in the punting game. The “get away” time on punts were bad due to slow snaps to Newsome.

“A good total time of snapping the ball, handling the punt, then getting it away was 6.7 to 6.8 seconds.”, recalled Newsome. “The handle time of the punter himself should be somewhere between 1.2 to 1.3 seconds. I spent my time in Pittsburgh always trying to hurry my punts because the ball took so long to get to me.

“I even went from a three step punter to two steps. It didn’t help because the extra tenths of seconds on the snaps, along with protection problems, left us often exposed. It would amp up the opponents even more knowing this.”

So exposed that Newsome had an NFL record six punts blocked that year. It wasn’t like he wasn’t punting well, despite all the constant pressure and blocks, because he was. He led the NFL with 45.4 yards per punts average on 65 attempts. What makes his accomplishment of leading the league in punting average more remarkable was because of the six punts that he had blocked.

Due to Noll’s disinterest in special teams, the only real attempts at trying to fix the problem that year was trying a variety of players at long snapper. This continued into the 1989 season when Newsome had a punt blocked again. It was the 12th time in five years in Pittsburgh that he had a punt blocked.

He became a Plan B Free Agent after that year, and he found himself highly sought after by many teams. Though teams like the San Diego Chargers offered him the most money, he chose the Minnesota Vikings. A big part of his reason for joining the Vikings was because former Steelers coaches Tony Dungy and Tom Moore, along with Merriweather, were part of the team. They held bible study meetings, and Newsome was a part of it.

He had a punt blocked in his first season in Minnesota, but his fortunes began to change when the Vikings signed long snapper Mike Morris in 1991. “He was the best I ever saw do it, and easily the best I ever had snap me the ball,” Newsome says. It was the first season in his career he did not have a punt blocked, and he averaged a career best 45.5 yards per punt on 68 attempts.

The 1992 season saw him punt a ball a career long 84 yards, which led the league. It is the 13th longest punt in NFL history, and his teammates gave him the game ball. He also had another punt blocked, the last of his career, when a blocker fell while engaged with a defender.

After punting the ball a career high 90 times for 3,862 yards the next season, he developed knee problems, due to tendinitis, and chose to retire from the game. He returned home to Cheraw, where he still resides to this day. Hatcher lives in Gaffney, SC and the two remain friends. Newsome ranks Mel J. Gray as the best punt returner he ever faced.

Newsome grew up idolizing Oakland Raiders legend Ray Guy. Though he thinks place kickers get more respect than punters, because they account for scoring, he hopes Guy will be soon inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think a punter will ever be inducted,” he said, “If one ever does, it will be him.”

He is currently ranked fourth on both the Steelers and Vikings in career punting yards, and his 45.5 punting average in 1991 ranks third best in Vikings history behind Chris Kluwe and Bobby Walden. His 45.4 average in 1988 ranks third in Steelers history by anyone with more than 11 attempts. He also is 50th in NFL history in punting attempts and yards.

The NFL records that Harry Newsome owns are what some fans may best remember him by in his nine year NFL career. His 14 blocked punts in his career is tied with Herman Weaver as the most ever. The other record is having those six punts blocked in 1988. That is a type season some punters may consider a year of hell.

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Custom Harold Morrow Jersey Large

The Minnesota Vikings released linebacker Patrick Chukwurah and special teams player Harold Morrow on Thursday.

Chukwurah started five games in his two years with the Vikings, but his playing time gradually decreased last season after rookie Nick Rogers beat him out for the starting strong-side linebacker spot.

Morrow, a fullback, had 18 special teams tackles _ second to Jack Brewer’s 26 _ and forced one fumble last season. He had a career-high 12 carries for 67 yards in 2001, but he disappeared from the offense last season as the Vikings went to a two tight-end formation.