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Griffin Confident As He Rehabs Knee Injury

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 31, 2010 – 11:53 am

On Thursday the Vikings named CB Cedric Griffin the team’s recipient of the 2010 Ed Block Courage Award, an honor NFL players do not take lightly because it’s voted on by their peers. The award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian. The award is given to one player from each team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.

On Friday, Griffin met with reporters in the Winter Park lobby and he expressed gratitude to his teammates for honoring him with the award and he also made clear the confidence he has in his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered early in the season. The injury to Griffin this season was especially tough to take because the physical CB had suffered the same injury in his other knee during last season’s NFC Championship Game.

It was clear in listening to Griffin, though, that he’s confident he’ll return to the field for the 2011 season and not miss a beat. That’s a good sign for the Vikings and for a secondary that missed him this season. Here are a few other thoughts from his conversation with reporters…

– Griffin said one tough aspect of this injury was missing most of the season. Before 2010, he had never missed a season with injury through high school, college and the NFL.

– Asked if there were ever times in his rehab process where he felt discouraged, Griffin said no. The only time he felt frustration was on the sidelines of the NFC Championship Game last year after he suffered the first knee injury. Since then, he said, he’s learned to channel that frustration to his rehab.

– Griffin said he didn’t look at his absence from the CB position with frustration. Rather, he said he was encouraged to see other players, such as Asher Allen and Chris Cook, gain valuable experience that will make them better players in the future and that will give the Vikings secondary valuable depth going forward.


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Webb Shedding Light On A Dim Season

Posted by cjsiewert on December 31, 2010 – 7:32 am

Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb has run the gamut of media coverage since out-dueling his counterpart, Eagles QB Michael Vick, on Tuesday night – and rightfully so.

Webb is truly the “feel good” story at the end of a tumultuous season. The athletic rookie was drafted in the 6th round as a WR, returned to the QB position at rookie mini-camp, was added to the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season as the #3 QB, was not activated for a game until the Dec. 5 victory over the Buffalo Bills where he suffered a hamstring injury and this past week he made his first-career start, guiding his team to an improbable 24-14 upset victory on the road.

“Yeah, you never know how things will pan out,” Webb acknowledged on Thursday before the team’s practice. “Last year I was training to be a receiver, and at the rookie mini-camp all of a sudden I was back at quarterback. I’m more comfortable at that position because I’ve been playing it multiple years. It was just a great experience for me; a great game by the Vikings. Even though some people said I had a great performance, I still feel like there’s room for me to improve.”

Webb has been working with the 1st-team offense in practice since the week following the Dec. 13 loss to the NY Giants when Brett Favre ended his 297 consecutive games started streak and backup QB Tarvaris Jackson suffered a season-ending toe injury late in the game. The injuries to both Favre and Jackson have allotted Webb the starting role, a responsibility that demands a comprehensive knowledge of the playbook and the expectation for continued improvement.

The way Webb composed himself on Tuesday night was superb taking into account it was his first start and in the national spotlight, but Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier wants to make sure that the coaching staff can cater to his abilities in order for him to improve this Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

“We’re going to try to put a couple wrinkles in there that might be able to help him,” Frazier said. “Especially the fact that he’s gained more confidence now because of the success that he had on Tuesday night, we can open it up a little bit. Not very much more because of the time that we have to prepare, but we do want to give him some opportunities, both in the pass game and try to do some things in the run game that may open up some things for him as well. We will give him a little bit more.”

Webb will continue to face speculation and criticism from the media on whether or not he will become a capable starting QB in the NFL in the future, but that only adds inspiration to a young player that lacks none of it.

“That’s just motivation for me,” Webb stated. “Coming into the draft, people saying I’m going to be a receiver and things like that, it was just motivation for when I got my time to play at quarterback and take advantage of the opportunity.”


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Frazier Supportive Of NFL’s Concussion Protocol

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2010 – 2:36 pm

Head injuries, specifically concussions, have quickly gone from being ignored to being in the spotlight. Because of both the short-term and long-term impact concussions have on the human brain, everyone involved with the game of football has grown a sensitivity to the issue.

Younger players in the NFL today might not necessarily notice it, but veteran players and especially current coaches or were players in the NFL have certainly witnessed the progression of this issue in the league. Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier is a great example of an individual who has seen the progression.

Frazier was a DB for the Chicago Bears from 1981-86 and was part of a fierce and tenacious defense. At that time the Bears had one of the best defenses in the NFL and in fact the 1985 team had what many today will argue was the best defense of all time. They probably inflicted many a concussion on opponents.

