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.
Harrison Smith said he is not the kind of guy to lose sleep over something he can’t control. So Sunday night, after he had been ejected from the Vikings’ game with the Titans for making contact with an official, Smith said he didn’t lose sleep wondering what his punishment would be. He just expected the worst.
“I anticipate the worst in most things,” the rookie safety joked Wednesday. “Because then you can’t be disappointed. … I’m just happy to get back on the field. That’s the main focus.”
Smith, of course, was neither fined nor suspended for the infraction, which occurred early in the second quarter of the Vikings’ victory.
And while he might not have sweated his potential punishment, being forced to watch the game rather than play in it taught a valuable lesson.
“It definitely makes you realize how much you love the game,” he said. “And how much you want to take advantage of every opportunity you get to get on the field. So it kind of puts it in perspective, just how lucky I am to be a part of the Vikings and even play in the NFL. It just makes you realize how great it really is.”
Not his call
At least two things came out of linebacker Erin Henderson’s return to the field Sunday after missing two games with a concussion. First, there were absolutely no concussion-related issues. Second, Henderson is not about to worry about how much time he gets on the field.
First, the concussion. Henderson admitted he was a little nervous during pre-game warm-ups. But those concerns went away quickly. “It’s your head, you don’t really know how it’s going to react or what’s going to happen, how it will play out,” he said. “But once you get your first couple contacts, then you know you’ll be all right.''
Now the playing time. Jasper Brinkley played so well in nickel situations that the coaches kept him in that role after Henderson returned. As a result Henderson played fewer than 20 snaps against a Titans team that played from behind most of the game. In a relatively short time, though, Henderson made three tackles – two for loss – and forced a fumble. It will be interesting how the Vikings move forward in regards to their nickel defense
“I just play football,” Henderson said. “I just do what they tell me to do when they tell me to do it. Every time I’m out there I play well, that’s all I can control. So you guys can dice it up and slice it up and make if what you will. But I just do what the coaches tell me to do.”
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook said that while he’s happy with the way he has played so far this season there is a lot of room for improvement.
In five games Cook has made 20 tackles, has one sack and has a team-high 10 passes defensed. He is in his third season, but was limited in playing time during the first two by injuries and legal issues. That’s why he sees a big upside for himself going forward.
“I had a lot of time off my first two years,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s an excuse or anything like that. But I definitely feel I can play better. And, with more reps, I feel I will.”
Cook said he is especially excited to play in this game having grown up and gone to school not far from Washington D.C.
“I’ll be a little more amped up this week,” he said.
A difficult memory
In conference calls with local reporters, both Washington receiver Santana Moss and head coach Mike Shanahan expressed their happiness at the return of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Peterson injured his knee during the Vikings’ victory in Washington last season, and he will return to the scene of that injury – FedEx Field – Sunday. “I think everyone was hoping Adrian would come back,” Shanahan said. “Watching him on film, you can tell he has worked extremely hard to put himself in the position he’s in. … I think everyone was pulling for him. Our players were sick when it happened.”
Said Moss: “You can tell he’s a hard worker. That always pays off. He attacked it in the off-season. That’s why he’s back doing what he’s doing now.”
There are a lot of questions about the Vikings, and there were a lot of answers today on Dan Wiederer's noon Live Chat.
You can read the transcript here, and Dan will answer a lot of other questions later on the Access Vikings blog as well.
Childs confident in his return
Monday afternoon Greg Childs strode through a mostly-empty Vikings locker room.
This in itself, is relatively newsy, considering not much has been either seen or heard from Childs since the rookie receiver tore the patellar tendon in both knees during an intra-squad scrimmage early in training camp.
Childs – who came back from a similar injury to his right knee in 2010 while in college – has vowed to beat the odds and return to football. It appears nothing has changed in the weeks since his surgery.
“Next season,” he said, when asked about his long-term prognosis after surgery to repair both knees. “I’ll be back on the field next season. I’ll be out there running around, doing my thing, making plays.”
