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with Sean Jensen and Don Seeholzer

Stop back often because Sean and Don regularly posts updates to your comments. Leave your comments and questions by clicking on the comments link below each post.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Childress reiterates that Johnson will remain starting QB

Vikings coach Brad Childress made abundantly clear in his press conference that veteran Brad Johnson will remain the team's starting quarterback.
Childress, though, also made clear that he will not tolerate turnovers, even punctuating his point with a reference to Popeye's popular saying about not being able to stand anymore (I'll get the exact quote posted later).
"You got to take care of the football," Childress said. "That's not negotiable."
Later, when asked about his philosophy of benching a quarterback, Childress said, "I'm not a short-hook guy."

In other news:
* Defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a high left ankle sprain and finished the game. He obviously was not nearly as effective, though, and he had just two tackles.

* Middle linebacker Napoleon Harris had a dislocated wrist and had it casted. If he can't play, Ben Leber or Dontarrious Thomas would replace him.

* Center Matt Birk hyperextended his knee.

* Defensive tackle Pat Williams had swelling in his knee.

* Childress wasn't sure of the status on receiver Marcus Robinson, who was inactive Monday against the New England Patriots.

Childress also debunked what many of you are thinking: Troy Williamson's eyes are fine. Asked about Williamson's inability to haul in long passes (a long pass yesterday embarrassingly bounced off of his helmet), Childress said his receiver had 20/20 vision and that he passed an eye exam.
Of Johnson's throw on the play, Childress said, "It was a very good throw."

Did you see it?

Why the Patriots have won three of the last five Super Bowls?
Great game plans. Great execution. Like in the second quarter, the Patriots face a third-and-long from their own 25. Tom Brady completes a quick receiver screen pass to Reche Caldwell. But with excellent blocks, particularly from left tackle Matt Light, Caldwell springs free for a 34-yard gain. Then, even after two drops, Brady completes a 12-yard pass to Caldwell, and the Patriots score from eight yards out on third-and-goal.
There was no question on Monday night that the Patriots were the superior team. Now how do the Vikings respond with a four-game stretch against four of the worst teams in the NFL?

Defense dropping

Not surprisingly, after Monday's blowout loss, the Vikings defense fell five spots to No. 12. And although they gave up a modest 85 rushing yards, the Vikings are now No. 2 in run defense.
Most alarming is that after Monday's performance, the Vikings pass defense is 26th in the NFL, similar to recent years.
The offense also dropped five spots to No. 17, and the run offense went from 10th to 18th after gaining just 45 rushing yards.
If the Vikings can't beat up on the San Francisco 49ers defense, ranked 31st in the NFL, then they don't deserve to be a playoff team.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The Vikings inactives are S Rashad Baker, RB Ciatrick Fason, C Ryan Cook, G Anthony Herrera, TE Jeff Dugan, WR Marcus Robinson and DT Ross Kolodziej.

The Patriots inactives are DB Eugene Wilson, TE Garrett Mills, LB Pierre Woods, G Stephen Neal, G Russ Hochstein, TE Daniel Graham, DL Le Kevin Smith, DE Marquise Hill. Artrell Hawkins will start at FS for Wilson, and G Billy Yates will start for Neal. TE David Thomas will start for Graham.

Carter up

The Vikings promoted WR Jason Carter from the practice squad and released LB Marquis Cooper.

Jason Carter set to play?

Vikings rookie WR Jason Carter just finished warming up, perhaps an indication he was moved up from the practice squad.

I will keep you posted.

Pardon the Disruption...

As a sophomore at Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., I discovered what I wanted to be: a sports columnist.
Anxious to get a jumpstart, I figured I would tap into the minds of two of the guys who had the type of job I coveted, Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post.
Since their phone numbers were listed at the bottom of their columns, I would call them a few times a month, seeking advice and insight. They were gracious, and Wilbon even directed me to attend his alma mater, Northwestern University.
Below is a more personal chat Tony and I had Saturday morning.

Sean: When I first met you, I thought you were big-time, with your column and books.
Tony: (Tony interrupts) I was big-time. Are you kidding me? In that business? Wouldn't you say, to have a column at one of the five to 10 best newspapers in the world is all you could aspire to?
You win. You get that, and you say, 'OK, game over. I've won.' I felt that then, and I still feel that.
I know you'll talk about radio and television. But I still feel that in the chosen field that I wanted, more than anything else, that that was the goal, and I got that. Enough. That was enough for me.
This other stuff, I didn't study for this. I didn't plan on this. It happened, and I'm grateful. But all I ever wanted to do was work for a newspaper and someday get a column in a sports section.

Sean: Do you plan to keep that for as long as possible?
Tony: I'm no longer as certain as I used to be. And the reason is, I think you do get to a point where you almost feel that there are no more words. That you've sort of used all the words there are, and you wonder, 'Gosh, am I just repeating myself? Am I really old now?' I didn't want to get to a point when all my references were to the '60s, and the '70s, and '80s. When you are in 2012, then who is my audience? So I have doubts that I'll continue to do that now.

Sean: So did you appreciate when humor columnist Dave Barry took time off a few years ago and said, 'Hey I got to take a break from this'?
Tony: When he announced that, I had a conversation at home, in which I said, 'He'll never go back.' And my wife said, 'Why do you say that?' I said, 'Because when you know that it's just a struggle, and you think to yourself, 'I'm not fooling anybody anymore,' when you finally say no, and I know you say, I'll be back at 'X' time, you're not coming back in your head.

Sean: He hasn't come back yet, right?
Tony: No. And I don't think he's gonna. I honestly don't think you can. I think you have to find something new to do.

Sean: You're your own man. But with the sitcom about you (Listen Up), and all the books, and the ESPN show, do you feel like a brand?
Tony: I don't. I don't feel that way, because I try to keep doing all of it. I feel certainly more like a yodeler more than ever, and I consider entertainment, just the notion of what entertainment is, more than I ever did when I was just a newspaper writer. But I know there are some people who think that there is this Tony Kornheiser thing, that will always produce X and Y. But I can understand how somebody else would.

