Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Chris Cook is looking for redemption Sunday when the Vikings meet the Packers.
The Vikings’ third year cornerback was torched during his rookie season by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Cook, coming off early season arthroscopic surgery on both knees, was pulled by coach Brad Childress after Rodgers lit up the visiting Vikings for 166 passing yards in the first quarter of a 28-24 victory on Oct. 24, 2010.
Things got worse six weeks later when the Packers beat the Vikings 31-3 at the Metrodome. Cook gave up receptions of 47 and 39 yards to James Jones, and was pulled by Childress after Jones caught a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Cook was yelled at by teammate Ray Edwards on the sideline, and after the game both Cook and cornerback Asher Allen were criticized by teammates.
Childress was fired the next day.
Cook missed both meetings last season after an arrest for domestic assault on the eve of the first Packers game, which he spent in jail. He was inactive for the rest of the season, and missed the Vikings’ 23-14 loss to the Packers two weeks ago because of a broken arm.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game,” Cook said. “My rookie year, I was coming off both my knee surgeries, and they were picking on me – a lot. I expected that coming off two knee surgeries. But I don’t have knee problems now, so we’ll see how it goes this week.”
Cook said Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL.
“He’s Brett Favre-like, but I feel he makes better decisions at times,” said Cook. “He’s crazy accurate, that’s the thing that stands out. He can put balls in places the other guys can’t put it in. It’s amazing to me to me. Every time I watch him I think, man, this guy, he’s great.”
Houston running back Arian Foster bought Segways for his offensive linemen, so the question about what Adrian Peterson will do for his offensive line has been bandied about at Winter Park.
“We’ll see how it all plays out, how many yards he gets, when we win the game,” said center John Sullivan. “All I’m hoping for is a good performance from him and our offense and our entire team. The playoff berth is all we reaIly care about. I don’t really care about presents. I’m not too focused on that right now.”
Robison, Winfield ready
Defensive end Brian Robison (sprained shoulder) missed the Vikings’ 23-6 victory over the Texans on Sunday, which was doubly troubling to him because he played college football at Texas. He expects to play Sunday against the Packers.
“I’m doing much better, doing a lot of stuff hard in the rehab room, just trying to get it back,” Robison said. “I feel like I got a good range of motion, it’s just getting the strength back in it.”
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who fractured a bone in his right index finger, expects to play Sunday with his right hand padded.
The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced tonight, and Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh has an outside chance of making the NFC team. Walsh has an NFL record nine field goals of 50 yards or longer.
“It’s one of those things where it happens, it’s awesome, if it doesn’t happen, keep on pushing,” Walsh said. “I’m more focused on what I have to do in practice. Accolades are great and all, but this game is more important.”
After a poor senior season at Georgia, it was a bit of a surprise when the Walsh was drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round. He has made 32 of 35 field goal attempts, however, and all 32 conversion attempts.
“I knew I was capable of doing it from the start,” Walsh said. “The biggest surprise is the number of attempts we’ve gotten. Thirty-five attempts is a lot. It’s a different beast at this level, each kick is so important, it matters so much when the game is so close.”
Veteran Ryan Longwell, who was cut to make room for Walsh, tweeted his support for Walsh’s Pro Bowl candidacy on Sunday.
“It was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever had said about me by anyone,” Walsh said. “My response was 100 percent truthful -- guys like him have set the bar for other kickers who come in the league, and they hold us to a higher standards, and we try to emulate careers like his.”
The Vikings signed tight end Chase Ford to their practice squad. Ford, a rookie from Miami, has been on both the Philadelphia and Dallas practice squads this season. Tight end Allen Reisner, who has been on and off the Vikings’ roster the past two years, was claimed by Jacksonville after the Vikings cut him on Saturday. The Jaguars also signed guard Mark Asper, who had been waived by the Vikings.
Starting this weekend, the Star Tribune will unveil a three-part series examining pain and pain treatment in the NFL.
It was a wake-up call like no other. Asleep at the downtown Hilton in Minneapolis on the morning of Dec. 20, 2010, Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman figured he had everything settled for that night’s clash with the Bears.
Instead, not long after sunrise, his bedside phone rang.