It would be an unprecedented recovery.
Childs said he’s been walking for a while without the help of a brace, and has been working daily on rehab. But he did admit the injuries took an emotional blow.
“It hurt,” he said. “It kind of hurt my feelings a little bit. But you’ve just got to push through it. You’ve got to understand football is a game you’re going to get hurt. But it’s how you come back and how you respond when you do get hurt, when things go bad for you.”
Childs wouldn’t say how far along he is in his rehab or what he’s able to do at this point. But he did say having gone through this before is helping this time. Still, it will be remarkable if he’s able to return.
“I like to do things that people think other people can’t do,” he said. “I’ve got a strong head. You can ask any of the players in here, I come in here, attitude good, every day. … I’m going to do everything I can to step back on the field for next season.”
Blanton impressed Sanford
When rookie Robert Blanton had to enter Sunday’s game to replace the ejected Harrison Smith, fellow safety Jamarca Sanford had to calm him down.
“He’s a guy who gets real (hyper),” Sanford said. “So you have to make sure he knows his assignment, and calm him down a little.”
The result, according to Sanford, was impressive. “Everybody been waiting on it to see Blanch get in,” Sanford said of Blanton. “He plays with energy, enthusiasm. He’s an exciting guy. It was good to see a young guy step in and play like he played yesterday.”
Finally, a sack
Sacks might not be the ultimate measure of how well a defensive end is playing. That said, Brian Robison was extremely happy to finally get his first sack of the season Sunday. It came on the first offensive series of the game. The Titans had moved from their 20 to a third-and-three at the Vikings’ 39 when Robison sacked Matt Hasselbeck for an 8-yard loss, prompting a punt.
“It took five games,” Robison said. “They say sacks come in bunches, so I am hoping that is the beginning of a bunch. I’ve been working hard to get there, rushing my butt off, doing all the things the defense is calling. For it finally to have happened feels good.”
It almost wasn’t a sack, as Hasselbeck tried to get rid of the ball before being taken down.
“I only got one arm (on him) and I was like, ‘I got to just hold on for dear life.’ ‘’ Robison said. “So I went down and I saw he still had the ball … I just started gator-rolling on him. I was just trying to get him down and I saw the ball come out right as he hit. Of course I jumped up and said, ‘He’s down, he’s down!’ I was helping [the officials] make a call. It might have been a close, bang-bang call, so I just thought I would help them out a little bit. It really feels good to get that one.”
Rookie Audie Cole made a name for himself Friday night.
The seventh-round draft pick from North Carolina State returned two interceptions for touchdowns -- on back-to-back defensive plays -- in the fourth quarter as the Vikings beat the Bills 36-14 in a preseason game at Mall of America Field.
Another rookie, kicker Blair Walsh, had field goals of 22, 46, 45, 40 and 30 yards for the Vikings, and Christian Ponder threw a one-yard scoring pass to Jerome Felton.
Jerome Simpson's 33-yard reception -- where he hurdled over Bills defensive back Jairus Byrd -- was the highlight play of the first half as the Vikings took a 16-7 lead over Buffalo at Mall of America Field.
Simpson's catch helped set up a 1-yard scoring pass from Christian Ponder to Jerome Felton to cap the opening drive of the game.
Rookie Blair Walsh had field goals of 22, 45 and 47 yards for the Vikings, and missed wide right from 49. He added a 40-yarder late in the third quarter.
Buffalo scored on a 31-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Donald Jones in the second quarter.
And at the start of the second half, Tashard Choice scored on a 1-yard run. It was set up by a 64-yard Vince Young pass to Dorin Dickerson.
Ponder completed 10 of 13 for 136 yards, and backup quarterback Joe Webb had two carries for 64 yards, including a 41-yard run. Toby Gerhart ran for 30 yards on six carries. Simpson had three catches for 43 yards.
Fitzpatrick was 8 of 11 for 58 yards before being replaced by Young.
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