Sean: Back in the day, when I was in high school, was I an annoyance to you?
Tony: Yes, of course. 'It's Sean again. Sean needs this, and Sean needs that.' Then I felt I passed the baton to Wilbon when you went to Northwestern. I felt, 'OK, he's going to Northwestern, he's your account now, Wilbon.'
Little did I know that you'd become both our accounts, actually in the business. But your success is great. It's always nice when you see people you knew as kids do well.
When I started in radio, my first board op was Greg Garcia. He went from being a board op, on an AM radio sports station to becoming the creator and just won an Emmy for writing on "My Name is Earl." That's Greg's show. Gregory Thomas Garcia. He is "My Name is Earl." Before that, he was on "Yes Dear." And his first paying gig, he operated a board on WTEM. Now, would I love to say that I saw this? No. Who saw that? He was a funny kid, and he was a nice kid. But the odds were 10 million to one.

Sean: Did you see anything in me when I used to harass you?
Tony: Yeah. What you see more than the ability -- because the ability is hard to judge when someone is 15, 16 or 17 years olds -- is the desire. That's exactly how I was when I was that age. That's what I wanted to do.

Sean: Did you look up to someone like that, the way I looked up to you?
Tony: There was somebody I looked at like that, but I could never get to that person. It was Stan Isaacs, who I thought was the greatest sports columnist ever. He was my idol.
And when I finally got a job at Newsday, Stan was moving from the sports section to the lifestyle section, and the first thing I said to the sports editor was, 'Do you mind if I sit in his chair?'
And when I finally met him, he was everything I hoped he would be. But I never had the nerve to call the paper. No. You were much more aggressive than I was.

Sean: You gave me great advice when I was a kid.
Tony: Which was, Stay out of the business?

Sean: Actually, I don't remember the advice. But you and Wilbon were very encouraging.
Tony: Yeah, that's what you try to do. You point out the pitfalls. But you also always encourage the ones who really want to do it.
This is going to be hard. You may never get at a great place. You're never going to make as much money as your friends who are doctors and lawyers.

Sean: But you probably make more than any of your friends, right?
Tony: That's why it's very hard for me to give that advice, because people turn around and say, 'Look at what you did.' And I say, 'I was incredibly lucky.' I came along when they started doing sports radio stations, and I had an established column then, so of course I was someone you pick. Then this PTI show falls out of the sky for me and Wilbon, and it's a hit. I never thought it'd be a hit. I thought it'd be cancelled in five weeks.
Then they come to me and say, 'We'd like you to do Monday Night Football.'
Yes, I am proof that this happens. But my career path is something that nobody can say, 'I want that path, and realistically I'm going to have it.'

Sean: There is more emphasis on sports in our culture than ever before.
Tony: The outlet might not be the same as it was for me, just going up the line of newspapers. But there's radio and television. If you're considered to be knowledge about sports, and present yourself well in an entertaining way, somebody will hand you more money than you ever thought was humanly possible. More than ever, because of the rise and importance of sports in the culture.

Sean: Do you feel guilty? Sometimes I feel bad that my articles are more well read than the local politicians.
Tony: You can't control that. You do the best, most honest job that you can, and if people like it, don't apologize for it. You can't change the culture. If you want to change the culture, then you start writing about the local politician.

Sean: No thanks.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Status quo

Another day, and another missed practice by WR Marcus Robinson. Vikings coach Brad Childress said he's still questionable, which means he has a 50-50 chance of playing.
Meanwhile, Childress did say the team has to be cautious with Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson, who had concussions last week.
"You know what, head injuries and back injuries, spinal cord injuries, not that others aren't, I think you always have to err on the side of caution," Childress said. "They have a pretty good way of checking those things out and following through and seeing where they are at."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Injury update...

Vikings WR Marcus Robinson (low back) is still listed as questionable for Monday's game against the New England Patriots, but he missed a portion of practice for a third consecutive day.
Robinson and the following players did not participate in "team practice," defined as missing any portion of 11-on-11 team work: G Artis Hicks (neck), T Marcus Johnson (ankle), DE Kenechi Udeze (hip), WR Troy Williamson (concussion), DT Pat Williams (foot), WR Bethel Johnson (hamstring) and WR Travis Taylor (concussion).

Williams, Johnson and Taylor are all listed as probable.

NFL says Henderson not at fault

Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson did nothing wrong on the third-quarter play that forced Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to leave the game with a right knee sprain, NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira told the Pioneer Press on Friday.
"There was no foul on the play because of the push in the back," Pereira said. "The contact was unavoidable."
On the opening drive of the second half, Hasselbeck dropped back and threw a pass intended for fullback Josh Parry. But as the play was wrapping up, Seahawks fullback Mack Strong pushed Henderson, who rolled into Hasselbeck's right leg.
Pereira reinforced the officials' decision not to penalize Henderson.
"It's nice because I didn't get fined," Henderson said.
Earlier in the week, Hasselbeck said, "I don't think it was unavoidable," adding that Henderson "didn't want me to finish the game."
"I could care two (expletive) about what Hasselbeck said," Henderson said. "Straight up."
Interestingly, Vikings rookie defensive end Ray Edwards was fined for a hit on a Seahawks quarterback.
Late in the fourth quarter, Edwards was flagged for roughing the passer, following a hit on backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.
Edwards was fined $5,000 for roughing the passer by the league Friday.

Practice update

Vikings WR Marcus Robinson was the only player not accounted for during the first 30 minutes of practice today.
But reporters are only allowed to watch the special teams portion, so it's conceivable Robinson was not out there.
We'll see what the injury report says later.
Robinson said in the locker room earlier that he was still hopeful he could play Monday. He is currently listed as questionable.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who wins this key matchup?

