Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Today was a travel day for the Vikings, so no media access.
There are some major injury questions for the team on Monday as it gets ready for its game against the Giants (7:40 p.m., ESPN and Ch. 4) in the Meadowlands.
First, safety Harrison Smith is definitely out because of turf toe. Could be a season ending injury, but the Vikings hope after a few weeks of rest he could return to the lineup. Surgery, says coach Leslie Frazier, would mean 4-6 months of recovery. Andrew Sendejo is in for Smith.
Second, Adrian Peterson has a hamstring issue. The Vikings expect him to play – he practiced Saturday – but hamstring issues tend to linger. So that’s a concern.
Third, left tackle Matt Kalil, who by his own admission isn’t playing up to Pro Bowl standards, had tightness in his back late in the week. If Kalil can’t play, ex-Bear J’Marcus Webb is likely to step in.
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle) is out.
Kicker Blair Walsh has a hamstring pull in his left (non-kicking) leg and that likely means punter Jeff Locke will handle kickoff duties, as he did last week against Carolina.
Interesting that receiver Rodney Smith made the 53-man roster and now has hip problems. He won’t be active Monday night, Frazier said.
Jacob Lacey will be active at cornerback with Jefferson out. Lacey had a knee injury in training camp and arthoscopic surgery, then was cut, but he’s back now to replace Smith on the roster and will be thrown into the action.
“He’s recovered from his knee,” Frazier said. “I don’t see much residual effect from the surgery that he had. We’re probably going to have to activate him for this ballgame with A.J. being down. The good thing is he has some familiarity with what we’re doing on defense, so that helps a lot. But he’ll be up and going this weekend.”
The play of the secondary could be key against Eli Manning, who has 15 interceptions this year, but is a two-time Super Bowl winner. Smith has been the team’s best defensive back, and with Sendejo stepping in, and Lacey forced into action, Manning could have a big game.
Frazier has gone out of his way to defend cornerback Josh Robinson, who appears to have struggled. On Saturday, Frazier said: “When you’re playing in the secondary and having some ups and downs, you’ve just got to keep battling and we just keep encouraging him. He’s going to get better. He’s doing some things better than he was when we first put him at this position. It’s a challenging position playing inside against some very good receivers and it’s not always man and it’s not always zone. Just got to keep bringing him along and he’s going to get better and our defense will get better as he gets better. This is part of the maturation of having young guys playing in the secondary but he’s a good football player, just got to keep putting him out there and keep giving him opportunities to get better.”
Veteran defensive linemen Jared Allen (ankle) and Kevin Williams (knee) were limited in practice Saturday, but should be good to go against the Giants.
The Vikings fell to 1-4 with an uninspired and lifeless 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field. The Carolina Panthers also came into the game at 1-3, but they dominated the Vikings in every facet.
The Vikings performance was as bad as the score suggests. The offense failed to build on what it showed in a victory against Pittsburgh in London before the bye. Matt Cassel threw two interceptions on two badly overthrown passes.
His struggles likely clear the way for Josh Freeman to start against the New York Giants next week if he's comfortable enough with the offense.
The Vikings defense continued to struggle and had no answer for the Panthers running game or Cam Newton's passing. One play in particular summed up their performance.
On the opening possession of the second half, cornerback Josh Robinson was playing zone while rookie Xavier Rhodes played man, and the busted coverage resulted in a 79-yard touchdown catch by Brandon LaFell. That gave the Panthers a 21-3 lead and the rout was on.
Our snapshot of the first half as the Panthers lead the Vikings 14-3 at Mall of America Field in a battle of teams not wanting to be 1-4. If Vikings coach Leslie Frazier loses, he'll be 1-4 for the second time in three years. If Panthers coach Ron Rivera loses, he'll be 1-4 for the third time in his three years in Carolinia. ...
Score: Panthers 14-3.
