PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Forty-two weeks after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, running back Adrian Peterson returns to FedEx Field vowing to suppress any flashbacks to his Christmas Eve catastrophe.
"Of course it pops in your mind. ... But I'm going to just play ball and have fun," Peterson said.
The Vikings star has 499 yards from scrimmage this season and seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough. But Peterson twisted his left ankle in the first quarter against Tennessee last Sunday and admitted the initial tenderness made him lose focus temporarily. Which was like hearing Superman say the breeze disrupted his flight time.
"He is still human," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Although sometimes he does things and you say, 'Man, this guy is so different than everyone else,' when it's the same leg where you had the knee injury, I can see there being a little doubt in your mind about what is going to happen next."
Peterson worked past that hesitance and wound up rushing for 78 yards on 11 carries in the final three quarters. He also uncorked runs of 34 and 22 yards, his longest of the season.
Said Frazier: "[He was] able to shake that off, put the foot back in the ground again and just say, 'OK, I'm all right. I'm fine. There's nothing wrong.' "
MOST PRESSING QUESTION
Can the Vikings handle the various option looks the Redskins will use?
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams joked this week that he hasn't had to prepare against an option offense since his days coaching at William & Mary when Delaware head coach Tubby Raymond often left him perplexed by the Wing-T.
It's a whole different deal with Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who complements his running ability with throwing accuracy.
"He can make every throw a quarterback is asked to make," linebacker Jasper Brinkley said.
The defensive line must be aggressive yet disciplined in pursuit. The Vikings also vow to deliver shots on Griffin when fair-game opportunities are there.
"With our defense, man, somebody's going to come free and have the opportunity to hit him," Brinkley said. "For a defense, that's one of the perks that comes with the option. He's got to be ready to get hit."
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
The Vikings kickoff return unit. Washington has been solid in coverage, allowing just 21.6 yards per return. But the Redskins also have a new kicker this week in Kai Forbath, who will be making his NFL regular-season debut and kicked off just seven times during his four-year career at UCLA.
That could provide a window of opportunity for Percy Harvin, who leads the NFL in return average (38.3 yards).
The Washington defense is missing key cogs on all three levels. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Defensive end Adam Carriker is out for the year with a quadriceps injury. Safety Brandon Merriweather still has yet to play because of a knee problem. And safety Tanard Jackson remains suspended.
The Redskins have the NFL's second-worst pass defense, allowing 328.6 yards per game with only eight sacks. They're also 29th in points allowed (29.4 ppg) and have given up 26 plays of 20 yards or more.
Yet the Redskins do rank fifth in takeaways with 11.
INJURIES AND FINES
Jerome Simpson's roller coaster ride continues. The speedy receiver is questionable for Sunday, still dealing with a back problem that has caused him to feel numbness and weakness in his leg over the past six days. Simpson was a limited participant at Friday's practice. And while Frazier said he looked and felt better, Simpson's status for Sunday is up in the air.
Harvin, meanwhile, had no setbacks with a minor hamstring injury that popped up Thursday. He is probable for Sunday.
Other starters on this week's injury report are: Peterson (probable, knee), Christian Ponder (probable, knee), Antoine Winfield (probable, knee) and Charlie Johnson (probable, back).
In the fine department, the Vikings escaped Week 5 with no punishments despite incurring three personal foul penalties against Tennessee.