Jenkins is making his catches at key times

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune staff writer
  • Updated: January 3, 2013 - 9:10 PM
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Vikings wide receiver Michael Jenkins caught a key pass for a first down in the fourth quarter against the Packers on Sunday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The last time the Vikings visited Lambeau Field, their receivers seemed invisible, held without a catch for the first 57 minutes while finishing with a grand total of three grabs for 38 yards.

In the rematch with Green Bay last weekend, the production spiked significantly. Not only did Jarius Wright, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson combine for nine catches for 166 yards, but five of those connections either converted third downs or went for touchdowns.

Jenkins has been making a habit of supplying clutch grabs during the Vikings' four-game winning streak. Since leaving Lambeau, Jenkins has an ordinary stat line of 10 receptions for 145 yards. But nine of those grabs have come on third down (for 118 yards), with eight of those producing first downs.

That's why receivers coach George Stewart, heading into Saturday's playoff game at Green Bay, continues to speak highly of Jenkins, a reliable veteran whom Stewart nicknamed "The Professor."

"He knows this offense inside and out," Stewart said. "Our young players can go to him with any question they have. I always go back to his professionalism. That sucker is a pro."

Stewart raved about the 3-yard TD catch Jenkins made last weekend in a scramble drill with the veteran receiver spinning back toward the left sideline and then outmuscling Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings for the score.

"Michael had to come back and be friendly to the quarterback to beat that safety back to the ball," Stewart said. "Christian [Ponder] threw that pass on faith. Because he knew Michael Jenkins would work his way back to that football."

Injury update

Ponder continues to deal with tightness in his right elbow and has been limited in practice the past three days. "He's done a lot more stuff mental than physical right now," Frazier said. "But he should be fine."

Rookie safety Harrison Smith continues to work through a minor knee injury, a setback that limited him on Wednesday and Thursday. But Smith will start Saturday.

Adrian Peterson also was back at practice Thursday as he continues dealing with a lingering abdomen injury. Defensive end Brian Robison also seems to have made notable progress with the shoulder sprain.

New outlook

Safety Jamarca Sanford lost his starting job to Mistral Raymond in training camp but was forced back into a leading role after Raymond dislocated his ankle in Week 3. Sanford played so well in the six games Raymond missed that he earned the opportunity to keep starting with the two safeties splitting time over the final seven games.

"Last year was my first year starting," Sanford said. "And I was just really happy to be out there, still shocked that I'm in the NFL and I'm starting. And I was just out there on my natural ability.

"This year, I've gone up a level. This league isn't about how athletic you are, it's how smart you are. How well can you study film and break a team down. When you know stuff that's going to happen before it happens, it's incredible."

Etc.

• Peterson was named NFC offensive player of the month for December. He set an NFL record for most yards rushing in a month with 861 as the Vikings went 4-1.

• Rookie kicker Blair Walsh was chosen NFC special teams player of the month. He made 11 of 12 field goals, including five of five from 50 yards or longer, as part of a season in which he set an NFL record with 10 field goals longer than 50 yards.

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