It's Thanksgiving Day, the day when daily routine is dropped in favor of family, football and food all in the spirit of giving thanks. It's an appropriate day for the Vikings and Vikings fans to take a moment and be thankful.
Here are 10 things for which the Vikings can be thankful.
1. Mike Zimmer and His Awesome DefenseOn January 15 of this year, the Vikings chose Mike Zimmer as the ninth head coach in team history. In his 10 months at the helm, Zimmer has made remarkable progress in many areas with the team, but most notably is the improvement on defense. The Vikings defense has jumped up significantly in 2014 and heading into Week 13 action is the NFL's No. 3-ranked pass defense. It's clear that Zimmer has this team on the right track and no one will be surprised to see a stifling defense become his team's identity.
2. New Stadium Progress 1 Year LaterLast year the Vikings were thankful for a new stadium design unveiling and preparations to break ground on the project, and this year the Vikings and their fans can be thankful for all of the hard work put in by construction workers to clear the old Metrodome site and make significant progress toward the completion of the new stadium. The project is nearly 1/3 complete and more than 2,000 workers have already spent time on the site.
3. The Greatest Fans in the WorldPerformance on the field may fluctuate, but the dedication and passion of the Vikings fan base never wavers. Week-after-week and year-after-year, Vikings fans show up, tune in and wear their passion on their sleeve all in the name of supporting their team. The organization does not take this for granted and is forever-grateful to the Purple faithful.
4. Opportunity to Give Back to the CommunityWhile there have been many changes with the Vikings since their inception in 1961 and since the Wilf family took ownership of the franchise in 2005, one thing that has remained a priority is giving back to the local community. Each year, every member of the Vikings roster participates in the team's community outreach program. A pillar of the Vikings community outreach efforts is the Vikings Children's Fund. It's mission is to rally the resources of the Vikings, the corporate community and Vikings fans in support of children's health, education and family services throughout the Upper Midwest. Since 1978, over $10 million has been raised with over $5 million being allocated towards research at the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics.
5. The 2018 Super Bowl Coming to MinnesotaOn May 20, the NFL announced that Minnesota would play host to Super Bowl LII in 2018. The opportunity to host a Super Bowl comes after several years of hard work by Vikings representatives, the State's Super Bowl Bid Committee and many other business, civic and community leaders in Minnesota. Key to the bid, of course, was the passage of new stadium legislation that will result in a state-of-the-art stadium opening in 2016.
6. The 2014 Vikings Draft ClassFrom LB Anthony Barr and QB Teddy Bridgewater in the first round all the way through CB Jabari Price and DT Shamar Stephen in the seventh round, the Vikings came away from the 2014 NFL Draft with impressive additions. Barr may well be the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bridgewater is the team's quarterback of the future and other selections such as RB Jerick McKinnon and both Price and Stephen figure to be long-term contributors that will help setup the franchise for success in the future.
7. Re-Signing Everson GriffenThe Vikings made a key move this past offseason by re-signing one of their own – DE Everson Griffen. Through 11 games, that decision is paying huge dividends. Griffen already has a career-high 9.0 sacks, which ranks second in the NFC heading into Week 12, and he continues to be a regular contributor to the Vikings community-outreach efforts, as well.
8. Supportive AlumniWhether for landmark events such as the franchise's 50th season celebration in 2010 or for important day-to-day events in the community and at games, the Vikings are fortunate to have a supportive base of alumni who choose to be present in supporting the organization's ambitions and goals. It's common to roam the hallways at Winter Park and run into former head coach Jerry Burns, a member of the Purple People Eaters or the always-smiling (and photograph-taking) Matt Blair.
9. Mick Tingelhoff Getting 1 Step Closer to the Hall of FameMany believe that one of the great remaining Pro Football Hall of Fame snubs is Vikings legend Mick Tingelhoff. That may be changing soon. Earlier this year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee nominated Tingelhoff as a senior nominee for induction as a part of the Class of 2014. Tingelhoff will automatically be included among the group of 17 finalists to be considered by the entire Selection Committee during Super Bowl week. Tingelhoff came to the Vikings as a rookie free agent in 1962 and stepped into the starting lineup by the team's second preseason game. He didn't turn over the job until his retirement after the 1978 season, never missing a game over a 17-season span that included an incredible 240 consecutive regular season starts. Over Tingelhoff's 17-year career, he started in all four Vikings Super Bowl appearances, was named to seven consecutive All-Pro teams, and in his final 11 seasons the Vikings did not have a losing record and won a division title 10 times.
10. A New Heated Practice Field
Over the last few days, crews have been installing equipment in the backyard of Winter Park that will allow the team to use the outdoor practice fields even during the cold and inclement months of November and December. This is an important element as the Vikings ready themselves to play outdoor home games for the next season-plus, and it's also yet another example of the Wilf family's commitment to doing everything it takes to support the team and bring a championship to Minnesota.