“Hey Suge," the voice on the other end said. "Does out mean out?”
On the line that morning was a certain energetic quarterback, a guy by the name of Brett Favre, who like a grounded teenager wanting to go out for the night, didn’t seem to want to accept his sidelined status.
Never mind that the Vikings had officially declared him out on their injury report, Favre still dealing with a badly sprained right shoulder that had led to numbness in his throwing hand.
The Vikings had a game that night. A Monday nighter. On ESPN. Against the division-rival Bears. On a snowy field, with temperatures dipping into the low 20s.Favre’s itch needed scratching.
Sugarman processed the question.
Does out mean out?
“It has,” Sugarman thought to himself, “in every other situation before this.”
Yet here was Favre doing as he so often did throughout his 20-season NFL career – challenging convention and battling through agonizing pain.
“This game is like a drug,” Sugarman said. “These guys can’t get enough of it. No matter how much they hurt, no matter how much they suffer, they can’t get enough.”
Favre’s consecutive starts streak of 297 games, an NFL record for a quarterback, had ended a week earlier when he couldn’t play against the Giants. The Vikings were already out of the playoff picture. There seemed to be little incentive to play.
Yet Favre wanted in. He needed in. And he ultimately pushed hard enough to get his way, starting that night, throwing an early touchdown pass, then leaving the game for good when he was slammed into the icy turf and banged his head.
“You’d think he probably regrets that he played in that game. Especially as we scraped him up off the turf,” Sugarman said. “But we all know he didn’t regret it. That’s just him.”
Favre is arguably the most celebrated player in NFL history in terms of his willingness to fight through pain to be ready on game day. But he is far from unique. Week after week, in every locker room across the league, players are wired in a way that pushes them to play as often as possible through as much pain as they can tolerate.
Beginning Sunday, the Star Tribune will begin a three-part series examining the lengths that NFL players go to assure their availability on game days. Specifically, the series will put the use of painkilling drugs in the NFL under a microscope.
You hear that faint hum? That’s the sound of a buzz being generated in Mankato. By the Vikings.
Yep, with only two full practices left in training camp at Minnesota State University, we have signs that our first major story is surfacing.
Star running back Adrian Peterson is back. And not just back; this afternoon he’ll participate in his first padded practice since way back on Dec. 22. That was two days before the Vikings went to Washington D.C. and left with a 33-26 victory and their star running back on crutches.
Peterson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on the first play of the second half that afternoon. He had surgery on the knee less than a week later. And now, 32 weeks and four days after coming off the operating table, he’s back in the mix at practice.
That should provide for some intrigue and entertainment when the Vikings get back out on the field a little more than an hour from now. For the past three weeks, the Vikings have been almost entirely off the NFL radar. Yet today? The ESPN cameras have returned to document Peterson’s return.
This isn’t quite as big as the Brett Favre circus during the preseasons of 2009 and 2010. But it’s something.
Peterson has been itching to make this return for a long time now. Yet the Vikings’ coaching staff, aware of Peterson’s eagerness and relentless drive, will continue to use caution with how they handle Peterson today.
In fact, head coach Leslie Frazier spoke with defensive players at length about Peterson’s return to practice, reminding them to treat the team’s biggest offensive star with extreme care.
“I definitely talked with them about it and now we have to adhere to it,” Frazier said after this morning’s walk-through. “But one of the things they told me was, ‘Coach, you know how he runs. I mean he runs [so hard]. What about protecting us?’ Adrian’s not going to change his running style. We all know that. But we have to be smart when he’s out there.”
Peterson will participate in just a handful of plays this afternoon during 7-on-7 and full-team work, a workload, Frazier said, that’s designed “for him to be able to gauge where he is and be able to give us an indication the next day of how he feels after getting a couple of snaps.”
Peterson’s goal of playing in a preseason game will likely be met next week when the Vikings host San Diego. That Sept. 9 date that Peterson has targeted, hoping to return to action for the opening day of the regular season remains within reach as well. But Peterson likely won’t be ready for a workhorse workload any time in the next few weeks, a reality Frazier continues to stress as he talks about “giving [Peterson] increments along the way and not trying to bring it all back in one or two practices.”
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