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Vikings began revamping key roster spots within hours after tie game against Packers

September 19, 2018

First came the emotions.

The Vikings’ wild week started with five quarters of back-and-forth football ending in a 29-29 tie in Green Bay. Players from both teams expressed confusion over how to feel after a game in which both sides had layup chances to win in regulation. Quarterback Kirk Cousins said, “I don’t know what to feel after a tie.” Receiver Adam Thielen added “Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I mad? Angry? I don’t know.”

Then came the phone calls.

Within hours of the game’s awkward finish, the Vikings front office had already placed a call to veteran free-agent receiver Aldrick Robinson. Two of their young receivers, Laquon Treadwell and Stacy Coley, had untimely blunders against the Packers. Robinson said he wasn’t watching the game, but the Vikings quickly put things in motion to attain his services and eventually release Coley.

“I was actually on a flight going somewhere else to do another workout,” Robinson said Wednesday. “Then I got off the flight, and that’s when I heard that I was coming here.”

The reverberations didn’t stop with Robinson, though.

General Manager Rick Spielman acquired three veterans in Robinson, kicker Dan Bailey and defensive tackle Tom Johnson. Two of those moves, Robinson and Bailey, were aimed at directly helping areas in which the Vikings struggled in Green Bay.

“I texted [the front office] the other night and told all those guys thank you for trying to get some more players in here,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We felt like we needed to make some moves after that game.”

After missing three field goals in Green Bay, rookie Daniel Carlson showed up to work Monday for a normal workout and special teams meeting. He was instead told he was being waived after two NFL games. Spielman’s Monday then turned to hosting Bailey for a physical and reacquiring Johnson, whose weekend release from the Seahawks didn’t become official until that day.

Suddenly a Vikings roster that began the season as the NFC’s youngest needed three veteran reinforcements in the 34-year-old Johnson, 30-year-old Bailey and 29-year-old Robinson.

Only one of the additions is set up to be a seamless transition.

Johnson, who turned from a career journeyman to key contributor in Minnesota from 2014-2017, was greeted by familiar faces. But he still required a 90-minute tour Tuesday with Spielman around the Vikings’ spacious new Eagan practice facilities.

Change continued to hit Johnson as he went into the locker room. Friend Terence Newman is now an assistant coach. Former locker mate Brian Robison was cut Sept. 1 after 11 seasons in Minnesota.

“To not see them, yeah, it’s different,” Johnson said. “B-Rob is a big part of this locker room, always has been since I’ve been here and before I got here. So, without him around, it feels a little different.”

A whirlwind landed Johnson back in Minnesota after just one game for the Seahawks, who told him they wanted to bring him back on a cheaper deal this week. Then the Vikings swooped in to re-sign their former starter.

“This is where pretty much my career started growing up,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s a good fit, and it’s only going to get better.”

His addition is just one of the early-season tweaks to the Vikings’ lineup.

This wild week ends with the woeful Buffalo Bills (0-2) coming to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Vikings (1-0-1) have a chance to recalibrate their emotions against an underwhelming opponent.

Will it be with Pat Elflein yet? The second-year center was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice for the first time since returning to practice this month from lingering shoulder and ankle ailments. Whenever Elflein returns, he may be the fourth center to snap to Cousins during the quarterback’s few months practicing and playing football for the Vikings.

“This is life in the NFL,” Cousins said. “If you’re waiting to have a perfect situation or be totally comfortable, you’re going to be waiting a long time.”

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