WR Troy Williamson is a somewhat surprising inactive today. Rookies Jason Carter and Martin Nance are both up, along with Bethel Johnson, Billy McMullen and Travis Taylor.
Viking players pick MVPs
This year, Vikings coach Brad Childress had his players vote on the MVP for defense, offense and special teams.
Here are the winners, followed by some brief statistics and comments:
Offense: RB Chester Taylor. In his first year as a full-time starter, Taylor has gained 1,185 rushing yards, which is ninth in the NFL. Teammates marvel at his toughness and hard-running style, especially given his style and an inconsistent passing offense.
Defense: CB Antoine Winfield. He got snubbed for the Pro Bowl, not even being selected as an alternate. But Winfield was voted the defensive MVP by teammates. With one game left, he has 84 tackles, four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and 18 passes defended. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are essential to this defense. But no one played more consistent than Winfield.
Special teams: LB Heath Farwell. There was no other choice. K Ryan Longwell didn't get as many field goal opportunities, and Bethel Johnson and Mewelde Moore didn't really stand out. Farwell led the special teams with 23 tackles, eight more than Winfield.
What should we expect from offense this week?
Consider this: rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson will make his second NFL start, rookie Ryan Cook, who played center in college, will make his third start at right tackle, and undrafted rookie receivers Jason Carter and Martin Nance are slated to get their first NFL action Sunday.
But the St. Louis Rams don't exactly boast an elite defense (ranked 22nd in the NFL).
The hope for the Vikings is RB Chester Taylor. The Rams run defense is 31st in the NFL, and Taylor is motivated to finish this season out strong. He told me a few weeks ago 1,200 yards was an important number to top, and he also has to be disappointed about his production the last few weeks.
Nothing would mean more to him than have one last big game this season.
Bollinger, Kluwe and Williamson upgraded
The Vikings upgraded QB Brooks Bollinger (shoulder), P Chris Kluwe (hamstring) and WR Troy Williamson (hamstring) from questionable to probable, which means there is a "virtual certainty" that they can play.
The status of the rest of the remaining injured players remained the same.
Given the unusual health of the team, it'll be interesting to see who is active for Sunday. Vikings coach Brad Childress said he he would like to take a look at young players, so I would imagine some of the youngsters will get a chance to play.
Guys like WR Jason Carter, WR Martin Nance, RB Wendell Mathis, DE Khreem Smith, S Greg Blue, S Will Hunter, G Anthony Herrera and FB Naufahu Tahi.
Yes, the Vikings want to win this game. But they need to see these guys on the field, to get some film on them for the offseason. Then, the Vikings can determine what their needs are in free agency and the draft.
Rookie Wendell Mathis promoted to active roster
The Vikings filled their remaining roster spot by bumping up RB Wendell Mathis, who has been on the practice squad the entire season. Mathis played at Fresno State, and he gained 2,300 yards in two seasons there.
With his promotion, the Vikings have a spot open on the practice squad.
Viking fans still care...
Don't worry about a blackout.
Despite the Vikings disappointing season and tons of frustration, the club will announce their 94th consecutive sellout Sunday.
There are 400 tickets remaining, which were returned by the St. Louis Rams.
Robinson officially a free agent
Former Vikings WR Marcus Robinson was not claimed by any club, which means he is now an unrestricted free agent permitted to talk to anyone.
The Vikings also worked out three players, including running back Wesley Cates, who played at California University of Pennsylvania and former Stephen F. Austin State University receiver Tony Tomkins.
They also worked out a defensive back from Howard.
As for the Vikings injury report, no major surprises. QB Brooks Bollinger (shoulder), P Chris Kluwe (hamstring), and WR Troy Williamson (hamstring) are all questionable. TE Jeff Dugan (foot), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), RB Chester Taylor (ribs), QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee) and TE Jim Kleinsasser (elbow) are all probable.
Smoot accident update
According to the Jackson (Miss.) Police Department, a 2007 Rolls Royce Phantom crashed into a guardrail at 2:51 a.m. Friday on Interstate 55 in Jackson.
Four occupants were in the car, and Fred Smoot was one of the backseat passengers.
The driver claimed he was sideswiped or about to be sideswiped and lost control of the car. No other vehicles were involved, and two other passengers sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
There were no signs of improper driving or of alcohol.
Smoot was believed to have been wearing a seatbelt.
Smoot, Griffin headed for IR... and Childress on Robinson
Vikings backup cornerback Fred Smoot broke his jaw in five places and needed surgery after he was involved in a single-car accident Friday in Mississippi, coach Brad Childress said. He will be placed on injured reserve, as will starting cornerback Cedric Griffin, who has a neck injury.
"That thing won't respond fast enough, and we don't want to put him in peril," Childress said of Griffin.
As for Smoot, Childress said "details are sketchy," although he has exchanged text messages with the veteran cornerback.
