Pat Williams downgraded to doubtful
In a surprise move, the Vikings downgraded DT Pat Williams from questionable to doubtful with a knee injury.
According to the official injury report, that means there's a 25 percent chance he will play.
Williams has been on the injury report for weeks with the injury.
Meanwhile, CB Cedric Griffin (neck) was upgraded from questionable to probable.
For the Bears, RB Thomas Jones (groin) was removed from the injury report but DT Tommie Harris was added with a knee injury. Harris, though, is listed as probable, which means there's a virtual certainty that he will play Sunday.
Oh. That Rex Grossman...
Vikings S Dwight Smith still isn't sure what Bears QB Rex Grossman said to him. But Smith shed more light on their exchange.
Grossman said Smith provoked him, by patting him on his helmet after throwing an interception that Vikings CB Antoine Winfield returned for a touchdown.
"I don't remember that part," Smith said. "Probably said thank you or something."
But Smith insisted that he didn't talk anymore trash to Grossman than he usually does.
Asked how long he has done that, Smith said, "Since I was six years old."
Asked why, Smith said, "That keeps me in the game."
Meanwhile, Smith said he has no idea what Grossman said Wednesday.
"I don't care what he had to say about it," Smith said.
Be sure of one thing, though: Smith will have something to say Sunday.
But who will have the final word?
Wiggins, Hutchinson in uniform
Good sign for the Vikings.
Two of their key injured players, Steve Hutchinson and Jermaine Wiggins, were dressed for the afternoon practice. Reporters are only allowed to watch a limited portion of the special teams practice. But both Wiggins and Hutchinson appeared in uniform, a positive indication for Sunday since the Vikings will need both of them.
More keys to Sunday's game
* In Rex Grossman's four worst outings -- including both losses -- the Bears quarterback has attempted 38.5 passes. But in his other seven games, Grossman has averaged 27.4 passes.
* In both Chicago losses, to the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, the Bears trailed at halftime. And in two other games they arguably should have lost -- to the Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals -- the Bears also were behind after two quarters.
Against the New York Jets, the game was scoreless at halftime, and the Bears trailed 10-3 against the New York Giants.
But here are their halftime leads in other games:
16-0 against the Green Bay Packers
24-0 against the Detroit Lions
20-6 against the Seattle Seahawks
27-0 against the Buffalo Bills
41-0 against the San Francisco 49ers
G Steve Hutchinson (knee) is listed on the injury report as questionable, and he missed a portion of practice. Vikings coach Brad Childress did not mention Hutchinson during his press conference earlier today. In fact, TE Jermaine Wiggins (sprained MCL) was the only player he indicated might not practice today.
The other injured players are: CB Cedric Griffin (neck), G Artis Hicks (ankle), T Marcus Johnson (foot), RB Chester Taylor (wrist), and DT Pat Williams (knee) are all questionable. For the first time in weeks, DT Kevin Williams is not listed on the report.
Meanwhile, WR Marcus Robinson (ankle), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) and S Dwight Smith (shoulder) are all probable.
Childress press conference highlights
Vikings coach Brad Childress said TE Jermaine Wiggins may not practice today, because of an MCL sprain. Meanwhile, G Artis Hicks and T Marcus Johnson will try to practice today.
As for RB Chester Taylor, he is improving, Childress said.
Childress also said CB Fred Smoot and CB Cedric Griffin are both fine.
A good point
A smart reader made a great point in an e-mail to me this morning.
He pointed out that while the Vikings defense is 31st against the pass, that figure is deceiving. He said that quarterback ratings against the defense are more significant and telling. That said, the rating of opposing quarterbacks is 77.2, with 12 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.
The reader also pointed out that the Vikings defense is 10th in overall defense, and 10th in points allowed, and fourth in third-down defense.
That's good info. Thanks, Mr. Holmen.
The Vikings had key wins in Washington against the Redskins and in Seattle. But the Vikings blew a lead against the Bears and failed to give a reasonable effort in a statement game against the New England Patriots.
Now, they will play the defining game of their 2006 season.
Its realistic that a 9-7 team will slip into the playoffs. But the Vikings need to generate some momentum and there's no better time than December? Remember how the Pittsburgh Steelers finished strong in the regular season to win the Super Bowl?
Beating the Bears could give the Vikings such a boost. But if they lose, I don't see the Vikings making a dent in the postseason, even if they back their way in.
Childress press conference highlights
Childress said DE Ray Edwards has a biceps strain, but appears to be OK.
RB Chester Taylor has body soreness.