The Vikings' run defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL, has been consistently good this season. But New England's No. 6-rated run offense has been erratic, relying on three big performances.
The Patriots opened the season with 183 rushing yards against the Buffalo Bills, followed by 147 against the New York Jets. But New Engald was held to just 50 against the Denver Broncos and 79 against Miami. Both of those games were at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.
And after some standout games, including 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals, former Gopher Laurence Maroney has been quiet the last two games, with just 26 carries for just 67 yards. Corey Dillon hasn't been much better, although he did score two touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Bills.
The ability to neutralize Dillon and Maroney will empower the Vikings to focus on pressuring Tom Brady and forcing the Patriots' weak receiver corps to beat them.

Injury updates

The Vikings added four players to the injury report as questionable, which
means there's a 50-50 chance they will play. The players are G Artis Hicks
(neck), T Marcus Johnson (ankle), DE Kenechi Udeze (hip) and DT Pat Williams
But Hicks, Johnson, Udeze and Williams all partcipated fully in the
abbreviated practice Wednesday.
In addition, all of them missed a portion of practice, along with WR Bethel
Johnson (hamstring), WR Troy Williamson (concussion), WR Travis Taylor
(concussion) and WR Marcus Robinson (low back).
Johnson, Taylor and Williamson, though, are listed as probable.

Belichick heaps the praise on the Vikings....

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had an interesting take on the Vikings. Sounds like the old cliche, kill 'em with kindness. Check it out:

"They're really impressive," he told New England reporters. "They have some big-play receivers. A good quarterback. A couple of good running backs. Good tight ends. Real good offensive line. They're outstanding on defense. They really do pretty much everything well, especially stop the run, anything involved in the running game. They create a lot of long-yardage situations, turn the ball over, they have a good secondary. They intercept a lot of passes, get a lot of strip sacks, get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Good in the kicking game. They have a couple of good returners. They cover well. What they did in Seattle, that was very impressive Sunday. They've really played pretty well in every game. I don't know how they lost to the Bears or Buffalo. I think they were the better team in those two games as well."

Geez, Belichick has the Vikings going to the Super Bowl, based on these comments.

But he's being too nice. The receivers are still a question mark, and the offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season. Brad Johnson has settled down after too many turnovers early.

The Vikings, though, can cement their legitimacy with a win over the Patriots. And as Belichick pointed out, the Vikings do match up well.
What concerns you about Monday's game?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Injury update...

Vikings WR Marcus Robinson (low back) is listed as questionable and was the only player on the team to miss a portion of practice Wednesday.
WR Bethel Johnson (hamstring), WR Troy Williamson (concussion) and WR Travis Taylor (concussion) were all listed as probable for Monday's game against the New England Patriots.
The only active receiver not listed on the injury report is Billy McMullen.
Probable is defined on the injury report as a "virtual certainty that player will be available for normal duty."
Meanwhile, the Patriots have 13 players on their injury report, including 10 listed as questionable, which means there is a 50-50 chance they will play.
Six of the questionable players are starters: DE Richard Seymour (elbow), DE Ty Warren (shoulder), S Eugene Wilson (hamstring), G Stephen Neal (shoulder), CB Ellis Hobbs (wrist) and TE Daniel Graham (ankle).
Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder), CB Willie Andrews (thigh) and CB Antwain Spann (shoulder) are all probable.
Of the 13 players on the injury report, only Brady completed all of practice. The rest missed a portion.

Seymour status

New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour had his left elbow wrapped at practice today, the Boston Globe reported.
"After stretching, Seymour ran through a bag drill in which coaches also throw a football at players, so they keep their head up while running through the bags," the Globe reported.
Seymour is one of the Patriots' key defenders, and he has 2.5 sacks this season.
For his career, Seymour has 28 sacks and has forced three fumbles.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had little to say about Seymour during a teleconference with Minnesota reporters earlier today.
The Globe also reported that CB Antwain Spann, RB Kevin Faulk, G Stephen Neal and C/G Russ Hochstein were not present at practice. Neal suffered an injury Sunday in Buffalo.

Shuffle on the practice squad?

The Vikings released guard Jimmy Martin from the practice squad Tuesday but have not yet filled the position.
The Vikings could sign one of the players they worked out Tuesday. Former Denver Broncos quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt is not practice-squad eligible. Tony Bua, a linebacker/strong safety out of Arkansas, also is a borderline candidate. But defensive tackles Alvin Smith (Oregon State), Alex Guerrero (Boise State) and Steve Fifita (Utah) are all eligible, along with receiver Justin Surrency (Northern Iowa).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chester Taylor in line for award...

Vikings RB Chester Taylor looks like a lock to win the FedEx Ground player of the week award after gaining a career-high 169 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries Sunday in Seattle.

The other two candidates weren't nearly as impressive.

Kansas City's Larry Johnson carried the ball 28 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs' 30-27 victory over the San Diego Chargers, and the New York Jets' Leon Washington had 20 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets' 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions.

While they scored one more touchdown each, Johnson and Washington didn't have as many yards, and Taylor had a 95-yard touchdown.

Results are announced later in the week.

Meanwhile, Taylor is the NFL's second-leading rusher, after Tiki Barber of the New York Giants surpassed him Monday night in Dallas. Barber leads the league with 647 rushing yards, and Taylor is second with 590.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How good are the Vikings?

Peter King of Sports Illustrated ranked the Vikings as the sixth-best team in the NFL. Here is what he wrote about the Vikings: "Talk about a leap up the rankings. Can't avoid respecting the Vikings any longer, not after they've held six foes this season to 16, 13, 19, 17, 17 and 13 points and beaten the defending NFC champs at their impregnable home by 18."
So how good are the Vikings? Where would you rank them?