Undrafted rookie Charles Gordon would appear in line to start.
Meanwhile, the Vikings promoted DE Khreem Smith was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster. They also claimed Michael Hawkins, a second-year defensive back out of Oklahoma, off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.
They also signed Dimitri Patterson, a defensive back out of Tuskegee, to the practice squad.
Here is what Childress said about Marcus Robinson:
"I spent as much time talking to Marcus Robinson as any member of our football team. And maybe twice as much time, talking to Marcus. I wish him the best as he goes on. It's just a matter of getting someone that I feel like has a chance to possibly impact this thing in the future."
Asked why he didn't think Robinson could make an impact, Childress said, "It's what just what you see. It's what you put on the field, put it on tape every day."
Told that Robinson led the team in touchdowns, Childress said, "Yeah, he did lead the team in touchdowns.
"I can't deny that. I'm well aware of his statistics. I'm well aware of how he has gotten open, whether it's by himself or by the system as well."
On Robinson talking to the Pioneer Press: "He's always been a talkative guy.
"That's just his nature. He vents like other people vent. That's his business."
Asked if that played a role in his release, Childress said, "Not in my mind."
Childress talks about Robinson and works out potential replacements
On his weekly segment on Sirius satellite radio, Vikings coach Brad Childress for the first time addressed the decision to cut loose receiver Marcus Robinson.
"We're going to look at some other guys," Childress told Sirius. "I think just, physically, talent wise, that's the whole point. We got some other guys with fresher legs. And so it's really a skill and ability thing."
Meanwhile, some fresh legs worked out today, most notably former San Francisco 49ers receiver Rashaun Woods.
Woods (6 foot 2, 202 pounds) caught seven passes for 160 yards and one touchdown in 2004 for the 49ers.
The other players were mostly former Canadian Football League players.
* S Chip Cox out of Ohio
* Wally Dada, a defensive back out of Washington State
* WR Davon Fowlkes of Appalachian State
* RB Kenton Keith out of New Mexico State
* DB Stanford Samuels out of Florida State
* WR Jovan Witherspoon out of Central Michigan
Marcus Robinson is gone, and some of his teammates didn't find out until today.
"I just heard about it. I don't know what's going on with him. He's a great receiver," said Chester Taylor, who played with Robinson in Baltimore. " I thought he was doing a great job when he had the opportunity. I don't know the whole situation."
LB Ben Leber was surprised, especially about the timing.
"It's so late in the season. I don't think I've ever seen anybody get released with one week left to go. I don't know what happened with it," Leber said.
Other players, though, hadn't even heard about, like rookie Greg Blue.
It will be interesting to see the reaction from other players on this.
Rams still alive... barely
The Vikings are no longer in postseason contention. But their opponent for the season finale, the St. Louis Rams, still have something to play for.
The Rams chances are remote. But they still have a chance.
Here's what has to happen:
1. A Rams win plus a New York Giants loss or tie, plus a Carolina Panthers loss or tie, plus an Atlanta Falcons loss or tie.
2. A Rams tie, plus a Giants loss, plus a Panthers loss, and plus a Falcons loss plus a Green Bay Packers loss.
Marcus Robinson informed he will be cut
Apparently Vikings coach Brad Childress isn't interested in mending his troubled relationship with veteran Marcus Robinson.
The receiver said Sunday afternoon that he was informed by Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel, that he was going to be released.
"I'm not surprised," Robinson said.
Robinson insisted in a candid interview with the Pioneer Press Friday that he was healthy enough to play against the New York Jets, Dec. 17. He also vented about the lack of attempts to the end zone this season, an area in which he excels.
Still, Robinson also made clear that he hoped to work out his differences with Childress.
"I'd like to work things out with coach," Robinson told the Pioneer Press Friday. "But I don't know my relationship with coach Childress. What did I do?"
Although he was cut with one game remaining, Robinson, as a vested veteran, already has his $2 million salary for this season guaranteed.
Robinson could draw interest from a handful of playoff teams that could use an upgrade or some depth at receiver.
In three seasons for the Vikings, Robinson has started 19 of the 41 games in which he's played, catching 107 passes for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Vikings announce contract extension with Williams
The Vikings today announced the signing of DT Kevin Williams to a long-term extension, as reported in the Pioneer Press in Saturday's paper.
The club did not announce terms of the deal. But Williams gets a seven-year extension worth up to $50 million, including $16 million guaranteed.
The deal makes him the league's highest-paid defensive tackle.
"I'm excited to get a deal done and finish my career with the team that drafted me,"
Williams said. "I couldn't be in a better situation. The team has shown a commitment to me and I'm proud they feel that way about me. The Vikings management has done a good job of signing back the core players we have here and I feel good about what we are building."
In 2006 Williams ranks among the NFC leaders at DT with 5.0 sacks, has a career-high nine tackles for loss and has seven passes defensed.
