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.
Quick report from the Metrodome, where the Packers lead the Vikings 24-17 at halftime.
The good: Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards, tying an NFL record for longest play. You’ll remember Antonio Cromartie of San Diego returned a missed field goal 109 yards against the Vikings at the Metrodome in 2007, the same game where Adrian Peterson set an NFL record with 296 rushing yards.
The bad: Jordy Nelson scored on a pair of touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers for the Packers. Nelson’s first TD catch came on a 11-yarder in the first quarter when Rodgers found him with a perfect strike in the end zone, despite pretty good coverage by Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson. The second Nelson score came when Rodgers hit him in stride with Chad Greenway in coverage, and Nelson outraced the Vikings secondary for a 76-yard score.
The ugly: Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was 9-of-13 for 95 yards, and almost threw a pick six in the second quarter. He needed an questionable interference call late in the half to set up Adrian Peterson's 8-yard touchdown run, which got the Vikings within 24-17.
The surprise: Micah Hyde’s 93-yard punt return for a touchdown stunned the Vikings with 1:49 remaining in the half, and gave the Packers a 24-10 lead.
Injury report: Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford (groin) left the game in the second quarter. He was replaced by Mistral Raymond.
Safety Jamarca Sanford (ankle) and defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) will both play tonight against the Packers at Mall of America Field. Both were listed on the injury report as questionable.
The Vikings had no surprises in their inactives.
Their inactives are quarterback Josh Freeman, cornerback Shaun Prater, tight end Rhett Ellison, running back Matt Asiata, offensive guard Jeff Baca, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive tackle Chase Baker.
Tight end Chase Ford, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, will make his season debut.
Green Bay's inactives are cornerback James Nixon, linebacker Clay Matthews, linebacker Nick Perry, linebacker Brad Jones, tight end Ryan Taylor, tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver James Jones.
Josh Freeman was able to do some work in practice on Friday after clearing the NFL protocol tests, but he will be inactive for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.
Freeman is expected to return to practice fully next week, but it's unclear if he will remain the starter, or Christian Ponder.
"The entire organization’s focus is on Sunday night," he said. "It’s going up against the Packers and finding a way to get a win. My role for the game, I’ve got to any way I can help Christian out there. He had an excellent week of practice. He’s dropping dimes left and right. I know everybody is excited about moving forward.”
Freeman said he's not sure on which play he suffered his concussion in the third quarter of a 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. He said he didn't experience any symptoms until Tuesday morning.
"I just learned this talking to the doctors, but oftentimes with concussions they don’t really start showing noticeable symptoms until hours later," he said. "That was the case on Monday night and really Tuesday morning is when I got the full onslaught of symptoms. In the game, when you're focused and locked in on your job, oftentimes the man concussed is the last to really truly notice anything is off. It’s something that is definitely going to heighten my awareness toward it.”
Freeman said this is the first concussion he's suffered in his five-year NFL career. Former NFL player and current NBC analyst Rodney Harrison reportedly made comments that raised speculation that Freeman might not have suffered a concussion.
According to ProFootballTalk, Harrison, in a radio interview said: "I can’t say that I believe he has a concussion. I can’t say that I’m 100 percent sold on it. I’m not trying to doubt the seriousness of his injury if he has one, but it just seems like a convenient excuse to get out of a situation. That’s what it seems like. Because maybe he’s looking around [and] saying, ‘You know what, maybe Greg Jennings is not as good as I thought. Maybe this wide receiving corps [isn't as good as I thought]. Adrian Peterson is struggling. Heck, I just want out of this situation. I can’t wait for this season to end.’”
Freeman said he had not heard about Harrison's comments.
"As a competitor, the last thing you want to do is have a situation where you’re sitting out the following week due to being on the sideline most of the week in practice," he said. "So my feeling toward that is all I can do is live my truth. I didn’t hear any comments. I really don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in the outside world. I’m just focused on what I can do to be the best quarterback I can be for this team regardless of my role on Sundays.’’
Freeman's debut was a mess. He completed only 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards with one interception. He had 15 overthrows and looked lost after having only four practices with the first-team offense.