TE Jermaine Wiggins has a slight MCL sprain.
Childress declined to comment on whether he would keep Jason Whittle and Mike Rosenthal in the starting lineup.
But he said those two spend a lot of time together.
"You never see one without the other (far behind)," Childress said. "They're comfortable with each other."
Here's a thought: Keep those guys in the lineup together. Obviously, Artis Hicks is more seriously hurt than Marcus Johnson. As long as Hicks is hurt, why not keep Johnson out? Those two clearly have a bond, as well. So make it a package deal. When Whittle plays, so does Rosenthal.
As for rookie Ryan Cook, he played 25 snaps. Childress said he did "OK." But a make-or-break game in Chicago isn't a good game for Cook to get experience.
Make him inactive, and have Hicks or Anthony Herrera ready to go.
After snapping a four-game losing streak, Vikings coach Brad Childress gave his players Monday off. And with the usual Tuesday off, that means the Vikings won't have to get back to the business of football until Wednesday morning.
The only mandate was to come in and lift today or tomorrow. Otherwise, the players are supposed to relax.
During the open locker room period, only a handful of players were available.
The ultimate insult
Former Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James has had the roughest year of his career. He didn't get the big contract he wanted in Indianapolis, and he signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
But he has averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry, and he has yet to top 100 rushing yards in a single game.
The low point came Sunday. James carried the ball four times for 15 yards, the same amount as Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, rookie Joseph Addai got 24 carries for 171 yards and four touchdowns for the Colts.
James would never admit it, but he was wrong. He needed the Colts more than the Colts needed him.
But his consolation isn't too bad: He got $11.5 million in guarantees from the Cardinals.
New right side...
RT Marcus Johnson and RG Artis Hicks are both inactive today, due to injuries.
Veterans Jason Whittle and Mike Rosenthal will start in their place.
No other major surprises.
The key for the Vikings defense...
Kenechi Udeze isn't getting it done, and Darrion Scott is more of a run stopper. So the Vikings need someone to fill the void left by Erasmus James, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year.
So that key is rookie Ray Edwards, who had sacks in back-to-back games earlier. But Edwards hasn't had a sack since Oct. 8, and he's hardly made an impact during that time. And when he was expected to start against the Green Bay Packers, Edwards blew his chance with a minor off-the-field misstep.
The college football season is wrapping up, but Edwards insists that he is fine.
"I'm just not getting there right now," he said. "But it's not frustrating. You got to keep working. This is the NFL. Guys are good. They do study tape. I just need to get a good counter to my original moves."
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Edwards has been playing fine, despite the lack of production.
"He's still putting a lot of good rushes on," Childress said. "He's done well on the snaps he's played and I know, again, where you end up heading is saying the litmus is sacks. He's played good. He's played solid defense and done what he's supposed to do."
Hoag lands practice squad spot
Former Gustavus Adolphus WR Ryan Hoag has been signed to the Washington Redskins practice squad. Hoag has been out of an NFL job since the Vikings cut him before this season.
Richardson to IR
Veteran fullback Tony Richardson was placed on the injured reserve, and he was replaced by rookie Naufahu Tahi, the Vikings announced today.
Tahi, signed off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad, attended the team's afternoon practice and meeting.
The Vikings gave tryouts to several veteran fullbacks Tuesday, including former Pro Bowl player Fred Beasley.
Meanwhile, the Vikings also released TE Richard Angulo off the practice squad and added OL Jimmy Martin.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said G Artis Hicks is still struggling with his ankle, and he may not practice today. He was not dressed for the portion of practice reporters were allowed to attend, and he is listed on the injury report as questionable.
T Marcus Johnson was dressed for practice, and Childress indicated he would start, if he is healthy enough. He too is listed as questionable with an ankle injury.
Meanwhile, Childress said rookie CB Cedric Griffin is fine and that LB Napoleon Harris and WR Marcus Robinson also came out of the game OK. Griffin is listed as questionable, while Harris and Robinson are probable.
RB Chester Taylor (neck), DT Pat Williams (knee), LB Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring), CB Antoine Winfield (concussion) and DE Jayme Mitchell (shoulder) are all probable.
All ten players missed a portion of practice.
Long road to Pro Bowl
When he was a kid, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. attended the Pro Bowl with his father.
"I remember going to practice, and getting autographs, trying to get guys to sign stuff," Fitzgerald Jr. said.
So last February, when he became a Pro Bowl receiver, Fitzgerald Jr. had one of those stirring moments.