"Kevin has been productive as an interior player on the defensive line," said Vikings coach Brad Childress. "The All-Pro speaks for itself but a lot of things he does go unnoticed. He's one of the building blocks of that defense. We're happy he's going to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings long into the future."
Childress still believes in offense
Vikings coach Brad Childress accepted responsibility for the shortcomings of his disappointing offense. But he still believes in the potential of the unit.
"I know it's a kick-ass offense when it is executed properly and it's been done with all different levels of people and personnel, but I'm not shaken," Childress said. "It's a system. It's a multiple system that you can run it just as easily as you can throw it, and we need to become better at it. That's my job."
Childress said Thursday's loss in Green Bay "illuminates" where the team needs to shore up in the offseason.
"Obviously it wasn't good enough," he said. "That's our offense, that's my offense, and I take it personally when it doesn't go as it is supposed to go. Defensively, I thought they did a great job."
* Rookie CB Cedric Griffin likely will not play in the season finale because of a neck injury.
* TE Jeff Dugan has a foot sprain.
* G Steve Hutchinson and TE Jim Kleinsasser both had elbow hyperextensions.
* P Chris Kluwe strained his hamstring Thursday
* WR Troy Williamson has a hamstring strain.
* QB Brooks Bolllinger is still treating his AC sprain.
Vikings WR Marcus Robinson is active for tonight's game. The inactives are:
WR Jason Carter, WR Martin Nance, CB Cedric Griffin, RB Ciatrick Fason, FB Naufahu Tahi, G Anthony Herrera and T Marcus Johnson.
Brooks Bollinger is the third quarterback.
The weather in Green Bay isn't too bad. Beats the freezing rain back in the Twin Cities.
But here, it's about 34 degrees, and there is a 60 percent chance of rain tonight, according to weather.com. Given those conditions, it'll be interesting to see how the Vikings' young Southern bred quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, responds to this.
Asked about the expected temperatures at Lambeau Field, Jackson said Tuesday, "Coach said it's mind over matter.
"If I don't think about it, I'll be OK," he said.
Well, coach Brad Childress will be wearing a parka on the sideline while Jackson tries to outrun 300-pounders with bad intentions.
But the eternal optimist, Jackson said, "It's not going to be as cold as it was in Chicago, so I'll be all right."
Travis Taylor upgraded...
Vikings WR Travis Taylor was upgraded from questionable to probable today.
Taylor has been very limited in practice this week with an ankle injury. But his upgrade would indicate he will play.
Given that, Vikings veteran Marcus Robinson could be inactive again. Clearly in the dog house with Brad Childress, Robinson's spot could go to either Jason Carter or Martin Nance, two rookie receivers.
Cook not thrilled with first start
The Vikings can only hope QB Tarvaris Jackson does better in his first start than RT Ryan Cook.
Cook committed two false starts, and he said he also missed two assignments.
Asked to describe his play, Cook said, "Mediocre, at best."
Cook said there was no excuse for his false starts.
"If you have those type of things, you don't help yourself win," Cook said.
Vikings coach Brad Childress indicated Cook may not necessarily start again.
"You know those guys have still continued to mix that thing up, he and (Mike Rosenthal)," Childress said. "But you know those things kind of come through as we are out here and how they prepare and those kind of things."
Cook, though, isn't rattled by his poor start. He said he will continue to hold himself to a higher standard.
"I take that as a learning experience," he said.
Vikings injury report
Vikings CB Cedric Griffin is listed as doubtful with a neck injury.
Griffin again did not practice, casting doubt on his availability for Thursday's game in Green Bay. If he cannot play, veteran Fred Smoot is expected to start.
WR Travis Taylor is also listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and QB Brooks Bollinger is questionable with a shoulder injury.
The following players are probable: TE Jeff Dugan (knee), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), RB Chester Taylor (ribs), DT Pat Williams (knee), WR Marcus Robinson (hip), DT Kevin Williams (shoulder) and QB Tarvaris Jackson (knee).
Three Vikings make Pro Bowl team
The NFL announced the Pro Bowl team today, and the Vikings have three representatives and will likely have a fourth.
G Steve Hutchinson, C Matt Birk and DT Kevin Williams were named to the team. Meanwhile, DT Pat Williams is a first alternate, and he will make the team because Chicago's Tommie Harris was sidelined with a season-ending injury earlier this month.
RB Chester Taylor is an alternate, along with LT Bryant McKinnie.
Surprisingly, CB Antoine Winfield was not even an alternate for the team.
Spencer Johnson to IR
The Vikings placed DT Spencer Johnson on the injured reserve, and promoted WR Martin Nance to the active roster.
The Vikings also re-signed OL Jimmy Martin to the practice squad.
Nance was originally an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills. After his release in the preseason, Nance has been on the Vikings' practice squad for the opening 15 weeks of the 2006 season.
