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.
Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield plans to play Sunday against Green Bay despite fracturing the second metacarpal in his right hand during last week’s win in Houston. Winfield believes the injury occurred during a first quarter tackle of Arian Foster, with the knee of the Texans running back landing on the top of his hand and breaking the bone.
Despite immediate swelling, Winfield stayed in the game. He had an X-ray done at halftime that didn’t initially turn anything up.
“I thought it was a contusion,” Winfield said.
But when he had additional testing done Monday at Winter Park, the fracture showed up.
Winfield did not practice Wednesday and was wearing a cast on his right hand, admitting that the injury was still “a little tender.” However, by game time Sunday, he said, he will likely play with his hand taped up and extra padding on his glove.
Winfield isn’t worried about having difficulty tackling but can’t say for certain how much his hand will limit him.
“It’s kind of hard to squeeze right now,” Winfield said. “But my pain level, I’ll tolerate that. That won’t be an issue.”
Winfield also downplayed the severity of his injury, a seemingly minor setback heading into the high-stakes finale against the Packers.
“I mean, we don’t expect it. But it happens,” he said. “This is a rough sport. There are grown men running full speed at each other. With contact, sometimes things like this happen.”
In other injury news ...
Defensive end Jared Allen was held out of practice with both a shoulder injury and a minor illness Wednesday. Adrian Peterson did not practice either, given time to rest the abdomen ailment he's been dealing with.
The only limited participant Wednesday was defensive end Brian Robison, who is trying to come back from a Grade 3 shoulder sprain.
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.
Vikings players are consistent when it comes to applauding the consistency with which coach Leslie Frazier does his job. Never too high, never too low. Just delivering a consistent message week after week.
"I think it's a big deal," Frazier said when asked to describe the importance of a consistent message. "Just going back to my playing days and being around coaches who sometimes they could be so up and down. You didn't know when you walked in the building what you were going to get from day to day. That's hard on a team over the course of a long season. There are so many ebbs and flows during a season.
"As a player, if you're not certain what your leader's message is going to be and 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 react to certain situations as opposed to focusing on the task at hand, which is your next opponent. So I think it's a big deal. They need to know what to expect from me in just about every situation. Then they can concentrate on what's important, which is trying to get a win."
FYI: They'll take the win over the record: Frazier said he wants Adrian Peterson to get the 208 yards necessary to break Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season record of 2,105 yards. However ...
"I think the biggest consideration has to be winning this game," he said. "Finding a way to get a win. If the record comes along with the win, that would be great. But not at the expense of winning the game. We got to approach this with whatever it takes to get a win. And Adrian wants that too. He'd love to have the record, but he's the ultimate team guy. He wants to get the win. I hope he gets the record but even moreso I want us to win this game."
Expecting better run defense from Cheeseheads: Frazier said he expects a lot of teams to look at how the Texans handled Peterson on Sunday. Peterson ran for 86 yards on 25 carries, snapping a streak of eight consecutive games with at least 100 yards.
"But like I said on Monday, a lot of it in our business is personnel," Frazier said. "[Texans defenders] Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt are very good players and they did a good job. But Green Bay, they have good personnel as well."
On Dec. 2, Peterson ran for 210 yards in a loss at Lambeau Field. The rematch -- in case you haven't heard -- is Sunday at the Metrodome.
"[The Packers] have played good defense all season long and we're going to have a tremendous challenge on our hands," Frazier said. "I'm sure they're going to put a lot of people in the box and do everything they can to not let what happened in that first game happen again. So it's going to be a challenge for our run game."
Going 4-2 without Percy Harvin has been an adjustment period: Hard to believe, but the Vikings actually are 4-2 without Percy Harvin, their second-best player.
Said Frazier: "It's been an adjustment for all of us. [Offensive coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] calling plays and for everybody involved because Percy was so integral to our success as an offense. But as a whole, we made those adjustments and we're getting better. That's what you want to see, but Percy was a big part of our success."
From an injury standpoint, Frazier offered the following updates. We'll have more updates when the injury report is released after today's practice:
Greenway wins Korey Stringer Good Guy Award: Linebacker Chad Greenway won this year's Korey Stringer "Good Guy Award," which is voted on by members of the Twin Cities media that cover the Vikings. The award goes to the player who best exemplifies the effort and positive attitude that Stringer had in dealing with the media. Stringer died Aug. 1, 2001, a day after suffering heat stroke on the field in Mankato during training camp.
"I just had a chance to talk to [linebackers coach] Fred Pagac, who recruited [Stringer] to Ohio State," Greenway said. "He said he was a great guy, not just a good guy. He was the type of guy that people wanted to be like and be around. So obviously to win an award in honor of his name is pretty exciting to me. It means a lot to me and my family to win this award."
Said Frazier: "Well deserved award by Chad. He's a super guy and does a terrific job with the media. Well deserved. A great honor, receiving that award in honor of Korey, who was a terrific player and terrific person as well."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier can point to the moment he felt his team coming together, the game in which he felt everybody arriving on the same page, the day he felt the Vikings were becoming a cohesive team.
