Get ready to knock on wood, because it appears the first-place Vikings will be at full strength when they face the second-place Packers in Sunday’s NFC North showdown at TCF Bank Stadium.
Twelve players were on Friday’s injury report, but 10 had full practice participation and are probable, including middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who missed the past two games with injured ribs. Meanwhile, the two players listed as questionable — left tackle Matt Kalil (toe) and backup safety Robert Blanton (back) — had limited practice participation and are expected to play.
Kalil missed all of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Blanton was added to the injury report Friday.
The other Vikings players on the injury report are listed as probable; that group includes running back Adrian Peterson (hamstring) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (non-throwing shoulder).
Rodgers good to go
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice because of an injury to his throwing shoulder, had full participation for the second straight day on Friday and is listed as probable.
Receiver Jared Abbrederis is the only Packer listed as out. Defensive back Micah Hyde (hip), guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) and receiver Ty Montgomery (ankle) are listed as questionable.
A five-game winning streak is a good way to boost morale. But Peterson said he sees a lot more to like about this team than just the scoreboard.
“Each week, I see areas where we can improve,” he said. “It’s a five-game winning streak, but each week when we go back and watch film, it’s like, ‘Wow, we are so much better than what we’re putting on tape.’
“It’s a good learning experience to see the areas we can point to where we need to be more crisp in and what’s going to kind of put us over the top.”
Riches at corner
Mike Zimmer has a “problem” that any coach would love to have. A 37-year-old cornerback, Terence Newman, is playing so well that it’s restricting opportunities to use a 23-year-old first-round draft pick, Trae Waynes.
Newman just won his second NFC Defensive Player of the Week award. His first one came in 2003, when Waynes was 11.
“It is a delicate situation, because Trae has really improved a lot since he came in here,” Zimmer said. “He’s getting better all the time. There’ll be times throughout the year that we’ll continue to try and get him in games and — knock on wood — corners, they get a little hammies and things like that. It’s tough, but Terence deserves to play, and he’s helping. We’ll keep trying to get Trae in there when we can.”
Bringing promising rookies along slowly on 7-2 teams should be viewed positively. Zimmer experienced a similar situation when he was turning around the defense in Cincinnati.
“[Dre] Kirkpatrick was like that for a couple of years,” Zimmer said. “I know they’ve got another guy down there now, the guy that played ahead of Trae at Michigan State [Darqueze Dennard], he came out a year earlier. But you’ve got to have corners in this league because of all of the throwing. So that position is extremely important.”
It’s no secret that rookie fourth-round draft pick T.J. Clemmings is playing right tackle with the inconsistency one would expect from a, well, rookie fourth-round draft pick. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has had to build protection help to that side in his game plans, but he also senses the long-term advantages of Clemmings having to start every game for injured veteran Phil Loadholt.
“He’s very competitive and there’s a big upside,” Turner said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s improved dramatically in his run blocking, and that’s a big part of what we’re doing right now.”