Nance played at Miami (Ohio) University, and he caught 90 passes from Ben Roethlisberger his sophomore season.
Jackson to start, Childress says
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Tuesday that rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson will start, confirming a story the Pioneer Press first reported Monday night.
"The future is the future but he'll give us the best chance to win right now," Childress said.
When reporters intially entered the locker room, Jackson said he did not know whether he would start or not. But later, when informed that Childress had announced him the starter, Jackson relished the moment.
"It'll feel great," Jackson said. "Especially playing in Green Bay and against Brett Favre. I'm just glad coach made the decision and that he feels comfortable enough to put me in the game."
Is Jackson ready?
Fans are going to get what they want.
Rookie Tarvaris Jackson will start Thursday in Green Bay, as the Pioneer Press first reported Tuesday night.
But everyone should temper their expectations.
Jackson obviously has a great arm, great feet and a feel for the game. But Jackson still hasn't had an opposing defense throwing everything at him yet. His 100-plus preseason ranking was against vanilla schemes, and his playing time in two games this season was when the opposing team was playing prevent defense.
So Jackson will have a tougher time Thursday, when the Packers are sure to try and confuse and pressure him into making mistakes.
Consider the first start of a couple of more heralded rookie quarterbacks this season.
Jay Cutler was 10 for 21 for 143 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. One of Cutler's picks was among the worst in the league this season.
Vince Young was 14 of 29 for 155 yards, with one touchdown and two picks in a 45-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Only Matt Leinart was somewhat successful, completing 22 of 35 passes for 253 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. But his team still lost, 23-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and he was sacked four times in that game.
But this is what the Vikings need to do. They need to see what they have with Jackson, so they can figure out what they need to do in the offseason.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Jackson's performance in these final two games will determine how much the Vikings need to spend at the most expensive position in football.
If they think he's ready to start next season, then the Vikings can find another discounted veteran, like Anthony Wright or Tim Rattay. But if they think he needs more time to learn, then the Vikings may have to splurge on someone like Byron Leftwich, Jake Plummer, Chris Simms or Matt Schaub.
SI weighs in on Vikings offseason moves
Sports Illustrated ranked the Vikings decision to "break the bank for" G Steve Hutchinson as the eighth worst move of the offseason. The Vikings made Hutchinson the NFL's top paid guard with a seven-year, $49 million contract.
Wonder what SI thinks of the Vikings since the magazine gave their worst move award to the Miami Dolphins for trading for QB Daunte Culpepper?
Joe Ferreira of CBS SportsLine formerly worked in the NFL's scheduling department.
Naturally, he provides an interesting take on the playoff. On the web site today, he talks about teams that "control their own destiny."
Ferreira said both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles control their own destiny for the NFC East title, and the Eagles also control their own destiny for a playoff berth.
The New York Giants, meanwhile, do not control their own destiny.
The New Orleans Saints are in control of their own destiny for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
The Atlanta Falcons do not control their own destiny for a playoff berth.
Here is why: "Even if (Atlanta) gets to 9-7 and beats the Eagles to do that (putting Philadelphia 9-7 at best), the Eagles could still win the East with Dallas at 9-7 and the Falcons lost head-to-head to Giants and Cowboys this year."
Lastly, the Seattle Seahawks control their destiny in the NFC West, with a two-game lead on the San Francisco 49ers. But if the Seahawks lose out and the 49ers win out, the 49ers would win the NFC West because they swept the season series against the Seahawks.
Not surprisingly, Ferreira made no mention of the Vikings.
Marcus Robinson inactive
Vikings WR Marcus Robinson is inactive, along with RB Ciatrick Fason.
The other inactives are: WR Jason Carter, S Will Hunter, FB Naufahu Tahi, G Anthony Herrera and T Marcus Johnson.
Interestingly, rookie T Ryan Cook will start in Johnson's place.
WR Marcus Robinson to be inactive?
There are indications that WR Marcus Robinson may be inactive again today. It is not clear why.
Robinson had been listed as probable all week with an ankle injury, which he has played through for several weeks.
We will keep you posted.
Vikings nearing five-year contract with Henderson
The Vikings are expected to sign linebacker E.J. Henderson to a five-year contract worth more than $25 million later today, according to a source close to the situation.
Scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, Henderson leads the team with 108 tackles, and he also has three sacks and two interceptions.
Barring a last-minute snag, Henderson's deal includes $10 million in guarantees.
Henderson was originally a second-round pick out of Maryland in 2004.
Chester upgraded to probable
Vikings coach Brad Childress said RB Chester Taylor has been upgraded from questionable to probable.
QB Brooks Bollinger will remain questionable, Childress said. But after practice, Bollinger spent some extra time throwing to two practice squad receivers.
Praise has deservedly been given to Chicago Bears rookie return specialist Devin Hester.
