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Pagac Anticipates DT Guion Making Impact In 2011

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 3:51 pm

Marcus Sherels’ 64-yard INT return for a TD was the premier defensive highlight in last Saturday’s 20-7 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But the turning point in the game may have actually occurred on the following Seattle offensive series.

The Seahawks offense responded well to Sherels’ pick 6, driving the ball from their own 27-yardline to the Vikings 2 in 10 plays, setting up a 1st-and-goal situation just six feet from the endzone. But that’s where the Vikings defense bowed up and stopped Seattle RB Justin Forsett on four consecutive runs.

DT Letroy Guion was credited with 2 tackles on those four plays but his impact was even greater. He was a disruptive force in that series of plays and it did not go unnoticed by the Vikings coaching staff.

“One guy in particular, Letroy Guion, he lit it up in that situation,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac said on Tuesday. “He did a nice job for us.”

Pagac is a true throwback and is not one to shower praise on his players. But he made a point to specifically mention Guion’s role in the goal-line stand and he also indicated Guion is expected to make an impact on the Vikings defense this season.

“We think Letroy is going to be a heck of a football player for us,” Pagac commented. “We’re anticipating him being a big part of our defense this year. He’s coming along and he has the athletic ability. He’s strong, has quickness and has toughness.”

Guion stands at 6-4, 303 pounds and plays primarily the 3-technique behind starter Kevin Williams in the Vikings defense. The Vikings drafted him in the 5th round (#152 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft and he was inactive for 15 of the Vikings 17 games that season. But in 2009 he took a step forward by playing in 7 games and then he became a regular in the DT rotation last year.

Speaking of the rotation, Pagac was asked if he took extra pride in the goal line stand from Saturday because it was his second-team defense that was in the game taking on Seattle’s first-team offense. As I said earlier, Pagac is a throwback and is not one to provide much hyperbole. He made it clear that while the goal line stand was a feather in the defense’s cap, it’s also something that he expects his players to accomplish.

“Again, as far as our front’s concerned,” Pagac said, “we’re planning on rolling those guys all year long, so in my mind they’re a part of our ones so they’ve got to play hard all the time, too.”


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Defensive Highlights: Goal Line Stand, Sherels INT Return For TD

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 21, 2011 – 10:45 am

The Vikings carried a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime on Saturday night in Seattle. And although they had outscored the Seahawks by 13 points through 2 quarters, there was no question the defense was primarily responsible for the advantage.

It was Seattle who made the game’s first big play, about midway through the opening quarter. The Vikings defense had forced a second Seattle punt and CB Marcus Sherels was back to return the kick. He hauled in Jon Ryan’s punt and started making his way upfield. Sherels was eventually tackled after a 16-yard return, but then the ball squirted loose and Seattle picked it up. The call on the field was that Sherels was down by contact and did not fumble, but a challenge by Seattle resulted in the ruling being overturned, which gave the Seahawks possession.

Just four plays later on a 3rd and 7 from Minnesota’s 43, Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson rifled a pass to WR Golden Tate. But Tate was unable to haul in the pass and it deflected off his fingers and up into the air. Sherels was there in coverage and grabbed the deflection. In an instant he had secured the ball and sprinting the other way, leaving no Seahawks offensive player with a chance to catch him. Sherels was too fast and he dashed 64 yards for the TD, more than making up for his fumbled punt return just moments earlier.

The second defensive highlight of the first half was just as dramatic, but it was a bit more drawn out. After Sherels INT return for a TD, Seattle began their next possession on the 27. Jackson led the Seahawks on a march downfield and had his offense with a 1st-and-goal situation from the 2.

On first down, Jackson handed off to RB Justin Forsett on a dive play up the middle, but DE David Akinniyi and DT Letroy Guion were there to stop him from going in. On second down, LB Larry Dean and DL Christian Ballard teamed up to stop Forsett for no gain and then on third down it was DE Adrian Awasom who halted Forsett short of paydirt. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll decided to go for it on 4th and inches from inside the 1, but great efforts by CB Chris Cook and LB Erin Henderson helped Guion make another stop and the Vikings defense had held Seattle from a TD on 4 straight plays from inside the 2.


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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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Defense Returns To Form

Posted by cjsiewert on November 29, 2010 – 10:10 am

In Sunday’s 17-13 win over the Redskins, the Vikings defense got back to the basics and returned to its stout, run-stopping form that we’ve come accustom to over recent years.

From 2006-08, the Vikings ranked 1st against the rush and were 2nd in that category last season. On Sunday, the Vikings allowed a season-low 29 yards on the ground, turning the Redskins offense one-dimensional. Redskins QB Donovan McNabb and Co. turned to the aerial attack, which opened up playmaking opportunities for the Vikings.

