Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Doug Burgum was too busy campaigning for governor earlier this month to bow hunt with North Dakota's most popular sportsman, Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. So the Republican front-runner and former Microsoft executive invited Wentz and his posse to stalk deer on his land along the Red River south of Fargo during the Eagles' Oct. 4-9 bye week. Burgum figured the excursion would last a couple days and he could catch up before the trail turned cold. Wrong.
MINNEAPOLIS—Because the Vikings' spackled-together offensive line is the undefeated team's central question mark, scrutiny spares no one. Second-year swing tackle Jeremiah Sirles found himself surrounded by microphones and cameras Wednesday as the first offensive lineman to amble into the locker room and face the grilling. "I miss the days where I could come in here and just read a bunch of articles about having butts stuck in my face," Sirles joked about the media scrums for other players that typically crowd out his stall.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings returned from their annual in-season hiatus Monday undefeated, alone atop the NFC North Division and still boasting the stingiest scoring defense in the league. They are 5-0. Or as pragmatic and unsatisfied coach Mike Zimmer prefers their record: five-and-oh, never mind. "It's 0-0 now and we start a new season. We just forget about what's happened in the past and we start moving on," Zimmer said. "For us, it's an 11-game season and we'll see where we're at then."
MINNEAPOLIS—General manager Rick Spielman had just finished another telephone call with another agent Wednesday morning when he reflected on the blockbuster trade that reeled in the Vikings from the abyss. All arrows are pointing up on the deal that sent first- and fourth-round draft picks to Philadelphia for Sam Bradford. The Vikings quarterback has stealthily guided a turnover-free offense producing just enough to keep opponents guessing before ceding the stage to Minnesota's ravenous defense.
MINNEAPOLIS — It was vintage Aaron Rodgers, bobbing, weaving, chucking and escaping certain disaster — No. 12 with a bullet, and the NFL's best improviser is coming to crash the Vikings' coming-out party at U.S. Bank Stadium. There was the Packers quarterback and two-time NFL most valuable player last weekend in sultry Jacksonville, outfoxing two blitzing Jaguars defenders stalking their prey and powering a touchdown pass into a peephole 34 yards downfield.
MINNEAPOLIS—Therapy was in session Thursday as Blair Walsh stressed how confident he is, how good a kicker he has been and how all this scrutiny over wide left (again) and carryover angst from January's playoff shank is really idle chatter. The strong-legged, always accountable and increasingly thin-skinned Vikings kicker could make all of it go away, of course, by converting his first field goal or point-after attempt Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. And all the other ones.
EDEN PRAIRIE, MInn.—Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner has been here before, preparing a newly acquired veteran quarterback with game day fast approaching in a coaching kitchen full of chefs. In November 1993, Turner was calling plays for the Dallas Cowboys when star quarterback Troy Aikman suffered a hamstring injury. Owner Jerry Jones signed Bernie Kosar after Cleveland cut the iconic hometown star.
MINNEAPOLIS — Shaun Hill has been a quarterback bridesmaid so long, his Vikings uniform was made from recycled jerseys he will never wear again. Pardon the 11-year veteran for thinking 2016 would be his time to finally carry a team across the threshold when general manager Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer and anguished teammates tossed confidence bouquets at Hill's feet last week after Teddy Bridgewater mangled his knee.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—The savior quarterback collapsed in the pocket writhing in agony, his left knee shredded, along with the team's hopes for a special season, as distressed teammates threw helmets and pounded their fists into the turf. Ring any bells? Dick Vermeil had never experienced what unfolded in front of him at the TWA Dome in St. Louis on Aug. 28, 1999, when Trent Green suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament after a Chargers defender crashed into the Rams starter late in the first half of the club's third preseason game.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Wailing sirens pierced a lazy summer afternoon as the ambulance barreled into Winter Park on Tuesday to medivac fallen Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a hospital, leaving teammates, coaches and fans to pick up the pieces of a shattered season. No doubt players will preach perseverance and close ranks around unelected leader Shaun Hill, their starting quarterback for the moment — a 36-year-old journeyman with more defeats than victories in 34 scattered starts.