He was asked if, in hindsight, he felt he played too soon.
"There’s a lot of different things that go into that," he said. "Looking back, maybe I was a little too fired up at first. There’s definitely a lot of correctible things, things that going into the game I would’ve banked on me being able to complete or get done on the field. But at the same time we weren’t able to do so, so I’m moving forward and just got to find a way to be better prepared.”
The Vikings declared Freeman, Rhett Ellison, Matt Asiata and Rodney Smith out.
Defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) and safety Jamarca Sanford (ankle) are questionable.
For the Packers, Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews and Ryan Taylor are out. Wide receiver James Jones is doubtful.
Linebackers Brad Jones and Nick Perry are questionable.
Adrian Peterson revealed today that nagging hamstring tightness in recent weeks caused him to be hesitant when running the ball.
Peterson said he bruised his right hamstring about five weeks ago. That gradually caused some tightness, which affected the way he ran in recent games.
"I feel like it was definitely hurting a little bit," he said. "I feel like it was more in my mind. It’s strange to say that, but I think I was kind of holding myself back, not being able to stretch out and really run. I think I was kind of hindering myself. Now that I’m able to be more relaxed and got a clearer mind, I think I’ll be able to go out there and go full-speed.”
Peterson said he alerted coaches and the medical staff last week that he was having a problem with his hamstring.
"It was something that I’ve been dealing with for about 4-5 weeks," he said."The way that it came on wasn’t like a normal hamstring, like a tweak or anything like that. It kind of gradually became sore, kind of climbed up from the bottom of my hamstring, up to the middle. I didn’t really know what was wrong, but I’m feeling good now. I’ve been doing a lot of work with [head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman and his staff. They’ve been keeping me in the training room, keeping me ready.”
Peterson had only 23 carries combined in back-to-back losses to Carolina and New York Giants. He said he doesn't believe the coaches limited his workload because of his hamstring.
"They didn’t know anything about it until maybe like last week," he said. "That’s when I really felt, OK, I’m starting to feel something now that could slow me down a little bit. I really didn’t say anything to those guys until like last week. Just told them there’s tightness. It’s more so when I run, I was kind of hesitant to stretch out and really stretch the hamstring, thinking that I was going to pull [it]. So that’s how I kind of had it in my mind. But that had nothing to do with the coaches decisions."
Asked for his ideal number of carries in a game, Peterson didn't hesitate.
"100" he said.
Greg Jennings took a sorrowful tone Tuesday when discussing his relationship with the Packers.
The receiver, who spent seven seasons in Green Bay before signing with the Vikings in the offseason, said he wished he could rephrase some of the critical words used to describe the Packers earlier in the season.
“It’s a phenomenal organization,” Jennings said of the Packers. “I had to make my departure. There were some things said that, man, if I could say it over again I would re-word it so that it can be conveyed a little differently. But they were said, and I can’t focus on that. I need to focus on the now and who am I am and what I am now.”
Jennings previously said he was “brainwashed to think anyone in the division is tiers below,” when he signed with the Packers and also said Aaron Rodgers lacked leadership skills. The wide receiver said he wished those comments never happened.
”I know this is a rivalry, but I don’t hate anyone over there,” Jennings said. “The organization was great to me, fans were great to me and the guys continue to be great to me. I still have relationships with those guys, and I’ll forever have relationships for those guys.”
The Vikings will face the Packers on Sunday in the Jennings’ first game against his former team. While he had consistency at the quarterback position in Green Bay, the Vikings made their third quarterback change of this season this week. Christian Ponder will start at quarterback, as Josh Freeman deals with a concussion.
“Anytime you have to take a backseat, anytime you have to sit down for a minute, it gives you time to reflect,” Jennings said on Ponder. “I think he’s done that. I think he’s seen how important it is to play at a high level at that position, but even more importantly how important that position is to the overall success of the team and what it takes to actually hold that position. It’s not just about your quarterback play, it’s about how you lead off the field as well and on the field. I think he’s had an opportunity to see that.”
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