Vikings notebook: Jerome Felton blocks way into spotlight

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 4:22 AM

Our snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Packers at Mall of America Field.

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Adrian Peterson followed Jerome Felton’s block against the Bears.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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Our snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Packers at Mall of America Field.

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Fullback Jerome Felton

Even as Adrian Peterson attacks a possible 2,000-yard season, the Vikings didn't have a single offensive lineman voted into the Pro Bowl. Center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil are alternates. But Peterson will take Felton, one of his most relentless blockers, along to Honolulu next month.

The Vikings entered last offseason intent on finding Peterson a gritty lead blocker. In Felton they found impressive athleticism, tenacity and unselfishness.

"At that position, you've got to be a single-minded guy," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Because you're going to be in a lot of collisions with some pretty good linebackers. And [Jerome] enjoys his role; he's embraced it."

It's no coincidence that Peterson has seven runs of longer than 50 yards this season, including a pair of 82-yard TDs that each featured crushing blocks from Felton. One of those came against the Packers earlier this month.

"He's attentive to detail," said offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. "He knows who to block. Then, of course, when he gets there, he knows how to do it."

MOST PRESSING QUESTION: Can the Vikings handle Aaron Rodgers' vexing snap counts?

Don't remind coordinator Alan Williams of how many times his unit jumped on Rodgers' hard counts four weeks ago, giving the MVP quarterback a handful of free plays.

Most notably, Rodgers capitalized on a Letroy Guion jump to throw a 32-yard touchdown pass to James Jones. A.J. Jefferson had perfect coverage on the play, yet Rodgers had zero risk in letting it fly and allowing Jones to make a play.

So the directive has been re-emphasized this week to the Vikings defense: Watch the ball and ignore Rodgers' voice inflections.

Trust your eyes, not your ears.

"Every week we work on it," Williams said. "But some quarterbacks are better than others in what they do and how they do it. He is one of the masters at it, and we have to make sure that we hold our water and don't jump."

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer knew one of his big challenges with Blair Walsh would be keeping the kicker's leg fresh until the end of December. Aware that most rookies aren't used to the daily demands of the NFL or the length of the season, Priefer commanded Walsh to be fully honest whenever his leg was feeling fatigued.

As a result, Walsh and the Vikings have been smart with the workload. And with one regular-season game left, the Pro Bowl kicker feels plenty strong. He not only made a 56-yard field goal last Sunday in Houston to tie a team record, but that kick also had enough mustard to clear from 65 or longer.

"We always talk about it," Priefer said. "Even every long kick, you want to approach it like it's a PAT or a 30-yarder mentally. Obviously he had to really stroke it, kick it a little bit harder. And he did that."

PACKERS SCOOP

  Green Bay always will be a pass-first attack. But the Packers are no longer as dangerously one-dimensional as they once were. In their current four-game winning streak, they have averaged a respectable 130.5 rushing yards per game. James Starks and Alex Green propelled a 152-yard effort against the Vikings in Week 13. Last week, Ryan Grant had 80 yards and two scores on 20 rushes.

INJURIES AND FINES

Antoine Winfield will have to wrap his fractured right hand and wear a special pad to protect it. But despite being listed as questionable, Winfield should play Sunday with few limitations.

Defensive end Brian Robison (questionable) also will try to give it a go, still working back from the Grade 3 shoulder sprain he suffered two weeks ago in St. Louis.

Robison was limited in practice all week but has made progress in his recovery. The Vikings will measure his soreness again Saturday before making a decision on if and how much he will play.

Other starters listed on the injury report, all probable, are: Adrian Peterson (abdomen), Jared Allen (shoulder), Phil Loadholt (knee) and Chris Kluwe (knee).

In the fine department, Matt Kalil was penalized $10,000 by the NFL for his late hit last week in Houston. Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson drew a $21,000 fine for his hit to the head and neck area of Vikings receiver Jarius Wright.

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