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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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This Week’s Silver Lining – Pro Bowl Selections

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2009 – 6:14 pm

Individual accolades certainly don’t take precedent over team success. But as we go through the negativity involved with losing 3 of 4 games at the end of a season, it’s nice to sprinkle in some positivity, too.

And that positivity is represented by the fact that 8 Vikings were honored late this afternoon by being named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. That is the most Pro Bowlers for a Vikings team since the 1998 squad sent 10 players to the annual NFL all-star game.

Five Vikings were named starters on the NFC – DE Jared Allen, G Steve Hutchinson, T Bryant McKinnie, RB Adrian Peterson and DT Kevin Williams. Three others – LB Heath Farwell, QB Brett Favre and WR Sidney Rice – will be backups.

Since 2006, the Vikings have had 13 different players recognized with 25 Pro Bowl honors. Hutchinson has earned his 7th straight honor, Favre has been named to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 19 seasons and Allen becomes the 1st Vikings DE to go to consecutive Pro Bowls since Chris Doleman did it in 1989 and 1990.

Farwell, McKinnie and Rice are being honored as Pro Bowlers for the 1st time.

This year’s Pro Bowl will be played the week prior to the Super Bowl in Miami, also the site of this year’s Super Bowl. This is a changeup from the normal set up, of course, because the Pro Bowl has been played in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl on a regular basis since 1980.

So while these 8 Vikings players are surely honored to be named Pro Bowlers, they’d like nothing better than to be unable to play in the game because of a more important “bowl” game they’d have to play the following week.

Note: Check out the vikings.com blog early tomorrow morning, as we’ll have reaction from several of the Vikings Pro Bowlers, including Farwell, McKinnie and Rice.


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Tuesday Update

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 29, 2009 – 12:48 pm

Regular vikings.com Blogger Mike Wobschall’s computer took a dirt-nap last night / this morning, so thus the reason for no blog posts since last night.  The good news is that the computer is getting worked on and should be up and running soon.

All in all, a crappy night in Chicago.  Too many mistakes to overcome, even against a below-average team like the Bears.  Thankfully, the Vikings are still in a position to get the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC, so long as they beat the Giants at Mall of America Field on Sunday and the Cowboys knock off the Eagles in “Big D.”  Neither is a lock to happen, but the Vikings are money at home (7-0 and crushed a very good Bengals team just two weeks back) and the Cowboys already beat Philly this year on the road and are playing well heading into a huge game for both teams.

If the Vikings fail to secure a bye, they will host either the Cowboys or the Packers at the Dome next weekend, and then would have to travel to Philly or New Orleans should they advance for the Divisional Round.  Yuck.

Meanwhile, at Winter Park, Head Coach Brad Childress will address the media today at about 3:15 p.m. or so after a team meeting.  You can watch it live on vikings.com and we’ll — like always — have the on-demand video posted shortly after.

Also later today, at about 6:15 p.m., the NFL will announce the 2010 Pro Bowl rosters.  Several Vikings are expected to be named, so stay tuned to vikings.com for that info as well.

Lastly, it kind of gets forgotten given how the game ended, but how awesome was the Favre-to-Rice touchdown?  Click here to watch the video.


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Mr. Hippe’s Weather Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 7:35 pm

An outdoor game during December in Chicago? That’s what we have tonight. And that means tonight’s weather report is the most important of the year for Mr. Hippe.

Mr. Hippe says air temperature is 12 degrees but that it feels like 0 degrees. Winds are out of the east and going northeast primarily and are gusting up to 18 mph.

It’s a cold one here in the Windy City.


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Footing Fine, Wind Howling

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 7:29 pm

The report I’ve gotten from P Chris Kluwe and K Ryan Longwell is that the footing on the playing surface inside Soldier Field is pretty solid tonight.

The wind, however, is another story.

It sounds as if the wind is coming from several different directions and, more than the temperature or the footing, the wind will affect the kicking game for both teams.

It’d be nice if the Vikings offense and defense made sure that tonight’s outcome doesn’t come down to a kick.


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Pat Williams Out; Other Inactives

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 5:55 pm

The Vikings will be without a big (literally and figuratively) piece of their defense for tonight’s game against the Bears at Soldier Field. DT Pat Williams is among the team’s inactive players and will miss his first game of the season with an elbow ailment.

The Vikings other inactive players are: QB Sage Rosenfels (emergency QB), WR Jaymar Johnson, DB Karl Paymah, TE Garrett Mills, LB J Leman, C Jon Cooper and DE Jayme Mitchell. Expect DTs Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy to see increased snaps tonight as they try to fill in for Williams.

The Bears inactive players are: S Al Afalava, WR Devin Hester, WR Juaquin Iglesias, G Lance Louis, OT James Marten, P Richmond McGee, S Kevin Payne,  DT Matt Toeaina.


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Vikings Arrive At Soldier Field

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 5:28 pm

The Vikings have arrived at Soldier Field and players are beginning to get warmed up for tonight’s chilly NFC North battle with the Chicago Bears.