But Justin Miller isn't having a shabby season himself with the New York Jets. He leads the NFL by averaging 29.0 yards per kickoff, and he has returned two for touchdowns.
Miller has not been able to score a touchdown since Oct. 29, when he took one 99 yards for a score. But he has to be feeling good about facing the NFL's third-worst kickoff coverage unit.
The Vikings have given up two return touchdowns on special teams, both of them in the past three games.
The Vikings regrouped last Sunday in Detroit. But the Jets boast a truly special, special teams.
Are the Vikings up to the task?
No change to the injury report...
Vikings RB Chester Taylor again came out for practice today, an indication that he should be all set to return to the lineup.
But he still remains questionable, along with QB Brooks Bollinger.
As in turnover.
The Vikings offense has struggled with turnovers this season. But they've immediately cost the team touchdowns in four consecutive weeks.
Remarkably, opposing defenses have taken five turnovers in the last four games directly to the opposite end zone for touchdowns.
"I don't want to turn the ball over, but I sure right now just wish a turnover would just end right there when we turn it over," Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Yeah, it's just been one of those things that we've kind of fallen into where the turnovers are happening.
"A lot of those have been the kinds that have been creeping up and biting us," he said. "Again, we're focusing on them and really trying to cut those turnovers out."
Bevell said he showed the offense highlights of the Chicago Bears defense trying to rip the ball away from players.
"Obviously we know how well they turn it over just with interceptions and the style of defense they play," Bevell said. "So you make them aware of it and make sure that the guys in practice have the ball high and tight. You have guys reaching at the ball in practice and trying to make sure we get better at it."
Doug Gabriel is a...
For all you Viking fans fantasizing about him, the Raiders, using their 2-11 record, claimed Gabriel off waivers.
The Tennessee Titans also put in a claim for Gabriel, but the Raiders got him because of their inferior record.
This is a strange reunion for Gabriel, who was traded by the Raiders earlier this season to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick. Gabriel played solid early on. But he has just one catch for 12 yards in the last four games.
It is not clear why the Patriots dumped Gabriel.
Dugan gets five-year contract extension
The Vikings signed FB Jeff Dugan to a five-year contract extension Wednesday worth up to $4.275 million.
Dugan, who was set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason, received a $700,000 signing bonus, and his base salaries through the 2011 season are fairly modest.
He can earn a $50,000 workout bonus every offseason, and his base salaries are: $525,000 in 2007, $625,000 in 2008, $675,000 in 2009, $725,000 in 2010 and $775,000 in 2011.
Dugan was inactive for most of the season, but he has filled in admirably for veteran Tony Richardson, who was placed on the injured reserve on Nov. 22.
Vikings injury report
Vikings RB Chester Taylor and QB Brooks Bollinger are listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Both practiced Wednesday but missed a portion of practice.
Taylor said earlier today that his plan is to play Sunday.
"That's my goal right now," Taylor said.
DT Pat Williams (knee), CB Cedric Griffin (neck), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) and WR Marcus Robinson (ankle) are all probable.
Spread 'em out?
The Jets have one of the NFL's worst offenses, and they utilize a trio of running backs.
Given how well the Vikings defense handles the run, the Jets may try to run a lot of three receiver sets. The Jets are not real deep at the position, but their top two receivers are both dangerous. Laveranues Coles leads the team with 75 catches for 921 yards and five touchdowns, while Jerricho Cotchery has 65 catches for 802 yards and five touchdowns.
Veteran Justin McCareins also is a proven player. But rookie Brad Smith was a quarterback in college, and he has only seven catches for 30 yards.
Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, though, has another athletic target: tight end Chris Baker.
Though the Jets aren't loaded on offense, they do have enough weapons to be dangerous. Pennington is a rhythm passer, and he can shred a defense. The key for the Vikings will be to pressure him, like Buffalo did last Sunday.
Which Vikings deserve to go to the Pro Bowl?
Here's who I think deserves to go from the Vikings:
* CB Antoine Winfield. He's third on the team with 71 tackles, and he's tied for the team lead in interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He also has a respectable seven tackles for loss, a surprising number given his position, and he's second with 11 special teams tackles.
* DT Pat Williams. Who cares about stats. Just watch a Vikings game, and you realize how important Pat is in the middle. He commands double teams, and he still makes his share of plays. He's a disruptive force, and he's second on the team with eight tackles for loss.
* DT Kevin Williams. He has not had many sacks lately. But Kevin still has five, and he also has eight tackles for loss, in addition to two forced and recovered fumbles. His 43 quarterback hurries seems inflated to me.
Both players don't deserve it? How do you figure, since this defense is threatening to break the league record for fewest rushing yards allowed. The entire defense plays a part in that. But none bigger than the Williams Wall.
* G Steve Hutchinson. Reputation certainly helps him. But Hutchinson has really been playing at a high level of late.
