Henderson, Peterson Return To Practice; Sanford Added To Injury Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 29, 2011 – 2:51 pm

Earlier today we discussed the role injuries could play in this week’s Vikings-Chiefs matchup, focusing mostly on the bad luck Kansas City has had with injuries but also touching on the fact that LB E.J. Henderson and RB Adrian Peterson both missed the week’s first practice on Wednesday.

All indications were that both Henderson and Peterson would be fine and available for Sunday, and now there are more positive indications after Thursday’s practice. Both Henderson (knee) and Peterson (calf) were full participants in practice.

A pair of starters in the secondary remained limited participants for Kansas City, with CB Brandon Flowers battling an ankle injury and S Jon McGraw dealing with a shin ailment.

Others news on the Vikings injury report included S Jamarca Sanford being added with a thigh injury; he was a full participant, however. CBs Asher Allen (toe) and Chris Cook (groin) were full participants, DT Kevin Williams (foot) was a full participant and both S Tyrell Johnson (hip) and TE Jim Kleinsasser (elbow) were limited.

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Asher Allen “Should” Be Back Sunday; Sanford Will Start At Safety

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 14, 2011 – 11:04 am

The Vikings secondary help Chargers QB Philip Rivers below his career marks in yards per attempt and passer rating last week in the season opener. They’ll look to do the same thing to Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman this week in the home opener, and a little extra help should be available in that quest.

Asher Allen, an important component in the team’s nickel defense as well as on special teams, was limited in practice all week leading up to the Chargers game and then he didn’t play on Sunday. Allen is dealing with a foot injury, but Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said the CB “should” be able to play this weekend, assuming everything goes according to plan in practice over the next 3-4 days.

“I think he will,” Frazier said when asked if Allen will make it back to the field for Sunday. “We’ve got to see how he does in practice. But from everything I was told leading up to today’s practice, we should have him for this game on Sunday.”

Frazier said the Vikings came out of last weekend’s game pretty healthy and he doesn’t expect at this point that anyone will miss Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay.

Jamarca Sanford will get his second straight start at safety, but Frazier said Tyrell Johnson will rotate in, just as he did last week. Frazier was also asked about the QB depth chart and he said it will remain the same, with Christian Ponder listed as the backup and Webb listed as the #3.

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Johnson, Sanford Continue Battle For Starting Safety Spot

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 30, 2011 – 3:18 pm

QBs Christian Ponder and Joe Webb have rotated starts and shared practice reps and playing time this preseason as the Vikings offensive coaching staff tries to make a determination about which guy will be the backup to veteran Donovan McNabb. The defensive coaching staff has employed a similar tactic in trying to determine who will start with Husain Abdullah at the safety position.

Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford are the two players vying for a starting role in Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac’s scheme and their competition hasn’t yielded an answer, yet. But from the sounds of it, Pagac and the rest of the Vikings coaching staff will be ready to make a decision after Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Houston Texans.

“The guys have been fighting all of camp,” Pagac said. “I think both of them have done an excellent job. Obviously they’re going to continue to fight and we’re going to make a decision after this game. We’ll see how they do and I’ll tell you what, both of them have done a very good job so far.”

While Johnson or Sanford apparently haven’t been able to separate from the competition, it’s at least good news to know that both guys are competing and are playing well enough to remain in consideration for the starting job. Had either or both players been underperforming – and thus the coaching staff unable to name one of them the starter – then we would’ve seen other names emerge as possibilities, such as rookie Mistral Raymond or perhaps a player on the open market.

As it stands, expect both guys to see quite a bit of playing time on Thursday night against Houston. And also don’t be surprised if this is a competition that continues throughout the season, which will increase the level of performance from both players.

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5 Things To Watch Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2011 – 10:44 am

The Vikings will play their second game of the 2011 preseason tonight against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle. Here are five things to watch during tonight’s game…

Improvement from Donovan McNabb, first-team offense
While it might not have satisfied the appetite of Vikings fans, the performance from the first-team offense last week was acceptable for a preseason debut. But a similar performance tonight against Seattle in preseason game #2 will not be acceptable. McNabb and Co. need to take a step forward and they appear ready to do that after a solid week of practice. McNabb is cautiously optimistic about the offense’s progress and we’ll find out tonight if that optimism is warranted. No, we shouldn’t look for perfection, but we should expect to see extended drives, minimal penalties, no turnovers, no sacks and maybe even a TD.