But now Frazier is a head coach in the NFL and he’s charged with the task of leading an organization, a task the requires him to manage players who are dealing with injuries – including concussions. Several Vikings players have dealt with concussions this season, including QB Brett Favre. He was knocked out of the Chicago Bears game a couple weeks ago and still hasn’t sufficiently recovered to be able to make it back onto the field. In addition, both LB Erin Henderson and S Madieu Williams are currently dealing with concussions.

While it’s certainly cumbersome and disadvantageous for Frazier to adhere to the concussion protocol the NFL currently employs, he does see the reasoning behind it and he expressed his support for that protocol while meeting with reporters on Thursday.

“There’s a good reason that we have the caution that we have with concussions,” Frazier said. “You take a look at some of the former players and you see the repercussions of some of the concussions that they had and you realize that the way that we approach concussions today is far better than the way it was approached when I played.

“There was a time that you’d be out a couple plays or a play and you’d be back soon, as soon as you could count to 10 you’d be back on the field. Today is much better for our players and for their futures.”


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Vikings Injury Roundup

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2010 – 7:30 am

The Vikings face a condensed week as they prepare for the Detroit Lions because their game with the Eagles was postponed and moved from Sunday night to Tuesday night. As a result, the team did not practice on Wednesday and will instead resume on-field activities today.

Wednesday is typically the day NFL teams install their game plan, hold their initial practice of the week and submit the first injury report of the week. The Vikings, though, got back from Philadelphia around 3:00 a.m. Wednesday morning and interim head coach Leslie Frazier gave his players the day off.

But, per NFL protocol, the Vikings still had to submit an injury report in advance of Sunday’s date with the Lions. So the team had to make a guess at to which injured players would or would not have practiced. Also, Frazier held his usual day-after-the-game press conference and addressed the status of several of his injured players.

Here is the injury roundup as of Thursday morning…

CB Asher Allen (hip), QB Brett Favre (concussion/neck/right shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (concussion), WR Sidney Rice (concussion), FB Fahu Tahi (ankle) and S Madieu Williams (concussion) were all listed as non-participants in practice. Frazier indicated all players with concussions would be day-to-day this week, and he specifically mentioned that Favre has not yet passed the ImPACT test, which is the test all players must pass before being cleared to resume on-field activities. As for Tahi, Frazier said the team expected him to be available for this weekend’s game in Detroit.

S Tyrell Johnson (knee) and RB Adrian Peterson (knee) were both listed as limited participants in practice. Johnson has been out for several weeks with his injury and Peterson has been battling leg injuries for several weeks as well.

“The fact that Adrian was able to complete the game is a big plus for us,” Frazier said on Wednesday. “We’ll have to keep an eye on him during the course of the week, because you’re right, the very first contact he got was right in that spot, so we’ll have to see how he goes. He played well. He played terrific, even with that injury, so we’ll have to see what happens the rest of this week.”


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Vikings Defense: Worth Repeating

Posted by cjsiewert on December 30, 2010 – 7:05 am

It is said that defense wins championships; the Vikings may not be playing for a title this season but their defense is setting a standard of play that other teams will want to replicate throughout the playoffs.

The notion of mimicking the Vikings defense will be especially true for the team that faces the Eagles in this year’s playoffs. The Vikings held Philadelphia to 14 points and sacked MVP candidate QB Michael Vick a total of 6 times on Tuesday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The Vikings defense also held Vick to a season-low passer rating (74.1) while forcing 3 turnovers (2 fumbles and an INT).

The defensive unit – led by CB Antoine Winfield and LB Chad Greenway with 9 stops a piece – performed at a championship-caliber level against the NFC East-champions in all phases. The defensive line combined for 11 tackles and a forced fumble (FF), the LBs recorded 17 tackles and the secondary was challenged all night long and responded with 25 stops, 3 sacks, a FF and an INT.

The stellar performance by the Vikings defense didn’t go unnoticed, specifically for the team’s veteran leader as Winfield was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. His dominating performance included 7 different statistical categories – 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, a FF and fumble recovery that was returned 45 yards for a TD at the end of the 1st half. Winfield’s sack-fumble return knotted the game at 7 and provided a huge momentum swing in the Vikings favor heading into the locker room.

As far as the Vikings men in the box (DTs, DEs and LBs) are concerned, we’ve come accustom to dominating performances. But what’s been missing for most of the season is a complementary defensive backfield. And that all changed on Tuesday night as a predominately-young secondary, which has been depleted by injuries, held Vick and Co. in check.

We’ve already mentioned the outstanding performance by Winfield, but just as we referenced yesterday on the leadership role taken by team veterans, the mental and physical approach to the game taken by such leaders rubbed off on the club’s younger players, especially in the secondary.