With the Redskins pinned deep in their own territory after a Chris Kluwe punt – which I might add Kluwe is playing at a Pro Bowl level this season, so be sure to cast your vote – the Vikings were given perhaps the biggest playmaking opportunity of the game. Following the punt, McNabb’s pass intended for Santana Moss bounced off his chest high into the air and Vikings middle LB E.J. Henderson came down with the ball, making a diving acrobatic INT.

The INT set up a 31-yard FG by K Ryan Longwell with credit going to the defense for coming away with the turnover to put points on the board.

And when we analyze how the defense returned to form on Sunday, the most profound aspect of their dominant play was that of the front 4. McNabb was constantly pressured all day and that came by way of the Vikings defensive linemen outmuscling Washington’s offensive line.

As a group, the front 4 registered 3.0 sacks. Jared Allen improved his sack total to 7.5 on the season (6.5 in his last 4 games), Brian Robison notched his 2nd of the season and 3-year veteran Letroy Guion registered his first career sack.

Also, putting a halt to any sort of offensive momentum for the Redskins was a difference-maker in the Vikings first road victory in over a year. After the Redskins opening drive TD, here’s what the Vikings defense forced Washington to do for the remainder of the game: punt, punt, punt, sack to end the half, punt, punt, INT, FG, FG and punt.

By my count that’s 6 punts and a turnover without allowing a TD, and if the Vikings defense can continue this trend for the remaining 5 weeks, opposing offenses are going to be throwing fits in trying to score.


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Final Audition For Some As Roster Deadline Nears

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 2, 2010 – 7:37 am

Tonight’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos represents a final audition for several players as they hope to make the Vikings 53-man roster. The Vikings began training camp back on July 30 with 80 players and tonight training camp officially comes to an end and the Vikings will trim the roster to 53 players by the end of the day Saturday.

For some, such as DE Jared Allen or RB Adrian Peterson, tonight’s action isn’t so dramatic. But for others, tonight could mean everything. Let’s take a look at a few position battles that are still up in the air…

Offensive Line: All 5 starters from last year will return in 2010, but beyond that the Vikings OL situation is uncertain. Rookie Chris DeGeare has performed well to this point and could be anywhere from the Week 1 starter at RG to the team’s #1 reserve. And what about Ryan Cook? He can play all 5 positions along the line but might have to hold off others, such as Patrick Brown and Drew Radovich, to make the team.

Wide Receiver: Last year’s breakout WR – Sidney Rice – is on the mend with a hip injury and won’t be active until midway through the season, so that opens up another spot on the roster. The Vikings brought in Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker last week to fortify depth, but there are others, such as Logan Payne and Greg Lewis, who are vying for playing time as well. All of these players have a chance tonight to step up and stand out.

Defensive Line: It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings hold onto an extra defensive lineman or 2 given how well the unit has played in training camp and the preseason. Aside from the usual suspects, there have been a few standouts during training camp, including DT Letroy Guion and DE Jayme Mitchell. They’ll have a chance to solidify their positions tonight but others on the depth chart, such as DT Fred Evans and DE Everson Griffen, will try to use tonight as another stepping stone.

Linebacker: They might slide a bit under the radar, but the Vikings LB corps might be the deepest spot on the entire team. The team’s 3 starters are outstanding, and LB coach Fred Pagac has done a great job of shoring up depth behind those starters with players such as Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell and Erin Henderson. Given the importance of LBs to the special teams unit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple more LBs (Kenny Onatolu, Nate Triplett) on the final 53-man roster.


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A Look At The Vikings Depth On Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 20, 2010 – 7:01 am

Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Thursday that this year’s Vikings defense has the best depth he’s seen so far during his tenure with the team. In a game as violent as football, depth is essential to sustaining success, so hearing Frazier’s comment about the Vikings depth on defense should be encouraging for Vikings fans.

Let’s take a look at a few players who are currently providing the Vikings with solid depth on defense…

Defensive End
Starters: Jared Allen and Ray Edwards
Key Reserve: Brian Robison
Other Reserves: Everson Griffen, Jayme Mitchell

Robison is an explosive pass rusher who can come off the edge and beat OTs to get to the QB. But he’s also a stout player who can battle inside, which allows the Vikings to play him inside on some 3rd downs. Whether he’s subbing for Allen or Edwards with an outside pass rush or sliding inside on obvious 3rd down passing situations, Robison is a key element to the Vikings defensive line rotation.

