Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings' offensive line purge has begun. Minnesota released guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris on Friday, clearing roster spots and cap space to rebuild an injury-ravaged and underperforming unit that precipitated the team's second-half collapse in 2016. Harris did not play all season because of an undisclosed illness, while Fusco struggled at right guard two years after signing a $24 million contract extension.
ST. PAUL — "Slap Shot" turns 40 this month. No presents, please, unless they are wrapped in foil and reflect the enduring lessons of a counterculture classic. Capturing the spirit of the thing is easier than scoring a tap-in goal. Appreciating the raunchy parody's takedown of carnival violence is more subtle yet no less prescient while the NHL digs in against a concussion crisis that exposes fighting as caveman smearing of an otherwise progressive sport.
MINNEAPOLIS — Roger Goodell presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady on Sunday would be the photo-op of the millennium if the New England Patriots owner and quarterback win Super Bowl LI a year after the NFL commissioner punished both for a ball-deflating scandal. Unless the upstart Atlanta Falcons upset the dynasty and let the air out of that bloated narrative once and for all.
MINNEAPOLIS — A man and woman who climbed up a U.S. Bank Stadium truss during a Vikings game and hung a banner demanding the sponsor bank divest itself from the Dakota Access Pipeline were charged with three misdemeanors Tuesday. Karl Zimmerman and Sen Holiday each were charged three counts: fourth-degree burglary, disorderly conduct and trespassing, according to a complaint released by the Minneapolis city attorney's office. They are scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 17.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Mike Zimmer would rather lie face down on a bed of nails than put himself on the therapist's couch for a primal session of self-reflection, but there he was Tuesday poised to tell Barbara Walters what kind of tree he is. Chasing an undefeated season down the rabbit hole of dysfunction should humble the heartiest of NFL men right down to their Nikes.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Vikings guard Mike Harris remains optimistic he will be cleared to resume his stalled career but offered no definitive timetable Monday and deferred questions about his medical condition to coach Mike Zimmer. "It is my body, but I just ... I feel fine," Harris said as players cleared out their lockers at Winter Park. "It was a tough couple of months, not being out there, but I feel great. I feel fine, but I need the trainers to just let me play. When that happens, I'll let you guys know. For now, I can't say much about it."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—"Miscommunication" was the buzzword Monday as Vikings cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman sought to downplay their freestyle coverage of Packers receiver Jordy Nelson as defying coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer blamed himself for being too vague with Rhodes and Newman about their shifting assignments and too blunt assessing the pass defense in his news conference after Saturday's 38-25 playoff-squelching loss at Lambeau Field.
MINNEAPOLIS—Hard to bury a team that does not bother to show up at its own funeral, but let's pour one out anyway for your 2016 Minnesota Vikings, who redefined rock bottom Sunday with an unforgivable performance for the ages. They climbed into a steam drill, bore through mantle and went full throttle into the center of the Earth, a soft core rivaled only by the failed leadership of this locker room and coaching staff.
MINNEAPOLIS — Must-win games can fray the nerves of veterans and rookies alike, but in many ways they are liberating for players because the stakes are obvious. The Vikings (7-6) have zero margin for error as they prepare to play host to the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) on Sunday at U.S Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — How fitting that the hot air thawing the Vikings' practice field blows the tarp into a Big Top now that the Adrian Peterson circus has returned to Winter Park. Peterson is back practicing three months after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the question of will-he-or-won't-he-play Sunday against Indianapolis is consuming most of the oxygen from the locker room he dominates.