I haven’t been on the playing surface yet but I’m anxious to head down and try to get a feel for the footing. I’m interested to hear what Vikings K Ryan Longwell has to say about the field conditions – he’s had plenty of experience kicking on this field.

Soldier Field is quite the spectacle, especially at night. The bright lights shine down on the field and the skyline of downtown Chicago is visible in the background. We’ll surely have a fun atmosphere for the game tonight.

We’ll be back with more updates before kickoff, including both teams’ inactive players and Mr. Hippe’s Weather Report.


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Heading To Stadium Soon; Injury Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 3:14 pm

The first set of buses will be loading up soon to take us to Soldier Field for tonight’s Vikings-Bears game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 CT and the game will be televised by ESPN. You can also join us on vikings.com for a live chat. We’ll start the chat just a few minutes prior to kickoff.

It’s a unique experience to play on Monday Night Football, especially on the road. Since I’m not wrapped up in meetings all day as the players and coaches are, a Monday night game on the road allows for several hours of free time in the opposing team’s city. And when the opposing city is Chicago, a few hours of free time is nice.

It’s also different to watch the rest of the NFL begin to digest the games from the day before and begin the process of moving on to next week. We’re still wrapped up in Week 16 while everyone else has Week 17 on their mind.

As for the game tonight, injuries might play a factor before we even kick the ball off. The Vikings look to be in pretty good shape heading into the game. Just 4 players were on the injury report this week and 3 of them – Steve Hutchinson (back), Brian Robison (quadriceps) and Antoine Winfield (foot) – are probable. The 4th – DT Pat Williams (elbow) is questionable but to be honest, I’d be surprised if he can’t go for this one.

The Bears have a different injury situation, however, and it’ll be worth watching in the moments leading up to kickoff. When the practice week came to a close on Friday, a total of 13 players had at one point or another been on the report. Friday’s injury report contained 10 players, including DE Adewale Ogunleye.

Ogunleye has since been placed on injured reserve because of a broken leg and the Bears signed P Richmond McGee to take Ogunleye’s place on the roster. The reason for signing a punter is because the Bears starting punter, Brad Maynard, is one of those 13 players who was on this week’s injury report; he’s questionable with a left groin ailment (ouch).

DT Tommie Harris, OT Orlando Pace, RB Adrian Peterson and OT Chris Williams were all listed as probable on Friday’s injury report, so I expect they’ll all be able to go tonight. But S Kevin Payne was listed as doubtful and the following players were listed as questionable: DE Gaines Adams, S Al Afalava, WR Devin Hester and Maynard.

Some of those missing players represent significant pieces for the Bears. QB Jay Cutler would certainly like to have Hester available as he goes up against one of the stingiest rushing defenses in the NFL and with Ogunleye already out, the Bears defense could use Adams for depth in the rotation along the defensive line. Since Payne is doubtful, missing Afalava does nothing to help the Bears secondary against Brett Favre, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Co.

Long story short, we’ll have a lot to look for once we get to about 6:00 p.m., which is when the Vikings and Bears are required by the NFL to submit their list of inactive players.


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Harvin Set To Factor In Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 28, 2009 – 12:55 pm

After missing the first game of his NFL career a couple of weeks ago against Cincinnati at home, Vikings rookie WR Percy Harvin returned to the lineup last week at Carolina.

Harvin’s production wasn’t on par with what we’ve been accustomed to this season, though, something that was likely a product of missing the previous game as well as limited practice time leading up to the Panthers game. He had 1 reception for 10 yards and 2 kickoff returns for 31 yards and generally looked off-rhythm and hesitant.

But this week during practice Harvin looked anything but off-rhythm and hesitant. He participated fully all week and looked full speed.

I was on the sideline watching practice on Friday and one particular play that Harvin made stands out to me and is in fact the reason I’m writing this post. On the play, Favre took a 5-step drop in the pocket and was looking to the right. He had Sidney Rice streaking down the right sideline in single coverage and it looked as if Favre had his sights set on lofting a deep pass to his lanky 6-4 receiver.

Favre rifled a laser to the right and I immediately thought this pass was going to be well short and Rice was going to have to come back for it. But that’s when Harvin came dashing across the middle of the field and fully extended his body to make the catch and turn upfield to finish the play by sprinting to the endzone.

I know the play happened in practice against the scout team – where there is no contact – but it was the type of play Harvin makes during games and it was great to see, especially after watching the offense falter with a not-quite-100%-Harvin in the lineup last week.

With the weather conditions as they are – cold and windy – Harvin’s value to the Vikings offense will only increase tonight. He’s dangerous with the ball in open space, and if the weather prevents the Vikings from executing a deep passing game, watch for Favre to find Harvin on short and intermediate routes to move the chains and light up the scoreboard.

A few notes on Harvin…

– He needs 201 combined yards to surpass RB Adrian Peterson’s record-setting 2,021 combined yards in 2007.
— With 3 receptions, Harvin can move into 2nd place in team history for the most receptions as a rookie. Harvin, who currently has 49 receptions, trails Paul Flatley and Sammy White, who both rank 2nd in Vikings annals with 51 receptions during their rookie seasons.


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