Wednesday Injury Report Released

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 3:25 pm

The Vikings and Giants have each released their initial injury reports for the week.

For the Vikings, 2 players – DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (thigh) – were held out of practice on Wednesday. Five other players appear on the report as limited participants; they are: S Eric Frampton (ankle), G Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), C John Sullivan (knee), DT Pat Williams (elbow) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot).

You can view the entire Vikings injury report (thrilling, we know) by clicking here.

The Giants have a much longer list. We’ve learned already today that RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) won’t be playing. Five other members of the team were held out of practice and 5 more were limited, including QB Eli Manning (foot).

Other Giants who were limited – DT Chris Canty (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), DT Fred Robbins (lower leg) and G Rich Seubert (knee). Those held out of practice were RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles/foot), WR Mario Manningham (shoulder), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and CB Corey Webster (knee).

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Two Sides To The Coin

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 2:23 pm

Unless you’ve been living in seclusion for the past few weeks, you’re aware that the Vikings could finish the regular season anywhere from the NFC’s #2 seed to the conference’s #4 seed.

The difference in those positions is significant because the #2 seed will watch Wild Card Weekend from the comforts of home while the #4 seed will be on their home turf battling it out against a wild card team.

Obviously the preferred position is the #2 seed, primarily because of the 1st-round bye that accompanies it, right? Well, oddly enough, 4 of the last 8 teams to play in a Super Bowl also played on Wild Card Weekend and 3 of those 4 wild card teams actually won the NFL title.

So while conventional wisdom says having a bye and a week to rest is the way to go, there’s also an angle that suggests there’s a benefit to playing in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Asked about this dilemma today during his regular Wednesday meeting with reporters, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress acknowledged the benefits of having a bye and the benefits to be gained by playing in the 1st round.

“Just that collective take a breath and heal up a little bit and be fresh, that’s the upside of that,” he said of having a bye in the 1st round. “And the upside of the other one is that you continue to play. You’ve played a game the week before somebody that has a bye, so they’ve been off the field a little bit…if there’s any rustiness that occurs from that time off.

“And obviously those teams that are playing somebody that had a bye, they’re coming in with some ups because they won the week before and they won in a playoff setting the week before.”

In the end though, I think it’s silly to suggest any player, coach or team would actually prefer to play on Wild Card Weekend as opposed to having a bye. After all, you can’t be eliminated from the Super Bowl tournament while you’re enjoying a 1st-round bye.

Childress seemed to agree.

“There are two sides to the coin,” Childress opined. “The biggest part of that is the ability to not to play a game at the end of the week and the wear and tear that your body goes through.”

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Vikings Offense Spreads The Wealth

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 12:36 pm

There is still one regular season game to be played, but this year’s Vikings offense is already the most productive unit head coach Brad Childress has had in Minnesota. The Vikings currently have 5,587 total yards, which is more than the previous Childress/Vikings high of 5,379 (2007).

Setting the standard for total yardage this year was a product of a drastic improvement in the passing game. And that improvement in the passing game was a product of the old adage “many hands make light work.”

According to Elias Sports Bureau, this year’s Vikings team joins only the 1983 Cowboys as teams with 6 players who have 40+ receptions. Accomplishing such a feat is the product of the team’s offensive system and its steady improvement under Childress as well as the weapons in that offensive system continuing to develop.

But Childress also pointed out on Wednesday that the Vikings ability to spread the ball around so well is also due to having a veteran QB under center who knows what to do and when to do it.

“It speaks to him (QB Brett Favre) being an equal-opportunity thrower,” Childress said. “Sometimes there’s the perception that he’s singled out Sidney Rice. Sidney’s done a great job of working himself open. He’s (Favre) relied on him to be able in one-on-one situations to put the football up and Sidney’s made a bunch of plays.

“But by the same token, he (Favre) knows his way around this system to where he knows where a backside number four (receiver) is. And that’s a huge thing, to be able to progress (through reads).”

Childress explained that progressing through reads sounds easy at face value but that often times young or inexperienced QBs struggle with this facet of the game. Favre clearly doesn’t struggle with progressing through his reads, as the 6 players with 40 receptions stat proves. Most telling in that stat, perhaps, is the fact that 2 of those 6 receivers are RBs.

It also helps that Favre has run a similar offensive system for 19 seasons and there probably isn’t a situation that’s foreign to him.

“As I always say, he (Favre) knows where all the bones are buried so you better be alive on the backside,” Childress said. “If you’re not back there working, you’re not going to see the football very often. So it keeps everybody with a stake in the action.”

Vikings players with 40+ receptions
77- Sidney Rice (WR)
53- Percy Harvin (WR)
53- Bernard Berrian (WR)
49- Visanthe Shiancoe (TE)
42- Adrian Peterson (RB)
42- Chester Taylor (RB)

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Giants RB Jacobs To Miss Sunday’s Finale

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 11:24 am

NY Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin told reporters today that starting RB Brandon Jacobs will miss this Sunday’s Vikings-Giants regular season finale due to a knee injury.

It’s also being reported that he’ll have surgery on the knee next week.

According to the Giants official website, RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, Gartrell Johnson and Danny Ware will likely share the workload in Jacobs’ absence.

Jacobs rushed for a team-high 835 yards in 15 games.

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Farwell Earns Long-Deserved Honor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 11:05 am

Vikings LB and special teams ace Heath Farwell has been a productive player for the franchise over his 5 seasons, twice being named special teams MVP and consistently being among the team leaders in special teams tackles.

