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.
CHICAGO -- Good morning from rainy Soldier Field.
It's rained all morning and the tarp is just now coming off the field at 10:33 a.m. Field conditions could become an issue because of the rain and the fact that a college game was played here Saturday night.
Inactives were just announced and, as expected, defensive tackle Kevin Williams will play after missing one game because of his right knee injury.
The Vikings inactives are QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, safety Mistral Raymond, linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker and defensive end George Johnson.
The Vikings haven't spoken to former Vikings cornerback and now former Seahawks cornerback Antoine Winfield, who informed the Seahawks on Saturday that he was retiring.
Apparently, the door is still open. Here's what coach Leslie Frazier had to say when asked about Winfield after today's practice:
"I have a ton of respect for Antoine," Frazier said. "He did a lot of good things for us here. He had a great career here in Minnesota. He really helped me look good at times with some of the plays he made. I have a deep affection for him.
"If he wanted to play [this season], I'd welcome the opportunity to work with Antoine again if that's what he wanted to do. But if he's retired, I wish him nothing but the best. He's been a great player, a great person. He's going to enjoy retirement."
Asked if he's spoken to Winfield in the past two days, Frazier said, "I haven't spoken to him. I may give him a call today just to wish him well."
In other Vikings news ...
Rusty Smith hit Jack Doyle with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in the first half to give Tennessee a 17-14 lead over the Vikings at the Metrodome in the teams' final preseason game tonight.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson connected with Joe Banyard for an 11-yard scoring pass two minutes before Doyle's TD to give the Vikings a short-lived 14-10 lead.
The Banyard TD came shortly after Vikings guard Seth Olsen was taken off the field on a stretcher. Olsen appeared to hit his head on the knee of a Titans player while blocking, snapping his head back a bit. Olsen was strapped to a board before being wheeled off on the stretcher, but did give a thumbs up to the crowd.
The Titans scored in the first half on a 28-yard field goal by Rob Bironas and a 17-yard pass from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to rookie Justin Hunter. The Vikings' first touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Matt Asiata, who had eight carries for 32 yards in the opening drive.
The Vikings' offensive and defensive starters did not play. They wore their uniforms, but did not bring their helmets or shoulder pads.
The team must cut its roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 5 p.m. The regular season opens at Detroit on Sept. 8.
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.
Desmond Bishop is officially a Viking.
The team made the announcement this afternoon, three days after the former Green Bay linebacker agreed to terms. To make room on the 90-player roster, linebacker Stanford Keglar was cut.
The announcement was made on Twitter.
Bishop, who spent seven seasons with the Packers, was taken in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Cal. He was a starter at inside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme in 2010, when they won a Super Bowl, and 2011 before missing last season because of a ruptured hamstring.
Bishop is reported to have a one-year deal for around $1 million and will likely play middle linebacker in the Vikings' 4-3 defense, although weak-side linebacker Erin Henderson was at the mike position during mini-camp. Marvin Mitchell and rookie Gerald Hodges took reps at weak-side linebacker during that mini-camp last week.
The Vikings report to training camp in Mankato on July 25, the day after Bishop's 29th birthday.
In a brief conference call with local reporters following the announcement, Bishop said he will be ready to go when training camp starts.
Getting ready for that day, he said, is more important than thinking about a potential return to Lambeau Field to face his old team.
He said he’s healthy, but Bishop hasn’t played in a regular season game in more than a year.
“You know what? I’m not sure,” Bishop said when asked how difficult it will be to return to top form. “But, after watching a guy named Adrian Peterson come back from his torn ACL, and how well he did it, I have a lot of confidence I can do the same.”
Bishop sustained his injury during the preseason last season. He said it took six or seven months following surgery last August before he was running at or near full speed. “It’s still a process,” he said. “I have to build on my strength and endurance, all the little things. You never max out on that stuff. Still, to this day, I’m working on getting as strong as I can, and I feel really good.”
Bishop said he hasn’t talked in detail with Vikings coaches about whether he will line up at middle linebacker or on the weak side. But he said he’s capable of playing both positions.
“I’m just relishing the opportunity to go out to Minnesota and work hard, earn everything I get, and help a young team go back to the playoffs.”
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