Defensive Tackle
Starters: Kevin Williams, Pat Williams
Key Reserves: Letroy Guion, Jimmy Kennedy

The Vikings re-signed Kennedy this past offseason because he provides a solid option in the DT rotation. But the player to watch here is Guion, who’s had a great training camp and then played well last weekend against St. Louis. Guion has been with the Vikings since 2008 as a developmental prospect, but things seem to be clicking for him now. If Guion continues to trend upwards, he and Kennedy help provide the Vikings with a strong rotation at DT.

Click here to read on about the Vikings depth at LB and in the secondary…


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Hurry-Up Offense Work Highlights Thursday AM Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 5, 2010 – 11:11 am

Although they weren’t fully padded up and there was no tackling to the ground, Vikings players were competing about as hard as you’ll see during a training camp practice on Thursday morning and it was a delight to watch. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress had his squad working on game-ending and hurry-up situations, which ramped up the competitive atmosphere and probably provided some great tape for the coaches to go in and digest early this afternoon.

In 2009, the Vikings had 2 game-winning drives on offense and 1 game-winning drive on defense. The game-winning offensive drives came in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers (Brett Favre to Greg Lewis ring a bell?) and then in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens (Longwell 31-yard FG), and the game-winning drive on defense also came in the Baltimore game when the Ravens were forced to try a 44-yard FG to pull out a win.

“A good little segment today,” Childress said in his opening remarks while meeting with the media after practice. “A couple of two-minute situations that we faced here in the last four or five years. You can’t get enough of that work and just as we reviewed last night, the teams that are coming one way to beat us or we were trying to go one way to beat somebody else, games in this league come down to that quite frequently.”

The first 2-minute situation called upon the 1st-team offense to drive from their own 37-yardline in 2 minutes with 2 timeouts, needing a TD to win the game. Tarvaris Jackson guided the offense down the field and a laser to TE Visanthe Shiancoe put the offense right around the 10-yardline. Jackson hurried the offense down the field to kill the clock, and then with time for 1 final play Jackson hit WR Greg Lewis in the endzone for the TD.

The second 2-minute situation charged the 2nd-team offense with driving from the 80-yardline with 2 minutes to go and 2 timeouts, needing a FG to win. On the 1st play of the series, the play was blown dead because of a sack and loss of 10 yards. Three plays later on 4th down, LB Ben Leber broke up a pass but was called for pass interference, which extended the drive. Another pass interference call several plays later pushed the offense into scoring range and K Rhys Lloyd ultimately came on to split the uprights on a 48-yard FG as time expired.

“Any situation we deal with (in practice), we want to make it game-like,” Jackson told me after practice. “We want to make it as close to the real game as possible so when you get in that situation it’s not new to us.”

A few other notes from this morning’s practice…

– During the early parts of practice, the offense installed its hurry-up package and all 3 teams had an opportunity to execute it against air. Not surprisingly, Jackson looked the most comfortable of the 3 QBs during the drill, Rosenfels was not quite as comfortable and rookie QB Joe Webb struggled the most.

– NFL officials joined the team for practice this morning and will be with the team over the next couple of days. I’m sure this is a common ritual around the league and it’s something the Vikings have done every year under Childress. The officials work with the players and coaches during practice answering questions or pointing out points of emphasis for the coming season; they even call penalties during the team portions of practice.

“We invite those guys into all of our meetings at night and we don’t have any secrets,” Childress said. “If they’ll share with our people – how they’re looking at things and how they’re calling things – it’s their expertise so we don’t make it a closed-door affair. It’s an inclusive deal and they can jump in with offensive linemen, or the secondary, or the wide receivers, wherever they can get better. We’re glad to have them here.”

– One of the Vikings “special categories” periods of practice was an all 3rd-down session. The 1st team offense picked up 1st downs on 3 of 4 plays, the 2nd team was 2 for 4 and the 1st team was 1 for 4.

– I watched the defensive line vs. the offensive line during the 1-on-1 period of practice. Individuals who stood out while winning their 1-on-1 battle were: C Ryan Cook, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion, LG Steve Hutchinson, LT Bryant McKinnie and DE Brian Robison.

– There was a spirited session of the inside skeleton passing drill between the LBs/Ss and RBs/TEs. In the final matchup of the drill, LB Chad Greenway went up against Shiancoe. Greenway forced an incompletion and the LB group broke out in over-emphasized rejoice to chide Shiancoe. As the players began running away to the next drill, Childress held everyone up and asked for Greenway and Shiancoe to have a rematch. So the 2 players lined up again, this time with the whole team present to watch. At the snap, Shiancoe made a nice move on Greenway to release from the line of scrimmage and wiggled his way open. But Greenway didn’t quit and was able to catch up to Shiancoe and rip the ball from his arms to force another incompletion. The LB group broke out in cheers again and Shiancoe took it very well. It was a fun part of practice and a great display of competitiveness.

