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.
The Vikings practices were wrapped up this afternoon, and reporters were leaving Winter Park, when the shocking word came in: The Cleveland Browns, who play the Vikings on Sunday, traded running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a No. 1 pick in 2014.
Richardson was the third overall choice in 2012 -- remember, the Browns traded four picks to the Vikings to move up one spot to take him. And Richardson, just a couple of hours before the trade, spoke to Twin Cities media on a conference call and was very optimistic about the Browns' future.
And so it goes for the Browns' star-crossed franchise.
So, on to notes from earlier in the day ...
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier admitted he was pleased that the Cleveland Browns announced Wednesday morning that No. 3 quarterback Brian Hoyer -- and not backup Jason Campbell -- will start Sunday in place of injured starter Brandon Weeden.
"A lot better than finding out Sunday at noon," Frazier said. "Promise you that."
Frazier said his coaching staff spent the past two days studying tape of Campbell in anticipation that he would replace Weeden, who suffered a thumb injury on Sunday. Now, they'll have to switch gears and study tape of Hoyer, who has started one career game -- last season against San Francisco when he played for the Arizona Cardinals.
"We’ll have to do our homework on Brian and learn a little bit about him," Frazier said.
Frazier preached patience with Peterson
Adrian Peterson said he needed some "soul-searching" after rushing for 100 yards with no touchdowns and one fumble on Sunday. Peterson said he felt "hesitant" running the ball against the Bears.
Frazier said he doesn't think Peterson looked hesitant but that he looked for the big play too often.
"I don’t know if hesitancy is the word [but] trying to make every run a 60-yard run, which is not always going to be the case," Frazier said. "Sometimes, you’ve just got to get what’s there. And he’s been good at that and he’ll be better going forward."
Focus on your job only
Linebacker Chad Greenway hasn't performed to his standards the first two games, and he expressed frustration over his missed tackles after Sunday's loss. Frazier said he believes Greenway is trying to make plays for other guys instead of just concentrating on his responsibilities.
"Just got to slow down a little bit and do the things he's always done," Frazier said. "He does not have to make anybody else's plays. Just do your job, calm down, relax and play the way he's always played. He's had a lot of success for us. He's played at a Pro Bowl level. Just don't feel like you have to do any more other than your job."
Frazier was asked if it's possible that Greenway is trying to provide help to new middle linebacker Erin Henderson and thus getting himself out of position.
"That's something we've got to guard against," he said. "You've just got to trust that he's going to do his job, you do your job and we'll be fine as a group. He shouldn't feel like he has to do any more than he has in the past."
Ponder not second-guessing play calls
The Vikings had a chance to put Sunday's game away when they had the ball first-and-goal from Chicago's 6 late in the fourth quarter. But they got stopped on three plays and kicked a field goal to take a six-point lead.
Bill Musgrave's third-down call -- a Peterson run to the left side into the teeth of the Bears defense -- gained zero yards and drew criticism for being conservative.
Ponder defended that play call.
"We have the best running back in the league," he said. "Again, we wanted points on the board. We didn’t want anything crazy to happen. We wanted to keep the clock running or force them to take a timeout. So if we incomplete a ball, the clock stops and they don’t need to take a timeout. You know, unfortunately, Monday morning quarterback, it’s easy to look back and think that we could’ve done things differently. But I wouldn’t expect that if it happens this week that we would change that. I mean, Adrian can make plays all the time, and he does a great job of it.”
Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams missed today's practice to tend to a personal matter, but his knee is good to go on Sunday in Chicago, coach Leslie Frazier said after practice.
"[Missing practice] has nothing to do with him physically," Frazier said. "He should be ready to go on Sunday."
Williams, who suffered a severely strained right knee in the third preseason game, missed the season opener at Detroit. The Lions won 34-24 and were able to run well between the tackles with running back Reggie Bush, who averaged 4.3 yards on 21 carries.
Williams was listed as probable. The Vikings listed six other players as probable. The only one with limited participation in today's practice was center John Sullivan (knee). Listed as probable with full participation were: LB Larry Dean (shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (heel), RT Phil Loadholt (knee), S Mistral Raymond (shoulder) and CB Josh Robinson (quadriceps).
For the Bears, CB Charles Tillman (knee) and DE Julius Peppers (illness) were listed as probable. Peppers was limited in practice. Tillman had full participation.
Not only did Leslie Frazier reassert his faith in Christian Ponder, the Vikings coach made sure to point out that the rest of his players aren't pointing fingers at the starting quarterback after Sunday's four-turnover performance in a 34-24 season-opening loss at Detroit.
"On Sunday, it was not all about Christian," Frazier said Wednesday as the Vikings amped up their preparation for Sunday's game at Chicago. "He had his mistakes. But the fact is the quarterback position is much more magnified. He just happens to play the position with the most scrutiny. We had other guys, trust me, that when we watched the tape, the scrutiny that needed to be had in those moments, they are well aware that they have to play better. They're not looking only at our quarterback and saying, `If he had done this or that, we would have won that ballgame.' We need to play better across the board."