* C Matt Birk. I thought he got off to a slow start. But based on his reputation and his recent play, I think Birk will get back in.
* RB Chester Taylor. He's fourth in the NFC in rushing yards. But Thomas Jones of the Bears and the Brian Westbrook of the Eagles could keep him from going on a free trip to Hawaii.
The teams will be announced Dec. 19.
Did I miss anyone? Do one of these players not deserve to go?
Joe Woods update
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he has talked to assistant coach Joe Woods about his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving Friday night.
Asked if he's talked to Woods, Childress said, "Yeah, I have.
"And as I mentioned yesterday, that's between Joe and I," Childress said.
Asked if Woods will be disciplined, Childress said, "That's between Joe and I."
With three games left, the Vikings are knocking on the proverbial door. At 6-7, they are eighth in the NFC playoff race behind the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. All those teams are 7-6.
But teams are starting to get mathematically eliminated. The teams that are out include: Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.
Moving on up...
The Vikings defense is now rated fourth in the NFL, behind the top-ranked Chicago Bears, the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.
But with a flurry of turnovers the last two games (11), the Vikings are now third in takeaways, behind the Bears and Ravens.
With three games left, though, the Vikings will have a tough time catching at least the Bears. Not only do they play tonight, against the St. Louis Rams, they already have 39 takeaways, including a remarkable 18 fumble recoveries.
Also, in spite of turnovers by the offense that have directly resulted in touchdowns, the Vikings allow the ninth-fewest points per game in the NFL.
Vikings RB Chester Taylor is inactive today, and Ciatrick Fason will start in his place.
Taylor warmed up not too long ago. But he apparently isn't comfortable enough to play.
Veteran Artose Pinner is also active.
Vikings coach Brad Childress warned on Friday that Taylor would ultimately make the decision but that the player would not help the team if he could only play a handful of downs.
"Somewhere, you take somebody at their trust level, but by the same token he knows what's at stake if he puts his hand up and says I can go and then he taps himself out three plays into it," Childress said. "Not a good thing."
To his credit, although he is from Detroit, Taylor said on Friday he would not push himself and jeopardize the rest of the season.
"I'm just going to make the decision that's best for me," Taylor said. "If I can go, I can go. If I can't, I can't."
Meanwhile, right tackle Marcus Johnson is also inactive, so Mike Rosenthal and Ryan Cook will again split duties there, with the veteran expected to play more than the rookie.
Veteran Artis Hicks also is returning to the starting lineup at right guard, which means Jason Whittle return to his backup duties.
The other inactives for the Vikings are: WR Jason Carter, S Will Hunter, FB Naufahu Tahi, G Anthony Herrera and DT Ross Kolodziej.
Brooks Bollinger is the third quarterback, meaning rookie Tarvaris Jackson is Brad Johnson's backup today.
For the Lions, CB Fernando Bryant is not starting and is inactive. Stanley Wilson will start in his place.
Bollinger could be third QB
Vikings coach Brad Childress said QB Brooks Bollinger practiced Friday, and would serve as the third quarterback Sunday at Detroit.
Bollinger was upgraded from doubtful to questionable.
Meanwhile, Childress seemed leery of Artis Hicks being able to push off his left ankle, an indication Jason Whittle will start for a third consecutive game.
Childress, though, indicated that Marcus Johnson is healthy. But he will not be regaining his starting spot at right tackle. Childress said he is behind Mike Rosenthal and rookie Ryan Cook, confirming what many have known all season: Johnson was a big problem out there.
Chester doesn't sound optimistic, but...
Vikings RB Chester Taylor made an appearance at Friday's practice, and he was toting his helmet. But the 30 minutes reporters are allowed to watch of practice -- usually when the special teams are on the field -- expired shortly thereafter.
Interestingly, Taylor didn't sound like someone who was set to play against the Detroit Lions, even though he will have 30 relatives and friends at the game.
Taylor, who is from Detroit, doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize the rest of this season. So, although he wants to play in front of his family and friends, he won't do it at the expense of the final three games.
"I'm just going to make the decision that's best for me," Taylro said. "If I can go, I can go. If I can't, I can't."
Interestingly, Taylor said he suffered his rib injury last week when a Chicago Bears defender hit him late.
He declined to name the Bear.
Taylor has been listed as doubtful since Wednesday, and he has not practiced this week.
Given his performance in Chicago, second-year running back Ciatrick Fason appears set to start against the Lions. Veteran Artose Pinner also looks as if he will be active, along with third-down specialist Mewelde Moore.
The Lions' run defense is 22nd in the NFL, and they will be without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who was placed on injured reserve this week.
Home away from home...