"When I was signing kids' autographs, I was like, 'Man, this was me seven years ago.' So it kind of hit me," he recalled. "It was a lot of fun."
He realizes the Pro Bowl is out of the question this year, given his numbers and the three games he was sidelined. But now he's focused on another title: Super Bowl champion.
"That would sound a lot better," he said. "That's what we're all working for."
Beasley, former Pro Bowl fullback, works out for Vikings
Former Pro Bowl fullback Fred Beasley worked out for the Vikings Tuesday.
The Vikings are expected to place Pro Bowl fullback Tony Richardson on the injured reserve this week, and the club is contemplating whether to fill his spot with another fullback. In Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins, Jeff Dugan was one of the few highlights for the offense.
Beasley, 32, played eight seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, starting 80 of the 114 games he's played.
The Vikings also worked out former Green Bay Packers fullback Nick Luchey, among others.
Bouman signed by Packers
Former Vikings and St. Cloud State quarterback Todd Bouman has signed with the Green Bay Packers, FoxSports.com reported.
Traded by the Vikings to the Saints in 2003, Bouman started three games last season. But he finished with two touchdowns and seven interceptions and only completed 55 percent of his passes.
Former Viking J.T. O'Sullivan also was considered. But Bouman played under Packers first-year head coach Mike McCarthy, a former Saints offensive coordinator.
Childress press conference highlights
Here are some points Childress made during his press conference:
* The team has not gotten back MRI results of rookie CB Cedric Griffin's shoulder. He missed most of the second half with the injury.
* G Artis Hicks has a lateral ankle sprain. He left Sunday's game in a walking boot but Childress said it's not as bad as a high-ankle sprain.
* T Marcus Johnson also had an ankle sprain, Childress said. Both he and Hicks were removed from the game because of injury.
* DE Jayme Mitchell has a shoulder pointer injury.
* CB Antoine Winfield passed a head test after suffering a concussion in the first quarter in Miami.
Interestingly, Childress also owned up for one of his preseason promises.
"I have not been able to make true the mantra that the Vikings don't beat the Vikings. I'm disappointed in that," Childress said.
The Vikings offense holds steady at No. 15, while the defense is seventh overall.
But here's a troubling trend: the pass defense has gone from 18th, to 26th to 28th in three weeks.
On the horizon are the Arizona Cardinals, which features rookie Matt Leinart and a handful of very, very talented receivers, perhaps the best group the Vikings secondary has faced. The only other ones that could enter the argument are the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears.
The Cardinals also had their best game of protecting this season Sunday against the Detroit Lions. On the flip side, the Vikings pass rush has been non-existent, which is puzzling since the run defense has been downright dominant.
Something has to give Sunday at the Dome.
Somewhat of a mild surprise.
After committing two key penalties last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, RB Artose Pinner is inactive today, and RB Ciatrick Fason will be active for the first time since the season opener.
Pinner had penalties that negated a 102-yard kickoff return for touchdown and the onside kick recovery at the end of the game.
The other inactives are: WR Jason Carter, S Will Hunter, FB Tony Richardson, C Ryan Cook, G Anthony Herrera and DT Ross Kolodziej.
Meanwhile, former Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper is inactive. Other key inactives for the Dolphins are G Jeno James and DT Keith Traylor.
Lehan loving the Fins
Michael Lehan is in sunny Miami, in his first season with the Dolphins.
But Lehan doesn't call Miami home.
"I don't get home very often during the season," Lehan said. It's football time. But I'm definitely a Minnesotan, through and through."
Lehan played football at Hopkins High then at the University of Minnesota. And during the offseason, he lives at his house in Edina, and he works out at the U.
"I get the updates from friends and family on what's going on in Minnesota," Lehan said.
After three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Lehan signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins. He has played in every game except the last, but he almost exclusively plays on special teams, and he only has one tackle for the season.
Still, he has no regrets.
"It was a good choice, and I'm excited to be here," he said.
As for the Gophers, you won't get Lehan to be critical of his alma mater.
"I think coach Mason is doing a good job, with who he has available to him," Lehan said. "It's a big hit to lose (Gary) Russell and (Laurence) Maroney, and we've been a running football for as long as I remember. So to come in and be uncertain about the running game, I think he's done a good job."
I'm in the Dolphins locker room on the campus of Nova Southeastern University in Davie, and I'm waiting to talk to one player. I walk up to Greg Bedard, the Dolphins beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, and I ask him if he's seen LB Zach Thomas.