Childress press conference highlights

The Vikings are healthy, except at the receiver position. Vikings coach Brad Childress said Marcus Robinson has a low back contusion, and he said Travis Taylor also played through a concussion.
In fact, Childress said Troy Williamson, who did not play after suffering a concussion on the second offensive series, was better off than Taylor today.
That leaves in question the receiver position. But Childress said he is not ruling any of them out for Monday's game against the New England Patriots.

Other Childress comments:
* He said not to read too much into Richard Owens starting in a second consecutive game. He said the personnel group he wanted dictated Owens starting.

* On former Gopher Laurence Maroney: "He's got some mass to him. The big thing is, he's got the speed to take it the distance."

* Childress also said he's not worried about the wear and tear on running back Chester Taylor. Asked about limiting his reps to keep him fresh, Childress noted that there were questions in the preseason about his readiness to handle such a load.

He's No. 1

Vikings RB Chester Taylor leads the NFL in rushing with 590 yards, just ahead of Denver's Tatum Bell (585) and Atlanta's Warrick Dunn (580).
Taylor also bumped up his yards-per-carry average with his 95-yard touchdown.
Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin said Sunday Taylor is underrated.
"He's definitely better than people say he is," Hamlin said. "We had him caged up a couple of times."
But the resourceful Taylor still managed to finish the game with 26 carries for 169 yards.
Taylor is also fifth in yards from scrimmage.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hasselbeck out...

I'm not sure if anyone reads this during the game. But Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has walked off the field with a knee sprain. His return is questionable.
There could be some controversy because Vikings LB E.J. Henderson rolled into Hasselbeck's knee.
It was unclear if Henderson was pushed by Seahawks FB Mack Strong.
Backup QB Seneca Wallace is in the game, and he just threw an incomplete pass. The fans are awfully quiet.


No surprises.

The Seahawks inactives are: RB Shaun Alexander, LB D.D. Lewis, DE Joe Tafoya, T Ray Willis, T/G Floyd Womack, WR Bobby Engram, and DT Craig Terrill.

The Vikings inactives are: S Rashad Baker, RB Ciatrick Fason, LB Marquis Cooper, C/T Ryan Cook, G Anthony Herrera, TE Jeff Dugan and DE Jayme Mitchell.
Tarvaris Jackson is the third quarterback.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hasselbeck breaks down the Vikings defense

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck paid the Vikings' fifth-ranked defense quite a compliment Wednesday.

"Sometimes you play teams that aren't sound and you feel like you can take advantage of certain things," Hasselbeck said. "These guys, the best that they're going to give you is one-on-one man coverage somewhere, and even that is not really that much of an advantage sometimes.

"Some weeks you go into a game and you look at your game plan and say, 'Ok, we're going to go at this guy.' (This is) not one of those weeks," Hasselbeck said. "I think this is more one of those weeks where you are saying, 'Ok, they have really smart players on defense in terms of their secondary. They know what we like to do. We've got to make sure that we don't give them any advantage by taking them for granted.' We need to really study them and know what we are up against."
Hasselbeck also provided an interesting breakdown of the defensive personnel.

"I guess I'd start up front," he said. "I think Kevin and Pat Williams are great players. Kevin Williams I think is one of the great d-tackles in the game right now. The guy on our right, (Darrion) Scott is a good run player, a good, stout run player. The guy on the left, 95 (Kenechi Udeze), is more of a speed rusher, but also a very good player. Very quick, very fast. Their corners are really good corners, aggressive. It seems like they are very smart, take a lot of educated guesses. Their safeties, Darren Sharper I know very well. He's a very, very good safety, very smart player, very athletic. Dwight Smith, the same thing. He reads the quarterback's eyes very (well). They are smart and they are playing a style of defense that is very sound.

"Their linebackers are guys that we have played before, but on different teams or different situations. E.J. Henderson is playing outside now. They're good," Hasselbeck said. "They're solid all the way across, even in nickel when (Ronyell) Whitaker comes in. "

Getting to know...

...WR Bethel Johnson

I figured fans might want to know a little more about the Vikings' newest offensive threat.

Here is a smattering of information:

* He is from Corsicana, Texas, and he led his football team to the Class 4A state title game, averaging 22 yards per catch and scoring 16 touchdowns

* According to his draft profile, Johnson bench-pressed 320 pounds entering the NFL Combine

* His 117 catches for 1,740 yards are all-time highs at Texas A&M

* criticized him for not being precise in his route running, lacking blocking skills and dedication to the game.

* praised him for his burst and speed and his stiff-arm.

* He has seven NFL starts, five as a rookie for the New England Patriots in 2003.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bethel expected to play

Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro did not have much to say about his returners.
But there are strong indications that newly signed receiver Bethel Johnson will make his debut this weekend in Seattle.
Johnson led the AFC in yards per kickoff return in 2003, and he has the mindset necessary to excel in that role.
This should help Troy Williamson, who can now focus on being a receiver threat. He never seemed to show the desire to be a returner.
That is not a knock on Williamson. It's just a job that isn't for everyone.

Spotlight on...

...Seattle Seahawks second-year middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
A second-round pick last year, Tatupu was absolutely remarkable for the Seahawks at a difficult position -- just ask the Vikings.
Tatupu led the team in total tackles, with 105, and he also had four sacks and three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. Among his honors: NFC Pro Bowl and several All-Rookie teams.
Tatupu is small (6 feet, 238 pounds), but he is very fast and covers a lot of turf.
Tatupu is off to a solid start this season, with a team-leading 40 tackles as well as one interception.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alexander and Engram listed as out

Vikings coach Brad Childress said his team is healthy coming out of the bye.
QB Tarvaris Jackson and LB Ben Leber both will be listed as probable, Childress said.

For the Seahawks, WR Bobby Engram (illness), RB Shaun Alexander (foot) and G Floyd Womack (knee) are out. LB D.D. Lewis (toe) and DE Joe Tafoya (knee) are questionable.

