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.
As encouraging as things were for the Vikings in Sunday's 33-27 loss to Green Bay at Mall of America Field, coach Leslie Frazier returned to Winter Park this morning with a whole lot of headaches to deal with. Forget the promise Christian Ponder showed in his first NFL start. Right now, Frazier has to deal with so much more.
Most significantly, one of Frazier's top defensive backs, Chris Cook, remains in custody and is still awaiting a hearing after being arrested in Eden Prairie on Saturday morning on domestic assault charges. Cook was originally expected to appear in court Monday morning. But the investigation of the incident that led to his arrest is ongoing. So predictably, Frazier was vague when speaking about Cook early this afternoon.
"As we get more clarity as to what's going on with Chris, we'll act accordingly," Frazier said. "But we'll try to get clarity hopefully in the next few days and go from there. I don't think any of us in this organization are pleased when one of our players is arrested for anything. And the fact that one of our players is in jail is a disappointment. It's something that we'll have to deal with as we find out more information."
Frazier's assessment of receiver Bernard Berrian was also ambiguous. Berrian was made inactive for Sunday's game with Green Bay, a decision Frazier made at some point over the weekend. And while the head coach won't address specifics as to what transpired, his comments and body language today give off strong indications that Berrian's time in Minneapolis is nearing its end.
"There are some things we need to sit down and talk to Bernard about later today," Frazier said. "And then we'll make a decision on how we want to handle things going forward. But he and I are going to sit down and talk first. There are just some things that he and I need to talk about to make sure that we can get on the same page about what direction we want to go in. So we're going to have a little meeting of the minds and see where we are."
Asked later whether Berrian had become a distraction for the team, Frazier looked down and then looked up and generally evaded the question.
"One of the things you're trying to do when you are where we are is make sure that everybody is focused on who we're playing," he said. "This weekend we're playing Carolina. And everybody's focus has to be on the Carolina Panthers. We’ve just got to make sure that we get everybody focused on what we have to be focused on."
Berrian's focus certainly hasn't seemed sharp in recent weeks. Sunday marked the second time in three weeks he has been a surprise addition to the inactive list. On top of that, he has only seven catches for 91 yards for the entire season. Now? It looks like his strained relationship with Frazier may be reaching the breaking point.
Injury update: More bad news could be on the way for guard Anthony Herrera, who suffered some form of ACL injury Sunday to the same knee in which he tore his ACL last November. Frazier was awaiting more detail on the severity of Herrera's most recent injury.
It's not quite clear how Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian enjoyed his Sunday. For the second time in three weeks, Berrian's name was a surprise addition to the pre-game inactive list. In Week 5, when the Vikings played Arizona, Berrian was declared inactive for disciplinary reasons, with reports surfacing that he had missed multiple team meetings the day before the game.
Sunday? Vikings coach Leslie Frazier didn't indicate that Berrian's latest benching was for disciplinary purposes.
Said Frazier: "Just a decision that I made that we'll probably get into later in the week, one of the decisions I made."
Asked again whether the decision was disciplinary, Frazier said: "No. It was just a decision I made about whether or not he was going to be active or not active."
As for Berrian's future with the team?
"It's something we'll talk about this week."
Berrian seemed to bounce back OK from being punished in Week 5. Last week, he had five catches for 54 yards in a loss at Chicago, far and away his most productive outing of an incredibly disappointing 2011 campaign. But on Sunday, Frazier seemed to make it clear that Berrian won't figure into his plans going forward. Not just beyond 2011. But perhaps not ever again.
If Berrian has indeed come to the end of the road here in Minnesota, the team's dogged pursuit of him in free agency a few years back will be remembered as one of the more regrettable personnel moves in recent memory. After a seemingly promising start to his Vikings career in 2007, Berrian has provided very little return on investment.
Now, Frazier may view his presence on the team as a sunk cost, perhaps ready to part ways.
The inactive list has just been released at Mall of America Field and as was expected Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, safety Jamarca Sanford and center John Sullivan will not play today against the Packers. All three players are dealing with injuries. Meanwhile, cornerback Chris Cook remains in jail after his Saturday morning arrest on domestic assault charges. That leaves the Vikings to take on undefeated Green Bay without four key starters.
Furthermore, for the second time in three weeks, receiver Bernard Berrian is also inactive.
