Frazier Optimistic Simpson Will Practice This Week, Play On Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 10, 2012 – 2:51 pm

About the only reservation the Vikings had coming away from their win last Sunday over the Tennessee Titans was the leg condition WR Jerome Simpson experienced on Sunday morning. Numbness and weakness in his leg didn’t keep him from playing, but it did prevent him from making the kind of impact he and the team envisioned.

Ambiguity about the condition persisted on Monday when Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters, as he disclosed that more was to be learned about the condition after Simpson underwent more testing.

The Vikings and Simpson have gained some clarity since, according to Frazier. While speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Frazier explained that the problems Simpson experienced on Sunday were actually attributed to a back ailment of some kind. The inexactness of the injury naturally causes some uneasiness, and even though Frazier said the Vikings would hold Simpson out of practice on Wednesday, the Vikings are hopeful that their speedy WR will return to practice this week and perhaps even play on Sunday.

“We don’t think it’s anything long-term,” Frazier said. “We just want him to continue to go through some of the exercises that (Head Athletic Trainer) Eric Sugarman and his staff will take him through today (Wednesday). We may get him back at practice tomorrow, hopefully for sure on Friday. But he may be back tomorrow.

“The good news is there’s no surgery required or anything like that. He should be fine over time.”

Asked specifically by reporters if Simpson could play on Sunday, Frazier again expressed optimism.

“Yeah, all indications are there’s a very good chance,” he said. “We’ll know more, how he responds to some of the treatment they give him today. Hopefully we’ll get him back out at practice tomorrow. We don’t think it’s anything long-term at all.”

A look at the Vikings season stats would not lead one to believe that Simpson’s absence is significant to the Vikings offense. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. In his first game back after missing the opening three contests, Simpson led the Vikings in receiving with 4 receptions for 50 yards. More than just those 4 receptions, though, Simpson’s value to the team is also reflected in how opposing defenses defend him.

“You saw in that Detroit game, the impact he had when he got single coverage,” Frazier explained. “He’s a tough guy to defend. And even when you have pretty good coverage, like that last play (vs. Detroit) when he caught that 27-yarder, his athletic ability sometimes overrides the coverage. You need a guy like that who can make that difficult catch even though he may seem to be covered.”

Frazier also pointed out that the Vikings are seeing a lot of single-high safety looks from opposing defenses, a strategy designed to slow down the Vikings ground game. But having a receiver who can win vs. coverage downfield causes defenses to mix in more two-high safeties, making it easier for the Vikings to run the ball.

“Of late, we’ve seen a lot of single-high safety,” Frazier said. “So one of the reasons Percy was able to get down the sidelines in that game on Sunday was they chose to play single-high, [and] he was able to behind the guy and make a great play for us. But Jerome will hopefully help us to be able to get more two-high safeties than what we’re currently getting, and so we look forward to having him back full-speed.”

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Redskins QB Griffin III (Concussion) Expected To Practice Wednesday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 10, 2012 – 9:45 am

As we mentioned right off the bat in Wednesday morning’s “9 Vikings-Redskins Storylines To Follow,” Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is currently recovering from a concussion he suffered in last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons and his status for this week’s game against the Vikings is uncertain. Early reports out of Washington, however, suggest that the Redskins rookie passer is on track to return to the field in time to start against the Vikings.

Griffin III took a nasty – but clean – hit from Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon in the 3rd quarter of last week’s game, forcing the Redskins to pull him from the game. He was diagnosed with a concussion and is now going through the NFL’s mandated concussion protocol. Long story longer, Griffin III must take and pass a series of tests before he’s permitted to return to the field for practice or a game.

The Redskins have not commented publicly on when Griffin III may return. According to this Washington Post report from Mark Maske, though, it’s expected that Griffin III will return as soon as Wednesday to practice with his teammates. While Maske cites a person close to the situation as his source for the report, he also notes that Griffin III’s participation in practice does not guarantee his availability for Sunday. The NFL and its teams are careful in dealing with injuries, particularly head injuries, and the protocol that exists actually takes the decision out of the hands of the individual team and puts it into the hands of independent medical experts.

The bottom line is, this is a story that will persist all week as the Vikings and Redskins prepare to face one another. Early indications are that Griffin III will be ready to play.

Other Injury Notes
– Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier disclosed on Monday that RB Adrian Peterson had a slight ankle sprain in last week’s win over the Titans. Frazier said Peterson was able to play through the injury and that he expects Peterson to play on Sunday, but that the injury may limit what the Vikings ask Peterson to do in practice this week.

– As of early Wednesday morning, there’s nothing new to report on Jerome Simpson’s leg condition. Frazier indicated on Monday that the injury may have something to do with Simpson’s back. Frazier will certainly be asked about this on Wednesday morning during his regular press conference.