Setting aside Winfield’s 12-year experience in the league, the rest of the Vikings starters in the secondary on Tuesday night combine for a total of 7 years of experience (S Husain Abdullah – 3, CB Asher Allen – 2 and S Jamarca Sanford – 2). Sanford, who made his first start of the season, served as a reliable replacement for Madieu Williams who was out with a concussion.

“Jamarca played well,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday. “To come in, in the situation that he did with the injuries that we’ve had and the fact that he was coming off an injury also. To play as well as he did, he made some good plays for us, some nice tackles… Jamarca made a lot of plays for us, was around the football, has tremendous speed and athleticism and he made a lot of plays. So we’re pleased with the way he performed.”

After its performance against the Eagles, the Vikings defense is poised to finish the 2010 season in true form as a tenacious unit, but will need to hold firm against a Detroit Lions offense that features playmakers such as WR Calvin Johnson and rookie RB Jahvid Best.


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Team Leaders Stepped Up For Vikings

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 4:16 pm

Headed into Tuesday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings had lost consecutive games by a combined score of 61-17 and were forced to wait an extra 2 days to play their Week 16 game due to another weather-related delay.

Frustration and anxiety could have best suited the feelings among Vikings players while waiting to play the Eagles, but instead, team leaders took a stand to staying focused and making sure the rest of the team had the same mindset.

“After having a couple of tough losses like we had and some of the circumstances involved in those losses, guys can tend to, especially young guys, begin to think more about the offseason than the next opponent,” Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier said during his day-after-the-game press conference. “I needed our veteran guys to step up in that locker room, on the field and at practice to lead the way and that’s exactly what Jared Allen did, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Adrian (Peterson), different guys that are in leadership roles, that’s exactly what they did.

“They stepped up and not only backed it up with talk but they did it on the field as well and our younger players really followed their example last night.”

Frazier re-established a group of team leaders after he assumed his current role as interim head coach in order to create a stronger relationship between himself and his players. He also wanted to make sure that the team leaders would gain a better understanding of what was expected of them and to communicate that message with the rest of the players in the locker room.

The days leading up to Tuesday night’s victory and the outcome of the game may well have been the best example of the Vikings cohesiveness between the head coach, team leaders and the rest of the club.

After the decision had been made to postpone the game until Tuesday night, Vikings team leaders shared their thoughts on the issue and it is clear that everyone remained focus on the task at hand.

“Coach Frazier told us to continue to stick together, to stay focused, and that’s what we’ll do,” RB Adrian Peterson mentioned on Monday.

Other leaders voiced their opinions on Monday as well. DE Jared Allen said, “We have to remain together as a team and keep a positive mind frame.”

Vikings K Ryan Longwell referenced a meeting the team leaders had with Frazier on Monday.

“We have every reason, because of the season, to say ‘this is the last straw and I’m checking out,’” Longwell said. “But this is the NFL and you can’t do that. You have to show up ready to play Tuesday night and that’s what we’re trying to get the young guys and everybody to understand.”

Frazier needed his leaders to step up on Tuesday night and that’s exactly what they did. And it rubbed off on the younger players as well en route to the 24-14 upset victory over the Eagles.


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Webb’s Impact, Now And Later

Posted by cjsiewert on December 29, 2010 – 1:24 pm

When faced with the task of guiding his team’s offense on the road against a team jockeying for playoff positioning, all after an extended 2-day postponement that forced the organization to call its Philadelphia hotel “home,” Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb stood up to the challenge with a cool, calm and collected performance and made a name for himself in doing so.

In his first-career NFL start, Webb completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards with 6 carries for 31 yards and a TD in a 24-14 upset victory over the NFC East-champion Philadelphia Eagles. Webb’s 9-yard rushing TD midway through the 3rd quarter exemplified his superior athletic abilities by evading 1 defender while rolling out to his right, shaking off 2 other defenders forcing them to run into each other and benefitting from a clear-out block from TE Jimmy Kleinsasser that opened up the right sideline for an untouched score.

Perhaps Webb’s most impressive stat of the night was that he committed zero turnovers. There were times where the rookie QB didn’t scan the field as well as a veteran QB would have – such as missing a wide open Adrian Peterson in the endzone early in the 3rd quarter that resulted in a 10-yard loss and a FG instead of a TD – but overall, he made sound decisions with the ball in his hands.

His composure was uncanny considering Webb was making his first-career NFL start, and that poise was at its best on a 3rd and 11 completion to WR Percy Harvin in the 4th quarter. On the play, Webb stood tall in the pocket and remained in control as it was collapsing around him by firing a 19-yard strike over the shoulder of Harvin for a 1sts down. The big gain set up Peterson’s 1-yard TD 2 plays later that delivered the final blow to the Eagles.

