Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
GREEN BAY -- Joe Webb might get a chance to throw some passes for the Vikings after all this season.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was listed on the Vikings injury report as questionable because of an elbow injury, but team officials said all week they were confident Ponder would be ready for tonight's game against the Packers here at Lambeau Field.
The two quarterbacks will work out before the game, and an NFL source said "it's looking more likely" that Webb will start, meaning Ponder's elbow might not be ready.
No decision has been made yet.
With Ponder limited in practice all week, Webb has taken snaps with the offense and shouldn't be terribly uncomfortable if pressed into action.
Webb's only action this season has been a kneeldown in victory formation.
We'll have updates as the game nears.
Quarterback Christian Ponder is listed as questionable for the Vikings-Packers game tomorrow because of his sore right elbow. Ponder had limited participation in practice all week.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield is also questionable because of his broken right hand.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Thursday that he expected both to play.
Tyrone McKenzie, one of the team's top special teams player, is out because of an injured shoulder.
Listed as probable are running back Adrian Peterson (abdomen), safety Harrison Smith (knee), defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder), defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder), cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle), defensive end George Johnson (quadriceps), punter Chris Kluwe (left, or non-kicking, knee) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee).
Update: For the Packers, defensive end Jerel Worthy (knee) and wide reciever Jarrett Boykin (ankle) are out, and running back James Starks (knee) is questionable.
Cornerback Charles Woodson returns from a broken collarbone and is probable, as are wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee), receiver/kick returner Randall Cobb (ankle) and running back Alex Green (hip).
Out means a player has no chance of playing (unless he's Brett Favre). Questionable is 50 percent chance. Probable is virtual certainty he will play.
Last week, Antoine Winfield wore only a wrap and a protective pad on his fractured right hand. This week, he’ll go with a sturdier soft cast. And that more than anything else is giving Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier optimism that Winfield will be able to play more Saturday night in Green Bay than he did in last weekend’s home win over the Packers.
“I feel better,” Frazier said following Thursday’s practice, the Vikings’ last of the week. “Just to see him move around with that cast, he was actually over there hitting the dummies and doing some things to jar it just to see how it would feel. And he said it felt great. So that was encouraging, very encouraging.”
Winfield played only 18 of 64 defensive snaps last weekend. And the Vikings defense was chewed up after his exit in the second quarter. Even if Winfield can start Saturday night, Frazier has dabbled with contingency plans, one of which would include moving A.J. Jefferson inside as a slot corner and using rookie Josh Robinson outside. Marcus Sherels, who replaced Winfield on Sunday, is also an option in the slot, though it seems clear the Vikings are looking for ways to minimize Sherels’ role on defense.
Winfield will likely be listed as questionable when the Vikings issue their official injury report on Friday. It seems likely that he will start. Keeping that hand protected will be key.
Winfield also noted after Thursday's practice that he would definitely be seeking medicinal help to numb his right hand as much as possible.
In other injury news …
Leslie Frazier was never really considering an outdoor practice Tuesday as his Vikings prepare for Saturday’s trip to Lambeau Field. For one thing, the Vikings’ practice fields at Winter Park remain covered in snow, which would have made the footing too treacherous.
But even if Frazier had even a small thought of heading outdoors, that idea was killed permanently when he arrived at Winter Park on New Year’s morning and felt the bitter chill.
“It was minus-10 this morning,” Frazier said. “Any thoughts I had about us going out there were kind of removed when I got out of my car this morning.”
So the Vikings practiced inside. But to help prepare players for Sunday’s cold in Green Bay, the Vikings opened the giant sliding garage doors on their field house to let the freeze in.
With different rules and regulations in the playoffs, the Vikings didn’t release an injury report Tuesday even after practicing. They will have to release injury updates on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The four players to miss practice entirely were Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Harrison Smith and Tyrone McKenzie.
Winfield’s injury is the most significant. And the Vikings might not know until Saturday now much the veteran cornerback will be able to play if at all. Winfield’s right hand remains significantly swollen after he fractured the second metacarpal in Houston on Dec. 23. Winfield tried to play through the injury against Green Bay last weekend but aggravated things, played only 18 defensive snaps and left the game for good in the second quarter.
Below the surface
McKenzie’s injury has its own significance. The back-up linebacker had his left arm in a sling Tuesday. As a key special teams contributor on coverages, McKenzie’s absence this weekend would be notable. McKenzie was actually given a game ball for his special teams contribution in Week 16 at Houston. He was hurt in Sunday's win over Green Bay but was on the field when Jeremy Ross busted off a 44-yard return at the start of the second quarter. Ross’ burst to the Green Bay 43 marked the first time since Week 5 that the Vikings had allowed a kickoff return past the 25.
The Vikings were also playing Sunday without special teams ace Robert Blanton, a rookie, who was inactive as the team adjusted its roster to have an extra defensive end available in case Brian Robison’s shoulder injury was aggravated.
“We had some moving parts in that ball game on Sunday [on special teams],” Frazier said. “That did affect some of the things we did.”
The Vikings will have to beat the Packers today to make the playoffs. The Bears beat the Lions 26-24, and Chicago will get into the playoffs if the Vikings do not.
Here are the inactives for the regular season finale against Green Bay at Mall of America Field. Not surprisingly, neither cornerback Antoine Winfield nor defensive end Brian Robison are inactive. Both veterans will play through their injuries today, despite being listed on Friday’s injury report as questionable.
The inactives for the Vikings today are: linebacker Audie Cole, receiver Stephen Burton, cornerback Brandon Burton, defensive end D’Aundre Reed, safety Robert Blanton, offensive lineman Troy Kropog and quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Robison will play through a Grade 3 shoulder sprain this afternoon. In all likelihood, Everson Griffen will see more time at end as well to aid Robison.
Winfield, meanwhile, broke a bone in his right hand last weekend in Houston. But he played through that setback for more than three quarters last week and will wear a wrap and a protective pad today to aid in the injury.
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