In the crosshairs...

Vikings CB Ronyell Whitaker and CB Cedric Griffin.

Even with Bobby Engram out, the Seahawks have tremendous depth at receiver. And with reigning MVP Shaun Alexander out, the Seahawks will not be shy about throwing the ball.
Darrell Jackson is playing very well this season, leading the team with 26 catches for 387 yards and four touchdowns, and Deion Branch had a dominant game last week, with two touchdowns.
The Seahawks also have former Viking Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett, who came up with some key catches in a 30-28 win in St. Louis last Sunday.
The Seahawks will utilize their four-wide offense, and they could look to exploit Whitaker and Griffin.
Are they up to the challenge?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Trade deadline arrives...

...And the Indianapolis Colts were the only team to do a last-minute deal.
Although the Colts are 5-0, the club shored up one of its most pressing needs by trading for defensive tackle Anthony McFarland.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were shopping several veterans, and the price-tag for McFarland was believed to be a second-round pick.
With the league's worst run defense, the Colts clearly recognized they had to make a move if they are going to make a Super Bowl run, especially after losing defensive tackle Corey Simon for the rest of this season earlier this month.
McFarland is considered one of the top run-stuffing defensive tackles, and he has been a key to the Bucs' defense.
Otherwise, it was a rather anticlimactic day.
There was talk of former Vikings receiver Randy Moss being moved.
But he and teammate Jerry Porter are still Raiders.

Vikings defense moves up

The Vikings had a bye last weekend. But the defense moved into the top five in the NFL.
The Vikings can thank the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs for the distinction.
The Falcons lost 27-14 to the New York Giants, and they gave up 259 rushing yards, including 185 to Tiki Barber. The Falcons defense dropped from six to 12, and the run defense from second to 15th.
After a 45-17 thumping in Pittsburgh, the Chiefs slid from fourth to 11th in total defense.
"Mike has done a great job," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin on Monday. "I think schematically, they have done a great job. (He's) a great motivator, a great teacher, and obviously I think the guys respond to what he has to say.
"Five games, as we know, does not a season make," Childress said. "It's the body of work over the course of 16 (games). He'd be the first to tell you that."

Cardinal sin

I don't usually comment too much on other games. But what I witnessed last night cannot be ignored.
I watched the game at home, and I told my wife that the Cardinals were going to regret not getting more than just two field goals out of Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman's four first-half turnovers.
Well, the long-suffering Cardinals figured out a new way to lose. They blew a 20-point third-quarter lead without giving up an offensive touchdown. Then, after rookie Matt Leinart showcased his cool on the final drive, setting up a 41-yard game-winning field goal, Neil Rackers blew the kick, punctuating one of the worst meltdowns ever.
In his post-game press conference, former Vikings coach Dennis Green lost his composure as well, going on an expletive-filled rant after a rather simple question.
"The Bears are who we thought they were!" Green said at one point, yelling and pounding the podium with his fist. "That's why we took the (expletive) field. If you want to crown them, just crown their (expletive). They are who we thought they were and we let them off the hook!"
Green has developed some talented players in Arizona. But the Bidwells certainly expected more from this team, loaded with talented players on offense and defense, as they break in their sparkling new stadium.
But Green has no one else to blame for a terrible offseason move. He signed running back Edgerrin James to a four-year, $30 million contract. Instead of upgrading the offensive line, which is one of the worst in the NFL, Green was once again tantalized by a skill player.
Through six games, though, James has just 398 yards on 148 carries, an average of 2.7 yards per run. James also had a costly fumble Monday night that was returned for a touchdown, and he couldn't convert a third-and-one on the team's final drive.
From a local perspective, do you think this game will impact the Vikings?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mann back...

WR Maurice Mann cleared waivers last week, and he was placed back on the Vikings practice squad this morning.
Mann was released to make room for WR Bethel Johnson, who was signed last week.

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress just wrapped up his press conference. Here are some of his notable comments:

* Childress said new WR Bethel Johnson has "rare" explosion. Childress also noted that Johnson could return punts, in addition to kickoffs.

* Childress said there are no significant injuries for this week.

* LT Bryant McKinnie was excused this morning.

Vikings catch another break

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren told NBC Sunday night that Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander won't return to the field for at least two weeks.
The 2005 MVP has been out with a broken bone in his foot, and he has missed two games. Maurice Morris has been average in the two games, with 34 carries for 109 yards and three catches for eight yards. He has not scored a touchdown, and he lost one key fumble.
The Tacoma News Tribune reported this morning that Alexander will miss at least one more game.
The Seahawks are 1-1 without Alexander, eking out a 30-28 win in St. Louis, on a 54-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Interesting take on Hutchinson...

My friend Mike Sando of the Tacoma News Tribune had an interesting post on Steve Hutchinson on his blog.
Let me know what you think.

"Steve Hutchinson didn't want to leave Seattle so much as he wanted to go where he was wanted the most. The Vikings made it clear to him they wanted him more, and valued him more, than Seattle did (in his view). Not complicated."
"To say Hutchinson wanted out of Seattle would be like saying the Seahawks, in using the transition tag, wanted to get rid of him. Neither statement would be true. The Seahawks used the transition tag because they thought it would lead to a quick deal. Worst-case scenario, they figured they would get a shot at matching another team's offer. They did not think the Vikings and Hutchinson would enter into the kind of deal they entered into. However, that is the chance you take when you go the transition route."

On an aside, Deion Branch has supplanted former Viking Nate Burleson in the starting lineup.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Will Alexander be ready for the Vikings?