Puzzled, Bedard looks at me and says, "He's right there," pointing to a guy standing two feet away from us.
Thomas was talking to a couple of other reporters, and he was holding a white mesh bag. I actually thought he was one of the locker room attendants, who were scurrying around, not a six-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
But it's an honest mistake.
The Dolphins list Thomas as 5 feet 11, 228 pounds. But he's definitely 15 pounds lighter and no taller than 5 feet 9 (Alex Marvez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says he's 5 feet 7 after games).
But I played it cool; I walked up to Zach, introduced myself, and talked to him for a few minutes.
Ronnie Brown's status
Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown is confident he will play in Sunday's game against the Vikings, despite a nagging groin injury.
But how effective will he be?
Brown's injury could compel the Dolphins to rely on Joey Harrington to utilize a deep pool of receiving options, led by Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael. Chambers went to the Pro Bowl last year, and he is fast, explosive and has excellent hands. McMichael is one of the game's elite, all-around tight ends. The Dolphins also have Wes Welker and former Chicago Bears receiver Marty Booker.
With that kind of depth, the Dolphins may have no choice but to try and replicate what the Green Bay Packers did last Sunday, especially with Fred Smoot and Cedric Griffin listed on the injury report.
The Vikings' struggling offensive line will face one of the elite defensive lines in the NFL. Jason Taylor is one of the league's most athletic defensive ends, and he leads his team with eight sacks.
On the other side is another former Pro Bowl end, Kevin Carter, who has 95.0 career sacks. And inside is Vonnie Holliday, a former Green Bay Packers defensive end, who has three sacks. The Dolphins are without Keith Traylor, a veteran nose tackle. But the remaining three starters are more than enough for any offensive line to handle.
If the Vikings' offensive line plays like it has the last two weeks, Brad Johnson could take an epic beating.
Richardson to injured reserve
The Vikings offense took a significant blow today. Vikings coach Brad Childress said FB Tony Richardson is expected to be placed on injured reserve because of a fracture in his forearm. Childress the injury could take six weeks to heal.
As a result, the Vikings are going to work out a few players. The only in-house options are Jeff Dugan and Richard Owens.
In other news, LB Napoleon Harris and WR Marcus Robinson are expected to work out and try to return this week.
Childress also said DE Erasmus James is expected to undergo surgery to repair an ACL tear today in Colorado.
LB Jason Glenn will have his procedure Thursday in Birmingham, AL.
Troy Williamson isn't the only receiver dropping passes.
Former Vikings WR Randy Moss is tied for the AFC lead with seven drops, including several on Monday Night Football on Nov. 6.
"Maybe because I'm unhappy and I'm not too much excited about what's going on," Moss said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "So, my concentration and focus level tend to go down sometimes when I'm in a bad mood. All I can say is if you put me in a good situation and make me happy, man, you get good results."
One of the Oakland Raiders' captains, Moss 33 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns.
Not surprisingly, Raiders' coach Art Shell was none too pleased with his receiver's remarks.
"That's what he said?" Shell said. "Well, then that's a problem he has. I don't have that problem. That's a problem that he has to deal with.
"You hate to see that. You hate to hear that."
Wow. What a shock, Moss is unhappy.
I'm curious, do Viking fans miss Moss?
Another one bites the dust...
Mark Brunell is officially the fifth veteran starting quarterback to be benched this year.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs announced on Monday that second-year quarterback Jason Campbell will start Sunday, replacing Brunell.
"We're going to give Jason his opportunity and see if we can be more productive and see if we can get some more answers," Gibbs said.
The Redskins are 3-6.
Consider this, though: Brunell was the 10th rated passer in the NFL, with eight touchdowns against four interceptions.
Brad Johnson is 25th in pass rating, with five touchdowns against nine interceptions.
The benched players: Daunte Culpepper (Miami), Kurt Warner (Arizona), Kerry Collins (Tennessee) and Drew Bledsoe (Dallas).
The unofficial benchings are Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville) and Aaron Brooks (Oakland).
Of those players, though, Leftwich and Culpepper have higher passer ratings for the season than Johnson.
Commissioner Roger Goodell visits Vikings
On his tour of NFL cities, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited with the Vikings today. After meeting with coach Brad Childress in the morning, Goodell had what he called a "very productive" meeting with Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Pawlenty called the Vikings push for a stadium "unfinished business," according to Goodell and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
Goodell also said the Vikings' stadium need is one of his priorities.
NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw also is in town to meet with players.
