Favre For Hope Foundation Reaches Out In Minneapolis-Area

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2010 – 4:26 pm

If Brett Favre is able to suit up this weekend for the Vikings and have the kind of impact that his wife, Deanna, had on a group of Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce guests on Friday afternoon, the Purple will be in good shape against the Patriots.

Deanna gave an emotional and inspirational presentation Friday afternoon at the event and also presented $100,000 grants to both the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota and the Hope Chest For Breast Cancer Foundation on behalf of the Favre 4 Hope Foundation. The Favre 4 Hope Foundation was created when the Favres merged their two foundations.

Guests were both laughing and crying as Deanna elequently discussed her bout with cancer and her family’s drive to turn times of adversity into positive moments worth remembering.

Deanna explained that she relied on faith and family during her battle against breast cancer and she also spoke about the importance of turning a negative situation into something positive.

“But more than anything,” she said, “cancer taught me not to take life for granted. To wake each morning grateful just to have another day of stuff to do. And to close my eyes each night with a prayer of thanks.

“Life has thrown us several curves, but we always manage to find a way to turn it into something positive.”

To read more about this event and the donations the Favre 4 Hope Foundation made on Friday, click here.

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Friday Injury Report: Favre Questionable

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2010 – 3:28 pm

QB Brett Favre (ankle/foot) was a limited participant in practice on Friday, a step forward after missing both Wednesday and Thursday, and has been listed as questionable by the Vikings on the Friday injury report. T Chris DeGeare (ankle) and CB Lito Sheppard (hand) were also listed as questionable after practicing on limited basis Friday.

Everyone else is listed as probable for the Vikings on Friday’s report, including S Jamarca Sanford (not injury related) and G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps), C John Sullivan (calf) and DT Pat Williams (quadriceps), who were all full participants in practice for the first time on Friday. You can read the full injury report by clicking here.

New England has already ruled out S Jarrod Page (calf) and RB Fred Taylor (toe). Everyone else, with the exception of QB Tom Brady (right shoulder - probable) is listed as questionable.

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Some Friday Fun Facts

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 29, 2010 – 9:25 am

While we’re waiting for Friday’s practice to begin and then for head coach Brad Childress to address the media around 1:00 p.m. CT, let’s go over a few Friday Fun Facts…

– The Vikings-Patriots game will be Minnesota’s 9th consecutive road game (including playoff s) that hasn’t started at noon. The last time the Vikings played a noon road game was on 10/25/09 at Pittsburgh. Since then, the Vikings have played at Green Bay, Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, New Orleans (playoff s), New Orleans, New York and Green Bay – all of which were either night or late afternoon games.

– DE Jared Allen intercepted his 3rd career pass last week against Green Bay and his 2nd as a Viking, tying him for 3rd in team history among defensive linemen.

– QB Brett Favre started his 119th (90-29) game at Lambeau Field last week, breaking the NFL record for the most starts in a stadium. Favre was previously tied with John Elway at 118.

– WR/KR Percy Harvin scored his first career rushing TD at Lambeau last week. He became only the 5th player in team history to score 3 different ways in a season (one rush, three pass and one kickoff return), and the first since 2005.

– RB Adrian Peterson broke his own team record for most rushing yards through the first 6 games of any season (684; was 670). He is the first Vikings player to reach 600 yards 3 times after Game #6.

– DT Pat Williams is the oldest active defensive player in the NFL (turned 38 on 10/24/10).

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Peterson’s Pass Protection Continues To Improve

Posted by cjsiewert on October 29, 2010 – 6:59 am

Ever since stepping onto the field as a rookie in 2007, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has shown players, coaches and fans alike how much of an explosive RB he is with blazing speed and brute strength – an uncommon combination of qualities that has separated the All-Pro RB from the rest in the league.

Throughout his first 3 seasons, Peterson was lauded for his superior qualities running the football, but criticized for not being able to block well and pick up different blitz packages during passing situations.

The 4-year veteran has silenced those critics with his improved play during such scenarios so far in the 2010 campaign.

“Outstanding,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell mentioned on Thursday of Peterson’s blitz recognition in last Sunday’s loss to the Packers. “He did a great job of stepping up in there. It’s never been about his willingness to pick it up. There’s just some intricate details on how we’re going to pick them up, where you’re supposed to be looking. Are you looking inside-out, are you looking outside-in?”

With his continued dominance running the football, Peterson’s improvement in the blocking game adds another weapon to an already impressive arsenal of position-specific strengths – and #28 is gaining confidence in that regard.