Reigning NFL MVP Shaun Alexander will not play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Alexander had a fracture in his left foot. The crack has diminished but not healed, making him questionable for the Vikings game on Oct. 22.
Given the massive contract they gave Alexander during the offseason, the Seahawks will not rush him back, especially since they are off to a solid 3-1 start.
Regardless, the Vikings are going to catch another break. They faced a hobbled Clinton Portis in the opener against the Washington Redskins; they beat the Carolina Panthers, who were without WR Steve Smith; and Lions receiver Roy Williams played only two plays last Sunday.
It'll be interesting to see how RB Maurice Morris does since the Vikings seriously considered signing him this offseason.
He struggled against the Chicago Bears, gaining just 35 yards on 11 carries. But Morris is an explosive runner and a good receiver out of the backfield.
The Seahawks other injuries:

* LG Floyd Womack (knee) remains out for Sunday's game against the Rams.

* WR Bobby Engram (illness) missed practice Thursday and might not be able to play.

* DE Joe Tafoya (knee) is out.

Otherwise, the Seahawks are pretty healthy for this key NFC West showdown. The Rams (4-1) lead by a half game because the Seahawks are coming off a bye. But Sunday's game is in St. Louis.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Trades anyone?

This morning, during my in-studio appearance on P.A. & Dubay's K-FAN radio show, I was asked by a listener if the Vikings will make any moves before Tuesday's trading deadline.

As I stated then, trades in the NFL are rare, given the complexity of the deals. And anyone worth having usually isn't available. But I'm wondering something now: what positions do you guys think this team needs to beef up, and what players are realistic -- and I stress that word! -- possibilities?

As I told Paul Allen this morning, I think Jerry Porter doesn't fit here because Brad Childress doesn't have patience for another high-maintenance, me-first receiver. He had his fill with T.O. last year.

So indulge me. What positions concern you, and what players seem like realistic options?

Where they stand...

Here is a look at where the Vikings stand after five weeks:

* The Vikings offense struggles on first down (tied for 29th), on third down (27th) and in the red zone (31st). But the offense is still a respectable 14th, including -- surprise, surprise -- ninth in passing.

* The defense is seventh overall, fourth against the run and 17th against the pass. It also is tied for fifth in third-down defense.

* As previously mentioned, Brad Johnson has the 20th-highest passer rating (78.3), one spot ahead of Daunte Culpepper.

* Chester Taylor is fourth in the NFL in rushing, with 111 carries for 421 yards. He also is fourth in yards from scrimmage (539).

* Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor are two of nine players tied for 43rd in the NFL with 18 catches. Williamson is 37th in receiving yardage.

* Ryan Longwell is fifth in the NFL for points among kickers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The skinny on Bethel Johnson...

I talked to a few scouts very familar with new Vikings receiver Bethel Johnson.
Here's what I was told:

Johnson is very fast, but his consistency has been questioned because of minor injuries.

He is capable of catching the deep ball and has the speed to get behind a defense. But he also is inclined to drop easy passes.

He can be an instant contributor as a return specialist. That means Johnson will find his way onto the field, and he probably will play because he is built differently than the Vikings other receivers.

So who does Johnson replace in the lineup?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bethel Johnson signed

The Vikings signed receiver Bethel Johnson and released second-year receiver Maurice Mann to make room for him.
Johnson worked out for the Vikings a week ago, at Winter Park.
Johnson, a four-year veteran, was a second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, by the New England Patriots.
The Vikings also cut quarterback Drew Henson from the practice squad.
Johnson was traded during the 2006 offseason for defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan.
Johnson will fill an immediate role as a return specialist. He had 102 kickoffs for 2,557 yards
(25.1 average), including two for touchdowns.

Upon further review...

My thoughts on Week 5:

* WR Terrell Owens had his first blowup after catching three balls for 45 yards in his highly anticipated return to Philadelphia. Owens was visibly angry on the sideline, and he reportedly yelled an expletive upon entering the locker room after the loss.
Since he's not even his team's best receiver (that distinction belongs to Terry Glenn), Owens might not get the benefit of the doubt from coach Bill Parcells, who usually tires of such sideshows.

* I am baffled that the 3-1 Denver Broncos have scored 49 points this season. I know John Elway is gone and all. But come on? Twelve points a game from a team coached by Mike Shanahan, who is supposed to have one of the brilliant offensive minds in football?
And how about the guy on the other sideline, Brian Billick? The former Vikings offensive coordinator massaged three whole points out of his team.

* I am impressed with the 5-0 Chicago Bears. But their defense really only has had one test: the Shaun Alexander-less Seattle Seahawks. And their schedule doesn't show an explosive offense until Nov. 12 at Giants Stadium against the New York Giants.

* Yes, the Indianapolis Colts also are 5-0. But they're winning a lot of ugly games against teams I would have expected them to steamroll in the past. A late comeback against the Tennessee Titans? A three-point win over the New York Jets? These Colts are inferior to the 2005 model.

* I wonder how good the Philadelphia Eagles really are. In my opinion, their only win against a potential playoff team was Sunday. Their other wins: Houston, Green Bay and San Francisco. Let's see how they fare against the surprising Saints in New Orleans.

* The 3-1 Chargers might be my favorite team in the league right now. Phillip Rivers played well in beating the defending Super Bowl champions, and their defense is as good as any in the league.

* Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss obviously wants out. Monday, in a weekly segment on Fox radio, Moss took a swipe at owner Al Davis. And while good teams like Jacksonville might be interested, Davis strikes me as the type of vindictive person who would ship Moss to a terrible team, such as Detroit or Cleveland. I'm sure Matt Millen would love to add another high-priced, volatile receiver to his roster. It's worked out well for him in the past.

* Think the Houston Texans regret not taking Reggie Bush? He scored the game-winning touchdown on a punt return for the 4-1 Saints while Mario Williams has just 1.5 sacks for the 1-3 Texans.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress said his team is fairly healthy and didn't report any significant injuries coming out of Sunday's victory over the Detroit Lions.

"Just bumps and bruises, no particular people to go over here, none to report," Childress said.