Winfield is inactive for the third straight week. He injured his neck in the Vikings' Oct. 2 loss in Kansas City and is sitll being labeled as day-to-day by head coach Leslie Frazier. Sanford and Sullivan, meanwhile, each suffered concussions in last Sunday's 39-10 loss in Chicago and will be held out this afternoon as a result. Joe Berger will start in Sullivan's place.
In the secondary, with Winfield and Cook both out, the Vikings will have Asher Allen starting opposite Cedric Griffin. Tyrell Johnson will replace Sanford and join Husain Abdullah at safety. The Vikings will also have to lean heavily on Marcus Sherels and Brandon Burton as they try to slow Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' prolific passing attack.
Berrian's status on the inactive list registers as somewhat surprising but not all that much. He was held out of the Vikings' Week 5 win over Arizona for disciplinary reasons. But last week in Chicago he returned to action with his best game of 2011, catching five passes for 54 yards. Now? He's back in street clothes on game day.
Other Vikings inactives are tackle DeMarcus Love and defensive end D'Aundre Reed.
Inactives for the Packers are: corner Sam Shields, left tackle Chad Clifton, defensive end Mike Neal, guard Ray Dominguez and linebackers Frank Zombo, Jamari Lattimore and Robert Francis.
When a team is 1-4 and struggling in the forward-pass department, every week can be an exercise in asking the age-old question, "Why isn't (fill in the blank) getting the ball more in (fill in the blank) situations?"
So, here goes: "Why isn't Percy Harvin being discussed as a possible answer to the team's inability to complete some deep balls?"
We hear about trying to connect with Bernard Berrian, who apparently has as many missed team meetings (two) as catches. We hear about Devin Aromashodu coming on as a young prospect, which he definitely is.
But what about Percy? The end arounds are a nice touch, but what about sending one of the two fastest players on the team down the field and, you know, throwing him the ball?
I know Percy isn't the prototypical No. 1, stretch-the-field receiver with the height and reach to create the ideal mismatches. Heck, I've made that argument myself when explaining why Harvin isn't a deep threat.
But he's also the best receiver by far. He's got the speed and the quickness to get open. So why not?
Yeah, he's 5-9, 185 pounds. But have you checked out the height and weight of Carolina's Steve Smith, who I'd consider a pretty good deep threat. Yep, he's 5-9, 185.
At this point, the Vikings' entire receiving corps has 44 catches for 516 yards and three TDs. Wes Welker of the Patriots has 45 catches for 740 yards and five TDs.
UPDATE: Post-practice injury report is at the bottom of this post.
Receiver Bernard Berrian wasn't willing to talk about Sunday's deactivation for reportedly missing two team meetings the day before.
"That's already old news," he said coming off the practice field today. "That's already past. I'm already over it. Can't do anything about it now."
Asked if it was true that he missed two team meetings, which led to the deactivation against the Cardinals, Berrian said coach Leslie Frazier already described the situation. Frazier would not confirm the reports.
Asked what he was doing in practice this week, Berrian said, "Nothing different than I normally do when I prepare for a week."
Pressed for his feelings on being punished, Berrian twice said, "It's already old news. We're talking about Chicago week."
He said he's confident he can help the Vikings beat the Bears this week.
"I'm not surprised" reporters are asking about the deactivation, Berrian said. "I'm just not going to talk about anything in the past. It's already over with. It's a done deal. It's already over. It's on to Chicago.
"If someone gets beat for a touchdown, they have to put it in the past. You got to put it behind you and go on to the next play."
As for his chemistry with Donovan McNabb, Berrian, who has two catches on the year, said, "It's fine. We're working on everything we need to work on. I'm saying the same things over and over. Chemistry only takes you so far.
Asked if he's in good standing with the team, Berrian said, "Yeah, I'm fine."
Injury report: CB Antoine Winfield (neck) did not practice. WR Percy Harvin (ribs), LB E.J. Henderson (knee) and LB Kenny Onatolu (hamstring) were limited. S Husain Abdullah (pelvis) and DE Jared Allen (eye) had full participation.
For the Bears, DE Julius Peppers has a knee sprain and was among those not practicing. WR Earl Bennett (chest), T Gabe Carimi (knee) and DT Matt Toeaina (knee) also did not practice.
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