Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was a full participant at practice for the first time this week on Thursday. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been cautious about publicly acknowledging whether Rudolph will play on Sunday against the Bears, but he might’ve slipped the news out.
“I think he’ll be ready to go,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer then followed each Rudolph question with an emphasis on “if” he plays but all signs continue to point to Rudolph’s return against the division rival. Rudolph increased his workload at practice after limited participation on Wednesday. Rudolph has missed the last six games recovering from sports hernia surgery.
The extra bye week gave Rudolph more time to recover, with Zimmer noting that Rudolph has looked “pretty good” in practice this week, but the Vikings will remain cautious with how they use him against the Bears…”if” he returns.
“We’ve got to watch the tape and see how he did [Thursday], how he recovers tomorrow from two days of work and then go from there,” Zimmer said.
Rookie defensive end Scott Crichton (hip) was the only Vikings player held out of practice. Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon (low back) was limited. Both were new additions to the injury report
The Bears, meanwhile, have 10 players on their injury report. Most notably, wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) were limited at practice. Both did not participate on Wednesday.
Cornerback Tim Jennings (knee) upgraded to a full participant after sitting out on Wednesday. Right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) did not participate for the second straight week.
In what is the first of roughly 92 “bracketology” updates from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Gophers are projected as No. 9 seeds in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament before the season even begins.
They would face No. 8 seed Memphis in the West Region in Portland, which would be a pretty nice matchup for the Gophers right now considering Memphis just lost an exhibition tuneup to a team called Christian Brothers. (That’s apparently a school in Memphis, though we like to believe the Tigers were knocked off by five dudes with hockey sticks from Warroad).
Lunardi has eight Big Ten teams making the field — these seven in addition to the Gophers: No. 1 seed Wisconsin, No. 5 seed Ohio State, No. 6 seed Nebraska, No. 6 seed Michigan State, No. 7 seed Michigan, No. 8 seed Iowa and No. 10 seed Illinois.
That tells us a few things: Lunardi thinks Wisconsin is really good and a lot better than anyone else in the conference; Lunardi thinks the league as a whole is quite good; and Lunardi thinks the Gophers are in the bottom range of those good teams.
While we can’t condone that kind of Wisconsin love, it’s hard to argue with any of it. Then again, we might gain some more clarity and accuracy once some actual games are played.
On Sunday, the Vikings will take on a reeling Bears team that has allowed 50-plus points in consecutive games. But they are also going up against some not-so-pleasant recent history.
The Vikings, of course, haven’t won at Soldier Field since a 34-31 win there on Oct. 14, 2007.
“Man, we really need to,” cornerback Josh Robinson, well aware of the drought, said today.
Robinson was still in high school when that losing streak at Soldier Field started. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a freshman in high school. Defensive end Brian Robison, now one of the oldest guys on the roster at 31, was in his rookie season with the Vikings that year.
Three other players on this current Vikings team — outside linebacker Chad Greenway, running back Adrian Peterson and long snapper Cullen Loeffler — were around back in 2007.
The majority of the team has only been around for a few of the losses, if any, and head coach Mike Zimmer is loath to talk about even last year, so he certainly won’t be dwelling on the six-game skid.
So for the most part, the Vikings want to get the Soldier Field monkey off their back simply because it means it will be another win — and a third straight would get them back to .500.
“For us, whether we’re going to Soldier Field, going to Lambeau [Field], going to Ford Field, it’s an opportunity for us to go win a division game,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “If we’re going to continue to turn things around here and make a push to make the playoffs, it starts this week.”
One practice field outside of Winter Park has been shoveled out since Sunday night’s snowfall. It continues to be covered from goalpost to goalpost with tarp. And industrial-sized heaters have been blowing hot air under those tarps for a couple of days now.