“I am at that point,” Peterson acknowledged of his comfort level when blocking. “I feel like I have been at that point. It’s all about just having opportunities to go out there and get it done.

“That particular play that you are talking about (Visanthe Shiancoe’s nullified TD against the Packers), we watched in practice and we knew it was going to come. I saw it unfold and was able to make a good pickup. Unfortunately, the touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown but really was a touchdown didn’t count.”

The improvement in blitz recognition will be a must when the Vikings square off against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Mass. on Sunday. The Patriots defense is known for its fluid formations and unscouted looks. They are labeled as a 3-4 defense, but the Vikings coaching staff is well aware of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick’s knack for changing his defense to a 4-man front when necessary.

“He schemes the teams that he’s playing against and the offense that he’s playing against, whether it’s protections, whether it’s specific plays that he might try to take away,” Bevell said of Belichick. “We’re prepared for the unscouted looks basically. We talked to our guys about this being a rule week. Whether it’s in protection, whether it’s in assignments, you go by the rules. The rules can always take care of any look that’s an unscouted look.”

If the Vikings are going to get back on the winning track, Peterson’s ability – along with the rest of the Vikings RBs blocking on passing downs – to pick up the blitz will be vital.  When examining the matchup between Peterson and the Patriots defense, it could be said that the more complete the Vikings star RB is in the running and blocking games, the more likely a Purple victory will come as a result.

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Frazier Says Greenway Playing At Pro Bowl Level

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 3:18 pm

Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield are veteran defenders who earned their first Pro Bowl berths with the Vikings. According to Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Vikings defense features yet another veteran player who is performing at a level worthy of his first Pro Bowl honor.

That player is LB Chad Greenway, who has been perhaps the Vikings best defender so far in 2010. The 2006 first-round pick out of Iowa has gradually improved after recovering from a knee injury his rookie year and this season represents another big step forward for the athletic LB.

Greenway, who led the Vikings in takeaways in 2007 and in tackles in 2008 and 2009, has led or ranked 2nd in tackles every game this season. In total, Greenway has 65 tackles – 7 of which have been for a loss – and he’s also added a forced fumble.

“I think he is there,” Frazier responded on Thursday when asked if Greenway should receive Pro Bowl consideration. “I think he is a Pro Bowl linebacker. His ability to run with tight ends, to make the big plays that he’s making now; if he can continue to come up with some turnovers that will be the next step for him.”

Frazier makes a good point that splash plays – specifically turnovers – are key to a player generating Pro Bowl buzz. That shouldn’t be a problem for Greenway. He led all NFL LBs last season in takeaways with 6 and he’s already making splash plays in 2010. He forced a fumble in last week’s game at Green Bay and he also made the tackle on John Kuhn to stuff Green Bay on a crucial 4th-and-inches play during the second half.

Expect Greenway to continue his solid play and make a run at his first career Pro Bowl berth. He has a nose for the ball and is not outworked by anyone on the practice field or in the weight room.

“From a linebacker standpoint, he is doing everything you could ask of a linebacker,” Frazier said. “To me he is a Pro Bowl linebacker.”

Fan voting for the Pro Bowl is underway and you can cast your votes by clicking here.

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Injury Reprot: Hutch Returns, Favre Sits

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 3:08 pm

There was only one change to the Vikings injury report on Thursday, with G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) returning to practice on a limited basis. QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle) was held out again on Thursday after missing practice on Thursday.

There were no other changes from Wednesday’s report for the Vikings.

There were, however, a few changes to New England’s report. DE Mike Wright (knee) and WR Deion Branch (hamstring) were added to the report, with Wright held out of practice and Branch limited. S Patrick Chung (knee) and WR Matthew Slate (ankle) were limited on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. NT Vince Wilfork (not injury related) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday and QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) was a full participant for the 2nd consecutive day.

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A Look Inside New England’s Trenches

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 28, 2010 – 10:04 am

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick have developed reputations for being schematic experts on their respective sides of the ball – Childress has tutored explosive offenses with both the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles while Belichick’s staple is tenacious and versatile defensive strategies.

In analyzing each coach’s ability to find success within their expertise it’s easy to focus on higher-profile names. Childress has utilized Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota while Belichick has coached players such as Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Asante Samuel. But in reality, each coach would tell you that much of their success is due to players getting the job done in the trenches, along the offensive and defensive lines.

With that in mind and in light of the Vikings upcoming matchup with the Patriots, let’s take a look at New England’s offensive and defensive line to see what the Vikings have in store this Sunday when they travel to Gillette Stadium.