– It’s expected that LB Marvin Mitchell (calf) and S Andrew Sendejo (ankle) will return to practice this week.

– Frazier said QB Christian Ponder moved around just fine on Sunday and that there doesn’t appear to be a problem with his knee.

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9 Vikings-Redskins Storylines To Watch

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 10, 2012 – 6:18 am

It’s Wednesday, and in the NFL you know what that means. The calendar flips from digesting last week’s win to previewing this week’s matchup. For the Vikings, that means preparing for the Washington Redskins. The Vikings will travel to the Beltway this weekend, marking their third trip to the Nation’s Capital in as many years.

This Vikings-Redskins matchup has several intriguing subplots, so we’ll get you started by briefly discussing nine of them right here…

RG3’s Status Unclear After Week 5 Concussion
This now marks the third consecutive week a team scheduled to play the Vikings begins its week of preparation not knowing if their starting QB will be available on Sunday. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, selected by Washington with the 2nd overall pick last April, took a nasty hit from Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon mid-way through the 3rd quarter last week that left the talented passer with a concussion. Per the NFL’s concussion protocol, doctors ruled Griffin III out for the remainder of the game, and now he’s required to undergo and pass a series of tests before he’s allowed to practice or play.

This is obviously a significant factor for both teams because Griffin III is the Redskins most dynamic offensive weapon. He’s the League’s 5th-highest rated passer (101.0) and ranks #1 in completion percentage (69.1%). Griffin III also has 8 total TDs – 4 passing and 4 rushing – and averages 5.7 yards per rush on 42 carries.

Since the injury, Washington has not released any information that lends an idea as to whether Griffin III will be ready to suit up on Sunday. The next indication of the rookie’s status will come Wednesday afternoon when the Redskins are required to submit their initial injury report of the week. If Griffin III is unable to play, the Redskins will turn to either rookie Kirk Cousins or veteran Rex Grossman.

Can Redskins Contain MVP Candidate Percy Harvin?
Yes, I said it. Percy Harvin is an MVP candidate – in my eyes anyway. He doesn’t play QB and he’s not leading the NFL in points or TDs. But can you name a player who produces as much and in as many ways as Harvin does for the Vikings? Harvin leads the NFL in total yardage (814) and yards after catch (242), he’s 2nd in receptions (38), and he’s just the 3rd player in NFL history – joining Gale Sayers and Timmy Brown – with a rushing, receiving and kick return TD in 3 consecutive seasons.

But this headline to watch is not an MVP campaign for Harvin. It’s to point out that, in order increase their chances of winning, the Redskins are going to have to find a way to contain Harvin. The Lions were able to do it, as Harvin had just 6 offensive touches for 34 yards. But the Titans, just one week later, were not able to duplicate it last week, as Harvin exploded for 116 yards and 2 TDs (1 rushing, 1 receiving) on 10 offensive touches.

How Serious is Jerome Simpson’s Injury?
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained the injury situation surrounding Jerome Simpson on Monday during his customary day-after-the-game press conference. While Frazier’s discussion of the situation provided some clarity on what happened over the course of last Sunday, the discussion did not provide clarity on Simpson’s status for this Sunday. In fairness, much was still to be learned even for the Vikings as of Monday, as Simpson was scheduled to undergo more tests.

So as the Vikings begin on-field preparations for the Redskins on Wednesday, there seems to be more ambiguity than clarity on Simpson’s status. Perhaps Frazier will clear the air after the team’s morning walk-thru on Wednesday. Or maybe not. That’s why it’s a storyline to watch this week.

Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris Pace Powerful Ground Attacks
One of the storylines to watch we identified in last week’s Vikings-Titans matchup was that of the pending showdown between Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, two of the most explosive and productive running backs of the past 5 seasons or so. As Johnson continues to labor through a second consecutive substandard season, including just 24 yards on 15 carries against the Vikings, it turns out that a better RB vs. RB matchup will unfold in Washington D.C. this Sunday.

We know who the Vikings have in their corner. Peterson says he’s still a touch shy of being 100% back to form, but he looks to be the same explosive, powerful and shifty playmaker he’s been for the Vikings since 2007. But it appears the Redskins have a star-in-the-making at RB as well in rookie Alfred Morris. Credit Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan for once again finding a diamond-in-the-rough runner in the late rounds of the draft. Morris, a 6th-round pick out of Florida Atlantic this year, ranks 2nd in the NFC and 4th in the NFL with 491 rushing yards, has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the last two weeks and averages an impressive 4.9 yards per carry for the season.

