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.
The emergence of Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles has become one of the NFL’s most surprising stories this season, but the Vikings say their primary focus lies with the Eagles running game.
Specifically LeSean McCoy, who leads the league in rushing with 1,305 yards.
“This dude is making moves,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “He’s like a human joystick right now."
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, largely due to McCoy, who set a franchise record with 217 yards rushing against Detroit in Sunday.
McCoy has rushed for 150-plus yards four times this season, the only player in the NFL to reach that mark more than once. He’s also tied for third in the NFL in 20-yard runs with eight.
“Dynamic in every phase,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “Dynamic out of the backfield, dynamic when you have him bottled up. He’s Houdini. You think you have him bottled up and he’s right there. You look away and the next thing you know you’re looking back at the film and he’s 30 yards down the field. He’s a fantastic football player. I don’t know if he gets the recognition really that he should.”
Several Vikings players compared McCoy to Detroit's Reggie Bush because of his versatility as a receiver.
“Yeah, that’s fun,” linebacker Chad Greenway joked about having to cover McCoy out of the backfield. “He’s unbelievable. Reggie Bush-like. I think he’s got different skills than Reggie. But just a matchup nightmare.”
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.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier announced today that Erin Henderson will start Sunday at Baltimore, but not at middle linebacker. Audie Cole will remain the starter at that spot while Henderson will return to weakside linebacker, a position he played prior to this season.
Henderson lost his job after his DWI arrest came to light last week. Henderson also has acknowledged that he's dealing with a personal issue, which caused him to miss the Green Bay game.
Henderson will return to the lineup after dressing but not playing in Sunday's victory against the Bears.
"It’s a huge thing for me," he said. "I didn’t really know how it was going to play out or what was going to happen once everything came out [about his arrest] and happened the way it did. It's another chance, another opportunity."
Henderson is familiar with the weakside spot so he shouldn't face any adjustment in shifting back to that role.
"From a pride standpoint and from a player’s standpoint, it’s a little bit difficult," he said. "But I accept my role and I understand what they’re trying to get done here and I’m behind my coach and the organization and whatever else decisions they make.”
The target of criticism for fans and media this season, Henderson said he's in a good frame of mind now, but he acknowledged that he let the criticism get to him this season.
"I have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for aside from all the naysayers and haters and everybody else who's had different things to say about me throughout the year," he said. "Sometimes I let it get to me and get me down too much. I've come to grips with it and come to terms with it and I'm able to look at myself and know the man that I am and accept it.
".... I go out there every Sunday and I play my guts out, leave it on the line for my teammates and myself as well. So when you get some negative feedback it can be kind of a tough pill to swallow. But then you learn some of those people are idiots, sitting behind computers and phones saying whatever they want to say and you can't give it too much credit. Take it with a grain of salt and continue to move forward."
Henderson said he's limited his interaction on Twitter because of that criticism.
"I thought about deleting my account but that's giving them even more satisfaction," he said. "I still have my account but it's not on my phone so I don't check it as often and I don't tweet out too much. I think it is still good for those fans who appreciate the interaction and being able to reach out to people. There are a lot of good people out there. I get a lot of positive feedback as well. I don't think I give that enough credit or appreciation for the people who are talking well about me and who do have things to say about me. It can be kind of difficult to see sometimes with so much negativity coming your way.
"... Even with Audie going out there playing well. Instead of people just being happy for Audie playing, it's 'Audie's playing well, Erin sucks, get him out of there, he should never play again.' Why do I have to have anything to do with that? Just be happy for Audie and what he's doing and the opportunity he's taking advantage of."
Good morning from Mall of America Field. The Vikings just released their inactives for today's game against the Chicago Bears and there are no real surprises.
Their inactives: quarterback Josh Freeman, cornerback Josh Robinson, offensive guard Jeff Baca, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive tackle Chase Baker.
The Bears inactives are quarterback Jay Cutler, safety Major Wright, safety Anthony Walters, linebacker Lance Briggs, tackle James Brown, tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive end Cornelius Washington.
Erin Henderson addressed reporters in the locker room Wednesday and apologized after being arrested for probable cause DWI and possession of a controlled substance in Eden Prairie on Nov. 19.
"I apologize to my teammates and the organization for this situation coming and arising," he said. "But now it's here and it's something we have to deal with. I'm sorry if I brought any embarrassment to this team or this organization. I didn't want to be a distraction."
Henderson missed three days of practice and Sunday's game at Green Bay because of what the team described as a personal issue. Henderson said his personal issues were not related to his arrest, but he indicated that he's taking steps to make changes in his life. He declined to give specifics.
"I have been given the tools and the resources by the organization and the sources to help me along and further myself in this process and continue to become the person that I know I can be going forward," he said.
Henderson described his situation as "eye-opening."
“It was a wake-up call for me and, honestly, it may be something that I needed in the long run," he said. "Something I think will help me progress and become the person I’m capable of being and the man that I want to be. It was a tough situation having to sit at home and watch your teammates and watch your guys go out there to battle."
Henderson said his absence Sunday was a "mutual thing" between himself and the organization.
"All parties involved felt that it might be best to kind of step away from the game for a second," he said. "You guys know there can be a lot of stress and a lot of pressure that goes along with this gig and sometimes it’s best to just get away for a second and clear your head.”
Henderson was asked why he believes this is something that he "needed."
"You want to progress," he said. "You want to get better. You want to mature. You want to grow up and you want to do things a certain way. But sometimes you can’t get out of your own way. But I think something like this will give me the opportunity to really step back and look in the mirror and look at my reflection and become happier with the person that I am, and the person that I know I can become. And like I said, I’ve been given a lot of great tools and a lot of resources by the program and by the organization here, something I’m very thankful for. I look forward to showing you guys the improvements of myself.”
Henderson was asked to explain what he meant to be "tools and resources."
"Just to deal with life, man," he said. "Just to deal with the whole life process and dealing with, like I said, the stress and pressure of playing in the NFL. Coming in here and fighting for your job day and day out and what goes with that and what comes along with that. I have a family at home that I have to support and take care of. They’ve done a good job of giving me the chance to reach out to some people and talk to some people who understand better than I do what’s happening and what’s going on that will help me in the future.”
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