Yet the two practice fields outside of the facility still have not thawed out enough for coach Mike Zimmer to feel comfortable allowing his players to practice on them. So once again, the Vikings were inside the practice facility today preparing for what should be a chilly Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
The Vikings in the past very rarely practiced outside when winter weather rolled around, even when preparing to play at venues such as Soldier Field and Lambeau Field. But Zimmer, who showed how impervious he was to the weather when he had the Vikings practice in a steady rain during training camp, wanted to change that this year, especially with the Vikings playing their home games outside at TCF Bank Stadium this season and next.
“I’d just like to get outside. We’re going to play in it and I haven’t really seen this team in the cold weather before so I’d just like to get out,” Zimmer said yesterday. “I don’t think it’s going to be that bad out in Chicago. Thirty degrees and a little bit of wind, but that’s not terrible. I guess it’s more for my mindset than anybody else. I’ve got to make sure I can stay warm.”
The Wilfs signed off on the purchase of on a heating system and protective “bubble” for one of the outside fields. But the team did not expect the weather to turn this quickly. So while the Vikings practice inside today, the new equipment is still floating across the Atlantic Ocean. The boat carrying it is expected to arrive from England next week and then installation will begin.
So will the fact that the Vikings are practicing indoors be a factor this week? Perhaps. After all, if Zimmer thinks the Vikings, who haven’t won at Soldier Field since 2007, need to practice outside to get acclimated to the cold so they are tough enough to block it out on game day, there is probably something to it.
But some of his players, especially ones from the south, don’t mind another week of being warm.
“We always practiced inside. I seen Coach heating the fields up earlier trying to get us outside,” wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “But [some of the guys] in the locker room, we don’t want to be out there unless we have to be out there on Sundays.”
The quickly mustered brigade called upon to help clear snow in TCF Bank Stadium before Saturday’s Minnesota Gophers football game vs. Ohio State was so industrious the remaining scheduled shifts have been canceled.
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was asked about cold weather concerns, which has been a consistent topic this week as the team travels to Chicago to face the Bears on Sunday.
“Coach [Mike] Zimmer and I were laughing about it, everyone talks about this cold weather,” Turner said.
It’s not the cold weather that concerns Turner, it’s the possibility of heavy winds, precipitation and slippery footing during the game. There’s a 10 percent chance for rain with winds whipping around 15 miles an hour in Chicago on Sunday.
Soldier Field was resodded for the third time since August prior to the Vikings-Bears matchup, per the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I think those are the things that are tough,” Turner said. “If it’s just cold like it is outside, I think you can go throw the ball and throw it at a high level.”
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has already dealt with a few games with tricky wind patterns at TCF Bank Stadium and Buffalo. Bridgewater went 15 of 26 for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions during Week 5 against the Bills. Two weeks ago against Washington when the uprights swayed at points during the game, Bridgewater went 26 of 42 for 368 yards and a touchdown.
“His ball cuts through the wind pretty good,” Turner said. “I don’t see the wind as being a problem. We practice out here, and he’s thrown it really well.
“I think first off it starts with mindset, and I don’t think there’s a whole lot of things that will affect Teddy mentally. If you don’t let it affect you mentally, then you go out and you compete in the situation and you adjust depending on how bad it is.”
One of the biggest knocks on Bridgewater’s performance against Washington was his deep ball, which could be impacted if there’s a strong wind at Soldier Field. Bridgewater missed wide receiver Greg Jennings on a deep route during the first play of scrimmage and later couldn’t connect with a wide open Cordarrelle Patterson.
Turner once again reiterated that he wasn’t concerned with Bridgewater’s ability to stretch the field.
“I think he’s capable of being an outstanding deep ball thrower and there’s a lot of things involved,” Turner said. “Early we didn’t get a lot of opportunities to throw the ball deep in games. We’re doing a little bit more now, but I think through time we will not have to have this conversation.”