Patriots Offensive Line: In last week’s win the Patriots starting offensive line consisted of LT Matt Light, LG Dan Connolly, C Dan Koppen, RG Stephen Neal and RT Sebastian Vollmer, the same group that has started all 6 of New England’s contests so far in 2010. So continuity is certainly no issue for New England. The Patriots rank 14th in yards per rushing attempt (4.1) and rushing yards per game (111.2) and they have 5 rushing TDs on the year, which is tied for 12th most. Also, in 3rd-and-4 or less situations (they’ve had 21 such situations), the Patriots have converted 1st downs via the rush 8 out of 9 times. This means that in likely run scenarios the Patriots have been able to consistently find success.

In terms of passing offense, the Patriots have the NFL’s 3rd best passer rating (96.0), which is obviously more of a reflection on QB Tom Brady’s performance than the offensive line. But the line does deserve credit, because Brady has been sacked just 12 times in 198 attempts.

I’m not familiar enough with New England’s offensive line to suggest where the Vikings may be able to exploit mismatches. But I’m willing to suggest 2 areas where it might be most beneficial for the Vikings to find success. The first area is obviously at LT, where DE Jared Allen will be going against Light. It’s been well-chronicled that Allen’s sack totals are down to this point, but he has been pressuring opposing QBs and he also has an INT this year. In this game, though, the Vikings will stand a better chance of defending New England’s passing attack if Allen can not only pressure Brady but also put him on his back. Even the best NFL QBs, which Brady might be, don’t play as well when they’re consistently being hit.

The second area where the Vikings would benefit from production this week is DT Kevin Williams. If Williams is able to win his matchup this week and be a disruptive force, it will help stifle New England’s rushing attack and it will also force Brady to move around in the pocket instead of stepping into his throws.

Patriots Defensive Line: New England is labeled as a 3-4 defensive team, with Gerard Warren anchoring the defensive line at NT and then Vince Wilfork at LE and a combination of Brandon Deaderick and Mike Wright at RE. But as Childress mentioned on Wednesday while meeting with reporters, the Patriots also have the ability and willingness to switch to a 4-man front when they deem necessary.

“It’s a multiple defense,” Childress said. “He (Belichick) has the ability to play two defensive linemen and the rest linebackers in there. You’re going to get unscouted looks. Primarily they’re lining up with a 3-4 look. They have the ability to play a four-down package by putting their outside linebackers on the ground. You have to prepare for a number of different looks.”

Childress cited his experience in Philadelphia coaching against Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, where the Eagles anticipated a 3-4 alignment and faced a lot of even fronts instead.

“It’s a great question and it’s one that we kind of lived first-hand when we played them in the Super Bowl,” Childress recalled. “You prepare for 3-4 and they play even with two guys standing in the A gaps. They’re doing some of that now.”

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No Sophomore Slump For Harvin

Posted by cjsiewert on October 28, 2010 – 5:44 am

One of the greatest aspects of the NFL is to watch an up-and-coming star, fresh out of college, break through onto the professional scene with an outstanding rookie season.

In the past, the player to record the best season among rookies has rightfully earned Rookie of the Year honors. But so much has been made of what happens after that sensational rookie season – how will opposing teams approach playing the well-known Rookie of the Year during his 2nd season?

AP Offensive Rookies of the Year such as Denver’s Mike Anderson (2000) and Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams (2005) recorded standout rookie seasons but fell victims to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Unlike Anderson and Williams, Vikings WR Percy Harvin – the 2009 ROY – shows no signs of experiencing a sophomore slump.

It was unclear at the beginning of the season as to whether or not Harvin would retain his valued characteristics as an elusive slot receiver and big-play kick returner because of reoccurring migraines during training camp, preseason and into the regular season. But as of Week 7 of the 2010 campaign, Harvin’s play is nothing short of spectacular.

More specifically, Harvin has re-launched himself onto the highlight reels since the Week 4 bye and the arrival of veteran WR Randy Moss prior to Week 5. When comparing his first 3 games (without Moss) to his last 3 (with Moss), Harvin has nearly doubled his average receiving yards per game from 35.3 to 61.0 – which seems to be at least partially a result of opposing defenses paying closer attention to Moss.

With Harvin reaping the benefits of a deep threat receiver as a teammate, one of Moss’ former teammates in New England, the team Harvin and the Vikings face this weekend, acknowledged the fact that the mere presence of Moss has a dramatic impact on coverage schemes.