– Players who were out of action today included: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), RB Darius Reynaud (leg), RB Adrian Peterson (leg) and LB J Leman (leg).

– With Harvin and Rice experiencing extended time away from camp, WR Greg Lewis has gotten reps exclusively with the 1st team offense and he’s taking advantage of the situation by making a positive impression on Childress. When asked about Lewis’ performance so far during camp, Childress referred to Lewis as a “jack of all trades” and a “crafty” player at his position.

– Childress was also asked about DT Letroy Guion and the kind of camp he’s having. Here was his response: “He’s had a good camp. He looks like he’s matured. He came in a couple pounds heavy, but nothing to write home about. I think that’s probably balanced out. I think he understands more about what we’re doing and what we’re asking of him defensively. I think he’s doing a better job rushing the passer and he’s always been stout in the run game.

– The offensive line has looked much better the past 2 days with C John Sullivan back in the fold.


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Guion First Player To Training Camp; Others To Arrive Soon

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2010 – 1:23 pm

For those of you keeping tabs, DT Letroy Guion was the first Vikings player to report to 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp in Mankato (not including Adrian Battles, who currently lives in Mankato and attended Minnesota State University, Mankato). Guion’s teammates should begin pouring into Julia Sears Residence Community in the next couple of hours.

I chatted with Guion just before he started hauling his belongings into the building and he said he was ready to get on the field and “get things going.” This will be Guion’s 3rd trip to training camp with the Vikings after the club selected him in the 5th round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

A product of Florida State University who left school early to pursue his NFL dreams, Guion will compete with several others for time in the DT rotation. I asked him if he needed help moving a few things in, but the stout 6-4, 303-pound DT declined and said he’s learned to bring fewer and fewer things to training  camp each year. The Vikings are hoping he continues to learn things on the field as well because the 3rd year pro has shown flashes of ability that may allow him to be a stout presence in Leslie Frazier’s defense.

Guion is the oldest of 5 siblings and he says he owes his success as a football player to the lessons he learned from his mother, Connie, and stepfather, Robert. An avid fisherman, Guion participated in the 2009 Governor’s Fishing Opener in May, affording him the chance to teach kids to fish and encouraging them to get involved in the outdoors.


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Vikings Inactives

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 20, 2009 – 10:27 am

Each game day 90 minutes prior to kickoff, teams are required to disclose their 8 inactive players and emergency QB. The Vikings inactives are QB Sage Rosenfels, WR Jaymar Johnson, WR Greg Lewis, CB Asher Allen, S Husain Abdullah, LB Erin Henderson, Kory Lichtensteiger and DT Jimmy Kennedy.

There are a couple of changes from last week’s inactives. In Cleveland, DT Letroy Guion was up and Fred Evans was down. This week against the Lions, both Evans and Guion are up but DT Jimmy Kennedy is down. S Jamarca Sanford was also down last week, but this week he’ll be active and will play in his 1st NFL regular season game, while Abdullah will be inactive.

The QB situation will be the same this week as it was in the season-opener. Tarvaris Jackson will backup Favre and Rosenfels will be the emergency QB.

With both Johnson and Lewis inactive, it seems Berrian continues to recover from his hamstring injury and didn’t come away from last week’s game in Cleveland any worse for the wear.


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WR Berrian Active; Jackson To Backup Favre

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 13, 2009 – 10:38 am

The Vikings have announced the active/inactive players for today’s season opener in Chicago Cleveland and WR Bernard Berrian, who has been battling a hamstring injury and whose status for today’s game was in question, is among the 45 active players for the Vikings.

Inactive for the Vikings today will be: QB Sage Rosenfels, WR Jaymar Johnson, WR Greg Lewis, S Jamarca Sanford, LB Erin Henderson, C Kory Lichtensteiger and DT Fred Evans. Rosenfels will be the 3rd (emergency) QB today and Tarvaris Jackson will backup Brett Favre.

It’s interesting that both WRs Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis are inactive. That leaves the Vikings with 4 receivers active for today, indicating that Berrian isn’t expected to be hampered by the injury. Berrian was listed as questionable in the Vikings injury report on Friday.

It’s also interesting that Evans is inactive. Looks like Letroy Guion, a 5th round draft choice last year by the Vikings, will get a chance to play significant minutes today behind Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.


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