With the players getting Tuesday through Monday off, Childress said he did not emphasize conduct more than usual.

"We always talk about that," he said. "We talk about doing the right thing. My reference (after Sunday's game) was no different than it ever is; 'Don’t be the guy.' "

Baskett nets big catch in Philly

In the most anticipated game of the weekend, a former Viking upstaged everyone, including Terrell Owens.
The league was buzzing about the Dallas Cowboys receiver's return to Philadelphia on Sunday. But Hank Baskett, an undrafted rookie the Vikings had on their roster earlier this year, was the game's leading receiver with three catches for 112 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 24-21 lead midway through the third.
On the play, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb took advantage of a cornerback blitz by the Cowboys. Baskett was matched up against a safety. Baskett made a nice catch, and he even broke a tackle on the way to the end zone.
"It feels awesome, man," Baskett told reporters after the game. "The biggest thing is the win. That's all that matters. If you have 100 yards or if you have two catches, as long as the team wins, that's all it comes down to right there."
Much has been made by the decision not to match the offer on Nate Burleson, and the decision to release Koren Robinson. But what about the decision to trade Baskett for veteran Billy McMullen?
McMullen has come up with a few clutch catches. But through five games, he has five catches for 69 yards.
Baskett. meanwhile, has started two games, and he has seven catches for 172 yards. The Eagles are 4-1.
As the Vikings look for playmakers, you have to wonder if one got away.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Culpepper not expected to play Sunday...

Indications are that former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper is being benched for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Although he made a remarkable comeback from a season-ending knee injury, Culpepper has struggled to lead the Dolphins offense, which boasts running back Ronnie Brown, receiver Chris Chambers and tight end Randy McMichael. In four starts, Culpepper has just two touchdowns against three interceptions, and he's been sacked a league-high 21 times.
He was added to the injury report Thursday as probable, which means a virtual certainty that he'll play, with a bruised right shoulder. But veteran Joey Harrington is expected to start Sunday against the Patriots.
Culpepper has looked tentative and certainly not as mobile, as he tries to regain full strength in his knee. It also hasn't helped that his offensive line is suspect, and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey may be struggling with the play-calling.
All of that has resulted in the Dolphins being a disappointing 1-3.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Injury update...

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield practiced for the first time this week and he reported no problems. Winfield is listed as questionable with a thigh injury. But the team is hopeful he doesn't swell up tomorrow.

Barring that, Winfield will be able to play against the Detroit Lions.

Meanwhile, TE Jermaine Wiggins was upgraded to probable, which means there's a virtual certainty he plays, and K Ryan Longwell was removed from the injury report after being sick Tuesday.
LB Ben Leber (knee) is still questionable but practiced again Friday, and S Darren Sharper (quadriceps) is still questionable but practiced for a second consecutive day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Winfield sighting...

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield walked off the field today, although it wasn't immediately clear if he practiced at all. But he said he will play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Winfield has a thigh strain, and he is expected to practice tomorrow.

Winfield still missing...

Vikings starting CB Antoine Winfield missed practice for a second consecutive day.
Although he's listed as questionable, Winfield's injury probably isn't too severe, since the Vikings haven't signed a cornerback. They worked out second-year cornerback Patrick Body Wednesday. But every player, except for Winfield, was accounted for at practice Thursday.
Vikings S Darren Sharper did practice, which was a positive sign for the secondary, and K Ryan Longwell also returned.

Key match up

Vikings RT Marcus Johnson vs. Lions LDE Cory Redding and Kalimba Edwards.
This is getting old. But the weak link to the offense right now is the Vikings' second-year right tackle. I thought his performance Sunday in Buffalo might have been worst yet, and that's saying something.
Redding, the starter, isn't much of a pass rusher (four career sacks). But he stout against the run, and Edwards comes in to bring the heat off the edge. Edwards is 6 foot 6, and he's explosive. Last season, he had seven sacks.
Johnson has to start turning the corner soon, or the Vikings may be forced to turn to veteran Mike Rosenthal coming out of the bye.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Injury update

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield is listed as questionable on the injury report with a thigh injury. He did not practice today, and his status is unknown at this point.
Here are the other injuries:
* TE Jermaine Wiggins is questionable with a hamstring strain but practiced today.
* K Ryan Longwell missed practice and is probable with strep throat.
* QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee) is questionable and missed practice because of the scope he had on his knee last week.
* LB Ben Leber (knee) is questionable but practiced in full. That's a good sign that he'll return to action after missing last Sunday's game in Buffalo.
* S Darren Sharper (quadriceps) is questionable and was limited in practice. Sharper, though, is optimistic he will play.

Winfield not at practice

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield was not on the field at the start of practice this afternoon. During his press conference earlier, Vikings coach Brad Childress did not mention Winfield among his injured players.
Winfield also was not spotted in the locker room during the media's open locker room access period before lunch time.

Practice squad addition

Offensive lineman Donald Penn, who was on the Vikings practice squad, was signed to Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. Rookie G Jimmy Martin took Penn's spot on the Vikings practice squad.

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress said several of his veteran starters will be listed as questionable for the game against the Detroit Lions. Among them:
* S Darren Sharper (quad). "He's swollen but improved," Childress said.
* TE Jermaine Wiggins (hamstring).
* LB Ben Leber (knee).
Childress also said K Ryan Longwell has strep throat and will not practice today.

In the crosshairs...

...The Detroit Lions.
They are one of four winless teams, and they are trying to snap a long losing streak to the Vikings. Any guess on how many games? I'll post the answer later in the day.
But Lions president Matt Millen made a somewhat surprising choice, tabbing Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Rod Marinelli as his new head coach.
Marinelli was expected to bring discipline to the Lions' program, and he was supposed to, like Brad Childress, create a new culture.
Well, the culture isn't much different. They haven't started 0-4 since 2001, when they finished 2-14.

