[Social Robotics] [default] The Minnesota Vikings have almost every key player back from

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[Social Robotics] [default] The Minnesota Vikings have almost every key player back from

Sethu Vijayakumar
the 2017 team that won 14 games and went to the NFC championship game.Their new quarterback Trevor Siemian Jersey Black Friday , Kirk Cousins , is playing up to his big contract. They’re one kick away from starting this season unbeaten.For all their strengths and stability, let alone dwindling space under the salary cap, the Vikings still sought upgrades at three positions in the three days that passed since their 29-29 tie at Green Bay .They signed kicker Dan Bailey after cutting their fifth-round draft pick, Daniel Carlson, following his three missed field goals against the Packers.They dropped wide receiver Stacy Coley, a seventh-rounder in 2017, in favor of Aldrick Robinson for a more experienced backup. When defensive tackle Tom Johnson became available, they brought him back to spell Sheldon Richardson and let David Parry go.“I wanted to go somewhere that had an opportunity to win and be a part of an organization that’s right there and right on the brink of having a lot of success,” said Bailey, who like Johnson had offers from multiple teams. “When this situation came up, it fit the bill perfectly.”Such cutthroat competition is commonplace in the NFL, of course, but nonetheless indicative of the all-in approach the front office has applied in 2018 in pursuit of a Super Bowl.There’s little appetite this fall for leaving one of those 53 precious spots on the roster for a developmental purpose, if it can be used instead for a player who’ll contribute to the current team.When the opening week rosters were established, the Vikings had the youngest average age in the NFC. But they replaced Carlson (23) with Bailey (30), Parry (26) with Johnson (34) and Coley (24) with Robinson, who will turn 30 on Monday.Coach Mike Zimmer even texted general manager Rick Spielman and some of the other evaluators this week with this message: “Thank you for trying to get some more players in here.”Zimmer added: “It’s great to see. We felt like we needed to make some moves after that game.”Carlson was going to have a hard time recovering from his performance in Green Bay. Coley made a couple of less-obvious mistakes, but coupled with some costly dropped passes by fellow wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in that game, the Vikings were understandably concerned about their depth behind stars Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.Then Johnson suddenly became available after his release by Seattle, and the Vikings seized on the opportunity to add a player who was good enough to start for the league’s top-ranked defense last season in a reserve role.Johnson became a free agent and picked the Seahawks after the Vikings signed Richardson. The Seahawks told Johnson they preferred to re-sign him, after dropping him from the roster to accommodate the promotion of a player from the practice squad.“I guess they didn’t think I was going to get as much interest as I got,” Johnson said, adding: “It’s something that I wasn’t expecting, as far the better situation that I’m in. I’m taking full advantage of it.”The same goes for Bailey, who was cut by the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 1 in a cost-cutting move after he struggled in 2017 down the stretch of his seventh NFL season following a groin injury.“Hopefully,” Zimmer said https://www.minnesotavikingsshop.com/George-Iloka-Jersey , knocking his knuckles against the podium, “he’s really, really good for us.”The coach hoped aloud that Bailey would solidify the position the same way Cousins has at quarterback, after the carousel that has spun at both spots since Zimmer arrived in 2014.“For me it was about being patient and waiting for the right opportunity,” Bailey said.“It’s hard to say if I would have waited longer, but that was my game plan going into it. I’m fortunate this opportunity came up, and I took advantage.”___ EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The first sign in Minnesota of Latavius Murray’s varied interests was visible even before he signed his contract with the Vikings last year.This season, his responsibilities have reached a new high.That starts at home, where he and his fiancée brought home a baby boy named Major last month. The extra burden has extended to Minnesota’s backfield, where Murray has started three of the past four games for the injured Dalvin Cook. Last week, Murray rushed for a career-best 155 yards to help the Vikings beat Arizona .“I try not to get caught up in whether I’m the number one or the number two,” he said. “I have to be me, and any opportunities I get I’ve got to do my best.”Murray has long applied this wisdom beyond the game, a sixth-year running back ranking among the league leaders in well-rounded lives if the category existed. During the offseason , he made a second humanitarian trip to Haiti with former Oakland teammate Derek Carr. Then he traveled to Germany and Italy as part of a United Service Organizations tour with a handful of other NFL players to meet with overseas troops. Murray’s fiancée, Shauntay Skanes, is in her 10th year in the Navy.Moving toward a master’s degree in business administration through Syracuse, his hometown university in upstate New York, Murray is already a T-shirt entrepreneur of sorts. He used to be more personally involved with the merchandising, before outsourcing the work to avoid being too consumed by it.While his agent negotiated a deal with the Vikings late into the March night in 2017, Murray passed the time on his first visit to the team’s facility with some online work toward his MBA. He’s about halfway done, with a goal of completion for 2019 after he and Skanes are married. That’s one way he has begun to prepare himself at age 28 for his post-football years.“I’m just hoping that I’m doing something maybe bigger than what I’m doing right now,” Murray said. “That’s more than half of my life I’ll have when I’m done playing the game, and to try and limit it to just this right now would be dumb of me.”Returning to Minnesota this season required a pay cut to help the team squeeze several big-ticket contract extensions under the salary cap, but the Vikings have been getting a bargain for the second straight year.In 2017, Murray took over when Cook tore his ACL. This season Dalvin Cook Color Rush Jersey , Cook has been bothered by a hamstring injury that again kept him from practicing on Thursday. When Murray signed with the Vikings, he was viewed as the replacement for Adrian Peterson. Then the Vikings made Cook their top draft pick and, thus, primary halfback. Murray could have been stung by the arrival of a hotshot rookie, but that wasn’t the case.“He took me in as a little brother, and that’s what I respect most about him,” Cook said. “Most guys could just brush that off, but I highly respect Latavius for that. To this day, the bond has just got stronger.”Fondly remembering the way he was treated by his elders with the Raiders, Murray simply made a point to pay that support forward.“That was the kind of vets I had, guys who weren’t going to act like they were too good or too old or too big to try and teach me the game, hang out with me, have fun and do those kinds of things.”Murray has a budding family to play for now, too, but his memory of childhood friend Jonathan Diaz has always been painfully close. Diaz was shot to death in Syracuse in 2016, since when Murray’s motivation to succeed on the field has started with him.Diaz would have been proud of how Murray plowed through the Cardinals last Sunday, stiff-arming a safety on his way to a 21-yard touchdown run that helped the Vikings set the tone for an important victory.“We love blocking for him,” left guard Tom Compton said. “He gives you a lot of options. If you’re a little shaky on anything, he’ll definitely help you out and run a guy over for you.”With a forward lean to his running style that leads to plenty of yards after contact, Murray is a perfect complement to Cook and his more elusive skillset.“He’s a great person. He’s very diligent about his work. He practices hard, but he’s got good feet and acceleration,” coach Mike Zimmer said, adding: “When he gets a chance, very seldom is this guy going backward when he gets hit. A lot of those things I really like.”
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