Minnesota Vikings: Robert Blanton

In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: safety Jamarca Sanford.

Why he has something to prove: Sanford missed three games last season and struggled through hamstring and groin injuries for a good chunk of the season, and Andrew Sendejo played well enough in Sanford's absence to make the safety position opposite Harrison Smith an open question heading into this season. Sanford took a pay cut this offseason, and wasn't able to make much of an impression during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp because of a muscle pull that kept him out of team drills for most of the spring. That meant Robert Blanton got plenty of work alongside Smith, and with Sendejo, Kurt Coleman and rookie Antone Exum in the mix, Sanford will have plenty of competition for a starting spot.

What he must do: Sanford has been one of the Vikings' best safeties in coverage, and that could come in handy this season as the Vikings toy with the idea of putting their safeties in man coverage more often. That would allow them to stay in their base defense instead of bringing in a nickel back, and Sanford can make a case there if he's healthy enough to keep up with receivers this season. He gave up just 0.33 yards per snap of pass coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Though Sendejo was just behind Sanford, ranking 10th in the league with 0.34 yards per coverage snap, Sanford has a longer resume. If he's able to fare well against receivers in training camp and the preseason, it might help him make his case.

Projection: It wouldn't be surprising to see Sanford bumped out of a starting spot, as much competition with as there will be at safety and as interested in Blanton as the Vikings seemed to be this spring. But the guess here is Sanford will win the job to begin the season by a narrow margin, and get a chance to work toward his next contract, whether it's with the Vikings or someone else.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A look at the highlights from the first day of the Minnesota Vikings' mandatory minicamp on Tuesday:

1. Loaded for Barr: The Vikings got first-round pick Anthony Barr on the field for the first time with their full team on Tuesday, after he graduated from UCLA over the weekend, and head coach Mike Zimmer didn't hesitate to try out some of the different ways he wants to use the linebacker. Barr was at the strong-side linebacker position the Vikings expect him to play, but he also lined up as an edge rusher on some third downs. At 6-foot-4, he's taller than defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and if he can rush from the line of scrimmage, the Vikings can present a number of different looks to confuse opposing offenses, especially when Griffen's versatility enters the equation.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Anthony Barr
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsFirst-round pick Anthony Barr participated on the field on the first day of Vikings' mandatory minicamp.
2. Robinson returns: Cornerback Josh Robinson was back on the field on Tuesday, after missing the Vikings' organized team activities with a muscle pull. He was also back at an outside cornerback position, following last year's failed experiment at slot cornerback. Robinson got plenty of snaps in the Vikings' first-team defense on Tuesday, and could wind up playing in the nickel package once Captain Munnerlyn moves inside.

3. Quarterbacks look sharp: The Vikings ran plenty of play-action and bootleg plays on Tuesday, and all three of their quarterbacks had a successful afternoon practice. Matt Cassel missed just one of the nine throws he attempted in 11-on-11 and was 5-for-5 in 7-on-7 work. Teddy Bridgewater was 13-for-15 in 11-on-11 action and 4-for-5 in 7-on-7, and Christian Ponder hit all four throws he attempted. Ponder again got fewer snaps than Cassel or Bridgewater, but he looked good in what he was asked to do. "Everyone's getting reps with the ones and twos," Ponder said. "I'm not getting as many reps as the other guys, but I'm trying to take full advantage, and we'll see what happens. I don't know how long the evaluation process is going to be. I'm hoping it goes into training camp and preseason games, but we'll see."

4. Jennings impresses: Wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the Vikings' open OTA last week because of a charity event, caught four balls on the first day of minicamp, and saved his best for last, reaching out for a one-handed grab over the middle on a throw from Cassel in 7-on-7.

5. Middle linebacker plan emerges? The Vikings used Jasper Brinkley, Chad Greenway and Michael Mauti at middle linebacker on Tuesday, noticeably keeping Audie Cole on the outside after Cole played the middle at the end of last season. Brinkley has gotten more first-team work than anyone else in the middle, so far, but Zimmer cautioned not to read too much into that. "We have to line them up somewhere when we go, but I don't look at this guy is the favorite or that guy is the starter," he said. "(Brinkley)'s lined up with the first team right now, but I don't know, once we get him in practice and games and the things that prepare us for games and for the season, that will determine who lines up there on Sept. 7."