@MasterStrib #VikingsST Is there a better position set on the team right now than the defensive line? Seem unstoppable when they’re clicking
— Alex Phillips (@Papa_phil) November 12, 2014
Nope, there is not. Kudos to general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer for getting on the same page during the offseason. Zimmer made it clear when he got here that the defensive line would be the most important unit on his defense. He broke down each position in his defensive scheme to show the front office and scouts what he needed from each player, and the Vikings re-signed Everson Griffen while adding nose tackle Linval Joseph and defensive tackle Tom Johnson.
After the disaster that was the Packers game, the defensive line has improved weekly with the ability to contain the run and bring in Johnson for Joseph on third down pass situations to pressure the quarterback. The defensive line has also done a good job of eating up blockers to free up linebackers, like Anthony Barr, on blitz situations. It’s by far the strongest position group on the team and should be for years to come with Griffen, 26, Joseph, 26, and Sharrif Floyd, 23, all still in their 20s.
@MasterStrib Offensively, what skilled position player do you see being most productive in CHI Sunday? Exclude Teddy #vikingsST
— Terrance X (@TerranceX1) November 12, 2014
You would take away rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw 11 touchdowns over the last two games. I can adapt.
In all seriousness though, I’ll pick tight end Kyle Rudolph in his return. The Bears have allowed seven (!!!) touchdowns to tight ends over the last three weeks. Sure, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski accounted for three touchdowns, but the Bears defense is very suspect against tight ends. Rudolph will be a security blanket for Bridgewater, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he led the team in targets in what could be a windy game at Soldier Field.
#vikingsST since our explosion vs Atlanta our offense has been up and down. How close are we from breaking out for another huge game
— zach sween (@1Sween) November 13, 2014
Well, considering this week’s opponent has allowed over 50 points in the last two games, there’s a chance it could happen this week.
I thought the offense had a good second half against Washington, but you’re right. They haven’t had a complete performance since the Falcons game in Week 4. That will all hinge on Bridgewater’s progression as a rookie, which as we’ve seen can be very impressive at times and head scratching as well. This will be a good opportunity for Bridgewater and the offense to attack a Bears defense that has been downright bad recently.
The Bears are allowing a league-most 30.8 points per game, which I think the Vikings are capable of reaching that point total with Rudolph’s return on Sunday.
@MasterStrib Any thoughts on trade opportunities for Adrian? To Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald? Larry comes home, helps Teddy. #VikingsST
— Benjamin (@BKronick) November 12, 2014
I highly doubt running back Adrian Peterson gets traded in the offseason. I also feel the same way about Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. They’ll likely both get cut if they don’t restructure their deals.
As great of a narrative as it might be for Fitzgerald to return to the team he once served as a ball boy for, the Vikings already have a decent group of wide receivers with the potential to be a really good unit if wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson takes that next step.
Plus, take a look around the league and see how many rookie wide receivers have made an immediate impact this season. This was a great class at the position, but I wonder at some point if we’ll view wide receivers the way we do running backs now where you can find a cheaper substitute in the draft (though I do feel running backs are strongly undervalued in this pass-happy era). I think that’s very possible that happens and if the Vikings feel like they need an upgrade at wide receiver, the draft is likely the route they’ll go.
The tale of “Alex from Target” is a fascinating and complex modern story about immediate fleeting fame in the digital world and the darker territory that comes with it.
A photo of 16-year-old Alex Lee working at a Target store in Texas was posted online and became an immediate sensation, which is kind of the way things happen today: randomly, for little reason, but reaching a critical mass with lightning speed. The backlash, too, arrives swiftly — as noted by this New York Times profile.
Within these rich societal quandaries, though, lies another question pointed out to us by the Star Tribune’s Casey Common: Is Alex from Target a Vikings fan?
That question is asked based on photographic evidence from that NYT story — a portrait of Alex in his bedroom in Frisco, Texas. We’ve zoomed in on the relevant parts:
A Vikings cap, a Vikings decal on his mirror and what appears to be — yes — a Brett Favre Vikings poster. The story makes no mention of this fandom (and why would it), but we’re going to roll with it.
We can only hope this doesn’t become a distraction to the Vikings like Justin Bieber was to the Steelers.