Tyrell Johnson’s performance at safety
There’s been great competition at the safety position during training camp, primarily between Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. But we also can’t count out rookie Mistral Raymond, who has put together a great training camp and is opening eyes. Tonight, Johnson will get the start and it’s important that he plays well. Johnson has all the physical tools to be a talented safety in the NFL. He’s also a smart player who understands the Vikings scheme. Now he needs to put it all together at once while he’s on the field, something he hasn’t been able to do consistently. If he can do that, I believe he’ll be the coaching staff’s choice as the starter. If he can’t do that tonight, then I think it’s a wide open race for the starting position among Johnson, Raymond and Sanford.

Who will step up at WR
Both Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin have been declared out of this game, which means the Vikings coaching staff will get a longer look at a few players who normally wouldn’t see as much action. Both Camarillo and Harvin play primarily in the slot position, so I expect Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson will be the guys who get the extra reps tonight. Both are roster bubble guys and both have recently been playing well. Iglesias has looked great in practice while filling in for Camarillo and Harvin. Johnson has worked his tail off to remain on this roster and then last week he ripped off a 40-yard punt return. Other guys who could get a few extra looks tonight in the slot are Manny Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu – I view Aromashodu as more of an outside receiver but I also think he’s a polished enough receiver that he could play all three of the WR positions in this offense.

Christian Ballard at DT
Ballard’s best trait, in my eyes, is his versatility. He played and started in a lot of games at the University of Iowa at both DE and DT. So far with the Vikings, he’s played primarily at DT behind Kevin Williams at the 3-technique and his best moment of training camp came last week in Tennessee when he notched a sack from the DT position. If Ballard can continue to be a disruptive force tonight – even if it doesn’t result in a sack – it will go a long way toward convincing coaches that he can be a member of the DL rotation this season. It’s uncertain how well Brian Robison will play as the new starter at left DE and it’s uncertain if Williams will be available for the first four games of the regular season, so Ballard’s presence as a disruptive force in the rotation will ease a lot of the uncertainty.

Ryan D’Imperio creating separation at FB
One of my favorite position battles to watch so far during training camp and the preseason is at FB, where D’Imperio entered as the starter and Matt Asiata came in as an undrafted rookie free agent. D’Imperio was a draft pick in 2010 and the Vikings converted him from a college LB to an NFL FB. He spent last season on the practice squad and there’s no questioning the improvement he’s made in one year’s time. Asiata has also impressed, primarily because of his athleticism both in carrying the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Tonight, though Asiata won’t play because of injury, which means D’Imperio can create more separation with a solid performance.

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Emptying Out The Notebook Before First Full Pads Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2011 – 10:08 am

It’s another perfect day at 2011Verizon Vikings Training Camp on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Mankato. The Vikings wrapped up a morning walk-through at about 10:00 a.m. and now they’ll rest and recover before heading out for their first full pads practice at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Assuming a few issues with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement are worked out before this afternoon, the 3:00 p.m. practice today will be the first time players with new contracts can practice.

The Vikings had several special visitors at this morning’s walk-through, including U.S. Senator Al Franken (Minn.). Franken addressed the team after the walk-through and also spent some time with He talked a little Vikings history, touched on the stadium situation in Minnesota, gave his opinion on the acquisition of QB Donovan McNabb and gave us his outlook for the season. We’ll have the interview with Franken posted shortly.

Also visiting practice today was NFL referee Jeff Triplette and his crew. An NFL officials crew visits Vikings training camp each year to go over new rules with coaches, players and the media.

Let’s empty out the notebook before I start filling it up again at this afternoon’s practice. Here are a few topics I’ve made notes on but haven’t mentioned yet…

– There is a vacant starting position at outside LB on the Vikings defense and head coach Leslie Frazier has said that Erin Henderson is penciled in as the starter. But he’s one player under a new contract, which means he hasn’t been able to practice yet. In his place, Jasper Brinkley and Heath Farwell have taken reps with the first team. This will be a position to watch as training camp rolls on and as we get into the preseason.

– Staying with the defense, there is also competition for starting positions at safety. Husain Abdullah is a likely starter, but he is under a new contract and hasn’t been able to practice yet. Taking reps with the first team has been Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford. Also, don’t discount rookie Mistral Raymond as someone who could earn some playing time. Right now, I’d guess that Abdullah is a favorite to start and then the other starting spot will come down to Johnson and Sanford.