The Good: Chad Greenway shot through a gap and stoned fullback Mike Tolbert for no gain on third-and-1 from the Vikings' 2-yard line. But the Panthers scored on the next play. Earlier in that first-quarter drive, Greenway sacked Cam Newton on a blitz on third-and-nine. But that, too, went for naught as Chris Cook was called for holding Steve Smith. ... After the Vikings' third consecutive poor drive to open the game, punter Jeff Locke boomed a 60-yard punt with a net of 51, flipping the field position to the Carolina 18-yard line. ... Adrian Peterson took a swing pass and blasted out eight yards on third-and-eight from the Carolina 21-yard line. He then got nine more on a run on the next play. He fumbled, but Jarius Wright was there to recover for the Vikings. Unfortunately for the Vikings, second-and-one at the Carolina 4 led to nothing but a 23-yard field goal.
The Bad: The Vikings allowed the Panthers to convert twice on fourth-and-1 in their opening drive, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith. The drive covered 62 yards in 15 plays. ... Vikings linebacker Desmond Bishop is out for the rest of the game because of a knee injury. ... Having to settle for a field goal in the closing seconds despite having second-and-1 at the Carolina 4-yard line. Matt Cassel threw over the middle for no gain to Greg Jennings and then threw to Kyle Rudolph, who caught the ball just out of bounds in the back of the end zone.
The Ugly: Cook, in his first game back from a groin injury, ruined a great stop on Carolina's first third-play. A Greenway sack on third-and-nine from the Carolina 39 was negated by Cook's hold on Smith. The Panthers went on to score a touchdown on the drive and take a 7-0 lead. On Carolina's third possession, Cook gave up an 11-yard completion on third-and-10 when he played too far off of Brandon LaFell on a crossing route. That third-down conversion also led to a touchdown and a 14-0 Panthers lead. ... Matt Cassel's first pass that went farther than 20 yards downfield was badly overthrown past Greg Jennings and intercepted by safety Mike Mitchell. The pick led to a Carolina touchdown. .. Tolbert took a simple shovel pass from Newton on second-and-goal from the 10-yard line. From there, the bowling-ball-shaped fullback busted through five wanna-be tacklers en route to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 3:43 left in the half. Hard to tell what was worse, that play or the fact that nose tackle Letroy Guion was flagged 15 yards for taunting after it was over.
What we've learned: So far, it won't be too hard fitting Josh Freeman in at quarterback once he's ready. Cassel has completed 15 of 19 passes, but has only 110 yards and three points despite having second-and-1 at the Carolina 4. Cassel also has an ugly overthrow that was picked and led to Carolina's first touchdown. Peterson has only 28 yards on seven carries.
Coach Leslie Frazier finally said what everyone has been expecting him to say since Matt Cassel led the Vikings to a turnover-free 34-27 victory over the Steelers in London back on Sept. 29:
"Matt Cassel is going to be our starting quarterback on Sunday."
There, it's official. But it wasn't an easy decision. Naming Cassel the starter ahead of a now-healthy Christian Ponder along with signing former Bucs QB Josh Freeman on Monday has serious ramifications for the future of a guy who three weeks ago was still considered the team's quarterback of the future.
"I think it's always tough when you make a change at quarterback," Frazier said. "You have to take a lot of factors into it when you’re doing that. You don’t make those decisions lightly and we didn’t. We’ll see how it plays out. But this is the start of this ballgame. We’ll see how Matt does. But we’ll see how it plays out over time.”
Ponder, who missed the Steelers game because of a fractured rib, will back Cassel up on Sunday against the Panthers at Mall of America Field. As for Freeman, Frazier said, "we have not decided at this point what we’re going to do with Josh. We don’t see him being able to play this ballgame yet, based on where we are and where he is with our offense.” In that case, Freeman would be a game-day inactive.
As for what happens next week, Frazier said that will take care of itself next week. Obviously, if the Vikings win and Cassel moves the offense with the same rhythm that he did in London, well, it will be difficult to remove him. Of course, the Vikings didn't bring Freeman in to stand on the sideline for 12 weeks either.
“I think we need to sit back on Monday after the game and evaluate things and see where we are," Frazier said. "See how it goes.”
The Vikings next game after Sunday is Oct. 21 at the Giants. Asked if Freeman would be able to play in that game, Frazier said, "Probably have to look at some things next week to make that determination. I’m not sure, even as we speak, if that would be the case. But we’ll evaluate it when we come back next week.”
