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.
CINCINNATI -- Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart will play today against the Bengals.
Both Peterson (foot sprain) and Gerhart (hamstring) were listed as questionable but the team expected to have both available after watching them practice this week.
There were no real surprises on the inactive list: quarterback Josh Freeman, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, running back Matt Asiata, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, wide receiver Rodney Smith, defensive tackle Chase Baker and defensive end Justin Trattou.
Rhodes was declared out on Friday because of an ankle sprain. Shaun Prater will start in his place.
BALTIMORE -- Hello from snowy M&T Bank Stadium.
The field is covered with snow as players go through early warmups, making for a cool setting for today's game against the Ravens.
No surprises in the Vikings inactives: quarterback Christian Ponder, cornerback Josh Robinson, offensive guard Jeff Baca, tackle Mike Remmers, tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive tackle Chase Baker.
GREEN BAY -- Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings will play today versus the Packers after being listed as questionable on the final injury report.
Both players said this week that they intended to play and the Vikings made it official when they released their game inactives. Peterson is dealing with a groin injury, while Jennings missed the Seattle game last week because of an Achilles injury.
Defensive end Brian Robison also will play after being listed as questionable because of a neck injury. Robison suffered a muscle spasm in his neck in Thursday's practice and missed practice Friday.
Josh Freeman was declared inactive for the fifth time since joining the team in early October. Matt Cassel will serve as Christian Ponder's backup.
The rest of the Vikings inactives are cornerback Josh Robinson, linebacker Erin Henderson, offensive guard Jeff Baca, tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive tackle Chase Baker.
Audie Cole will start at middle linebacker for Henderson. Xavier Rhodes will start in place of Robinson at left cornerback.
Quarterback Christian Ponder remains optimistic that he will play Sunday against Seattle after suffering a dislocated left shoulder last week.
Ponder was limited in practice on Wednesday but he's encouraged by the progress he's made this week.
"Honestly it's a lot better than I expected to be all week," he said Thursday. "I was a little pessmistic about what was going to happen over the weekend. I was very uncomfortable. I woke up Monday and Tuesday and I kept feeling better and better. Our training staff has done such a great job of getting me to feel better. So I threw it around a lot more than I expected to [Wednesday]. And each day it's going to keep getting better.''
Ponder said he will wear a harness on his shoulder to protect it.
"I don't think I'm going to wear padding," he said. "I'm going to wear a harness, which people usually wear when they dislocate a shoulder to keep it in place. But I'm not going to wear any extra padding or anything.''
The Seahawks are a physical defense that already has collected 31 sacks, fifth most in the NFL. Ponder said he's not concerned about taking contact.
"I don't know how it's going to feel," he said. "Obviously, I'm going to get hit at some point. Hopefully not. But we'll see how it ends up feeling. But I'm sure it will it be a little painful and hopefully the Seahawks don't have a target on it.''
Jared on Percy, Bevell and Taylor Swift
Jared Allen's weekly media session was particularly entertaining.
Here are a few highlights:
On Seattle's home-field advantage: "They talk about tough environments to play in, it’s just loud. The fans aren't going to come on the field and attack you or anything. Well, I hope not. People talk about ‘Oh, it’s a crazy environment.' It's just fans screaming like they're supposed to. It's just loud. But it makes it fun."
On possibly seeing Percy Harvin lined up on the other side: "I sure hope he isn’t. Percy is good enough, let alone coming back with fresh legs and [ticked] off at us. ... Percy is the type of guy you’ve got to stop him before he starts. You can’t let him get going. You can’t let him get in the open field. That’s where he’s dangerous, those second-effort plays. We obviously got see first-hand what he can do. He’s a tough kid. If he’s in there, we’re going to have to go hit him."
On former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell: "We went to a Taylor Swift concert together, which was awkward. I thought I was at like a Hannah Montana concert for a while. Like, what is going on, here? My wife and I were like, do you think we need to leave? There was like spirit fingers and choreographed dances. I was in the wrong place.
"[Bevell's] kids wanted to go. I knew someone’s road manager. I’m huge country music fan. When Taylor first came out, I liked her music. But I had never been to her concert. I was assuming it was going to be a normal concert. It was a like Tween concert. I’m like, what is going on?"
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams managed to smile when asked Tuesday about comments from a few veterans questioning his play calls on the Dallas Cowboys final drive on Sunday.
Williams dropped a linemen in coverage on four of Dallas' nine plays on the 90-yard game-winning drive. Brian Robison and Kevin Williams publicly questioned why Williams stopped rushing four after the line generated consistent pressure on quarterback Tony Romo all game.
"I don’t take that in a negative way at all," Williams said. "Our guys are competitive. They put a lot of work in. And good players want to know why because you want them to be able to function on the field sometimes without a coach having to spoon feed them. Good players ask why: ‘Hey coach, why did you make this decision? What were you thinking?’ I have no problem whatsoever about a guy asking me why. We explain it, we talk about it and we move on."
Williams said he decided to drop a linemen into coverage because the Cowboys were using screen passes to get the ball out of Romo's hands fast.
"We’ve been plagued by screens all year long," he said. "Our rush was heating them up for sure so the balls were coming out extremely quick. We heated them up in the first half, but they were max-protecting and they were throwing screens. That series, I think they ran three of them."
Williams said he heard those same complaints from defensive linemen when he coached in Indianapolis.
"Since I’ve been in the league for 10-plus years, that’s always been a concern about guys that rush the passer well that, ‘Hey coach, we don’t want to drop,’" he said. " If you talk to Dwight Freeney, he’ll say, ‘Hey, I want a four-man rush because I don’t want anybody chipping me.’ Robert Mathis, he’ll tell you that right now. My experience with good rushers are that they want a four-man rush. They don’t want you to bring five, they don’t want you bring three. They want a four-man rush. I have no problem with our guys with that."
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