Wednesday was another busy day at Winter Park. Here are some notes and quotes from the locker room.
Never let up
The Vikings are well aware that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loves to hold the ball a long time and is capable of getting off a pass even with defenders draped all over him because of his size and strength. That’s why more than one Vikings defensive player used the phrase “tackle his right arm” today when describing how to approach Roethlisberger.
“You lick your chops when you see him sitting there holding it, but it’s also a plus for them because he makes a lot of plays with those receivers staying active,” defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “You have to lock onto him and just get him to the ground when you have opportunities because he makes more plays after he scrambles than he does sitting in the pocket.”
Roethlisberger ranks in the Top 5 in the NFL in passing yards, completion percentage, completions and passer rasting. His toughness and ability to make plays when the pocket collapses is what impresses the Vikings.
“He’s real tough,” defensive tackle Pat Williams said. “He ain’t no fragile quarterback. He’ll get off the ground and just keep on throwing it.”
Said linebacker Chad Greenway: “His big body obviously helps him be able to get rid of the ball with people hanging all over him. We have to be mindful of that. We have to tackle the right arm. That’s the biggest key. Even if you do that, he can probably throw with his left. We just have to keep playing hard and aggressive.”
On second thought
Backup defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy admits he wasn’t crazy about the prospect of joining the Vikings late last season after he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Honestly, truth be told, when my agent called me last year and told me he wanted me to come to Minnesota, I told him, ‘hell no,’” Kennedy said. “Honestly I just felt this wasn’t the place for me. Boy was I wrong.”
Kennedy, who signed after Pat Williams suffered an injury, had a similar feeling when the Vikings brought him in for a pre-draft visit back in 2003. The team ultimately drafted Kevin Williams with the ninth overall pick while Kennedy went to St. Louis at No. 12.
“When I was coming out for the draft, I told my agent, ‘Man I don’t want to wear purple,’” Kennedy recalled. “I’m already big. They’re going to be calling me Barney. I can’t do the Vikings things. Now, it’s a blessing in disguise for me.”
Kennedy has played in four games and is third on the team with two sacks. He has become part of the regular rotation at defensive tackle.
“As a competitor, no one ever wants to be a backup,” he said. “That’s why these guys don’t really get a lot of top defensive linemen as backups because who wants to back up Kevin and Pat? Those guys aren’t going anywhere. As a competitor, you [also] realize the ultimate goal right now is to win a super Bowl. I’ll do what I have to in order to help this team win.”
Hines Ward is in his 12th season with the Steelers and is the longest-tenured wide receiver with the same team in the NFL. The four-time Pro Bowl is still at the top of his game too. Ward leads the NFL in receiving yards (599) and is tied for first in receptions (41).
“He brings a physical presence to the game,” cornerback Cedric Griffin said. “A lot of guys don’t like to attack him just because he runs just like a fullback. Playing in the secondary, a lot of guys don’t like to tackle and he knows that. He runs even run harder because guys don’t like to tackle. But we have a physical group over here. We love to tackle, we love to make hits and we love to make plays. It’s going to be a different ballgame than other games.”
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe made a great adjustment on his 19-yard touchdown catch that was thrown to his back shoulder in the first quarter. Here is how he described the play:
"I saw what Brett was trying to do,” he said. “He was trying to pull me away from the safety. I ran the route up there but I was bending it toward the safety. He took the hit off me so he had to put it there. I don’t know how the hell I made that catch. Looking back at film. It was a fingertip catch. It was finger tips literally. Those drills that I do with [tight ends] coach Jimmie Johnson every day after practice came into effect."
Asked if he would have been able to make that catch a couple of years ago, Shiancoe said: "No, man. No."