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.


Frazier, Simpson meet, talk about injury status for next week

Posted by: Mark Craig under Injury report, Vikings, NFC, Leslie Frazier, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: October 15, 2012 - 2:01 PM

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier met with receiver Jerome Simpson this morning to talk about his injury status going forward into the preparation for Sunday's game against Arizona at Mall of America Field.

"He feels like he's going to be ready to go," Frazier said. "He told me just to watch the  tape and that will prove it. So I'm looking forward to seeing how he progresses as the week goes on."

Simpson was inactive on Sunday because of the weakness and numbness in his lower left leg. The injury first appeared a week earlier when Simpson played but couldn't push off in the 30-7 win over the Titans. Simpson failed to catch any of the three passes thrown his way. A day later, a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a back issue as the cause.

Simpson missed last Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. In the locker room after Sunday's 38-26 loss at Washington, Simpson told the Star Tribune that he was stunned that he was inactive for the game.

"I felt great today," Simpson said. "I had a great pregame workout. So I don't know what happened."

Frazier said Monday that the two spoke Saturday night and that Simpson, "kind of had an idea of where I was headed." Frazier said he didn't feel comfortable with how Simpson looked trying to push off on the leg.

It doesn't bother Frazier that Simpson spoke out and said he felt good enough to play.

"In his heart, he wants to play," Frazier said. "He's a competitor, which is what you appreciate about him. He wanted to be out there. But we'll see how it goes this week. He's a competitor. He wants to play and help our team win. We'll evaluate it this week."

Ponder's `growing pains' are part of the deal: Quarterback Christian Ponder was bound to have one of those games that reminds people that he's a second-year player who is in his first full season as a starter. Ponder had three turnovers. Two of them led to 14 points, including a pick-six that put the team down 19 points early in the fourth quarter. The other came in the end zone and ended the team's fourth-quarter rally in the waning seconds.

"He's in his second season; there's going to be some growing pains along the way," Frazier said. "We know that. This is part of the process with him. Part of the evolution of being an NFL starter. As we grow as a team, he'll grow. But things like yesterday are going to happen as he continues to gain experience."

Did the defense take a step back?: The Vikings went into the Sunday's game ranked ninth in run defense. They came out of it ranked 11th after giving up183 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries (5.7). Quarterback Robert Griffin III ran 13 times for 138 yards (10.6) and two touchdowns, including the clinching 76-yarder on third down with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in the game.

"Their running back [Alfred Morris] was averaging [98.2] yards per game rushing and he finished with [47] yards rushing," Frazier said. "But the quarterback had 138 yards rushing. You don't see that every day. So, no, I don't think we took a step back [defensively] at all. I think we played a quarterback that was a little bit different than most of those we see. And he was very effective against us on Sunday, particularly on that last 76-yard run."

Frazier hints at tweaks to red-zone play-calling: The Vikings, according to Frazier, are going their their red-zone approach with "a fine-tooth comb" after Sunday's disastrous performance inside the Redskins' 20. The Vikings had seven trips into the red zone and settled on field goals on their first four. They added two late touchdowns before throwing an interception in the waning seconds.

"We didn't execute that well, and we [also] felt as a staff that maybe we could do a couple of other things that might help us in that situation if we get in that situation again," Frazier said. "There were some things we might do a little bit different in our approach. And our execution would need to be a little bit better as well.

"When you thwarted in the red zone like we did, you look at everything. What we're calling, the plays we're running, how we're running those plays."

Can Harvin be protected from ... Harvin?: By now, every football fan on the planet knows how hard Percy Harvin plays. Every collision he has is like a man hitting the pavement after a 10-story fall. So Frazier was asked if there's anything the team can do to take some of the self-imposed pounding that the 195-pound Harvin puts on himself.

"He plays 100 miles an hour," Frazier said. "If you give him two plays, you know that those two plays are going to be full tilt. And that's what you appreciate about him. We're always going to be conscious of how we use him and  not try to overuse him. But when you have a talent such as his, you want to utilize his abilities. But we are mindful of his physique and what we ask him to do. We'll do the best that we can to preserve him, but not at the expense of our trying to win and trying to do the right things by him. He's a very, very valuable piece to our team."

Schwartz will keep getting reps at right guard: Geoff Schwartz made his Vikings debut on Sunday and played 11 snaps at right guard in place of Brandon Fusco. Schwartz missed all of last season with the Panthers because of hip surgery. And his competition with Fusco never unfolded because Schwartz had to have surgery for a sports hernia during training camp.

"We wanted to be able to take a look at Geoff yesterday and get him some game action, and yesterday allowed us to do that," Frazier said. "And we want to be able to do that periodically. We felt that was a good game to be able to let him do it. We got some good game-action tape on him that we weren't able to get in the preseason. And we'll see where it goes from there.

"We thought it was a good thing to do and we think it will help us down the road. I thought he did a good job. Good enough that if something were to happen we'd feel comfortable getting him in there."

Frazier said the coaches aren't looking to get Schwartz more than the 11 snaps he got on Sunday in part becaues he hadn't played since 2010 before getting into Sunday's game.

In other news:

  • From an injury standpoint, Frazier said the Vikings "came out the game pretty good. There's no one on that injury report that's new, which is encouraging."
  • Although Harvin left the game briefly after taking some particularly hard hits (and aren't all hits hard with Percy?), Frazier said he is good to go heading into practice this week. Frazier also said Harvin's hamstring, which tightened up on him in practice last Thursday, wasn't an issue on Sunday. "He just took a couple of hits and had a little soreness," Frazier said. "But he finished, did everything, finished strong."
  • Frazier called defensive end Everson Griffen's decision to play Sunday's game just five days after the unexpected death of his mother, "So courageous on his part. ... Watching the tape, he played hard. He left everything on the field. Just a great example for our players and everyone in our organization. A tremendous sacrifice on his part. Very courageous. He did a great job." Frazier said the funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

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