Richardson fractures right forearm; Glenn done for season
Vikings FB Tony Richardson fractured his right forearm Sunday, and his status for Sunday in Miami is in question. Richardson's right thumb was broken in San Francisco, but he played through the injury against the Green Bay Packers.
Vikings coach Brad Childres said Richardson will not need surgery. But Childress said the fullback's status will be determined by his comfort level with the injury. One of the team's toughest players, Richardson probably will not miss a beat.
Meanwhile, LB Jason Glenn suffered a season-ending ACL tear. The special teams contributor suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter.
Smoot rejoins team
Vikings starting cornerback Fred Smoot returned to the Vikings today after dealing with the death of his brother who died in a car accident on Nov. 5 in Mississippi.
Smoot was welcomed back by teammates, but he had little to say to reporters.
Although Cedric Griffin did a solid job in his place, the Vikings missed Smoot on the field Sunday in a 23-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Without him, the Packers were able to get Ronyell Whitaker on the field more, and they capitalized on Donald Driver's 82-yard touchdown just before halftime. Had Smoot played, he likely would have lined up at his usual spot, right cornerback, and Griffin would have been on the left side. Then Winfield would have been in the slot, opposite Driver.
Childress approval rating...
Vikings coach Brad Childress has the third-lowest coaches approval rating on ESPN's Sportsnation's poll.
According to ESPN, Childress has an approval rating of 16 percent, only ahead of Joe Gibbs (15 percent) and Dennis Green (13 percent).
Childress is below Art Shell, Jon Gruden, Jeff Fisher and even Rod Marinelli, who all lead teams with just two wins.
That's a marked change for Childress, who had the highest approval rating after a surprising 2-0 start.
This should come as no surprise, but the Vikings offense is the NFL's worst inside the red zone. What's alarming is that the Vikings are worse than the Oakland Raiders.
The Vikings have the fifth fewest red zone trips, and they are tied with the Raiders for the fewest red-zone touchdowns (five).
Their conversion percentage of 25.0 is worse than the Raiders, who have converted 29.4 percent.
Vikings coach Brad Childress downplayed the impact of WR Marcus Robinson last week. But the Vikings are 0-4 without him in the lineup. And given the disappearance of WR Troy Williamson (one pass intended for him, no catches Sunday), the Vikings need help at that position.
Given their play, the Vikings may have the worst set of receivers in the entire league. Anyone dispute that?
CB Fred Smoot is among the Vikings inactives. Rookie Cedric Griffin will start in his place.
In a surprise, rookie DE Ray Edwards is also inactive.
Harris and Robinson out again
Vikings coach Brad Childress said WR Marcus Robinson (back) and LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) won't play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
That means Robinson will miss his third consecutive game, Harris his second. Dontarrious Thomas will start his second consecutive game at middle linebacker.
Defensive end Darrion Scott (ankle) remains questionable, and his status will be determined on how he bounces back, Childress indicated. Rookie Ray Edwards is expected to start if Scott cannot play.
Meanwhile, FB Tony Richardson will play with protection on his thumb. He has been upgraded to probable. RB Chester Taylor (body soreness) also was upgraded.
As for CB Fred Smoot, Childress said he may not return in time for the Saturday evening team meeting. But Childress did not rule Smoot out.
The Fall of Troy...
Many are calling WR Troy Williamson, the seventh pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, a bust. He can't run routes, and he can't catch the ball. The former point is a valid one that Williamson has worked hard to improve. But the latter doesn't seem to hold water.
Last year, Williamson had 52 passes intended for him. He caught 24, and he dropped just two, according to STATS, Inc.
This season, he's been targeted on a team-high 53 passes, and he's caught 25 of them for 322 yards. But Williamson has a league-leading nine drops.
So what gives?
Coming out of South Carolina, there were questions about how raw Williamson was. But there weren't serious questions about his hands. An NFL Draft profile of Williamson on NFL.com said this of him:
"Not as quick in short routes as the smaller receivers and is best when having space to operate... Has adequate hands, but struggles to adjust to the over-the-shoulder tosses... Can come back for the ball, but does not show great stop-and-go action (momentum sometimes takes him out of the play, as he overruns the ball)... Sometimes takes soft angles, especially on upfield routes."
Those are obviously things Williamson is still grappling with. But I think the biggest issue is confidence.
The release of Koren Robinson thrust him into a spotlight role, and he has cracked under the intense pressure. He does extra work after nearly every practice, and he takes coaching well, by most accounts.
Asked if he's lost confidence in Williamson, Brad Childress said, "I just think you have to play through.
