Rick Spielman may prefer to and excel at building his team through the draft. But the Vikings GM has illustrated this year that he also views free agency as an important vehicle to improving his roster. We’re not even a week into the New League Year, and the Vikings have already been one of the NFL’s most active teams when it comes to shuffling the roster and making improvements.
Here’s a quick look at what the Vikings have done so far, and what might be next…
Got Jennings? Vikings do
The Vikings finished the 2012 regular season with the 31st-ranked passing offense, so during the offseason you can be sure that adding talented pass-catchers will be atop the priority list. To that end, the Vikings have already taken a huge step forward by signing WR Greg Jennings. After being a thorn in the Vikings side for the past 7 seasons, Jennings will now be a helping hand to Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and QB Christian Ponder. The signing of Jennings was met with wild excitement from a Vikings fan base that has watched the former Packers pass-catcher torch them for 63 receptions and 10 TDs in 15 games vs. the Purple.
Loadholt, other UFAs re-signed
Spielman is asked every year what his priority will be in free agency. And every year he responds by saying that re-signing his own free agents is atop his wish list. Early in this year’s free agency, Spielman attacked that wish list. The focal point of that effort was re-signing RT Phil Loadholt, and the Vikings got the job done. Aside from Loadholt, the Vikings were also able to reach agreements with 5 of their other 6 unrestricted free agents (UFAs), including: OL Joe Berger, Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton, LB Erin Henderson, S Jamarca Sanford and WR Jerome Simpson.
In what may go down as one of this year’s more notable moves across the NFL, the Vikings traded WR Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, and for doing so received three draft picks – a 1st-rounder (#25) and 7th-rounder this year, and a 3rd-rounder next year. The trade gives the Vikings 11 selections in this year’s draft, including 6 in the first 4 rounds. If the Vikings use both 1st-rounders next month, it will mark the second consecutive year they’ll net a pair of 1st-round picks in a draft. That’s a good way to improve the talent level on your roster.
In a move that is a great illustration of the type of difficult decisions NFL franchises have to make each year, the Vikings released CB Antoine Winfield. At first blush it seems like a startling move, but given Winfield’s salary and given some of the team’s other priorities, it was a decision that was in the best interests of the franchise. It may have set the stage for the Loadholt re-signing and/or the Vikings ability to go out and get Jennings to help the passing game. Spielman did say that the team is open to Winfield returning at some point this offseason.
Calling for backup – Cassel signed
On the same day the Vikings made a big splash in signing Jennings, they also secured another QB to add to the mix behind starter Christian Ponder. The Kansas City Chiefs released Matt Cassel, and the Vikings immediately swooped in to pick him up. Cassel is an experienced passer in the NFL (62 starts) who was Tom Brady’s backup in New England when the Patriots went 16-0 and advanced to the Super Bowl in 2007. Also, when asked to play, Cassel has responded. He guided the Patriots to an 11-5 record after Brady went down with a knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season and he was also a Pro Bowler as the Chiefs starter in 2010, passing for 27 TDs and authoring a passer rating of 93.0.
In other developments, the Vikings tendered restricted free agent (RFA) CB AJ Jefferson, so he is set to return for 2013. WR Michael Jenkins was cut and earlier in February the Vikings signed former CFL standout CB Roderick Williams.
– The only UFA the Vikings weren’t able to re-sign was middle LB Jasper Brinkley, who has subsequently signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings could look to free agency to fill that spot, they could wait until the draft to find a middle LB, they could rely on Audie Cole to win that job, or they could enact one or more of those possibilities in combination.