– This is a tough environment for coaches because many of their players have not been allowed to practice and because contact was prohibited in practice for the first three days of camp. Compounding the difficulty, of course, is the fact that the lockout wiped away all offseason practices, such as minicamps and OTAs. Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave spoke with reporters on Wednesday and I thought he gave an interesting explanation of what it’s been like for coaches around the NFL, particularly new coaches who are trying to get acclimated with their teams. Here is his quote:

“It’s unchartered territory. We’ve never been through anything like this whether as a coach or a player so we’ve tried to be smart and whittle down the volume we present to the players. We want to be difficult and diverse to defend on offense but at the same time we want to know what we’re doing. We also want to get these guys back in football shape and not just work hard mindlessly. We want to work smart. We’re bouncing all of those factors with our eye on September 11 down in San Diego. Fortunately we do have the month of August and we’ve planned as such I believe.”

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A Change In Overall Atmosphere At Vikings Training Camp; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 2, 2011 – 10:57 am

The Vikings have moved one step closer to full-contact, all-hands-on-deck mode as they have completed Practice #2 of 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp in Mankato. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the team can finally strap on the pads and then on Thursday all players will be eligible to hit the field.

Tuesday’s practice began around 9:00 a.m. and wrapped up at about 10:45. Coaches and players worked in comfortable temperatures and underneath mostly cloudy skies. A little rain shower about half-way through practice didn’t do much to distract the team.

One observation I’ve had so far early in camp is just a general change in the atmosphere and attitude. There aren’t really any distractions, there is tranquility on the coaching staff and no one is constantly looking over their shoulder for the next piece of adversity to come strolling along.

In last year’s camp, the theme was to basically “bring the band back together” again and make another run at the NFC playoffs after falling in the conference championship game the year prior. This year, though, it’s different because there’s a sense of building toward something. There are going to be a few new starters in the lineup and several new faces on the roster overall, and I think that yields a competitive atmosphere where everyone – even the established starters – is working hard to earn a spot and earn the respect of coaches and teammates.

A few notes from today’s practice…

– Superstar RB Adrian Peterson left practice early on Monday because his fiancé went into labor. He was obviously not at practice today and has been excused.

– A pair of starting offensive linemen were among the Vikings who sat out of practice, as RG Anthony Herrera (PUP list) and LT Bryant McKinnie (NFI list) worked on the side with the strength and conditioning staff. With so many players not allowed to practice and with their being no contact allowed, it’s hard to tell who exactly is playing the first, second and third teams, so we’ll try to drill down on that a bit more in the coming days.

– LB Chad Greenway and S Jamarca Sanford grabbed INTs today. Greenway’s came very early in practice and Sanford’s came toward the end on a deflected pass.

– WR Percy Harvin had the highlight play of the day, leaping into the air to bring down a pass along the left sideline of Field #1, right in front of bleachers full of Vikings fans.

– Continuing our eye test experiment, where I’ll note after each practice a few players who pass the eye test, I’d point to Greenway, Harvin, LB E.J. Henderson, QB Christian Ponder, DE D’Aundre Reed and Sanford. Repeats from yesterday’s eye test are Greenway, Harvin and Reed.

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A Look At Rounds 2 Through 7 Under Spielman And Co.

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 2, 2011 – 5:18 pm

In the previous blog entry about G Chris DeGeare, we made the point that: “There’s no doubt that hitting home runs with 1st-round picks is key to success in the NFL. But if you do some research, you’ll see that selections in rounds 2-7 and also the signing of undrafted rookie free agents are just as important.”

In the previous blog entry, we also said we’d take a closer look at some of those 2nd- through 7th-round picks in the next posting. While the group isn’t full of Pro Bowlers or future Hall of Famers (yet), it is a group of players that represent at least a part of the core of the current roster. There are 10 players who’ve started games for the Vikings on the list and obviously there will be many, many more starts from this list in the years to come.

Here we go…

CB Asher Allen - A 3rd-round pick in 2009, Allen struggled at times as a starter in 2010. But over his 2 Vikings seasons, Allen has flashed some potential. With the return of Cedric Griffin in 2011, Allen will be in a position to contribute in the nickel and dime packages where he’ll be more successful.

LB Jasper Brinkley - A 5th-round pick in 2009, Brinkley stepped in as the starter when E.J. Henderson went down to injury at the end of the 2009 season. It’s easy to take this for granted, but keep in mind the Vikings had the NFL’s top-ranked defense and Brinkley was a rookie starting in the middle of the defense. The Vikings defense missed Henderson, but Brinkley was solid in his place and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game. On top of that, Brinkley has been a solid special teams contributor during his career in Minnesota.