"You can heighten yourself with balls caught during the day, balls caught after practice," Childress said. "You can't simulate those game time circumstances. We try to practice at a high level here, but success breeds confidence. There is not a magic serum that you can inject in him. You've got to play on. You've got to play through, and that's the toughest thing sometimes, whether it's the quarterback position or the wide receiver position."
Ultimately, it all falls on Troy. Will he step up or not? The Vikings don't have any other options; Williamson's vertical speed is demanded in this offense, and Bethel Johnson isn't exactly known for his ability to haul in deep passes.
Fact is, Williamson may key how the offense performs in the second half.
No changes to the Vikings injury report.
Vikings RB Chester Taylor is still listed as questionable, but he appeared at practice today.
WR Marcus Robinson (low back), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), DE Darrion Scott (ankle), FB Tony Richardson (thumb), and DT Pat Williams (knee) are all questionable and missed a portion of practice Thursday.
DT Kevin Williams (ankle), C Matt Birk (neck) and S Will Hunter (low back) are probable and also missed a portion.
Practice squad move
The Vikings released G C.J. Brooks and added C Norm Katnik.
Can Smoot play?
People grieve in different ways. And Fred Smoot showed the first sign that he wants to play by requesting the game plan for this week, along with his playbook.
But after his younger brother's death last Sunday, will Smoot be in the right frame of mind for Sunday's game against the Packers?
I think it'll come down to how Smoot acts when he sees Brad Childress Saturday night, at the team hotel. If he looks down, then Smoot won't play. But if he looks Childress in the eyes and asks to play, because it's important to him, than Smoot will.
There is certainly no right way to handle this situation, and no one will think more or less of Smoot if he does or doesn't play. But Childress has handled the situation correctly thus far, giving Smoot the space he needs and not peppering him with questions and demands.
The Vikings certainly are a better team with Smoot. But Cedric Griffin is more than capable of filling in against a Packers team that doesn't boast too much depth at receiver.
Vikings RB Chester Taylor is listed as questionable, with a calf injury. But Taylor said earlier today that he would certainly play. Taylor was among a handful of players who missed some time in practice Wednesday.
The others were: WR Marcus Robinson (low back), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), DE Darrion Scott (ankle), FB Tony Richardson (thumb), DT Pat Williams (knee), DT Kevin Williams (ankle), C Matt Birk (neck) and S Will Hunter (low back).
Birk and Hunter are listed as probable; the others are questionable.
For the Packers, RB Vernand Morency (back) is listed as doubtful, along with FB Brandon Miree (elbow).
WR Greg Jennings (ankle) and CB Charles Woodson (knee) are both questionable.
Winfield has no regrets
Vikings CB Antoine Winfield said he had a productive meeting with coach Brad Childress, after his criticism of the offense Monday.
But Winfield did learn a lesson.
"I know what to, and what not to, say in the media," Winfield said.
Winfield said he had a "positive conversation" with Childress.
Asked if he had any regrets, Winfield said, "Oh, no regrets.
"I think it was a good thing. I could tell this morning, in our team meeting," Winfield said.
Childress said during his press conference that he can "understand his frustration."
"He's a great competitor," Childress said of Winfield. "He's a guy that puts it out there each and every week of the season. He has for a long period of time, whether it's Buffalo or here, and he's frustrated. He's an eight-year pro who wants to win, who probably is not going to play another eight years, and he wants to win now. And so I feel it."
FB Tony Richardson and TE Jermaine Wiggins were among the veterans who supported Winfield's comments.
Vikings fill practice squad spot
The Vikings signed DT Alex Guerrero to the practice squad. Guerrero attended Boise State.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said CB Fred Smoot, whose brother died in a car accident last weekend, will attend the wake Friday and service Saturday. Childress did not rule Smoot out, although he said rookie Cedric Griffin would start, if necessary.
Cornerback is a position in which a player can miss practice time and still perform, given how isolation on the field.
Chester to rest due to soreness
Vikings coach Brad Childress said RB Chester Taylor may miss some practice time due to general soreness.
Through eight games, Taylor has already exceeded his career-high for a season (160 carries in 2004).
Taylor has 173 carries for 708 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Taylor insisted that he would play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
In other injury news, Childress said LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) will try to get some work in this week, and WR Marcus Robinson (low back) is running in a swimming pool.
DE Darrion Scott (ankle) also will not practice.
In the crosshairs...
...RT Marcus Johnson.
Deja vu? Yes, Johnson is here again, because he may be up against the best LE he's gone up against this season.