This year Farwell has been recognized as the outstanding special teams player that he is by being named to his first career Pro Bowl, an honor he certainly doesn’t take lightly.

“I want to thank the fans, the coaches and the players for helping me achieve one of my career goals of being named to the Pro Bowl,” Farwell said on Tuesday. “To be voted on by your peers is a prestigious individual honor.”

The honor for Farwell is especially significant this year because he’s having another solid season after coming back from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2008 season. Farwell is the unquestioned leader of the Vikings kick coverage units, something that is evident on the field with his actions but also off the field with his words.

“Several guys on the team deserve this award, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent them and the Minnesota Vikings,” Farwell said. “This is something I’ve worked for my entire career, and to do it after suffering a season-ending injury the year prior makes it even more special.

“But none of the individual accolades compare to the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, so we’ll continue to focus all of our energy toward that end.”

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Setting The Table For The NY Giants

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 8:29 am

For the 2nd consecutive season, the Vikings will close out their regular season schedule by hosting the NY Giants at Mall of America Field. And also for the 2nd consecutive season, the Giants enter the season finale against the Vikings with no competitive implications on the line.

Last year in Week 17, New York came to Minnesota with their playoff position solidified. As a result, they pulled several starters in the 2nd half and the Vikings ultimately won the game with a 50-yard FG at the buzzer by Ryan Longwell.

This year in Week 17, the Giants are eliminated from playoff conversation. But don’t expect them to pull starters in the 2nd half to ease the Vikings path to victory. They were embarrassed last week in a 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers at home in the final Giants game at Giants Stadium. Then Tom Coughlin was at a loss for words in his postgame press conference. Then he and his players apologized to the fans the following day. Then a Giants alumni player crushed the team for their effort.

Needless to say, the Vikings do not expect the Giants to come in here, roll over and hand the Vikings a victory.

And this is a victory the Vikings need in order to secure a 1st-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the Vikings have relinquished control of the #2 seed to the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Eagles win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, they get the NFC’s 2nd seed. But if the Eagles falter on the road and the Vikings win at home, the #2 seed goes to the Purple.

While the trio of losses over the past month is a buzzkill, it was encouraging to see QB Brett Favre and Co. get things going in the right direction during the 2nd half of Monday night’s loss to the Bears. The Vikings scored 30 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters and completed a 17-point  comeback before falling just short in overtime. As disappointing as the effort and outcome was in the 1st half Monday night, I’d say the effort and outcome was even more encouraging in the 2nd half.

The Giants, whose defense ranks 10th overall and offense ranks 6th, will pose as a stiff challenge, though. QB Eli Manning is having a career season and RB Brandon Jacobs is a beast who won’t shy away from the Vikings 4th-ranked rushing defense.

On Sunday at noon the Vikings will have a chance to prove that the recent downturn in production is a mirage and the 30-point, 2nd-half outburst against the Bears is reality. And if they can do that, they’ll have a shot at the NFC’s #2 seed and a bye during Wild Card Weekend.

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Rice Honored At Pro Bowl Selection, But Focused On Team Goal

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 8:00 am

Much was made last offseason of the fact that WR Sidney Rice spent time working out with Cardinals All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and a couple of legendary WRs.

Then, as Rice was in the midst of putting together a breakout season, even more was made of the fact that Rice spent the previous offseason working out with Fitzgerald, Jr., another receiver with the last name Rice and the Vikings best receiver in franchise history.

And now, with the best regular season of his career almost complete, Rice has received the most important validation yet that his hard work and dedication this past offseason was effective.

Rice was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team for the first time in his career.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be thought of that way, as one of the top players at your position,” Rice said on Tuesday night.

But with his team in the thick of an intense battle for playoff position, Rice was clear that the Pro Bowl honor is not his main focus.

“My main goal still hasn’t been accomplished and that’s the next thing we have to focus on,” the lanky 6-4 receiver said. “I didn’t set individual goals coming into the season, they were all team goals. I just wanted to be a playmaker and a leader on a Super Bowl winner.”

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McKinnie Looking Forward To Home “Bowl” Game

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 6:32 am

As a former University of Miami Hurricane and resident of the Miami area, Vikings T Bryant McKinnie is now assured of playing what he’ll consider a home game in either late January or early February.

No, he’s not going to be traded to the Miami Dolphins and he’s certainly not going back for another year of college eligibility at “The U.”

But he has been named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, and this year’s Pro Bowl is being played in Miami, one week prior to Super Bowl XLIV, which is also being played in Miami.

So one way or the other, McKinnie will be taking the field at Dolphin Stadium in South Florida and in front of family and friends. And as you would probably guess, the 6-8, 335-pound LT certainly has a preference as to which game he’d prefer.

“I’ve got a lot of friends and family in Miami so it would kind of be like a home game,” McKinnie said of playing in this year’s Pro Bowl. “But, I hope we don’t get the chance to play in the Pro Bowl, I hope we’re playing the following week for the big prize.”

An 8-year veteran, McKinnie is enjoying perhaps his best season as a pro and now he has his first Pro Bowl berth to show for it. He has started 117 straight games, including playoffs, since stepping into the lineup as a rookie in 2002 and he has not missed a game due to injury. The 117 straight starts are 3rd-most by a Vikings OT in team history.

McKinnie cited a few factors that may have led to his first Pro Bowl berth, including a different training routine this past offseason, more national TV games on this season’s schedule and the team’s impressive record through 16 games.

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