Winfield's return boosts secondary's confidence

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 12, 2011 - 11:44 PM
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Antoine Winfield (26)

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As the Vikings head into Monday's game against the Packers, here are four questions we're trying to answer.

1 Antoine Winfield is finally back in the mix, ready to see his first game action in six weeks. After so much time away because of a neck injury, what will Winfield's return mean?

This is a question best posed to defensive backs coach Joe Woods.

"I think the guys around Antoine feel heightened confidence because he's in the huddle," Woods said. "He's going to speak up when something happens, help make corrections. And that's going to be valuable."

Woods labels Winfield a savvy veteran "who makes the plays he's supposed to make on game day."

That certainly will be a requirement against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' prolific passing attack. With Winfield out in Week 7, Rodgers had his way against the Vikings, completing 24 passes to nine different receivers. He threw for 335 yards with three touchdowns in Green Bay's 33-27 victory.

2 What else is there to know on the injury front?

Guard Anthony Herrera will miss his second consecutive game Monday, still recovering from a lateral collateral ligament injury in his left knee. Joe Berger will start again in Herrera's place and drew raves from coach Leslie Frazier for his effort two weeks ago in Carolina.

"I think he did a good job," Frazier said. "Considering the circumstances and knowing he came in [to our team] a little bit late compared to some other guys, he's done well from a mental standpoint. And he's played well physically."

Even more significantly, receiver Percy Harvin might be as close to full strength as he's been since the season opened. Harvin's sore ribs might not be fully healed, but he's not listed on the injury report. The Vikings hope to involve him offensively as much as possible but still must be cautious.

"Percy is a dynamic player, as we all know, a guy we count on so much," Frazier said. "But with his style of play, you really have to watch what you do with him. Because you want to keep him for the course of 16 weeks."

3 Can Adrian Peterson remain a factor in the Vikings' passing game?

Two weeks ago in Charlotte, Peterson had five catches for 76 yards, including a momentum-turning 19-yard touchdown reception late in the first half. On Friday, Peterson was asked if that receiving breakthrough was a fluke. After all, in 69 games, he's only surpassed 50 receiving yards six times.

"Was it a fluke?" Peterson responded with a laugh. "I think I'll be more involved."

Peterson believes he has a friend in quarterback Christian Ponder. The Vikings rookie has drawn praise for his willingness to take chances. But among teammates, Ponder has been impressive in a different way.

"I think he's simply seeing the open guy," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "For a quarterback to be able to make three reads, four reads sometimes, especially being a rookie, what he's doing is commendable."

Ponder's continued ability to take what's there should make Peterson even more dangerous.

4 What's up with the Henderson brothers?

Linebacker E.J. Henderson has been optimistic about returning to a heightened role as the swelling and discomfort in his left knee subsides. But for now, younger brother Erin is likely to remain the second linebacker in nickel packages, which the Vikings will need plenty of against Green Bay.

Undrafted in 2008, Erin seems to be flourishing under the tutelage of Mike Singletary. The coaching staff has appreciated the recent growth he's made in not freelancing too often.

"He's one of those guys who's pretty instinctive but plays a lot with his eyes," Frazier said. "Sometimes when he sees something, he wants to go to it. And that's not necessarily what we need from him.

''You really need to be disciplined and be where you need to be and not just assume this place is my play based on what my eyes tell me. He's gotten better at training his eyes and being more disciplined."

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