Running back Matt Asiata and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd were not practicing during the open portion of practice today, and their statuses for Sunday against the Packers appears to be in doubt.
Asiata has not been cleared by the league’s concussion protocol and has not practiced at all this week. Fellow running back Jerick McKinnon, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a lower back injury, practiced today for the second straight day. Ben Tate was at practice today, too, of course.
Floyd, meanwhile, has missed two straight practices with a knee injury. He was listed as limited on Wednesday, but we have not seen him since. We have, however, seen crutches next to his locker.
Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright both practiced today. Jennings missed the previous two practices with a rib injury. Wright sat out only Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
There was one more absentee today, and it was a new one: left tackle Matt Kalil. He was at practice Wednesday and Thursday and was not listed on the injury report. But no sign of him this morning.
For the Vikings’ Week 12 matchup against the Packers, we spoke once again to Tyler Dunne, Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Dunne about the final regular season matchup between Packers-Vikings.
1. Last time we saw the Packers, they were relaxing. Now, they’re on fire. What has occurred over the last five games to make them one of the best teams in the NFC?
TD: Aaron Rodgers has been basically unstoppable for Green Bay with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions that really weren’t even his fault. His accuracy has been off the charts, and he continues to find the locate and attack the sore spot in any defense. The moment, Chicago’s secondary was on the wrong page two weeks ago — some in single-high, some in Cover 2 — he hit Jordy Nelson for a deep touchdown. Two other trends are also in his favor. A.) The offensive line has stayed in tact and shut down some pretty strong pass rushers. The Eagles didn’t even hit Rodgers once outside their one sack. And B.) Eddie Lacy has developed into a dangerous receiver. At 240, he’s a load to take down in the open field.
2. The running game struggled up until the Packers’ first meeting against the Vikings. Has Green Bay been able to sustain its running game success since?
TD: Lacy averaged 6.9 yards per carry last week, but only had 10 attempts. Until teams decide to take away the deep ball and keep two safeties back, Rodgers will go to the air. At some point, they expect defenses to go to Cover 2 looks — what gave them some problems in 2012. And then they’ll really be leaning on Lacy to be a workhorse. That Vikings win was really his breakout game. Since then, it seems like he’s been running without hesitation and with that tackle-breaking edge. As the weather worsens, everyone around here expects his role to grow to some degree.
3. What has led to the increase in turnovers created by Green Bay’s defense? The Packers have forced 12 turnovers over the last five games.
TD: Pressure up front. Specifically, Julius Peppers. They haven’t had a real threat other than Clay Matthews since Dom Capers arrived in 2009. Peppers is making one or two plays a win that change that game. Last week, he dropped into coverage — something the Eagles later said they never expected out of that particular look — and picked off Mark Sanchez for a touchdown. On another play, he clouded Sanchez’s vision and Tramon Williams picked off the quarterback. He’s getting pressure and allowing Capers to get creative with the X’s and O’s. This time last year, Capers was forced to get very vanilla.
4. How has linebacker Clay Matthews looked at inside linebacker and how has that helped Green Bay’s defense?
TD: He’s been a substantial upgrade over what they had. It’s been a major position of weakness and with the run defense dead last in the NFL over the bye week, the Packers needed to do something. Matthews gives the Packers about 20 more pounds at that position with more relentlessness. He’s still lining up outside on third-and-long’s and even as a fifth rusher on the line. Dom Capers is trying to keep him on the move to confuse defenses. But inside, he has helped shore up a hurting position. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to play with a three-touchdown lead. It’ll get interesting whenever the Packers are in a close game if Matthews continues to stuff the run.
5. What do the Packers need to do to win on Sunday?
TD: Keep Rodgers on the field. The Vikings’ best shot at an upset will be playing a game of keepaway with Rodgers — they’ll need to shorten the game and put long drives together. So if the Packers simply string together scoring drives as they did the last match-up, they’ll be OK. Still, it’s a road game against a hungry team. Anything can happen.
In his first interview since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for at least the rest of the 2014 season, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson again expressed remorse for harming his 4-year-old son last May and said that he will never use a switch again to discipline his children.
“No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg,” Peterson said in an interview with USA Today. “No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn’t mean to do this to you and how sorry I was.
“I love my son. I love my kids, my family. Like I said after I took the misdemeanor plea, I take full responsibility for my actions. I regret the situation. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine.”
Peterson, who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault earlier this month, said that he has learned that there are other ways to discipline his children.
“I won’t ever use a switch again,” Peterson said. “There’s different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There’s so many different ways to discipline your kids.”
As for Peterson’s future in Minnesota, which is up in the air beyond this season in large part due to the large salary cap hit he is scheduled to carry, he said he would “love” to remain with the Vikings.
“I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there,” Peterson said. “But if there’s word out that hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I’ve given everything I had in me.”
