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.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked to NFL officials about the low hit that injured veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams and said the league agreed that Joe Looney's actions were unnecessary and dangerous.
“I have talked to the league about it; they concur,” Frazier said. “It's not the type of play they want in the game for player safety reasons. There's a big emphasis regarding player safety and that play really endangers our players' safety. It's not something that the league wants. It's not something that any of us want as we are trying to make the game safer for our players.”
Looney, a 49ers backup lineman, hit Williams in the knees away from the play when he wasn't looking. Williams escaped ligament damage, but he suffered a hyperextended knee, a significant bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain.
Looney told reporters in San Francisco that he didn’t intend to injure Williams and was just trying to finish his block. Vikings players weren’t buying it.
“I think the hit was uncalled for,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Really quite ridiculous. It’s something we specifically talked about in our meetings with the league, with the refs, before the preseason games started. It was just unnecessary. He wasn't going to make the play. He wasn’t going to be a part of the play.
“You can say what you want, you didn't mean to hurt him, didn't mean to, but the reality is you did that, and you didn't have to. And now you have a guy who's been one of the best at his position for a long time dealing with an injury he shouldn't have to deal with. I think the reality is, if the roles were reversed, and the defensive guy was going into a quarterback or a receiver, or a high-profile player, you tell me what would happen.”
Frazier reiterated that the team hopes Williams will be available to play in the season opener Sept. 8.
With Williams sidelined, depth at defensive tackle has become a concern. Frazier said rookie Sharrif Floyd (knee) was expected to do some work in practice Tuesday but will not play in the final preseason game Thursday night. Christian Ballard remains on the active/left team list. Frazier did not give a timetable for his return.
Frazier said the team knew Jerome Felton’s three-game suspension was always a possibility when they re-signed the Pro Bowl fullback this offseason. Felton’s suspension is the result of his DUI charge last year, which was later reduced to careless driving.
“You always knew that there was potential,” Frazier said. “You didn’t know if it would happen. His incident was some time ago. But it was always looming that this could possibly happen.”
In Felton’s absence, Frazier said the team will look to tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison and possibly rookie Zach Line to fill the void.
On Ellison, Frazier said: “He’s one of the hardest working players on our team. It’s hard to outwork Rhett. He comes prepared every single day. Seeing his work ethic his rookie year, I was so impressed. You just don’t see very many rookies with his maturity and just understanding the time that you have to put in to be good at your craft. He has not let up from his rookie season. I don’t think we can overwork him. He’ll be ready when we line up against Detroit. But yes, we could add more to his plate and we probably will have to now.”
** Frazier said cornerback Chris Cook is OK after leaving the game because of a groin injury.
** Linebacker Erin Henderson is still bothered by a heel injury.
** Safety Mistral Raymond suffered an AC joint sprain of his shoulder and is doubtful for Thursday night.
** Wideout Greg Childs was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable To Perform list. He has been on the PUP list since camp started while trying to recover from surgery on both knees. The move means he won't be eligible to play through the first six weeks of the season.