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.


Winfield's status uncertain for Vikings playoff game

Posted by: Kent Youngblood under On the road, Vikings, Packers, Leslie Frazier, Vikings defense, Vikings injury report, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Leslie Frazier, Phil Loadholt Updated: December 31, 2012 - 2:30 PM

The Vikings won’t know until later in the week whether cornerback Antoine Winfield will be available for the Packers game on Saturday.

Winfield broke his right hand in the Vikings’ victory at Houston Dec. 23. He returned to play in Sunday’s game against Green Bay before pain forced him to leave the game. The Packers passing game heated up quickly after that.

During his press conference Monday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said was simply pain – not further injury – that forced Winfield out of the game. As for his availability for Saturday’s rematch with the Packers in Green Bay?

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Antoine,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he does throughout the week. He was in quite a bit of pain [Sunday], so we’ll have to see how he does throughout the week and make a decision, maybe, later on.”

Marcus Sherels was inserted as Winfield’s replacement as the slot cornerback in passing situations. Frazier said the team went with – and stayed with – Sherels for the rest of the game because he has gotten more reps in the slot than rookie Josh Robinson, and that Robinson was best suited to play on the outside. That said, Frazier hinted that, should Winfield be unavailable, the Vikings might re-think their nickel defense.

“There are some things we’ll have to look at for this ball game that we might do a little bit different,” Frazier said. “But it goes back to who is an inside corner and who is an outside corner.”
 

Injury updates

Frazier said defensive end Brian Robison, who returned from a sprained shoulder to play Sunday, came out of the game OK.

Running back Adrian Peterson told Frazier that he felt better coming out of Sunday’s 199-yard performance than he did a week ago, when he finished the Houston game feeling a bit banged up.

Frazier said safety Harrison Smith – who left Sunday’s game for a spell with a shoulder issue – should be able to practice this week, though perhaps in a limited way. He is expected to play in Green Bay. The same goes for tackle Phil Loadholt. Frazier said there were some other players who were “nicked up.”

Peaking at the right time?

Recent history suggests that it is sometimes the hottest team – rather than the team with the best record overall – that has an edge as the playoffs begin. So does that mean the Vikings. Who won their last four regular season games, are in a good spot?

Frazier wouldn’t go that far. But it can’t hurt.

“We’ve played some games, in this last month, where we pretty much had our back against the wall, where we needed to get a win each week,” Frazier said. “Particularly these last four weeks. And our guys have risen to the challenge, played extremely well, and got us those wins. Now we’re into a whole new season. We hope we can continue that and improve, ‘cause we’re going to need to improve to go play on the road. It’s a big challenge for us, but we need to keep improving.”

Searching for lost yards?

Given that Peterson finished just nine yards short of setting the NFL’s all-time rushing record, Frazier was asked Monday if he was going to have somebody review the season to see if a few extra yards could be found.

“If we could find those hidden yards, we would do it,” Frazier joked. “They have different people who will be doing that. But we’ll be doing our own homework as well. If we can find nine yards, we’re going to find them.”

Seriously, though, Frazier said he expected another run at Eric Dickerson’s record next season.

“As you know, it doesn’t take much to get him going when he sets a goal,” Frazier said. “I wouldn’t put it past Adrian Peterson to shoot for that record next year and even attain it. He is one of those guys you never bet against. If that’s in his sights, it’s possible. Anything’s possible with Adrian.”

A familiar opponent

Saturday will mark the third game between the Vikings and Packers in five weeks. So, it will probably be difficult for either side to do anything to fool the other.

“We’ll look as hard as we can to see if there is anything we can do differently to help us,” Frazier said. “And for how we can improve across the board as a team. But we’re so familiar with one another, there aren’t a whole lot of new things you can do. But you can try to improve on what you have been doing. And what’s what we’ll try to get done.”

Upon further review…

Frazier said linebacker Erin Henderson should have stayed with Packers receiver Greg Jennings on the third-quarter Packers touchdown. Henderson let Jennings go, and Jennings was all alone in the left corner of the end zone for his five-yard TD reception .

Running argument

Are the Vikings really out of step in a pass-happy NFL? Six of the eight top rushing teams in the league are in the playoffs, including the second-ranked Vikings.

And the ability to run could become even more important in a game where weather could inhibit a passing attack.

“I would think so,” Frazier said. “I don’t know what the conditions are going to be at Lambeau yet, but I’m still going back to what I think is best for us. It’s a formula I think that can work no matter the conditions.”

Etc.

  • Frazier hasn’t decided whether the team will do any practicing outside, given the expected cold weather in Green Bay.
  • Frazier said he knows the Packers will be eager – and more able – to implement their no-huddle offense this week, which will give the Vikings defense that much more of a challenge; the noisy fans in the Dome Sunday made it more difficult for the Packers to go no-huddle. “We expect them to try to get the tempo where they want it in their home field,” Frazier said. “It will be something we’ll have to work on.”

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