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Winfield’s Influence Not Lost On Alan Williams, Teammates

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 18, 2012 – 11:16 am

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield missed 11 games in 2011 due to injury. The Vikings defense finished the season ranked last in passer rating allowed, third-last in points allowed, 28th in passing yards allowed and 21st in total defense.

Winfield has played in every game this season. The Vikings defense has made significant improvement in each of those categories, jumping up 17 spots in points allowed and passer rating allowed, 13 spots in yards allowed and 12 spots in passing yards allowed.

It’s no coincidence that the improvement corresponded with Winfield’s return. Certainly other factors have contributed to the defense’s improvement, such as an infusion of youth into the group, a defensive line rotation that is keeping starters fresh through the game, LB Chad Greenway leading the League in tackling, plus more. But Winfield’s presence in the lineup ranks up near the top when it comes to reasons the Vikings defense has improved this season.

Through 6 games, Winfield is 2nd on the team with 50 tackles, 3rd in pass breakups and 1st in both tackles for loss (7.0) and INTs (2). His best performance of the season came last week in Washington, where he led the team with 9 tackles, had 3.0 TFLs and registered an INT.

While meeting with reporters on Thursday, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said that’s “as good as I’ve seen anyone play in a long time.”

As mentioned above, a big reason for the Vikings big improvement on defense this season has been the play of younger players. Williams pointed out that Winfield has made a positive impact on those young players.

“It has a huge impact,” Williams said of Winfield’s leadership on the defense. “It’s good because he’s an older guy that comes out to practice, the way he prepares, the way he practices, the way he goes about his business, you look at him and say, ‘You know what? That’s what a professional looks like. That’s how a professional prepares. And these are the results of the way a guy prepares.’ I think it has an impact, not just on the young guys, but the older guys, too.”

What They Say
Williams pointed out that both young and veteran players respect Winfield as a leader. A pair of defensive starters supported Williams’ assertion.

After the team’s Week 2 loss to Indianapolis, Winfield felt compelled to speak to the team. His message was heard loud and clear.

“He’s one of the leaders on the team, the oldest guy on the team, so what he had to say was very pertinent,” DE Jared Allen said. “We’ll leave it at that. What’s said in that team room is for our ears only. But it was good.”

Rookie S Harrison Smith spoke about his respect for the 14-year veteran, too.

“There’s not one guy on this team who doesn’t respect Antoine and look to him for how he does things,” Smith said. “So when he tells us what he sees, we’re going to listen with the understanding that he knows best.”


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Jerome Simpson On Track To Play Sunday?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 18, 2012 – 5:51 am

When healthy and playing in games, WR Jerome Simpson has been a productive player for the Vikings. Against the Detroit Lions in Week 4, he was the team’s leading receiver with 4 receptions for 50 yards, plus he drew a pair of pass interference penalties downfield that led to scores.

The only problem is that’s really the only game Simpson was healthy and on the field. He missed the first three games due to a suspension, returned for Week 4, and then woke up with leg numbness/weakness the morning of the Vikings Week 5 contest against Tennessee. The leg condition limited Simpson’s impact in the Titans game, and it subsequently limited him in practice all week leading up to last Sunday’s game in Washington.

Simpson was listed as questionable for the Redskins game, but made the trip with his teammates and was hopeful of being in the lineup. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier decided against it, though, and instead deactivated him for the game. The Vikings could’ve used some extra juice in the passing game against the Redskins, and Simpson is capable of providing it.

“Just that Thursday and Friday when he worked, I just, even in talking with him, realized he couldn’t push off the way he wanted to,” Frazier said on Wednesday. “He wasn’t comfortable mentally completely with where he was. Just wanted to be smart, give him a little bit more time. It’s a long season, and he feels good today (Wednesday) and that’s good sign, so we’ll see how he does in practice.”

Simpson did well in practice, at least according to the injury report. He was listed as a full participant in practice, a status he never accomplished last week while preparing to play the Redskins. Being a full participant in practice on Wednesday is a big first step in being given the green light to play on Sunday. But work remains, coaches and the Vikings medical staff will be curious to see how Simpson’s body responds to the first day of practice.

“Oh, no question,” Frazier responded when asked if he was still looking for a step forward from Simpson this week in practice. “Don’t want to put him in a situation where you feel like he can’t protect himself or do the things he needs to do to play at the level he wants to play at and that we want him to play at, for sure.

“He says he’s fine so he’ll get a chance to practice today (Wednesday) and go through everything so we’ll reassess it after practice, but he feels like he’s ready to go.”

While Frazier and the Vikings demonstrated last week that they won’t take any chances with a player’s health by putting him in a game before he’s ready, the sense coming from Winter Park on Wednesday is that Simpson came a step closer to being in the lineup this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. No one is making any promises yet, but so far the indications are good.

“I hope so,” Frazier said. “As I mentioned on Monday, he’s a competitor, he’s a guy who wants to be out there and we want him out there as well. He’s a weapon that we sorely would love to have on the field. He has big-play capability and we want to utilize his abilities.”


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Vikings Fans Encouraged to Help Tackle Hunger This Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 18, 2012 – 5:44 am

Vikings coaches and players will be hard at work on Sunday at Mall of America Field trying to defeat the Arizona Cardinals and move to 5-2 on the season. Before the game, though, the Vikings are encouraging fans to help them team with UnitedHealthcare in the effort to defeat hunger.

The Vikings and UnitedHealthcare will host a Food & Fund Drive before this Sunday’s game. UnitedHealthcare volunteers will greet fans attending the game at all entrances to Mall of America Field and will collect food and funds for Second Harvest Heartland to help in the fight against hunger in the heartland. Donated foods can include non-perishable and non-breakable items such as canned soups, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned meat, boxed pasta, rice, and peanut butter.

Hunger has doubled in Second Harvest Heartland’s service area over the past five years. Today, more than half a million men, women, children, and seniors in Minnesota miss an estimated 100 million meals every year.

The Vikings Food & Fund Drive is part of UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer initiative, a national effort to prevent hunger, diabetes and obesity. For more information on UnitedHealthcare and its “Do Good. Live Well.” campaign, visit www.dogoodlivewell.org. For more information on Second Harvest Heartland, visit www.2harvest.org.

Kluwe Kicks In
For the second year, members of the Vikings and 180 volunteers from UnitedHealthcare provided “double coverage” in the fight against hunger in the heartland by teaming up to pack food for hungry Minnesotans. The event, which supports Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger relief organization, is also a part of UnitedHealthcare’s Do Good. Live Well. employee volunteer initiative.

Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders, Viktor the Viking, executives and players, including Chris Kluwe, were joined by the UnitedHealthcare volunteers and representatives from Second Harvest Heartland for the event.


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