EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — With Tuesday’s afternoon deadline to reach the 75-man roster limit, the Minnesota Vikings started to pare down their preseason roster on Monday.
Minnesota released 13 players, waived/injured safety Mistral Raymond and has one cut left to get to Tuesday’s limit. The Vikings also activated tight end Chase Ford from the physically unable to perform list.
Minnesota released safety Brandan Bishop, tackle Pierce Burton, cornerback Derek Cox, wide receiver Andy Cruse, wide receiver Kamar Jorden, wide receiver Erik Lora, tackle Kevin Murphy, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, defensive end Tyler Scott, defensive end Jake Snyder, tight end Kory Sperry, cornerback Robert Steeples and receiver Ty Walker.
In his first year as a head coach, Mike Zimmer said there isn’t much of a difference in facing the cuts as opposed to being a coordinator.
"I’d like to keep a lot more defensive guys," Zimmer quipped. "But no, I’ve been through this a long time, too, and I’ve seen a lot of the same cuts and I’m no different than the assistant coaches. I feel a bond to a lot of these players because of how hard they’ve worked, how much they’ve put into it and if they don’t get a chance to play for us hopefully they get a chance to play for somebody else. You’re always happy for the players when they get another opportunity with someone else."
Raymond was injured in Saturday’s game after playing on special teams. A sixth-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2011, Raymond fell behind in a competition for a crowded safety spot. He developed into a starter as a rookie, but injuries ultimately led him to play just 32 games with the Vikings, making 10 starts.
Cox might have been the biggest surprise cut. The 27-year-old was signed to a one-year, $780,000 contract in the offseason after being released by San Diego. Cox had signed a lucrative four-year contract with the Chargers as a free agent last season and has 13 interceptions in five career seasons.
Zimmer said the team is still weighing options in regards to one last cut to be made.
"Some of it was the game this week, it’s a short week, the injuries that we have, trying to figure out exactly who we need to have for the game," Zimmer said. "We’re always looking for the possibility of trades, possibility of getting more players in here. I talk to the team all the time, we’re not competing against the six receivers, we’re competing against every receiver in the NFL and the Canadian Football League and wherever we can find guys. However we can put the best football team together for this organization, we’re going to do it."
Ford returns with a late chance to secure the third tight end spot for Minnesota. He caught 11 passes for 133 yards in nine games for the Vikings last season but suffered a broken foot before training camp which required surgery.
"Obviously we’ve got to see him on the field, but from the rehab reports that we’ve been getting, he can do everything," Zimmer said. "We’ll have to see what kind of condition he is in, his recall for the plays. He’s been out here and watching but that doesn’t mean that he knows the plays and being able to execute them and what kind of blocking he does. These next 13 days will be important for him."
Vikings, NFL, TRIA partner on grant: The Vikings partnered with TRIA Orthopaedic Center to provide certified athletic training coverage for high school football programs in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts this upcoming season.
The team matched a grant from the National Football League Foundation to donate a total of $50,000 to Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools for care of football players. TRIA will provide the care and will also conduct neurocognitive baseline testing for concussion management as part of the initiative. Total Luxury Limousine has also partnered to provide transportation for any required physician’s visits.
The initiative will provide for certified athletic trainers to be present for varsity, junior varsity and ninth-grade football games for Minneapolis and St. Paul schools.
"I think that’s a really big deal," Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said. "Care that these kids have never had, we hope that this is care that they are going to expect to get and it will be very beneficial.
Sugarman added: "Having a certified athletic trainer at these schools can do many things. Obviously, we can help diagnose and evaluate injuries right on the spot, but most importantly we can help diagnose concussions, we can help with return-to-play criteria, things of that sort, really with the bottom line being, to keep our kids safer playing football."
Zimmer shoots down analytic grading: As part of his opening statement on Monday, Zimmer downplayed the analytical grading done by the website ProFootballFocus.com.
The website has been growing in its popularity in recent years and one local report referenced the website as saying Minnesota’s safeties and middle linebackers struggled in Saturday’s game.
"I look at the grades and I can’t tell you what a point-7 is or anything like that," Zimmer said. "But I know that the people that are grading our games and our defenses and our offenses, they don’t know if the tackle gets beat inside if we weren’t sliding out to the nickel or who our guys were supposed to cover. I guarantee you they don’t know who’s in our blitz package and what they’re supposed to do.
I would just ask everybody to take that with a grain of salt, including our fans. We as coaches get paid a whole bunch of money to do the jobs that we do, evaluate the players that we evaluate and grade them how we grade them, not based on someone else. Anyway, that’s off my chest."