Fox no longer an Eagle...

Former Vikings third-round pick Dustin Fox was released by the Philadelphia Eagles this morning. Fox had been a reserve cornerback for the Eagles. But he was cut to make room for linebacker Dedrick Roper, who was on the team's practice squad.
It's been a precipitous fall for Fox, who was drafted by the Vikings in 2005. But Fox suffered a season-ending arm injury early in training camp, and he was buried on the depth chart at training camp this year.
He's the latest Vikings defensive back to endure a remarkable flame out in the NFL.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sound familiar...

Guess who said this?

"I'm not concerned about football right now," the mystery player said. "I'm loving life. I don't see anybody else having a concern, so why should I? There are negative things going on now. I'm not the only one unhappy."

According to the Contra Costa Times, former Vikings receiver Randy Moss said that in a radio interview Monday. Some things never change.

Upon further review...

Here's a look back at the highlights and lowlights of Week 4 in the NFL:

* The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts look like the teams to beat in their respective conferences. But the Baltimore Ravens look pretty scary when you consider Steve McNair is still adjusting to a new offense and players. He's had his struggles, but McNair has come through leading clutch drives in the past two games. Only one concern: The Ravens have beaten the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3), the Oakland Raiders (0-3) and the Cleveland Browns (1-3). The Chargers, though, were 2-0 heading into Sunday.

* Think Donovan McNabb misses T.O.? He is the third-rated passer in the NFL, with a passer rating of 106.0. He also has a league-high nine touchdown passes. Can't wait for T.O.'s return to Philly.

* Former Gopher Laurence Maroney was one of the stars of the weekend, with 125 rushing yards on 15 carries. Did you see his 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter? He ran through at least four tackles. There are a lot of teams that probably wished they had taken him before the 21st pick. Could the Vikings be one?

* Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth did one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen in sports. And I think it's truly telling of his character. Maybe he can be forgiven. But stomp on Dallas center Andre Gurode's helmetless head a second time and it's inexcusable.
Five games was too lenient.

* Proof that great running backs are only as good as their offensive line: Edgerrin James has yet to top 100 yards in a game, and he had 20 carries for 41 yards Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

* Finally, a closing comment from someone I greatly respect, SI's Peter King, among his I think, I think points: "Minnesota falling a couple of smart Brad Johnson completions short of winning in Buffalo."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Potential changes for Vikings-Lions game

The Vikings just announced that the team's game against the Detroit Lions scheduled for noon on Sunday, October 8, could be moved depending on how the Twins' Divisional Playoff Series plays out.
The game between the Lions and Vikings will move only if the Twins' series against Oakland goes to a fifth and deciding game at the Metrodome.
If that happens, the Vikings-Lions game would be played on Monday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m., at the Metrodome.
Meanwhile, if the Vikings-Lions game is moved to Monday, the Taste of the NFL event at Winter Park in Eden Prairie will be held on Tuesday, October 10.

Childress press conference highlights

Vikings coach Brad Childress just wrapped up his Monday afternoon press conference. Here are some highlights:

* S Darren Sharper left the stadium on crutches Sunday in Buffalo. But Childress said he is "much improved" this morning. Childress, though, wasn't sure if Sharper would play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

* Childress said LB Ben Leber (sprained left knee) didn't have all his "faculties" Sunday, so the Vikings took precaution and made him inactive.

* Childress was disappointed that running back Chester Taylor had just six yards on six carries at halftime. "That's not a good thing," he said.

* Childress said the Vikings could adjust if they have to move their game because of a conflict with the Twins. But he said, "When would we like to play? We'd like to play Sunday at noon, just like it's set up to play."

* Childress said he's not inclined to plug a veteran in at right tackle to replace struggling second-year player Marcus Johnson. "We don't have any plans along those lines right now," Childress said.

* Childress lamented the final play of the game, on 3rd and 10, from the Bills' 25-yard with 14 seconds left. Brad Johnson threw a 9-yard pass to receiver Billy McMullen in the middle of the field, and the offense could not set up for another play.
"With 14 seconds, we could have taken a shot at the end zone. We could have done that. (I) probably could have done a better job of calling a play there, whether it be a shot in the end zone, or one that's closer to the sideline. I probably could have done a better job there."

In hindsight...

Again, hindsight is 20/20. But I was troubled by a decision in the middle of the fourth quarter. With the ball at the Bills' 49, Vikings coach Brad Childress sent his punter onto the field on 4th and 2.
Asked if he thought about going for it, Childress said, "You always think about it.
"But you have to use your best judgment, in terms of you feel the game is going, how you're playing offensively, and defensively, and I think you have to play it to how you're playing that day."
Here's the issue. The Vikings defense had been playing great. But they were on the field for 11:40 in the third quarter, and the Vikings offense was only on the field for a three-and-out early in the fourth. Less than 90 seconds ran off the clock.
His team was down two scores, so why not go for it on 4th and 2?
In hindsight, what decisions or mistakes bothered you yesterday?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Leber out

Vikings starting strongside linebacker Ben Leber will not suit up today. Leber strained his left knee last Sunday in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears. He finished the game. But Leber missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Dontarrious Thomas will start in Leber's place, and Jason Glenn is also expected to play.
Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes (hamstring) also will not play.
If that's the case, the advantage goes to the Vikings, because Spikes is a Pro Bowl player.
The Vikings other inactives are: QB Tarvaris Jackson, WR Maurice Mann, S Will Hunter, RB Ciatrick Fason, C Ryan Cook, OG Anthony Herrera and TE Jeff Dugan.
The Bills inactives are: CB Ashton Youboty, RB Shaud Williams, S Matt Bowens, OL Brad Butler, OL Aaron Merz, DL Eric Powell and Craig Nall is the third quarterback.
Rookie Donte Whitner will start for Bowen. Whitner was the eighth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.