The Vikings have won nine consecutive games against the Detroit Lions. But some other Vikings have fond memories, courtesy of the Lions:
* Napoleon Harris recorded the 1st full sack of his career against Jon
* Brad Johnson threw his 1st career touchdown pass, a 31-yarder to Cris Carter,
* Darren Sharper recorded his 1st interception and touchdown on the same play, with a
50-yard return of a Scott Mitchell pass on Nov. 2, 1997.
But Sharper insisted the Vikings cannot overlook the Lions.
"I'm superstitious," Sharper said. "They played tough against New England. It's going to be a tough game, and we have to play our best football."
Sharper recalled one season when he was with the Green Bay Packers, and the Lions were winless entering the game, and Detroit upset the Packers.
"They will fight," Sharper said. "We know they're going to give us their best shot."
Besides, at 2-10, the Lions have nothing to lose, which makes them more dangerous.
"They can pretty much throw caution to the wind and give you all sorts of different things that you might not game-plan for," Sharper said. "You know, a team that has nothing to lose a lot of times is a tougher team to play."
Vikings DE Erasmus James was in the locker room today, and he said he is confident he can return for the 2007 training camp.
"I think that's no problem at all," James said.
James suffered tears to his ACL and MCL Sept. 17 against the Carolina Panthers. He had surgery last month, as he waited for his MCL to heal.
"If I had the surgery before the MCL was healed, it would have taken me a longer time to recover, because my motion still would have been lacking," James said.
He said the rehab is expected to take six to eight months.
Asked about the timing of the injury, James said, "It (stinks), because I felt like I was just coming around, and then I took a turn for the worse."
James spent a significant amount of time in Vail, Col., where Dr. Richard Steadman is.
Chester not practicing again...
Running back Chester Taylor did not appear at the beginning of the afternoon practice. Taylor, nursing sore ribs, is expected to miss a second consecutive day.
Taylor was listed as doubtful for the game, and his status likely won't change.
Ciatrick Fason and Artose Pinner are handling Taylor's workload for now.
Chester listed as doubtful
Vikings RB Chester Taylor was listed as doubtful on today's injury report. By definition, that means there's only a 25 percent chance he plays.
Last week, however, the Vikings listed DT Pat Williams as doubtful for one day then upgraded him to questionable. Williams started and played Sunday in Chicago.
Taylor is nursing sore ribs. But he is clearly motivated to play Sunday, since he is from Detroit.
QB Brooks Bollinger also is listed as doubtful with a left shoulder injury.
The only other serious injury is G Artis Hicks, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury.
C Matt Birk (neck), T Marcus Johnson (foot), TE Jermaine Wiggins (knee), Williams (knee), CB Cedric Griffin (neck), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), P Chris Kluwe (wrist) and WR Marcus Robinson (ankle) are all probable.
For the Lions, CB Fernando Bryant is out because of a concussion.
Hole in Detroit's middle
The Detroit Lions defense looks a lot more timid all of a sudden.
The Lions placed DT Shaun Rogers on the injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season.
Rogers played just six games this season. But he was still considered the Lions' best defensive player, and one of the league's elite defensive tackles.
This is quite a break for the Vikings offensive line. Rogers is a difference maker because he can make an impact, even if he is double-teamed.
Few players have that capability.
This much we know: backup Brooks Bollinger isn't practicing today. He came out to practice in a baseball cap, alongside Brad Johnson.
Also, the Vikings added Drew Henson to the practice squad again, another indication Bollinger probably won't be able to play this weekend.
Signing Henson means they want to have an extra body to take snaps during practice this week.
Meanwhile, Vikings coach Brad Childress was coy about who would start. He said a decision had been made. But he declined to say who would start. Around the same time, rookie Tarvaris Jackson indicated things were status quo, although he hedged shortly thereafter.
We'll keep you updated.
What will he do?
Curious to see if Brad Childress will name a starter today at his press conference. But in the locker room, I'm sure the quarterbacks will give us the skinny.
Did you notice...
Early in the second quarter Sunday, Vikings rookie Ryan Cook was flagged for a false start as he rotated in at right tackle with Mike Rosenthal. The second-round pick's penalty forced a third and 11, and we all know how bad they are in those situations.
Two plays later, Devin Hester returned a 37-yard punt by Chris Kluwe for a remarkable 45-yard touchdown. Hester juked a wall of Viking defenders, and he narrowly escaped several diving tackles.
It was his fourth return touchdown of the season, tying a league record. He also set a Bears' record with three punt return touchdowns.
Hester was picked six spots behind Cook, who was taken with the draft pick received from the Miami Dolphins for quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
It would be a travesty if Hester doesn't go to the Pro Bowl.
Former Vikings get workouts
Former Vikings S Willie Offord got a workout with the New York Giants Monday. So did former LB Marquis Cooper.
Offord has been out of a job since the Vikings released him before the season.
So who should start at QB?