CB Chris Cook - A 2nd-round pick in 2010, Cook had a tremendous offseason and training camp heading into his rookie season. But then a pair of knee injuries that both required surgery slowed and eventually halted his rookie season. Cook is a big, physical CB who fits what head coach Leslie Frazier wants his defense to do. The upside on Cook is big and the Vikings defense will benefit from his return.

FB Ryan D’Imperio - A lot of factors were working against D’Imperio during his rookie season in 2010. He was a 7th-round pick (#237 overall), he switched positions from college LB to NFL FB and he had an established starter in front of him on the depth chart. But D’Imperio impressed enough to stick around and was a member of the practice squad in 2010. During the offseason and training camp this year he’ll have a chance to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

G Chris DeGeare - The blog entry below this one tells DeGeare’s story.

RB Toby Gerhart - At first I think Vikings fans are quick to point out disappointment in Gerhart’s rookie season, but I don’t see it that way. He had a tough go during training camp and the early part of the season, but he continued to improve as the season went along and he had an impressive showing in a start against the Bears in Week 15 when he rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries. For the season, Gerhart average 4.0 yards per carry. Given how productive he was in college and how aggressive the Vikings were in trading up to select him in the 2nd round last year, I’m willing to give Gerhart more time to develop into a productive NFL RB.

DE Everson Griffen - A prospect with 1st-round talent who dropped to the 4th round because of off-field concerns, Griffen flashed potential on defense and productivity on special teams as a rookie. He’s in line to get more playing time on defense in 2011, especially if the Vikings are unable to reach contract agreements with either Ray Edwards or Brian Robison.

DT Letroy Guion - When the Vikings used a 5th-round pick on Letroy Guion in 2008, he was only 20 years old. He came in and didn’t produce right away, but now he’s progressed into a member of the defensive line rotation. As is the case with Griffen, Guion may be in line for even more playing time depending on what happens with potential free agents ahead of him on the depth chart.

WR Jaymar Johnson - Another 7th-round pick (2008) who remains on the roster, Johnson was in the midst of another solid offseason and training camp when he injured his wrist and was put on Injured Reserve before the 2010 season got going. Johnson will be in another battle to make the roster this offseason, but his return capabilities will help him.

S Tyrell Johnson - A 2nd-round pick in 2008, Johnson has moved in and out of the starting lineup during his 3 seasons in Minnesota. With the safety position still a bit in flux, Johnson has a chance to reclaim a starting spot if he can perform well in the offseason and in training camp. He’s a tremendous athlete who needs to polish his skills in coverage.

RT Phil Loadholt - Another 2nd-round pick, Loadholt stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2009 and was one of the team’s best offensive linemen. The Vikings offense averaged 29.4 points per game during Loadholt’s rookie seasan and the 6-8, 343-pound mauler showed that he could be a talented player in this league for a long time.

WR Sidney Rice - The 2nd-round picks keep rolling in. Rice was a 2nd-rounder in 2007 and exploded for a career season in 2009 with Brett Favre under center. A hip injury slowed his 2010 season and now Rice will look to bounce back in 2011 with another strong showing. His leaping ability and sure hands are his best qualities, and they’re qualities a rookie QB would love to have in a starting WR.

DE Brian Robison – An All-Rookie honoree who was 3rd among all NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks in 2007, Robison has been a productive player for the Vikings and figures to be an important member of the defensive line rotation in 2011. He was a 4th-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Texas and one of the great aspects of his game is that he can slide inside to play DT in certain situations.

S Jamarca Sanford – With Heath Farwell, Sanford is one of the most valuable special teams contributors for the Vikings, specifically in the kick and punt coverage units. He has also logged playing time on defense and has also been a starter at safety. Considering Sanford was the SEC’s leading tackler during his 4 years at Ole Miss, it’s hard to believe Rick Spielman and Co. found him in the 7th round. But that’s what they did, and that makes Sanford one of the more under-rated Vikings draft picks in recent years.

C John Sullivan – Sullivan’s 2nd year was better than his 3rd, but I’m guessing his 4th year will be the best yet. He sat behind Matt Birk as a rookie in 2008, then stepped into the starting lineup at center for the 2009 season and helped the Vikings offense to a 29.4 points-per-game average. In 2010 Sullivan’s season was disrupted by injuries and he dealt with the passing of his father. Certainly Sullivan won’t use those as excuses, but you have to think it impacted him in some form or another.  Sullivan should enter the 2011 season in full health and he’ll have a shot to solidify his standing as the team’s anchor in the middle.

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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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Update On Berrian, Rice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 26, 2010 – 2:06 pm

Vikings WRs Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice sat out of practice on Thursday after participating on Wednesday. On Friday, though, both players were back on the field and Vikings Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked about each of them while meeting with reporters after practice.

