Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has now played four games after being suspended for the first four for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy stemming from his arrest for a February incident outside a Miami nightclub, was asked if he has reached his pre-suspension form.
"Not yet," he said. "I still have some work to do, but I've got a little bit of time. But I'm getting better and I'm getting the old feeling back.
"My weight is good; I'm in good shape. It's just getting my confidence back because I haven't been here for a little bit. So certain things I do, I probably lack a little confidence in, but I'm getting it back slowly. I'm just going to continue my progress and work to get better each game."
McKinnie said he hasn't heard anything about the date for his court hearing.
McKinnie is determined not to get in any more trouble. The last problem cost him $746,000, and he might be out of football if he gets into trouble again.Allen plans to play
Vikings players are confident defensive end Jared Allen will play Sunday against the Packers, even though he has a serious shoulder injury. "He's a tough guy," coach Brad Childress said.
There are many players who can't play with a sprain of the AC joint of the shoulder, because they can't tolerate the pain.
Allen played with it in the second half of the 28-21 victory against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and finished the game with two hurries and two sacks. He argued with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar for quite some time before he was allowed to re-enter the game.
"That injury happened in the first half and he was able to press on," Childress said. "We just couldn't keep him off the field."
Allen guaranteed Wednesday that he will play.Defense makes plays
Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams was proud of the team's five sacks against Houston.
"With [Texans quarterback] Matt Schaub throwing the ball quick, we had to keep continually rushing and we got pressure on him," Williams said. "That was the plan -- to get pressure on him and make him throw on the run and not [let him] set up and make those throws down the field. They kind of got in a rhythm when they put [Sage] Rosenfels in, but we continually got pressure and that's what paid off."
Safety Madieu Williams, who played his first game for the Vikings on Sunday, did just what safety Darren Sharper expected him to do.
"He made plays, he got [an] interception, so you know he made his presence felt," Sharper said. "His experience helped."Little Brown Jug time
Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings' Pro Bowl left guard and former University of Michigan star, said even though the Wolverines have dominated the Gophers over the years, he and his teammates took a lot of pride in making sure they won the game to keep the Little Brown Jug.
"I think it is the oldest trophy in college football, or one of them, and it is up for grabs every year," said Hutchinson, whose Wolverines never lost to the Gophers while he was there. "I know both teams take a lot of pride in either winning it or keeping it. So it is a big deal."
Michigan is 11-0 against the Gophers at the Metrodome. The Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) will need to break that streak if they want to go to a good bowl game.
Hutchinson said that even though Michigan (2-7, 1-4) is having a bad year, every Big Ten game is a big game and Michigan will go all out to win.
"This year, obviously, Minnesota has more at stake," he said. ''They're trying to make it to a more prestigious bowl game, and every game they can win helps. Michigan, obviously, is out of the bowl contention, so I think Michigan is probably going to be playing for pride and Minnesota will be playing for a better place to be in January."
What happened to Michigan this year?
"I don't know," Hutchinson said. "Everybody keeps asking me about that and I have no idea what they're talking about."Jottings
The Vikings averaged 17.8 points in the first four games and have increased it to 27.8 points in the past four games. That figure averages fifth in the NFL in the past five games.
There was a big improvement by the Vikings' special teams against the Texans, who had only two punt returns for minus-1 yard. It was an outstanding performance by Chris Kluwe, who had four punts inside the 20 and a net punting average of 44.2 yards.
Ron Jaworski, president of the well-respected Maxwell Football Club, nominated Gophers coach Tim Brewster as one of 15 candidates for the 20th George Munger Coach of the Year Award.
Several football recruits, all ranked highly by recruiting analysts, will visit Minnesota for the Gophers-Michigan game. There will be five from Texas, all being sought by top southern colleges. The Texas group includes linebacker Spencer Reeves, who has committed to Minnesota and, after failing and then later meeting qualifying standards, will be in school in January; Lancaster defensive back Demontre Hurst, defensive tackles Nosa Egaue of Mansfield Summit and Joey Searcy of Grand Prairie South and Lamar running back Kalvin Guyton. ... Others on hand will be quarterback MarQueis Gray of Indianapolis, who didn't qualify this year but took the ACT test again and is optimistic he has done better; Bryant Allen, a wide receiver from Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Miss.; and Michael Carter, who is from Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely and a cousin of former Gophers safety Tyrone Carter. Local visitors will be former Champlin Park linebacker Sam Maresh, who is recovering from heart surgery, Bryce McNeal of Breck, who de-committed from Michigan and is looking favorably on Minnesota, and Ra'Shede Hageman, the tight end from Minneapolis Washburn.
Corey Frazier, an outstanding defensive back for Eden Prairie and son of Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, has been offered scholarships to Stanford, the school he favors right now, and UTEP. He has heard from Minnesota, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Houston and Maryland.
In a sign of Minnesota's evolving demographics, the Twins recently became the first local professional franchise to employ a full-time diversity-forcused employee when the club named Miguel Ramos emerging market manager. ... The Twins will unveil a new uniform commemorating the team's first season in the Metrodome at a special event featuring Justin Morneau on Nov. 24. Incidentally, this week's USA Today's Sports Weekly named Morneau the American League's Most Valuable Player. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire finished second for manager of the year to Joe Maddon of Tampa Bay.