“I think it keeps the defense honest and wanting to make sure he’s not going deep,” Patriots WR Wes Welker said. “You don’t know which play he’s going to all of a sudden take off on you. It definitely can put those safeties in check.”

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress echoed Welker’s sentiments during his Wednesday press conference.

“I do,” Childress explained when asked if he feels the attention Moss receives results in open looks for other receivers. “Obviously Percy’s had a few good games and good looks at the football. (Visanthe) Shiancoe’s obviously spiked up here last week. You can’t serve all those masters in there. If somebody’s getting doubled, it means somebody’s singled usually.”

Since the bye week and the arrival of Moss, Harvin has not only found rejuvenation in the receiving game, but also on special teams. Harvin’s kick return average over the past 3 games sits at 30.0 yards per return and includes long returns of 44 and 48 yards with a 95-yard TD in the win over Dallas.

“First of all I feel like he’s in good shape,” Childress said of Harvin. “He’s in football playing shape right now. He’s doing a variety of different things, which he’s good at. Whether he’s in the backfield or he’s playing in the slot or he’s playing outside. I think he’s got a decent feel for what he’s doing. He can go full speed. He’s not thinking about much. You see that at practice and practice is carried over to the games.”

The best word to describe Harvin’s impact on the team is versatility. Over the past 3 games, Harvin has averaged 210.6 all-purpose yards per game. And versatility will be a beneficial characteristic when the Vikings face a Patriots defense that ranks 28th overall.

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Vikings, Patriots Issue Wednesday Injury Reports

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 2:23 pm

QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle) and G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) were held out of practice on Wednesday, according to the Vikings initial injury report of the week. The Vikings listed 7 others on the report and New England has 6 players listed on their report.

S Husain Abdullah, who suffered a concussion 2 weeks ago, was a full participant as was CB Chris Cook (knee). T Chris DeGeare (ankle), DT Letroy Guion (hamstring), CB Lito Sheppard (hand), C John Sullivan (calf) and DT Pat Williams (quadriceps) were all limited.

For the Patriots, QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) was the only player listed on the report who was a full participant. S Patrick Chung (knee), S Jarrad Page (calf), WR Matthew Slater (ankle), RB Fred Taylor (toe) and NT Vince Wolfork (not injury related) did not participate.

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Childress Talks QBs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 11:16 am

The hot topic at head coach Brad Childress’ regular Wednesday press conference today was of course the status QB Brett Favre’s injured ankle. Childress fielded several questions on the matter and although there is no new information to discuss, here’s a brief rundown of what was said.

Childress was first asked what the general plan was regarding getting Favre back on the field. The Vikings head coach said there was a plan to do that but that “the biggest part of the plan is rehabbing that thing and getting it back to where he’s mobile.”

Mobility is the key here for Favre and his chances for playing this Sunday. Childress has said multiple times that he doesn’t want his QB to be a “sitting duck” in the pocket for opposing defenses to attack and that it’s always important for a player to be able to protect himself, whether he’s a QB or any other player on the field.

Childress indicated during the press conference that Favre will not practice on Wednesday and he sent the same message to Boston-area reporters in a conference call earlier on Wednesday. Favre’s injury history with the ankle, the fact that he’s currently in a walking boot and his absence from practice on Wednesday don’t add up to be encouraging news for the QB’s prospects of playing on Sunday. But at this point nothing should be ruled out.

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Childress responded when asked if Favre could play with this injury. “He’s going to make the push, like all of our guys do, to Sunday. It’s work for a lot of these guys to get to the point where they feel like they can (play). But I don’t have a crystal ball or anything like that.”

So if Favre is unable to play it will be Tarvaris Jackson’s turn to step up in the future Hall of Famer’s stead. Jackson has been the starter in Minnesota before, with mixed results. He does have a winning record as a starter and his teammates have expressed confidence in him recently. Jackson has terrific arm strength and he brings a certain trait to the Vikings offense that Favre doesn’t – mobility.

“As ready as he’s ever going to be,” Childress responded when asked to describe Jackson’s readiness should he be put into action Sunday. “As I’ve said before, he’s taken more (reps) than most backup quarterbacks. Aside from having a hundred starts, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be.”

Ultimately the decision of whether Favre will play or not hinges on a number of factors and it won’t be known – at least publically – one way or the other until much later in the week. The bottom line, though, is Childress will put statistics and starting streaks and personal feelings aside to make the best decision possible for the team.

“We’ll do what’s best for us to win a football game on Sunday,” Childress said. “That’s hands-down what my motives will be.”

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