– Looking at the roster right now compared to the roster at this time of the year in 2012, the Vikings are at or above capacity at most spots on the roster. There are two exceptions: offensive tackle and running back. Last year at this time, the Vikings had 6 running backs and right now they have 5. Last year at this time the Vikings had 5 offensive tackles and this year they have 4. Of course the Vikings could wait until the draft to fill the voids in each spot, they could find a free agent on the open market, or they could do both.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Antoine Winfield, Audie Cole, Christian Ponder, Erin Henderson, Greg Jennings, Jamarca Sanford, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Joe Berger, Matt Cassel, Phil Loadholt, Rick Spielman, Roderick Williams
Posted in All | 201 Comments »
The first day of the New League Year did not disappoint. It was a hectic day full of signings, reports of signings, cuts, trades and roster shuffling. The Vikings were in on the mix for much of it. Here’s a rundown of what the Vikings accomplished on Tuesday, with another busy day possibly in store for the organization on Wednesday…
– The Percy Harvin trade was finalized. After 4 seasons of receptions, returns and runs for the Vikings, Harvin was shipped to Seattle in exchange for a 1st-round pick and a 7th-round pick in April’s draft plus a 3rd-round pick in the 2013 NFL. That’s a nice haul for the Vikings, who now have 11 selections in this year’s draft and will have a pair of 1st-round picks in back-to-back seasons (Matt Kalil-Harrison Smith in 2012, #23 and #25 overall in 2013).
– Phil Loadholt re-signed with the Vikings and is looking to “finish what we started in Minnesota.” Securing Loadholt allows the Vikings to carry continuity along the offensive line into the 2013 season, as all 5 starters from last year will return in 2013. The average age of the 5 starters is just 25.8 years old.
– While investing in youth by securing three more draft choices and re-signing Loadholt, the Vikings parted (for now) with 15-year veteran CB Antoine Winfield. It was a hard decision, said Vikings GM Rick Spielman, but one the team made with the best interest of the team in mind. Spielman did not rule out a return for Winfield to the roster.
– Spielman was asked about a report that the team and TE John Carlson restructured the contract they agreed to a year ago, but the Vikings GM declined to get into specifics of the restructurings.
– Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton, LB Erin Henderson, special teams ace and safety Jamarca Sanford, and WR Jerome Simpson all used Twitter to announce that they’ve reached deals to remain with the Vikings. Reports also surfaced on Tuesday that OL Joe Berger re-signed with the Vikings. No official word yet from the club, but this is good news given how much of a priority Spielman and the Vikings front office put on re-signing their own free agents.
– Spielman described the Vikings as being “in good shape” from a salary cap standpoint even after reportedly re-signing 6 of their own free agents, including what figures to be a significant multi-year deal for the road-grading Loadholt. Great work by the Vikings front office.
– Agree with him or disagree (I agree with him), Spielman is steadfast in his opinion of how to best build a roster that can sustain long-term success – through the draft and by retention of core players. Free agency has a place, no question, but it’s a limited place. This quote from Spielman during his press conference on Tuesday sums up the philosophy well: “Well we think we’re going to compete next year, there’s no doubt about that because we were a playoff team last year. By keeping your own and continuing to build through the draft and the success we’ve had the last couple of years with this draft and feel very strong about this draft class coming up, that that’s the approach and philosophy that we believed in and it’s showing that we are having success with that philosophy.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Erin Henderson, Jamarca Sanford, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson, Joe Berger, Phil Loadholt, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 58 Comments »
Free agency is about to begin and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year, let’s take a look back at the best (modern) free agent signings in franchise history.
Here’s a list of the Top 10 (year signed), with honorable mentions at the bottom.
Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…
10. Ben Leber (2006)
Leber is a great example of a free agent who provided his team with outstanding value relative to the contract he signed. A starter for 5 seasons at outside LB for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked 1st against the run for 3 straight seasons (2006-08) and that helped the franchise capture back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 as well as an appearance in the NFC title game following the ‘09 season.
9. Jeff Christy (1993)
A 4th-round pick of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992, Christy was eventually cut and missed that season. Phoenix’s trash was the Vikings treasure, as Christy played 7 seasons in Minnesota and was a key cog on an offensive line that in 1998 blocked for one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Christy was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season 5 times as a Viking.
8. Gary Anderson (1998)
In just 5 seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise’s all-time scoring list and still ranks 6th. He had a perfect regular season in 1998, helping the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2000, Anderson surpassed the legendary George Blanda to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (he now ranks 2nd).
7. Darren Sharper (2005)
One of the most prolific ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, Sharper jumped state lines in 2005 and joined the Vikings for 4 productive seasons. During his Vikings career, Sharper was an All-Pro twice and he tallied 18 INTs and 3 TDs.
