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Lunchbreak: Vikings Defense Suffering Significant 'Growing Pains'

No, this isn't The Young and the Restless, although Sunday's loss by the Vikings to the Falcons did serve as difficult-to-watch daytime TV.

Rather, the Vikings are suffering from a "young and depleted defense," Dave Campbell wrote for The Associated Press. Campbell evaluated the way Minnesota's defense, which has been "often dominant" under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, has struggled in 2020.

This year, they've veered well off track. First came the salary-cap-prompted departures of five starters. Then their health began to take a hit. Now they're undermanned at best, entering their bye week with a 1-5 record and plenty of reason to enter full rebuild mode after a 40-23 defeat by the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Campbell said that safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith "have been far from perfect, but one of the league's best back-end tandems has had its hands full this fall."

Rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler started at the base cornerbacks for the third straight game, as injuries had Holton Hill and Kris Boyd on the inactive list. Mike Hughes, who'd been entering in the nickel defense and taking one of the outside spots with Gladney sliding inside to the slot, reinjured his neck in the second quarter. That left Harrison Hand, another rookie, as the only other available cornerback against Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

The "glaring inexperience" in Minnesota's secondary, Campbell said, "has been the headline of 2020 for the defense."

Linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive end Danielle Hunter, with six Pro Bowl selections between them, are both on injured reserve.

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Nose tackle Linval Joseph and defensive end Everson Griffen, both now playing elsewhere … have been badly missed on the line after holding vital roles in the lineup since Zimmer's first year, 2014. Michael Pierce, who was signed to replace Joseph, opted out of the season to preserve his health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campbell quoted Smith, who spoke to media members on Friday:

"I think we've got a bunch of great competitors and great dudes who want to win," Smith said. "It's not like people need that tough love, but you need to know how it is and that's the reality of this profession. Especially playing defense these days. It's hard. Accept it as that and rise to the occasion. Because when you win, it makes it that much better. I think once you get a taste of that winning you see how it's infectious and how it rolls and how guys come together and play off one another and things like that. That's when you can really start doing some good things."

Sid remembered by Star Tribune colleagues

Longtime sports reporter Sid Hartman passed away Sunday afternoon at the age of 100.

Several Vikings reflected on Sid's life and legacy following Minnesota's loss to Atlanta, and additional sports figures and reporters from around the country have showered social media with memories of their time with Hartman.

Among those who reflected were Hartman's Star Tribune colleagues Patrick Reusse, Jim Souhan and Chip Scoggins. Souhan wrote the following in his column:

Sid insinuated himself into every local sports organization and, as late as the 1980s, he seemed to have a say in who would get hired for the biggest jobs, including Minnesota athletic director and Vikings head coach.

The first time Sid and I worked closely together on a project was 1992. Jerry Burns had retired. Sid and I spent a hundred hours working the phones in the old Star Tribune building, trying to find out who would replace Burnsie.

I was talking regularly with Pete Carroll, a favorite of the old-school Vikings bosses. Sid was calling Vikings owners and telling them to hire Carroll, one of his close personal friends. One day, Carroll told me, "I'm not getting the job."

Sid picked up the phone and screamed at a Vikings owner, and that's how he got the scoop that the team was hiring Denny Green.

Scoggins used the headline "What was Sid Hartman like? There's no simple way to answer that question." Over Scoggins' 21 years with the paper, he said, he's been asked that question thousands of times – and it's not an easy question to answer.

View photos of legendary sports reporter, Sid Hartman, who passed away on Oct. 18.

He shared a few personal memories to encapsulate his impressions of Sid.

My first child was born in May 2001. A few days after returning home from the hospital, my wife and I were holding our daughter in the living room.

The doorbell rang. A delivery box was on the porch. Inside the package were new clothes for our baby. Several expensive outfits. With a note from Sid wishing us well.

That was Sid.

This was, too. Sid called me "Scroggins" for the first, oh, 10 years that we worked together. One day, he calls me into his office with a serious look on his face.

Sid: Your name isn't Scroggins?

Me: No, Scoggins. But don't worry about it.

Sid: Scoggins? Not Scroggins?

Me: Yep.

Sid: OK, thanks. … You should put an R in your name.

He smiled. He was kidding. I think.

Reusse has been a colleague of Sid's since 1963, when he was hired as a sports copy boy for the Minneapolis Morning Tribune. He recalled the early days of working for Sid as well as experiences over the years, including times he was told by Sid to make phone calls for a quote.

You've heard of hurry up and wait? Sid lived by hurrying up and not waiting. That's what made him a great newspaper reporter. Demanding of sources, major and minor, "Tell me. Don't tell anyone else. Tell me … now." And, usually, he was so persistent, so forceful, that the source would crack.

One part of life lost to modern communications has been our former reliance on telephone operators. There can be no estimate as to the number of people providing operator assistance that Sid drove from the occupation with his belligerent demands.

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Sid would say, "You can get anybody on the phone," and he made that come 95 [percent] true — with persistence, impatience, drive to be not only first but also all alone with information.

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