Frazier indicated Rice (hip) should be good to go for Sunday’s game at Washington and he said a decision on Berrian (groin) may be made on Saturday.

Another player battling a nagging injury is Jamarca Sanford (hamstring). His presence is important because he provides depth in the secondary but mostly because of his special teams/kick coverage abilities. Frazier said that because the injury has reappeared, the team will be cautious with Sanford’s return.

The injury report has not been released yet, but I’m guessing Berrian will be listed as questionable and Rice probable. Again, official word will be coming shortly, so stay tuned.

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A Few More Notes From Monday’s Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 8, 2010 – 3:30 pm

We’ve touched on several topics since the Vikings recorded a thrilling 27-24 overtime win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, from the warrior-like performance by Percy Harvin to the quiet dominance of the Vikings defense.

But there’s so much more to talk about and we’ll touch on a few more topics in this blog entry with some help from head coach Brad Childress’ press conference. Childress met with reporters for several minutes early Monday afternoon and he ultimately answered 25 questions. Here are a few important notes we jotted down…

Kluwe Kicking Well
Childress took time to mention specifically that P Chris Kluwe is playing well through the first 8 games.

“The guy that’s playing unbelievably now is Chris Kluwe,” Childress said. “That guy is kicking the ball lights out. It doesn’t make any difference what the numbers show. It’s just a matter of how many they’re getting a chance to legitimately return and how many he’s sticking down there where they have fully 80 or 90 yards to go. You can’t put a premium on that, particularly in field position games like that.”

We’ve discussed Kluwe’s solid play on several occasions here on the Blog, but he continues to play well and impress. His gross punting average is 44.5, which is 12th in the NFL, but effective punting in the NFL is about hang time, net average and return yards allowed. I don’t have a way to measure hang time, but Kluwe ranks 3rd in net average at 43.3 yards and the entire punt coverage group ranks #1 in the NFL in allowing just 3.5 yards per return. On top of that, Kluwe has put 18 of his 36 kicks inside the 20, helping the Vikings gain an edge in the field position battle.

No-Huddle Offense Looked Good
I answered a question from a reader in today’s Monday Morning Mailbag about how effective the Vikings offense was in the no-huddle during the 4th quarter and whether the no-huddle might be something the Vikings try against Chicago this week. I don’t know if that’s something the Vikings will try, but Childress did tell reporters on Monday that the no-huddle is something the Vikings practice regularly and it’s also something Favre clearly looks comfortable executing.

Childress was also asked who calls the plays when the team goes no-huddle.

“It’s both,” Childress explained, saying that coaches will send a play to Favre when the ball goes out of bounds. “He has got a menu, as do we, that we practice for the two-minute, and sometimes we’ll trick his memory and there are times where he’s got to do it on his own.”

Infirmary Report
Childress was asked the status of several injured players, including Harvin and T Phil Loadholt. Harvin has been dealing with the injured ankle, of course, and Childress said Harvin will be sore but is also “no worse for the wear.” Childress said Loadholt is going to be fine; he left the game in the 4th quarter but came right back onto the field. S Jamarca Sanford tweaked a hamstring and Childress indicated that would be a day-to-day situation for this week.

Return of Rice
Perhaps the most asked question the last couple of weeks has been “When is Sidney Rice coming back?” The answer is still “I don’t know.” But it sound like Rice is getting closer and closer.

“He’s had some good practices out here,” Childress commented, “it’s just a matter of can you play wide-open and play in an NFL football game? It’s one thing to practice. It’s another thing when you’re going to get tackled to the ground.”

Rice has looked good in practice the last couple of weeks and he looked sharp while working out in pre-game workouts on Sunday. Time will tell when he can return; I’m cautiously optimistic it’ll be this week against the Bears, but the smart money might be next week at home against Green Bay. Stay tuned.

Big-Play Bernard
It was pleasing to see Bernard Berrian become such an important factor in the offense. He had 9 receptions for 89 yards on Sunday and came up with 3 clutch grabs in the 4th quarter and overtime. Childress mentioned on Monday that Berrian had a good practice week leading up to the Arizona game and that his chemistry with Favre looked particularly sharp.

“I saw Brett throwing it as well as he has thrown it all year long in that Thursday practice,” Childress said. “Very live arm, very accurate and then Bernard was kind of right there with him. Not that the other guys weren’t, but you could see him have a good week of practice. Both of those guys. It wasn’t surprising to see it carry over to Sunday.”

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