Those hoping for a quick hook on Ponder can fahgedaboutit, too.
"You don't want to say that you can't get this turned and going in the right direction after just one week," Frazier said. "I just don't think that would be wise."
Frazier also pointed to the team's 4-0 playoff push to end last season -- particularly the playoff-clinching 37-34 win over the Packers -- as proof that Ponder has gotten the job done before.
"That Green Bay game at the end of the year, that was a terrific performance by Christian," Frazier said. "So we've seen him do it on repeated occasions. Consistent play is what we're looking for. We need a good week this week.
"[Ponder's] body of work is somewhat limited. [Sunday] was his second start on opening day and his first on the road [on opening day] a week ago. I have seen him make throws on the run. I have seen him make plays in the pocket, out of the pocket. All you have to do is throw in a tape from last December. There were a number of moments like that. We need consistent good quarterback play for our offense to thrive and for our team to be successful. Christian knows that as well as anybody. There are certain things we can't do. Our margin of error is small. So if we're turning the ball over, it just shrinks our opportunity to win. But I have seen him him make those plays in and out of the pocket."
Frazier, however, did point out that Ponder has to improve his play when things break down around him.
"Not every pocket is going to be clean in the NFL," Frazier said.
Ponder opened his weekly press conference today by saying what 99.9999 percent of all players coming off a loss say to the media. Here's part of the opening statement:
"Well, the good thing about football, especially the NFL, is you got to move on quickly," Ponder said. "Watching the film Monday and Sunday night, a lot of things are easily correctable. We'll get them fixed. We're too good of a team to be making those mistakes. We have to establish the run better. ... And we can't turn the ball over.
"There are things I can do better. That everybody can do better. The running back, the receivers. It's something as an offense, we correct as a whole."
Ponder also subtly dropped in a reference to last year's season-opener in which he directed a long, game-tying drive as time expired against visiting Jacksonville. The Vikings went on to win in overtime.
Asked when he felt the Lions game got away from the Vikings, Ponder said, "The feeling that it got away from us never happened. it was just a couple of bad mistakes. ... We were into it until the very end. We still had time with a couple of minutes left to score two touchdowns. We won a game with 14 seconds left where we had to drive 80 yards or whatever to get a field goal and we did that. So I don't think a game is really ever out of our reach."
In other news, Frazier said everyone is expected to practice today. That includes defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who missed the opener because of a badly strained knee, and center John Sullivan, whose left knee was chopped by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh during an interception return. Sullivan finished the game. Suh did, too, but his wallet ultimately got lighter by 100 grand when the league fined him on Tuesday.
The Vikings finished their preseason with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night and now comes the hard part.
The team must trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 5 p.m. deadline. Leslie Frazier, his coaching staff and general manager Rick Spielman will meet today to begin setting the final roster.
The team could begin informing players today but the Vikings won't announce the moves officially until Saturday afternoon.
These two days are anxious times for players on the bubble.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said of releasing players. "When you sit down and realize that for a lot of the guys that played tonight, they will probably never wear an NFL uniform again and we have to sit down and discuss who those guys might be. When you sit down with them on that Saturday, or Friday, they come by the office and you explain to them their career in Minnesota for sure is going to be over, and there’s a possibility it may be over for good, it can get emotional."
Spielman has final say over roster decisions, but Frazier said personnel matters are a collaborative effort with the coaching staff.
"Rick is going to give his input and I’m going to share my input, but he is going to make that final decision," Frazier said. "One of the things that he’s learned and I’ve learned is that you don’t want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are totally against it. It’s hard if as a coach, you have to get this guy going and so on and then you don’t necessarily believe in it. It’s a tough deal, but we’ve been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk about what needs to be done and what’s best for our football team. Whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we have always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
Asked if he has a chip he can use if he wants a certain player, Frazier laughed.
Rookie first-round draft pick Sharrif Floyd is expected to miss the rest of the preseason because of a "minor procedure" on his left knee, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after practice today.
"I don't think he'll practice until next week," Frazier said. "It's nothing major. He shouldn't miss any time, as far as our regular season is concerned. He won't play this week [at San Francisco] and probably not in the Tennessee game [next week]."
Frazier said the procedure wasn't arthroscopic surgery. He said it was just a minor procedure to ease the pain at the front of the knee. Floyd hurt the knee in the preseason opener on Aug. 8.
In other news, backup guard Tyler Holmes left the field on a cart for heat-related reasons. He was sitting up as he was driven to the locker room and walked into the building on his own.
Also missing practice were: WR Jarius Wright (concussion), FB Jerome Felton (appendectomy) and LT Matt Kalil (knee). Kalil is expected to practice Wednesday. Wright is day to day. And Felton is out until the regular season.
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