Interestingly, it did not come in a victory.
With a win-and-in game with Green Bay at Mall of America Field fast approaching, Frazier pointed to the Vikings loss in Green Bay Dec. 2 as that vital moment.
Really? A game in which the Vikings lost in large part because of two Red Zone interceptions by quarterback Christian Ponder?
“That game helped us in some ways,” Frazier said at his Monday press conference. “We found out a lot about ourselves on the road and I told our players after that game that I thought that, more than any point in our season, we had played as a team. I really felt like we were coming together at the right time. I’m sure when they heard me say that they were like, ‘What’s he talking about? We just lost to our rivals on the road.’ But I saw something in our team in that game that made me believe we had a chance to really take off.”
The Vikings have not list since that day, winning three straight, including road wins at St. Louis Dec. 16 and the big upset in Houston Sunday.
“Green Bay the first time was sort of like, ‘Wow, we’re really good, we’ve just got to figure out how to navigate those last two quarters and find a way to get a tough win,’ ‘’ linebacker Chad Greenway said. “I think these last two road games for us have been an indication that maybe we’re starting to figure out how to play together for four quarters and put it all out there. That doesn’t mean we’re going to get a win this weekend just because that happens. It just means that, hopefully, we can remain consistent, keep doing that. And realize that when we play our kind of football and don’t make mistakes, that we’re pretty good.”
That Green Bay game was also the point at which it became clear what had to happen over the final quarter of the season for the Vikings to make the playoffs. Namely, win. That was the week that both defensive end Jared Allen and owner Zygi Wilf talked with the team. Their message was simple: The team had to win the final four games.
“We kind of knew where things were and how important this final month of the season would be,” Frazier said. “But then you’ve still got to go out and play well. You have to prepare properly. And to our players’ credit and our coaches, they’ve done a great job of doing just that.”
A magnetic resonance imaging test done Monday morning showed that cornerback Antoine Winfield finished Sunday’s game with a small hand fracture. He was able to finish the game and is expected to play Sunday with a soft cast on the hand.
The Vikings hope defensive end Brian Robison, who missed Sunday’s game with a sprained right shoulder, will be available this week. “We’ll have to take it day-to-day with him,” Frazier said, “just to see what he’s able to do when he gets back to practice Wednesday.” Robison did some things in practice Friday, but was still in too much pain to play against Houston. “We weren’t sure if he’d be able to go out and protect himself,” Frazier said of the decision to sit Robison. “He needs to be able to tackle someone or, if someone is pushing up against him, he can protect himself. If he can do that, then he’ll be ready to go.”
Meanwhile, running back Adrian Peterson is still experiencing soreness with his abdominal issue and could be limited this week.
For the first nine games, rookie receiver Jarius Wright was inactive. In the last six games he has caught 19 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Sunday in Houston he had five catches. Three of those plays resulted in first downs for the Vikings. Monday Frazier talked about the strides Wright has taken.
“He’s just taken off as he’s gotten more confident with what he’s doing and what we’re asking him to do,” Frazier said. “The game he had yesterday was a big-time game. He ran good routes, got yards after the catch for us. He’s a young guy we have high hopes for.”
The Vikings’ final two opponents for 2013 will be set following Sunday’s game.
They will play each team in the NFC East and AFC North next season.
The Vikings’ home games will be against Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, the NFC South team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently New Orleans), Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. The Sept. 29 game in London against Pittsburgh also counts as a home game.
Road games will be at Dallas, the N.Y Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, the NFC West team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently Seattle), Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago.
Longwell logs in
Former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell broke his Twitter silence Sunday afternoon to laud his replacement, Blair Walsh. Longwell, who was bothered by never making the Pro Bowl, clearly thinks Walsh should be the NFC kicker as a rookie. His series of tweets read: "I've purposely not commented on any football stuff this entire year so let me make my first one now. I've seen many great seasons go unrewarded by not getting voted to Pro Bowl. But if @BlairWalsh3 does not get voted in this year it will prove system is broke! What more can the guy do?? Accuracy, 9-9 50+ yarders, Kickoff touchbacks and a game winner in his first career game!!"
Walsh is third in the NFC with 128 points, second in field goal percentage (behind Dallas’ Dan Bailey) and set an NFL record with his ninth field goal of 50 yards or more on Sunday.
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison will not play this afternoon in Houston, declared in active for today's game against the Texans as he battles through a sprained right shoulder. Robison tried to practice some Friday with a Grade 3 sprain of his acromioclavicular joint. But he wasn't able to make enough progress to get the green light for today's game against the Texans.
That means Everson Griffen will be in line to see extensive action today. It also means the Vikings will have George Johnson active for today's game for depth, a day after promoting him from the practice squad.
The Vikings' other inactives today are D'Aundre Reed, Stephen Burton, Brandon Burton, Audie Cole, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Troy Kropog.
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