6. Pat Williams (2005)
One half of the famed “Williams Wall” that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams finished his 14-year NFL career with 6 great seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense, and Williams was a key contributor in that effort.
5. Randall Cunningham (1997)
Out of football for a year in 1996, Cunningham joined the Vikings in ‘97 and displayed no signs of rust. He enjoyed the greatest season of his career as a Viking in 1998, guiding the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season record with 34 TDs and only 10 INTs. Among QBs with 20+ starts, Cunningham has the 2nd-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-TD campaign in ‘98 still ranks 2nd all-time in club history.
4. Ryan Longwell (2006)
As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of 2 division winning teams during his 6 years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked 3rd in all-time scoring. Blair Walsh began to rewrite the Vikings record book for kickers, and much of what he’s rewritten only validates how productive Longwell was for the Vikings. Longwell ranks 1st in Vikings history with 9 game-winning FGs.
3. Steve Hutchinson (2006)
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his 6 seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned 4 of his 7 career Pro Bowls with the Vikings, and he was an invaluable part of Vikings offenses that featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his seasons in Minnesota.
2. Brett Favre (2009)
After torturing the Vikings for 16 seasons as a member of the Packers, Favre joined the Purple in 2009 and had arguably his best season with 33 TDs and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. Favre was the difference between a team that went 10-6/one-and-done in the playoffs following the 2008 season and a team that went 12-4 and was on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance.
1. Antoine Winfield (2004)
An easy selection at #1, Winfield has been the rare blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He has played in 119 games over 9 seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. Twice he’s recorded a single-season team record for tackles by a CB (110) and he now holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a DB with 11 and ranks tied for 2nd in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a DB. Winfield has also scored all 5 of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.
Honorable mention: Jerry Ball, Bernard Berrian, Greg Biekert, Corey Chavous, Jack Del Rio, Jerome Felton, Lance Johnstone, Fuad Reveiz, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor
Tags: 2013 Free Agency, Antoine Winfield, Ben Leber, Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre, Chester Taylor, Darren Sharper, Jerome Felton, Pat Williams, Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 982 Comments »
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman met with reporters on Thursday and one of the disclosures he made was that the team voted on its MVPs. This has been an annual ritual for the team the past several seasons, with a MVP being named on defense, offense and special teams. The awards are voted on by Vikings coaches and players.
Chad Greenway was named the defensive MVP, Adrian Peterson was named the offensive MVP and Blair Walsh was named the special teams MVP. Greenway and Peterson recorded career-highs in tackles and rushing yards, respectively, and Walsh was arguably the NFL’s best kicker.
Spielman also said the team would announce its rookie of the year in April following this year’s draft at a special event. Who would you vote for as the Vikings Rookie of the Year for 2012? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
Previous Team MVPs
2006: Antoine Winfield, Chester Taylor, Heath Farwell
2007: EJ Henderson, Adrian Peterson, Heath Farwell
2008: Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Longwell
2009: Jared Allen, Brett Favre, Ryan Longwell
2010: Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, Chris Kluwe
2011: Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Eric Frampton
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 160 Comments »
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Frazier meets with reporters multiple times per week during the regular season, but Tuesday’s press conference represents the last of these regular meetings of the 2012 season. Frazier will, of course, speak with reporters during the offseason, but this is the last extensive question-and-answer session he’ll have until most likely the Scouting Combine in late February.
Here are several notes and quotes from Frazier’s end-of-season press conference…
Proud of his team
The Vikings fell short of their ultimate team goal – winning the Super Bowl. But they accomplished many other goals throughout the 2012 regular season, including collecting enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2009. For that, and for other unstated reasons, Frazier said he was proud of this year’s team.
“I’m very, very proud of our football team and what they accomplished this season,” Frazier said. “Our guys worked extremely hard going all the way back to April 23 when they came back into the building to really set a foundation for this 2012 season. Because of their hard work, we were able to secure a playoff berth. The foundation has been set for our team, without question.
“Our core identities showed up. The traits that we talked about throughout the year…being a tough, smart, disciplined football team. It was exemplified through this group of young men.”