Peterson also said he has given thought to the idea that “maybe it’s best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t able to spell out his plan for how he’ll use newcomer Ben Tate because, A, NFL coaches are smart enough not to reveal game plans to reporters and B, the running back had just finished his first practice as a Viking.
“I don’t know yet,” Zimmer said. “He practiced some today. He got some reps and was in the blitz pickup. He was in everything, so we’ll see how fast he gets. It was a quick day for him.”
Zimmer said the reason Tate was claimed off waivers from the Browns on Wednesday is the team’s injury situation at running back, as well as the “finality of Adrian’s thing,” as in Adrian Peterson being suspended for the rest of the season on Tuesday.
The injury report will be out soon, but running backs Jerick McKinnon (lower back) and Matt Asiata (concussion) are on it. Zimmer said Asiata “is still going through” the league concussion protocol, which is required before returning to the field.
Tate shouldn’t be too rusty. He fell out of favor in Cleveland quickly, but did play on Sunday, carrying the ball twice for minus-9 yards. Zimmer said Tate looked “pretty good” in today’s practice.
“I didn’t see him make any mental mistakes, so that’s the first thing,” Zimmer said. “He had a 50-yard run on me [in Cincinnati] about three or four years ago.”
As for Tate’s strengths, according to Zimmer, the coach said, “He’s got good acceleration and he’s a little bit more of a thumper. Pound it up in there.”
As for how long it will take to know exactly what the heck he’s doing, Zimmer said Tate will need a little time.
“It’s a different system,” Zimmer said. “So he has to learn the different runs and protections and pass route combinations. That’s the big thing.”
Zimmer also talked about holding receiver Greg Jennings (rib), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and Asiata out of practice today. He said they’re progressing, “Good, for the most part. I think they’ll probably practice tomorrow.”
Asked specifically about Floyd, Zimmer said, “He practiced some yesterday. He’s just got a bruise. It’s nothing serious.”
Zimmer also gave left tackle Matt Kalil a pat on the back, saying, “He has been making strides. He’s been working hard in practice and is continually working on the techniques he needs to be working at, keeping his base wide. So I think he’s had a much better month.”
(Start the angry Kalil emails in 3 … 2 … 1 …)
Zimmer and the Vikings also are preparing for rain on Sunday.
“It’s hard to say when we don’t know how much rain,” Zimmer said. “But we have sections in the plan for all those scenarios.”
And, yeah, Teddy Bridgewater will wear his gloves.
“He’s been working that wet-ball drill all along,” Zimmer said. “So we’ll see.”
Vikings running back Ben Tate arrived to the Twin Cities on Thursday morning after he was claimed off waivers from the Browns.
When asked if he was surprised that the Browns waived him on Tuesday, Tate said, “Yeah. Of course. A little bit.” Tate dealt with a 24 hour period of uncertainty on where he’d land before the Vikings won the rights to Tate on Wednesday.
“It was tough,” Tate said on the last two days. “After being claimed, I’ve got a girl and a little boy so it’s definitely tough trying to get situated with that. Just traveling, not much sleep and not much eating. I’m starving.”
Tate practiced with the team, mixing in every few plays during each period as he gets situated with offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense. He’s never played underneath Turner, nor a system similar to what Turner runs.
He’s not sure whether the Vikings will activate him on Sunday, and that likely depends on the status of running backs Matt Asiata (concussion) and Jerick McKinnon (low back).
“I really didn’t know what to know what to expect,” McKinnon said about Tate’s acquisition. “I knew about him. I’m a younger guy, so I watched him in college (Auburn) and a little bit in the pros before I came out. I know he brings a lot to the table. I don’t know what the role is going to be for me or any other back or him, but I know he’ll bring some good contributions to the team and I’ll be excited to see what he does.”
Tate said he understands the Vikings current situation at running back, with Adrian Peterson suspended for at least the remainder of this season, but taking over as the lead back this year and possibly into next season isn’t what he’s worried about at the moment.
“I’m just focused on here and now, trying to learn this playbook, trying to do everything to the best of my ability, 100 percent,” Tate said. Trying to fit in, trying to learn the guys and just trying to become a member of this team; that’s my only focus right now.”
We’re experiencing some issues with post showing up relatively quickly. And by relatively quick, we’re still waiting for the final from Super Bowl IX to show up …
But here goes. The injury report from today’s practice:
Missing practice entirely: RB Matt Asiata (concussion), WR Greg Jennings (rib) and DT Sharrif Floyd (knee). In an earlier post that hadn’t shown up, coach Mike Zimmer said Asiata was still going through his league concussion protocol. Asked about Floyd, Zimmer said the big fella “has a bruise” and it’s “nothing serious.”
Limited in practice: WR Jarius Wright (hamstring), RB Jerick McKinnon (low back), OT Mike Harris (ankle) and LB Anthony Barr (knee). Wright and McKinnon didn’t practice Wednesday.
Full participation in practice: CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), DE Everson Griffen (neck), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) and DE Scott Crichton (hip).