I was looking at the online poll on our web site. And currently, 65 percent of the respondents agreed with the two starters I wrote about in my story today. Remarkably, if healthy, the respondents also wanted Brooks Bollinger (19 percent) ahead of Brad Johnson (16 percent).
But here's my take. I think Bollinger is too injured to play; otherwise, he may well be the starter. I just don't see someone who needs the the help of two people to dress taking some shots against the likes of Shaun Rogers.
As for Jackson, I think he needs to play down the stretch. But I'm not sure he should start Sunday. It has nothing to do with his comments. Those are overblown; this kid believes in himself. But he does not want to disrespect Johnson or speak out of the box. It's not his style.
What would concern me is starting him at Ford Field.
It's not exactly Kansas City or Seattle. But it's still a road game.
The Vikings are just one game out of a wild-card spot, but four teams are ahead of them.
Why not rotate Jackson in for a few series, like they have with rookie center/tackle Ryan Cook? Let Johnson start, but give Jackson some playing time as the backup.
I know, I know. Quarterbacks complain that they get out of a rhythm. But let's be honest, how often have we seen Johnson and the offense clicking on all cylinders?
So why not let Jackson run the final series of the first half, and perhaps the first one or two of the second?
Childress hasn't decided on starting QB
Last time, after Brad Johnson was benched, Vikings coach Brad Childress said on Monday that his veteran would start the following game. This time, though, Childress refused to commit to anyone and indicated all three quarterbacks are being considered.
"I have a few different options, and I think the biggest thing that you ask as we go, is who is going to give us the best chance to win in the fourth quarter?" Childress said, referring to the final four games of this season. "We'll just look at that, and see who we feel like that is. But as of right now, no, I haven't done that."
One complication is the injury of Brooks Bollinger, who performed the best of the three. But Bollinger hurt his shoulder, and he needed an injection to deal with the pain.
Asked how much his injury plays into his decision, Childress said, "It's a factor."
Childress also acknowledged that Jackson is a viable option.
Brad Johnson still starter?
Vikings quarterbacks Brooks Bollinger and Tarvaris Jackson said they have not been given any indication who will start Monday. Meanwhile, veteran Brad Johnson did not appear in the locker room this morning.
I'm sure Vikings coach Brad Childress will shed light on this issue at 1:15, when he has his press conference.
But Jackson sure didn't lobby for the job.
"I think we still have an outside chnce of going to the playoffs, so we still trying to do that," Jackson said. "So it's obvious that Brad is still going to be the quarterback. He's the best guy for the job. So we're going to stay with that."
Later, though, he changed course and said he would be ready, if he were named the starter.
I expect Childress to clear all this confusion up.
WR Troy Williamson is inactive for today's game, confirming my hunch Friday. Rookie WR Jason Carter is also inactive, which means they have four receivers active.
Also inactive: RB Artose Pinner, S Will Hunter, FB Naufahu Tahi, T Marcus Johnson and G Artis Hicks.
Tarvaris Jackson is the third quarterback.
Will Williamson be active?
Given his precipitous fall, it wouldn't be out of the question for WR Troy Williamson to be inactive Sunday. There are several reasons this is possible.
If the conditions are going to be sloppy, you think the Vikings are going to have a lot of confidence that Williamson can haul in those deep passes? While you're thinking, just think of all the ones he dropped in the Metrodome.
In addition, the Vikings may be forced to limit their throws, if the winds are strong Sunday. Brad Johnson doesn't have the strongest arm, and a run-oriented game plan may be the best best for the Vikings.
Also, given the injuries, the Vikings may need the numbers. DT Pat Williams and TE Jermaine Wiggins have bum knees, and the offensive line is hobbled. Could new Viking Naufahu Tahi make his debut, providing some juice on special teams and giving them a natural fullback?
Or, given the recent struggles of the coverage units, perhaps the Vikings may want an extra spot for one of the better special teams players?
Just food for thought.
In other news, Vikings coach Brad Childress said Williams has been upgraded to questionable and RB Chester Taylor (wrist) and G Steve Hutchinson were upgraded to probable.
There is a theme in many of the Chicago Bears' blowouts: WR Bernard Berrian tallies a big touchdown.
Berrian has six catches of 40 or more yards this season. But three of them have been for touchdowns, and one other, a 62-yarder, was in a 40-7 blowout of the Buffalo Bills.
He had a 49-yard touchdown in a 26-0 defeat of the Green Bay Packers.
He had a 41-yard touchdown in a 34-7 win over the Detroit Lions.
He had a 40-yard touchdown in a 37-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
He was a non-factor in the loss to the Miami Dolphins (one catch for 10 yards), and his explosiveness didn't matter in the loss to the New England Patriots. In that game, he caught five passes for 104 yards, including a 47-yarder. But he did not score.
The Vikings thrive in press, man-to-man coverage. But the Vikings may have to consider playing a little off of Berrian, to respect his speed, or make sure there is safety help in many instances.