Developing a young roster
I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the team until Frazier referenced it during his press conference, but 22 of the 53 players currently on the Vikings roster are listed as being in their 1st or 2nd season. It’s impressive that this team played so well so late in the season and qualified for the postseason with so many young players and so many young players at important positions.
Frazier credited his coaching staff for the work they did in developing young players and he also expressed gratitude to his veteran players for their leadership roles as well.
Frazier also said he didn’t anticipate changes to his coaching staff, barring any promotions some of them may receive.
Dome-field advantage is back
Frazier has said many times in the past that he understands how difficult an environment Mall of America Field can be for opposing teams. He mentioned it once again during Tuesday’s press conference, expressing appreciation for the support of Vikings fans and for the noise the crowd creates in the Vikings home stadium.
“I think for any team that comes to Mall of America Field, our goal going into the season, we wanted to make it extremely difficult for anybody to think that they could come here and win. Our guys, they got that done. To go 7-1 at home, with the support we got from our fans, that was a big deal for our success during the season.”
Frazier listed DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and P Chris Kluwe (left knee) as players who will likely undergo surgeries for ailments. He also listed LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder), RB Adrian Peterson (core muscle), QB Christian Ponder (triceps) and CB Antoine Winfield (hand) as players also dealing with injuries, but he didn’t indicate surgery would be needed for any of those players. Overall, none of the injuries should impact any of those players’ ability to participate minicamps, training camp or the 2013 regular season, according to Frazier.
Ponder is the Vikings starter going forward
Frazier was asked a series of questions about the team’s quarterback situation. He was unequivocal in saying that Ponder would be the team’s starter going into the offseason. He was vaguer about the depth chart after Ponder, saying Joe Webb would compete for the backup job behind Ponder and also mentioning McLeod Bethel-Thompson as someone who was involved in the team’s plans. Beyond that, Frazier wisely pointed out that it’s hard to prognosticate what will happen at that position – or any position – at this point in the offseason.
Futures for Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield have been productive players for the Vikings for many seasons, and both were vital components to the defensive effort in 2012. But both guys are also quite long in the tooth, with Williams having completed his 10th season and Winfield having completed his 14th. As it stands right now, though, it sounds like Frazier would love to have both guys return for the 2013 season.
“The intangible in this is a big deal when you’re trying to get the locker room the way you want it,” Frazier explained. “And both Antoine and Kevin are guys who have achieved a lot in our League, a lot of success. So to have star players with the demeanor and leadership qualities that they both possess, helped our football team in 2012, there’s no question about it.
“Would love to have those guys on our team going forward. That’s something we’re going to talk about when we have our personnel meetings with (General Manager) Rick (Spielman) and our personnel department. Just talk about their fit going forward. But from my vantage point, very appreciative of the leadership they provided this season, what they’ve meant in my time here in Minnesota, and I want them to remain Minnesota Vikings. They are great, great players and great people as well.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Chris Kluwe, Christian Ponder, Jared Allen, Joe Webb, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Rick Spielman, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 182 Comments »
The anticipation and build-up is nearly over. Game time is approaching. The 3rd matchup in 5 weeks between the Vikings and Packers is upon us, and this one means everything. It’s just the 2nd postseason game ever between these two clubs. It’s win or go home.
I’ll be joining the Vikings Radio Network pre-game show about 40 minutes before kickoff to help the guys preview this game. Prior to me joining the show, all the main subplots will surely be addressed. Do the Vikings have an answer for Aaron Rodgers? Do the Packers have an answer for Adrian Peterson? How will Joe Webb play as the team’s starter? So my focus will be on some of the other subplots in this game – subplots that may not be talked about as much, but will still have an impact on this game.
Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ll talk about when I join host Mike Mussman on the Vikings Radio Network…
– We saw the Vikings defensive coaching staff draw up creative game plans to defeat St. Louis and Houston. They used zone blitzes, linebacker pressures and defensive back blitzes to generate pressure on opposing passers. What can Leslie Frazier’s staff do tonight to Green Bay that represents a new wrinkle?