Green Bay's Aaron Kampman already has 9.5 sacks, and he'll look to top double digits Sunday at the Metrodome. The Vikings tried to sign Kampman during the 2005 offseason. But the Packers matched.
Kampman is both athletic and relentless, a combination a lot of players don't have. Johnson has been erratic this season, and he just got schooled -- again -- last Sunday, by San Francisco's Bryant Young.
My advice: Leave TE Jim Kleinsasser on the right side for most of the game. Johnson cannot be counted upon to handle Kampman alone.
Red zone woes
The Vikings officially have the worst red-zone offense in the NFL.
Their conversion rate of 22.2 percent is below every team, including the Oakland Raiders.
Also, the Vikings' 18 red zone trips are sixth fewest in the NFL, behind five teams with a combined record of 13-27 .
Early in the season, the Vikings could count on walking away with points. But the Vikings have walked away from three trips without any points, and they have socred a league-low four red zone touchdowns, tied with the Raiders for fewest.
Interestingly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only had 15 red zone trips. But they've scored nine touchdowns.
As CB Antoine Winfield pointed out, field goals aren't going to win games. And the Vikings need to figure out ways to pound the ball into the end zone if they want to reach the postseason.
Are the Vikings a playoff team?
If the season ended today, the Vikings would eke into the playoffs, as Brad Childress pointed out.
Check out his comments about the team's status at the midpoint of the season.
"Just talk about this football team, 4-4 at the halfway, which is average as average can be," Childress said. "At times good, at times bad, but what I just told our football team, at 4-4 right now if they were picking playoff teams we'd be the sixth playoff team.
"We would be a Wild Card team based on every tiebreaker there is," Childress said. "(We) understand there are eight more to play, but just in case somebody is putting that in a box and writing the Vikings off, we have everything to play for."
The Vikings haven't looked like a playoff team the past two games, and, based on their play, they would be a one-and-done team. The loss in San Francisco is inexcusable. Yes, they were whipped last year a few times. But each of those teams were legitimate playoff contenders. The last instance I can think of when the Vikings lost to such a poor team was the 2003 season finale, when they blew the division and a playoff spot with an 18-17 loss in Arizona.
Childress press conference highlights
Vikings coach Brad Childress talked for nearly 15 minutes today, and he candidly addressed the team's offensive issues and injuries.
First the injuries.
* FB Tony Richardson has a fractured right thumb, but he does not need surgery. Richardson, who met with a hand specialist this morning, said he would not miss any games and still can catch passes.
* DE Darrion Scott suffered a Grade I high left ankle sprain. According to the Foot and Ankel Institute, Grade I ankle sprains are "often from a slight turning of the ankle without significant swelling or pain.
"The region is very slightly tender and there is no feeling of looseness to the ankle," the explanation continued. "There is also minimal pain to ambulation."
* G Steve Hutchinson played through knee and ankle stiffness that sidelined him for one play in the first quarter. Childress indicated he would be fine.
* S Will Hunter had back spasms.
* LB Napoleon Harris and WR Marcus Robinson are still uncertain for Sunday's game. But Childress said Robinson would "pick up his training intensity" this week.
* Childress also said that CB Fred Smoot's brother was killed in a car accident this weekend. Smoot did not find out until after Sunday's game in San Francisco, as the team was about to return to the Twin Cities on a flight.
Smoot has returned to his home in Jackson, Miss., and Childress is not sure when he will return.
Offense dropping... fast
After being a season-high 12th for two weeks, the Vikings offense continues to head the wrong way. The Vikings dropped from 17th to 19th, and tonight's game could have them tumble even more.
The Seattle Seahawks are 21st, as they prepare to play the Oakland Raiders' ninth-ranked defense.
The Vikings run offense is 15th. The pass offense fell from 14th to 19th.
The defense? Up from 12th to sixth, and back as the top-rated run defense.
Inactives for today
No real surprises. The Vikings did not fill S Rashad Baker's spot. The inactives are: RB Ciatrick Fason, LB Napoleon Harris, C Ryan Cook, G Anthony Herrera, TE Jeff Dugan and WR Marcus Robinson.
Tarvaris Jackson is the 3rd QB.
For the 49ers, the inactives are: S Chad Williams, S Donald Strickland, T Harvey Dahl, T Patrick Estes, TE Vernon Davis, WR Taylor Jacobs and DT Damane Duckett.
Shaun Hill is the 3rd QB.
