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Unflappable Frazier leads Vikings to playoff brink

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Unflappable Frazier leads Vikings to playoff brink

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Vikings trudged out of Lambeau Field, their season slipping away after a nasty skid of four losses in five weeks dropped Minnesota to 6-6 and essentially turned every game from there on into a must win.

Fans were clamoring for Christian Ponder's benching. The coaching staff was catching heat for a perceived inability to make in-game adjustments. There was growing concern that Adrian Peterson's brilliant comeback season was being wasted by a team heading nowhere.

Through it all, Leslie Frazier never wavered.

For a coach who inherited a team in turmoil in 2010, presided over the end of Brett Favre's celebrated consecutive games streak, and had to navigate the collapse of the Metrodome's roof and the lockout in his first six months on the job, a little losing skid seemed trivial in comparison. He never bowed to public pressure to make a quarterback switch and never changed his message to his team.

Now Frazier's Vikings are riding a three-game winning streak into the regular season finale - and a victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday puts them into the playoffs.

``Just his voice and what he has brought to this team and the locker room, it's been huge,'' Peterson said. ``Guys really connect with him on that level. Just feeling his presence through his words and the confidence he has in us. Everything he speaks out there, we embrace and trust in his word.''

In the middle of one of the most chaotic seasons in franchise history in 2010, Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf were searching for a calming presence and a steady hand to quiet things down. A team that started the season with Super Bowl aspirations saw Favre's skills diminish greatly amid a tabloid scandal surrounding his time with the New York Jets, Randy Moss come and go in the span of just a few weeks and Brad Childress get fired less than a year after signing a contract extension.

Frazier took over with six games left in a lost season, then had to hold the team together after the Metrodome's roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow - forcing the Vikings to play one home game in Detroit and another at the University of Minnesota's stadium - and Favre's streak came to an end.

Then came the lockout, which prevented his newly assembled staff from working with the players all summer long. The Vikings went 3-13 in his first full season, yet avoided the implosion that often comes with so many losses. Now, the unflappable Frazier has guided the team to a 9-6 record in what many expected to be a rebuilding year.

``Leslie's the kind of guy, `We're still in this thing. We're fighting. We're together. We're all in,''' linebacker Chad Greenway said. ``And his approach is perfect, in my mind, for what an NFL coach needs to be. He's really consistent. He knows what he wants from his players. He hires high-character guys to have in the locker room and it seems to be working pretty well.''

That's always been Frazier's nature, dating to his playing days under fiery coaches such as Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.

``Just going back to my playing days and just being around coaches who sometimes, they could be so up and down, you just didn't know when you walked in the building what you were going to get from day to day and that's hard,'' Frazier said.

``That's hard on a team over the course of a long season. There are so many ebbs and flows during a season and as a player, if you're not certain what your leader's message will be or how he's going to react in certain situations, you can be walking around on pins and needles and be more concerned about how he's going to deal with certain situations as opposed to focusing on the task at hand, which is your next opponent.''

While Childress occasionally clashed with some of the team's biggest stars, Frazier has worked hard to form a tight relationship with his team leaders. He and Peterson are particularly close, and the two are often seen exchanging long hugs after victories.

``I'm not the type of person that I really talk a lot about what's going on with me,'' Peterson said. ``He's the kind of person that I can give bits and pieces to and I know that he's not going to judge. He's going to give me some great advice. He's going to shoot it to you straight. I can't help but respect a guy and love him for that.''

Developing that trust has also helped Frazier make sure the veterans on the team's leadership council - Peterson, Greenway, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, Charlie Johnson - continue to do work for him in the locker room long after the coach has left.

``Sometimes it doesn't matter what I say if they're not repeating the same message in the locker room,'' Frazier said. ``To their credit, I told each one of them I'm very thankful for the leadership they've provided throughout the season.''

Frazier has one more season left on his contract, and after improving by at least six wins over his first full season is expected to soon receive an extension. As usual, Frazier isn't spending too much time worrying about that right now.

``He's pretty much the same day-in and day-out,'' defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. ``Even in his angriest moments, you don't really realize it. He's been steady with us, preaching the same thing, telling the guys the same message so we won't get off track. It's been good for us.''

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A poll of 250 college basketball coaches reveals 74% want a semi-normal schedule this year

A poll of 250 college basketball coaches reveals 74% want a semi-normal schedule this year

Several college conferences across the country are preparing for the fall sports season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Big Ten announced on Thursday that it will go to a “conference-only” model for all fall sports. The Pac-12 followed announcing football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball will play only conference games. Earlier in the week, the Ivy League announced no sports would be played until January 1.

RELATED: MAYBE OTHER LEAGUES SHOULD FOLLOW THE IVY LEAGUE'S LEAD

More conferences are likely to follow shortly. But after fall sports, what will happen with winter sports and, specifically, with college basketball? Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman conducted an interesting poll.

Of the 250 Division I head men’s basketball coaches (of a 353 total), 74% want a season with non-conference and conference play. Only 24% of coaches want to push the start of the season to January and play exclusively conference games.

One of the unique aspects of early-season college basketball is the non-conference matchups, sometimes in exotic locations. One of the most notable, the Maui Invitational, is planning to move forward as scheduled.

A handful of local teams are scheduled to travel to tournaments this November. Virginia and Georgetown will both head to Anaheim, Calif. for the Wooden Legacy. VCU is part of an eight-team field at the Charleston Classic and George Mason is reportedly traveling to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam.

There is plenty to be sorted out before the start of the college basketball season but for now, we will take some optimism from the men on the sidelines. 

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Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey set to host garage sale Sunday, July 12

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey set to host garage sale Sunday, July 12

Offseason. What offseason? There is no offseason for Baltimore Ravens standout cornerback Marlon Humphrey who announced he's throwing a garage sale Sunday, July 12 in Owings Mills.

"Garage sale this Sunday! (Owings Mills, MD) New year means a lot needs to be left behind," Humphrey said. "Will have furniture, shoes, lights, and of course some Ravens gear 😎Everything must go..!"

Humphrey's post received north of 1,500 likes in two hours so it may be fair to say there will be a decent turnout. 

NFL players having garage sales is sort of a peculiar situation, it doesn't happen quite often. Former Green Bay Packers running back Eddy Lacy had one in 2017 which drew a large enough crown to wrap around the entire block.

In that instance, ten shoppers were allowed in at a time to peruse the items and Lacy said that all of the money will go to charity, with any leftover unsold items being given to the Freedom House homeless shelter in Green Bay, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Humprey is entering his fourth season with the Ravens.

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