– A big part of the Vikings defensive effort will be Antoine Winfield’s inclusion. He will be key to defending the pass, but I think he’s a huge part of defending the run, too. The Vikings don’t want to let Green Bay run the ball. Rodgers is good enough the way it is, if Green Bay can keep the Vikings off-balance, look out.
– Matt Kalil vs. Clay Matthews. This was a good matchup last week. Whenever these two are lined up across from one another, it’s a fun one to watch. I thought Matthews had the edge early in last week’s game, but then Kalil settled down and the Vikings were able to operate without Matthews blowing things up.
– Ball control and field position important for the Vikings. The Vikings did win a shootout over this explosive Packers team last week, but I don’t expect the Vikings to initiate a shootout tonight. I think the Vikings would benefit from a lower-possession game, a game that is a battle over field position and a game in which points are at a premium.
– The Vikings kickoff and punt coverage groups leaked yardage last week. That can’t happen tonight. The Packers are good enough offensively. To give Rodgers and Co. a short field tonight will make for a long night.
– The two X-factors tonight are Everson Griffen for the Vikings and Charles Woodson for the Packers. Griffen had 3.0 sacks in last week’s win over Green Bay and he has a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Green Bay must find a way to block him. Woodson returns to action from a broken collarbone tonight. He’s missed 9 games because of the injury, but now he’s ready to go. The guy is a future Hall of Famer, so the Vikings must be aware of him.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Everson Griffen, Leslie Frazier, Matt Kalil
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 737 Comments »
The performance of young players on the roster has been a vital part of the Vikings success in 2012. Rookies Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh have been outstanding performers week-in and week-out. Everson Griffen registered a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Kyle Rudolph was 2nd among all NFL TEs with 9 TDs. Christian Ponder played his best game in the season’s biggest moment.
But now, with a postseason matchup against Green Bay just two days away, a few Vikings veterans are stepping up to the plate to provide leadership and perspective to the entire team.
Jared Allen, who had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s win and has registered 16.0 sacks in 11 games against the Packers, is one of the leaders equipped to set the postseason tone. Since arriving in Minnesota via trade in 2008, Allen has helped the Vikings reach the playoffs 3 times in 5 seasons. In that time, he has been one of the team’s most productive players as well. His 12.0-sack season in 2012 gives him 6 straight seasons of 10+ sacks, and 5 of those seasons have come as a Viking. Only one player (DeMarcus Ware – 77.5) has more sacks than Allen’s 74.0 since 2008, and no NFL player has more sacks than Allen’s 117.0 since he entered the League in 2004.
On Wednesday while meeting with reporters, Allen was asked what his memories were of the last time he appeared in a postseason game – the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season.
“I thought I was going to the Super Bowl, then that got ripped away from us. So, bad memories I guess, because we lost, but still it’s fun, that will always be a game that I cherish,” Allen acknowledged. “It helps you realize how important this opportunity is. I think that is what we have been trying to convey to the guys that haven’t been to the playoffs, the young guys on the team, is that this opportunity doesn’t come around often.
“This is my ninth year in the league and this is I think my fourth playoff appearance, so the odds of getting back aren’t certain and they aren’t always skewed in the positive direction. So guys take advantage of this opportunity. The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen. You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.”
Adrian Peterson offered a similar message when asked about the loss in the NFC title game.
“Well, it definitely wasn’t good memories,” Peterson said. “One game away from the Super Bowl and you lose, so I don’t ever want to have to relive that feeling again.”
Asked if he thought it would take this long to make a return to the postseason, Peterson was candid.
“I didn’t at all,” he said. “That’s why you really can’t take things for granted because making it to the post-season is extremely hard.”
Peterson is in the prime of his career. He’s not a young buck anymore, but he hasn’t been around as long as some of his senior teammates such as Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield. So his perspective is an interesting one when it comes to assessing whether or not this team’s leadership is effective in sending the right message.