Cassel said he was anticipating that would start and was preparing as if he would. But he said he didn't know for sure until this morning.
"You never know in this league," Cassel said. "I wouldn't have guessed on Monday we'd have another quarterback in the room as well. You never know what's going to happen. But at the same time it's always about getting myself prepared and being accountable to my teammates, getting ready to go."
Cassel said he's not looking beyond Sunday's game.
"It's just one more opportunity," he said. "[Against Pittsburgh], we took a great approach and the guys came out and responded well. We all responded well. We played well as a team and hopefully we can build off that. For us it's always a one-game season right now to get ourselves back in to this race."
Cassel did allow himself a second to enjoy the moment.
"It's exciting," he said. "That's why you come out here and you compete through OTAs and minicamp and all that stuff."
In other news:
The Sioux Falls police department released news this afternoon that one of Adrian Peterson's children, a 2-year-old son, has died from injuries sustained in alleged assault by the boyfriend of the child's mother.
Police are withholding the child's name at the request of the family. Police spokesman Sam Clemens said the state attorney's office is reviewing the case to consider additional charges against 27-year-old Joseph Patterson.
Patterson was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery of an infant. His bond was set at $750,000.
Adrian Peterson talked to the media at Winter Park, asking for privacy.
“I really appreciate all the support that I’ve been receiving from fans, the Vikings organization,” the MVP running back said at a brief press conference inside the locker room. “This is a private matter and I would ask you all to please just respect my privacy and not ask at all about the situation at hand. Thanks.”
Peterson’s father, Nelson, confirmed to the Star Tribune earlier Friday by phone that the child is Adrian’s son. Peterson said he planned to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field.
“I will be playing Sunday,” he said. “I’ll be ready to roll, focused.”
According to Sioux Falls police and Lincoln County prosecutor Tom Wollman, a 27-year-old man, Joseph Patterson, was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery of an infant. The alleged assault took place Wednesday evening.
Police responded to a 911 call at an apartment about a child who was choking. Officers found an unresponsive child and transported him to a hospital.
Doctors determined that the child’s injuries were consistent with abuse and not accidental. Patterson was arrested that evening. Police said the child’s mother was not home at the time of the alleged assault.
Sioux Falls police declined to identify the parents.
“We’re surrounding our investigation around the injuries to this child,” police spokesman Sam Clemens said. “Who the father is does not come into play in this investigation.”
Peterson rarely talks about his personal life in media interviews, but he’s made public appearances with two of his children. He recently tweeted about his daughter, Adeja, who is 8. At training camp, Peterson’s fiancée brought his son, Adrian Peterson Jr., who is 2, to visit his father after practice.
Peterson described his mindset returning to work on Friday.
“Football is something I will always fall back on,” he said. “It gets me through tough times. Just being around the guys in here, that’s what I need in my life, guys supporting me and just being able to go out and play this game I love. Things that I go through, I’ve said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level. I’m able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that’s what I plan on doing.”
Peterson has dealt with tragedy at different times in his life. At age 8, he witnessed his older brother being struck and killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike.
As a teenager, Peterson’s father was sentenced to 10 years in prison for laundering drug money. Peterson’s stepbrother was shot and killed in Houston the night before Peterson worked out at the NFL Combine coming out of college.
“One thing I always bounce back to is that the good Lord never gives you more than you can bear, than you can handle,” Peterson said Friday. “So I’m built tough.”
Peterson’s coaches and teammates tried to provide support Friday. Coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson had a “difficult day” and left open the possibility that the NFL’s reigning MVP won’t play Sunday.
“He has our prayers and support from this football team, from this organization as he’s dealing with a personal matter,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how things go with him. We expect him to play, but this is a very personal situation that he’s dealing with. We’ll talk to him in the next 24 hours.”
Fellow running back Toby Gerhart said Peterson’s teammates have reached out to him in different ways.
“We consider each other family and brothers,” Gerhart said. “When something like this happens, it’s truly a testament of being a teammate and how tight this family is. It’s a tough situation. We’re there for him with whatever he needs and try and help his morale and be there for him.”
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