Vikings give Longwell the boot

The Vikings, surprisingly, cut veteran field-goal extraordinaire Ryan Longwell on Monday. Presumably, the team plans to implement Georgia kicker Blair Walsh, drafted in the sixth round last week, in Longwell’s place.

From the Associated Press:

Over just six years with the Vikings, Longwell recorded 633 points, third in franchise history behind kicker Fred Cox and wide receiver Cris Carter.

His 94.4 field-goal percentage over the 2009 and 2010 seasons — 43 of 46 — was the best in the NFL. Including nine years with the Green Bay Packers, Longwell is 13th in NFL history with 1,687 points and fourth on the active list. His career-long 55-yard field goal came on Oct. 14, 2007, to beat the Chicago Bears with no time left.

Longwell was a salary cap casualty waiting to happen. He had three seasons and $7 million left on his contract.

Gardenhire hints at changes for struggling Twins

Granted, this is from late last week, but we’re guessing Ron Gardenhire’s comments (from this interview on the website for 1500-AM) still ring true. Clearly, the Twins manager is fired up, frustrated and searching for ways to jumpstart his 7-20 club before it fades completely into irrelevance, which, at the current rate of winning, could happen by Memorial Day.

“I said my piece for about 15 minutes and didn’t calm down until I landed in Minnesota at about 6:30 in the morning,” Gardenhire said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Friday.

“You could call it talk. Talking is normally a conversation between two people. But no, nobody else was talking, believe me, I was doing the talking. …

“After that no-hitter — which is a tough one, because the guy really pitched well and all those things. And he’s one of the best pitchers in the league, and he got us. Still all the little things, you hold them in, you hold them in until you can’t hold them in any longer.

“I laid it on the line and probably hurt some feelings, which that’s OK too. We have to play better. We have to get some things done here, and some people aren’t living up to what we thought out of spring training, and there’s going to be changes. There’s no doubt there’s going to be changes. We can’t continue like this.”

It’s refreshing, in a sense, to hear Gardenhire speak so candidly while expressing the same kind of dismay that Joe B. Construction Worker feels. The only problem, as we see it, is that the changes Gardenhire alludes to seem almost implausible. There aren’t many in-house options, the payroll is maxed out and few players on the Twins roster serve as attractive trade bait.

Change is good, especially when, 27 games into a 162-game season, the Twins far too often look lethargic. Perhaps the first of those changes is one that’s happening tonight in the opener of a three-game set against the Angles: highly touted youngster Brian Dozier replacing Jamey Carroll at shortstop — though Carroll figures to remain a fixture in the lineup while bouncing around the infield.

The next move we’d like to see? Kidnapping Francisco Liriano and replacing him in the rotation with Brian Duensing.

Collectively, Minnesota’s Big Four are in a funk

We don’t like to be a catalyst for bad news, but sometimes it’s inevitable, especially where matters of Minnesota’s sporting scene are concerned.

Thus, consider the overall winning percentage for this state’s four major professional teams, using their recently completed seasons — except for the Twins, we’ll use their record entering Friday’s game at Seattle:

Twins: 6-18 (.250 winning percentage)
Vikings: 3-13 (.186)
Timberwolves: 26-40 (.394)
Wild: 35-36-11 (.493)

Collectively, that’s a 70-107-11 record and a winning percentage of .395. The Wild look like bona fide world-beaters with their near-.500 mark.

Bad news for Brett Favre’s reputation

This is a couple days old, but we’ll pass it along anyhow.

Brett Favre may be out of football, but the ol’ gunslinger still can navigate his way into a headline, via the NY Daily News.

The last line in that story sticks out like a wobbly Favre interception:

“If I were Brett Favre, I wouldn’t want to raise my right hand either — except to throw a football,” (David) Jaroslowicz said.

Wolves’ Williams entering pivotal offseason

There’s no secret that this will be a pivotal summer for the Timberwolves, who made gargantuan strides this season before ultimately being decimated by injuries.

Kevin Love has ascended to superstar status. Ricky Rubio ignited a moribund club with his flair and effectiveness. Nikola Pekovic established himself as one of the most offensively gifted big men in the league. Derrick Williams showed flashes of brilliance — paired with flashes of incompetence.

OK, so “incompetence” might be a bit harsh, but Williams often looked lost, especially on the defensive end. Still, he remains a crucial piece of the Wolves’ rebuilding effort. The rookie from Arizona was essentially miscast as a power forward in 2011-12. That, combined with the relentless, lockout-shortened slate did Williams few favors — there was little practice time to work on his game, and he was backing up basketball’s best power forward, Love.

That being said, the youngster showed way too much potential for the Wolves to give up on him. In April, T-Wolves czar David Kahn said the team’s only untouchable players were Love and Rubio. Williams, though, needs to be included in that group, along with Pekovic. That’s a terrific core around which to build, four young, ultra-talented players that could reinvigorate a team that really hasn’t been relevant since Kevin Garnett was shipped to Boston.

Coach Rick Adelman at times seemed frustrated with Williams, impatient even. But there’s no shame in a rookie being inconsistent, especially when considering the madness that was this past season, with games packed together like sardines.

From the Associated Press:

“He’s had his moments, but I think the biggest thing is we’d like to see him be much more consistent,” Adelman said. “He’s like a lot of rookies, he just has to improve there. Not having the summer to see him when the season started probably had something to do with it. This summer is going to be a big one for him.”

Williams would be wise to take a page out of Love’s offseason-conditioning playbook. Love shed about 25 pounds and reported for this season looking like a Chuck Norris clone. The result was a mesmerizing season in which the UCLA product became a top-five player and boasted legitimate MVP credentials before the Wolves’ season got derailed by the Rubio injury and before Love was sidelined with a concussion.

Imagine Williams next season after a full summer of working out and practicing as a small forward. How much better will he be if he sticks to a serious regimen?

And why would the Wolves give up on that?

More from the AP:

There were plenty of games, though, where Williams showed his true potential. He scored 27 points and hit all four 3-pointers in a victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Feb. 28. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on March 9 and 27 points and eight boards to help rally the Timberwolves from a huge deficit in a narrow loss at Denver on April 11.

There’s something there. The kid can play and, given time and patience, he could emerge into a bona fide small forward stud. Alongside Love, Rubio and Pekovic, that’s something worth getting excited over. And the Wolves haven’t exactly been awash in excitement the past few years.