Patriots escape fines
Patriots DT Vince Wilfork and LG Logan Mankins were not fined for their penalties from Monday's game.
Wilfork slammed into Brad Johnson early in the fourth quarter, and he was flagged for roughing the passer.
Mankins was penalized in the fourth quarter for taunting, after QB Tom Brady was sacked and lost the ball.
Harris and Robinson out
Brad Childress said LB Napoleon Harris and WR Marcus Robinson have been ruled out for Sunday's game in San Francisco.
C Matt Birk and DT Pat Williams also were upgraded to probable.
DT Kevin Williams remains questionable.
Key match up
49ers RB Frank Gore versus Vikings D.
49ers QB Alex Smith is developing nicely. But he'll be without his best offensive weapon, rookie TE Vernon Davis, and his receivers are pretty unimpressive, although Antonio Bryant does average a surprising 18.2 yards per catch.
But it is Gore that makes the 49ers offense go. He's fifth in the NFL in rushing, with 631 yards and three touchdowns, but he also has 26 catches for 211 yards, which places him sixth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
He's not a blazer. But he's versatile, and he's explosive enough.
The Vikings want to limit him, and pressure the young Smith, who is apt to make errors.
No change to the injury report...
But Pat and Kevin Williams definitely practiced some on Thursday, and center Matt Birk was also in uniform. Those are encouraging signs for the Vikings, who are fighting through injuries right now.
ESPN ranks Brad Johnson...
... As the 18th best quarterback in the NFL.
Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. said of Johnson: "A poor night versus a swarming Patriots defense that gave him a lot of different looks. His lack of mobility was a real problem, and he forced too many passes into coverage, throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions."
He has Johnson ahead of Kansas City's Damon Huard, who has adequately filled in for Trent Green, and Mark Brunell.
Johnson is below Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Chad Pennington, Jake Plummer and Steve McNair.
Is he too high or too low?
Official injury report
The following players missed at least a portion of the team practice Wednesday:
* WR Marcus Robinson (back), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), DT Pat Williams (knee), C Matt Birk (knee), DT Kevin Williams (ankle), LB Ben Leber (illness), G Artis Hicks (neck), T Marcus Johnson (ankle), and S Darren Sharper (ankle).
Robinson, Harris, Williams, Birk and Williams are all questionable, which means there's a 50-50 chance they will play Sunday in San Francisco. Leber, Hicks, Johnson and Sharper are all probable, which means there is a "virtual certainty" they will play.
The 49ers only injuries are to TE Vernon Davis (fibula), who is doubtful, and RB Maurice Hicks (concussion) who is questionable. Both missed at least a portion of practice Wednesday.
LB Rod Davis, who was released before the season, has been re-signed. To make room for him, the Vikings released rookie WR Jason Carter, who was active but did not play Monday.
Davis is a former fifth round pick of the Vikings.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said C Matt Birk (hyperextended knee) would not practice today.
Pat Williams (knee) and Kevin Williams (ankle) also will be limited this week, and WR Marcus Robinson (back) and LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) are not expected to practice today.
Zebras stood out Monday night
Not that it would have changed the outcome, but I watched a tape of Monday's game, and I was surprised by the number of questionable calls by the officials, led by referee Larry Nemmers.
The ones that stood out:
* How could they rule that TE Jermaine Wiggins did not catch that first-down pass from Brad Johnson? Brad Childress even gave Nemmers and his crew a chance to make things right. But they upheld the decision. Wiggins clearly took at least two steps before having the ball jarred out of his hands and out of bounds.
The Vikings went for it on fourth down, and they had a pass tipped. The score was 24-7 at the time.
* After a 27-yard catch later in the third, Patriots RB Corey Dillon heaves the ball across the field, toward the Vikings' sideline. Didn't look like very sportsmanlike conduct to me.
* After that, on second and 10, Vikings safety Darren Sharper appeared to touch Patriots TE Ben Watson. That the pass pass sailed way out of bounds doesn't matter on an illegal contact penalty. But that looked like a marginal call, as well.
The two penalties I am on the fence about:
* In the second quarter, Vikings WR Travis Taylor was called for offensive pass interference, after his eight-yard catch for a third down. He appeared to bump the defender, but I'm not sure that it was pass interference. The Vikings had a third-and-13 instead of a first down, and they ended up punting.
* I also could not really tell whether the refs missed the holding/ pass interference on running back Mewelde Moore on Johnson's key first-quarter interception near the goal line. Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi appeared to run into Moore, but he was not flagged.
What do you think? Did the refs call a good game?