“The veteran guys have always been leaders, but this year it’s been more vocal,” Peterson explained. “Having a lot of young guys here that can play ball, and the guys that I call veterans, Antoine and Kevin and Jared, those guys are able to see that. In tough times they came up and called the team together and shared their thoughts. I’m sure they know that their time is starting to come to an end, they know how hard it is to get to the post-season so they want to take advantage of that opportunity. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of guys step up and lead in different ways this year.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 37 Comments »
Another great chapter in the Vikings-Packers border battle will unfold this weekend at Lambeau Field, as the two franchises meet in the Wild Card round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. This is a matchup that sells itself, but while we count down the hours until these teams square-off once again, let’s go over 6 of the Vikings-Packers storylines we’ll be watching this week…
1. Border Battle Moves To The Postseason
The third meeting in five weeks between border rivals Minnesota and Green Bay will take place in the postseason. Remarkably, this is only the second time these two clubs have met in the postseason, with the Vikings winning the first matchup 31-17 as underdogs at Lambeau Field. Saturday night’s game marks the third time in five weeks the Vikings and Packers will square off, and it also marks the 27th playoff season and 46th playoff game in Vikings history.
2. Does Green Bay Have An Answer For Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson had a historic season in 2012, and his performances against the Packers were a significant reason why. Peterson rushed for 409 yards and 2 TDs in 2 games against Green Bay, averaging 7.4 yards per carry on 55 attempts and putting up huge totals of 210 yards at Lambeau Field in Week 13 and 199 yards on a career-high 34 carries in Week 17. Green Bay has proven they can yield a huge number of rushing yards to Peterson and still win – they defeated the Vikings in Week 13 – but you can be sure Green Bay would rather not sweat it out like that. Can the Packers come up with an answer for Peterson? It’s a fun subplot to watch.
3. Can Vikings Contain Aaron Rodgers, Packers Passing Game?
In similar fashion to how Peterson gives the Packers trouble, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Vikings. In 2012, Rodgers completed 73.3% of his passes against the Vikings for an average of 325.5 yards per game and a TD-INT ratio of 5-1. The Vikings defense did a great job against Rodgers and Co. in the 1st quarter of last week’s game, forcing them to punt three times in three possessions. But after that, Rodgers caught fire and led the Packers to 4 TDs and 2 FGs in the Packers final 8 series. It’s hard to expect the Vikings defense to play for the whole game this Saturday the way they played in the 1st quarter on Sunday, but there has to be some kind of balance the Vikings can strike between the two for the duration of Saturday night’s game that can hold the Packers offense at bay.
4. Winfield’s Status Remains Uncertain
A big part of the Vikings effort to slow down the Packers passing game is the presence of CB Antoine Winfield. Unfortunately, whether or not Winfield will be able to play this weekend is a big question mark. Winfield injured his hand in the Vikings Week 16 win at Houston. He was able to start last week’s game against Green Bay, but was unable to finish the game because of the hand injury. Winfield was held out of practice on Tuesday, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said his top CB’s status would be a day-to-day situation all week.
5. Plenty Of Names To Watch On This Week’s Injury Report
Outside of Winfield, there are plenty of names to watch on this week’s injury report – for both teams. The Vikings will monitor shoulder injuries for a pair of starters – DE Brian Robison and S Harrison Smith. Special teams standout Tyrone McKenzie also has a shoulder injury. Peterson has been dealing with an abdomen injury, both WR Jerome Simpson and C John Sullivan were shaken up for a moment during last week’s game, and RT Phil Loadholt has been listed with a knee injury in recent weeks.
For the Packers, there’s plenty of good news on the injury front. WR Randall Cobb is expected to return, which could give Rodgers his full complement of receivers because Greg Jennings is healthy and Jordy Nelson is expected to play. Future Hall of Fame DB Charles Woodson has been cleared for a return to practice from a broken collarbone, LB Clay Matthews left but returned to the last week’s game and will play on Saturday and run-stopper CJ Wilson appears to have come out of last week’s game okay.