Expect the Vikings to make stopping Morris in his tracks their top priority on defense this week.

Can Vikings Find Continued Success With Defensive Line Rotation?
In somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion but also with a fair amount of sincerity, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams compared his plan for a defensive line rotation to the liberal substitution patterns of hockey teams, where 3-4 players may come off the ice simultaneously to be replaced by players with fresh legs. It caused some consternation at the time, with the worry being that the Vikings best defensive linemen would be off the field at important times.

As it turns out, though, Williams’ strategy is working. The rotation has produced results, from starters as well as reserves. Yes, non-starters such as Christian Ballard, Fred Evans and Everson Griffen are playing more and are producing. But the Vikings four starters along the line are playing well, too. Jared Allen ranks tied for 1st on the team in sacks with Griffen and tied for 2nd on the team in tackles for loss with three others; Kevin Williams has a TFL, fumble recovery, 8 QB hits and 3 pass break-ups (PBUs); Letroy Guion has 2.0 sacks and 3.0 TFLs. The list goes on. And so will the rotation strategy. The question is: Will it continue to work this week against the Redskins?

Josh Robinson Earning More Playing Time
The record from last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans will show that Josh Robinson was a starter at CB for the Vikings along with Chris Cook. Are the Vikings phasing out CB Antoine Winfield? No, Winfield is actually in the midst of a productive season. The 14-year veteran is 2nd on the team in tackles with 41, he has 4.0 TFLs, 6 PBUs and 1 INT. Winfield is playing well and will remain a key part of the defense this season. But Robinson will, too. The 3rd-round rookie is proving to Vikings coaches and scouts that he belongs on the field.

The 5-10, 199-pound CB has 28 tackles on the season, including 15 in the last two games. Robinson also has 5 PBUs already – only 4 Vikings had that many PBUs all of last season. The Vikings pass defense is much improved from a season ago – they’ve improved 13 spots in passing yards allowed and 20 spots in passer rating allowed – and Robinson is a big reason for the improvement.

Don’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup again in Washington, and don’t be surprised if he continues to make a profound impact for the Vikings secondary.

The Vikings and Redskins Becoming Quite Familiar Foes
Sunday’s meeting between the Vikings and Redskins will mark their third in as many seasons during the regular season. It’s also interesting to note that these two organizations worked together at this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Leslie Frazier and his staff coached the North squad against a South squad that featured Shanahan and the Redskins staff.

Furthermore, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave once coached for the Redskins (1995) and he played under Shanahan in San Francisco and Denver. Also, Redskins DBs coach Raheem Morris coached with Vikings DBs coach Joe Woods from 2004-05 in Tampa Bay.

The familiarity extends to the players as well. A pair of Redskins DBs – CB Cedric Griffin and S Madieu Williams – spent time with the Vikings. Griffin was a 2nd-round pick of the Vikings in 2006 and played 80 games (70 starts) in 6 seasons. Williams played for the Vikings from 2008-10 and appeared in 39 games (38 starts). Vikings WR Devin Aromashodu spent the majority of the 2008 season on the Redskins practice squad.

Kicking Highs and Lows
The Vikings and Redskins are going through opposite experiences with their situation at kicker. The Vikings selected theirs with a 6th-round pick last April and he’s come through in a huge way, converting 12 of 13 FGs (3 of 3 from 50+ yards) and blasting 17 touchbacks in 27 kickoffs (Vikings had 19 touchbacks all of last year). The Redskins, on the other hand, just released their kicker – Billy Cundiff – after he went 7 of 12 on FGs to being the season. To replace Cundiff, the Redskins signed Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent out of UCLA and spent time with Dallas and Tampa Bay before joining Washington.

One thing to keep in mind on this topic: this will be Walsh’s first regular season game kicking outdoors. The Vikings have played three games inside the friendly confines of Mall of America Field, and their two road games have been indoors as well – at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and Detroit’s Ford Field.

Adrian Peterson Returns to Site of Knee Injury
This is a storyline that has no real practical implications on the Vikings-Redskins matchup, but I’m not sure that anyone close to Adrian Peterson or anyone who was watching these teams play last year can avoid thinking about it. The last time we saw Peterson at FedEx Field, he was writhing in pain on the playing surface like a wounded animal after a Redskins defender crashed into and severely injured his left knee.

The injury happened on Christmas Eve. Just over 8 months later, Peterson opened the 2012 regular season in the Vikings starting lineup, capping a remarkable rehabilitation that began immediately after the injury and wouldn’t have been possible without Peterson’s unmatched determination to improve and tremendous support from the Vikings medical staff. And 9 months later, Peterson is set to return to FedEx Field in an attempt to help his team record its 5th win on the young season.

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