If Brett Favre is unable to start against the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field, Webb has proven with his Tuesday night performance that he has the abilities to guide a team as its starting QB. But in any case, Webb has recorded an impressive game that poses some important offseason decision-making for Vikings coaches and executives.

Do the Vikings want to build their franchise around Webb? Will his performance this season affect who will be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft?

As Mike pointed out in his Monday (Wednesday) Morning Mailbag, it’s tough to judge a player’s future potential when looking at a single performance, but the skill set is there for Webb and it will be interesting to see how the organization evaluates his performance and worth over the offseason.


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Peterson & Webb Need Your Votes For Weekly Awards

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on December 29, 2010 – 11:48 am

Last year, seemingly every week there would be a Viking up for one of NFL.com’s weekly awards.  Not so much this year of course, but thanks to last night’s upset win over the Eagles, two of the key components to that win are in the running to take home some hardware and need your votes.

Adrian Peterson, the lone Viking Pro Bowler for 2010-11, is up for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award.  Peterson rushed 22 times for 118 yards and a touchdown to help the Vikings upset the Eagles 24-14 on Tuesday night.  To vote for Peterson, click here.

Also up for an award this week is QB Joe Webb, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards and rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown in the win vs. Philly.  To vote for Webb as the Pepsi Rookie of the Week, click here.


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More On Winfield’s Night vs. Eagles

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2010 – 10:02 am

We’ve already written about the huge night Antoine Winfield had against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. But here’s a little historical perspective on where Winfield ranks in Vikings history coming off that sensational performance against Mike Vick and Co.

Winfield’s fumble return TD in the 2nd quarter marks the 5th career return TD for the former Ohio State Buckeye. He has 2 career INT returns, 2 career fumble returns and a blocked FG return for TD. His 5 return TDs rank behind only Ed Sharockman in team history. Sharockman had 6 – 3 on INTs, 2 on blocked punts and 1 on a fumble recovery.

Also, Tuesday night’s fumble return TD for Winfield gives him 4 defensive TDs, which ties him for a team record in that category.


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Pagac, Winfield Go Back To School To Stymie Eagles Explosive Offense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 29, 2010 – 7:32 am

When the Vikings named Leslie Frazier interim head coach, the entire defensive staff had to step up with added responsibility. Frazier, of course, has been the Vikings defensive coordinator since 2007 but his new role as interim head coach doesn’t allow him to focus exclusively on the defense.

The Vikings defensive staff has responded well, particularly LBs coach Fred Pagac. He’s assumed much of the play-calling duties for Frazier’s defense and he might have done his best work on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. And it was more than just playcalling – it was the formulation of the game plan all week as well.

In coming away with an impressive and decisive 24-14 win over the NFC East-champion Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, the Vikings stymied one of the league’s most explosive offenses. The Eagles came in averaging 29.4 points per game, thanks in large part to one of the most dynamic weapons in the game of football – QB Mike Vick. He’s taken the NFL by storm in 2010 and is a legitimate MVP candidate because of his ability as a passer – a 20/5 TD-to-INT ratio – but also his rushing ability – more than 6.0 yards per carry with 9 TDs.

But he didn’t take the Vikings by storm. And it was an “old-school” approach by Pagac that led to the Vikings ability to contain Vick. Not old-school as in old-fashioned, but old-school as in how Pagac slowed down opposing offenses when he was coaching at Ohio State when CB Antoine Winfield was a standout there.

On Tuesday night, Pagac called a barrage of blitzes and pressures, frequently using DBs and LBs to rush Vick and make him uncomfortable. Pagac’s ace in the hold was CB Antoine Winfield, perhaps the surest-tackling CB in the entire NFL and arguably the Vikings best playmaker. Winfield came up huge on Tuesday night, tallying a sack on the game’s 2nd play and then registering a game-changing play late in the 2nd quarter.

On the play, Winfield blitzed off the corner and sacked Vick, causing him to fumble. Winfield then spotted the ball, got up off the ground scooped the ball and sprinted 45 yards for a TD to tie the game at 7 just before halftime. The Vikings went into the locker room with momentum and were able to expand the lead early in the 3rd quarter.

“That was the game plan,” Winfield said. “Coach told me, ‘We’re going to send you off the edge. Just contain [Vick]. Come up high because we know he likes to spin out.’ He did a great job of calling them. I tried to execute.”
The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins noted that Winfield joked that Pagac “took me back to Ohio State” with his playcalling because Pagac was Winfield’s defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
“That’s what I used to do when he was the coordinator for the Buckeyes,” Winfield said. “Whenever my number is called, I’m going to go out there and give maximum effort and I made some plays.”

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