6. Freezing Forecast Set For Saturday Night
The weather.com forecast for Green Bay on Saturday shows a high of 26 degrees and a low of 15 degrees for the day, with snow possible and winds predicted to come from the west at 15 mph. It’s not the coldest we’ve seen Lambeau Field, but it’s the coldest game of the season for the Vikings and the elements will definitely be a factor in the game.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Jerome Simpson, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Tyrone McKenzie
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 86 Comments »
The Vikings emerged from Sunday’s border battle season finale with a huge win and a berth in the postseason. For the most part, the Vikings also got out of Sunday’s game looking good on the injury front, too. Here are a few notes on injuries for both the Vikings and Green Bay Packers as they begin preparations this week for Saturday’s Wild Card round showdown…
– It appears the biggest injury concern for the Vikings will be CB Antoine Winfield. He injured his hand two weeks ago but was able to play in Sunday’s contest against Green Bay. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish the game. Winfield left midway through the game and was not able to return, which raises question about whether he’ll be able to play in 5 days when the two teams battle once again in what will surely be frigid conditions at Lambeau Field. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with Antoine [Winfield], we’ll see how he does throughout the week,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “He was in quite a bit of pain yesterday, so we’ll have to see how he does during the week and make a decision maybe later on.”
– S Harrison Smith left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, but Frazier said he was able to return to the game. It’s expected that Smith will not be a full participant in practice all week, but there’s optimism that Smith will be ready to play on Saturday night.
– Adrian Peterson was listed on the injury report with an abdomen injury last week. But it looks as if he came out of Sunday’s game in pretty good shape. Frazier said that Peterson reported feeling better after the Packers game than he felt a day after the Houton Texans game a week earlier.
– DE Brian Robison missed the December 23 game in Houston because of a shoulder injury, but was able to start and finish Sunday’s game against Green Bay. Frazier said Robison should be available for Saturday’s rematch with the Packers.
– Late in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, the Packers lost DL Jerel Worthy to a leg injury. He was carted off the field and, according to this report from packersnews.com, left the locker room on crutches and in a full leg brace. Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy has not yet provided an update on Worthy’s status for Saturday.
– Green Bay held out WR Randall Cobb (ankle) and DB Charles Woodson (collarbone) on Sunday, but there’s a good chance both will return on Saturday. There’s nearly a 100% chance Cobb will return, in fact, and that’s big news for Green Bay because he’s a top-flight returner and he’s also the team’s leader in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receptions of 20+ yards. As for Woodson, he’s misssed 10 weeks because of the collarbone injury and is still waiting to be cleared for contact. He’s such a saavy veteran, though, that it won’t take him long to get back into the groove once he’s cleared. It won’t be a surprise to see him on the field Saturday.
– Both LB Clay Mathews and WR Jordy Nelson left Sunday’s game at one point or another, but both players are expected to play and start on Saturday.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Harrison Smith, Leslie Frazier
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Future Hall of Fame CB Charles Woodson did not play in the first Vikings-Packers matchup of the season because of a broken collarbone suffered against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. And he won’t play in the second Vikings-Packers matchup, either, because of the injury.
Sunday will mark the 9th game Woodson has missed because of the injury. The Packers were hopeful that Woodson would make his return this week for the season finale, hoping the game would serve as a tune-up for the team’s postseason run.
“We were hopeful this was going to be the game,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is his fourth week now going through practice. I know he’s disappointed. This is a game he’d really like to play in.”
Elsewhere, though, Green Bay is getting healthier. That is especially the case along the defensive line, where starter CJ Wilson returned to practice after missing the past 4 games and rookie DE Jerel Worthy also returned to work after missing last week’s game. Wilson is one of Green Bay’s top run stoppers, and his absence from the first border battle was a plus for Adrian Peterson and the Vikings as they ran up and down Lambeau Field. Worthy is a high-performing member of the DL rotation and one of several contributors from the Packers 2012 draft class.
Green Bay has 13 players listed on its injury report. Listed as out was Woodson. Listed as non-participants in practice were K Mason Crosby, G Josh Sitton and RB James Starks. Listed as limited participants in practice were WR Randall Cobb, G Evan Dietrich-Smith, CB Davon House, Wilson, Worthy and C Jeff Saturday. Full participants were TE Tom Crabtree, RB Alex Green and WR Jordy Nelson.
For the Vikings, DE Jared Allen, RB Adrian Peterson and CB Antoine Winfield did not practice. DE Brian Robison was limited, and P Chris Kluwe, RT Phil Loadholt and CB Marcus Sherels were full participants.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brian Robison, Chris Kluwe, Jared Allen, Marcus Sherels, Phil Loadholt
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