6. Safeties still limited: Jamarca Sanford was able to do a little more work after missing OTAs with a muscle injury, but the Vikings were mostly using Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, Antone Exum and Kurt Coleman, with Blanton often pairing with Harrison Smith in 7-on-7 drills. Safety Andrew Sendejo was still limited with a back injury. Tight end Allen Reisner sat out, and running back Joe Banyard was a limited participant. Matt Kalil and Linval Joseph were again limited after knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but Zimmer said he expects both to be ready for training camp.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We touched on this in some detail in the second part of our Vikings mailbag this morning, and also in this look at the team's plan for Harrison Smith, but I wanted to briefly revisit the idea of getting good cover safeties in Mike Zimmer's defense and what that could mean for how the position plays out this season.

General manager Rick Spielman mentioned after the draft that the Vikings' coaching staff wants safeties with the skills to handle receivers in man coverage, and as NFL offenses have shifted toward the passing game, putting more wideouts on the field and flexing more agile tight ends out from the line of scrimmage, defenses have responded by asking their safeties to be more versatile. The strong safety/free safety designation is all but gone in the NFL -- largely because teams can't presume to have one safety who's primarily there to play the run -- and as Zimmer said last week, the league has gotten to a point where he's wondered if it's a better idea to take a safety off the field altogether.

"The safety position in college football really is hard to find guys now at least in my opinion -- guys that have the coverage ability that you are looking for," he said. "There are times in my career that I always thought, 'Let’s play three with corners and one safety and make the other guy a safety because of the throwing that's been going on in the league.' The bigger corners that may not be quite as fast that are better tacklers, that are more physical, smart -- they have to be smart -- we always have a little category for those guys to be a possibility of being safeties."

Zimmer said that in response to a question about rookie Antone Exum, whom the Vikings will convert from cornerback to safety, and if the Virginia Tech rookie wins some playing time this year, it will probably be because of his coverage ability. We saw this play out in Cincinnati, where Zimmer's best defenses had two safeties who could handle receivers; according to Pro Football Focus, the Bengals' George Iloka allowed the fifth-fewest yards per coverage snap of any safety in the league last season, while counterpart Reggie Nelson ranked 12th. In 2012, Nelson and Chris Crocker were 18th and 21st in the league, respectively.

That could also bode well for Jamarca Sanford, who's been one of the Vikings' better coverage safeties over the past few seasons. He allowed just 149 yards in 452 snaps of pass coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and tied Seattle's Earl Thomas for the seventh-best figure in the league (the Vikings' Andrew Sendejo was ninth). In 2012, Sanford gave up only 199 yards in 476 coverage snaps, as he played well enough to get a two-year deal from the Vikings.

The competition for playing time at safety this year -- especially at the spot opposite Smith -- figures to be a heated race between Sanford, Sendejo, Exum, Kurt Coleman, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond, but in today's NFL, and especially in the NFC North, how well the Vikings' safeties can handle receivers will play a significant role in setting the pecking order.
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can send them to me on Twitter any time during the week at @GoesslingESPN, using the hashtag #VikingsMail. There were plenty of good questions after the draft this week. We covered the first handful of them on Saturday, and we'll look at another set of them this morning.

@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. We'll get started here for the day, with a topic that's getting plenty of attention after coach Mike Zimmer said on Friday that Teddy Bridgewater will get some first-team reps before the season. To be clear, the fact that Bridgewater will get some first-team snaps doesn't mean he's in line to be the opening day starter, nor does it mean he should be. There's no reason to rush him along, with Matt Cassel signed for two years and having offered a few snapshots of his ability to lead the Vikings' offense. To me, the only way Bridgewater should start in Week 1 is if he's so much better than Cassel before the season that it's a clear choice. If anything, the Vikings' trade back into the first round to select Bridgewater should engender more patience, not less; the Vikings now have a fifth-year option on his contract that they wouldn't have had if he'd still been there for them in the second round. I also wouldn't rule out Bridgewater starting later in the year if he doesn't start Week 1, especially if the Vikings get off to a poor start against their tough opening schedule. Essentially, I'd do this: If Bridgewater is good enough to beat out Cassel for the job, give it to him. If he's not, don't force him onto the field just to get his feet wet and showcase the future to the fans. There will be plenty of time for that, and the great benefit of the Vikings re-signing Cassel is the flexibility it bought them. They should use it wisely.

@GoesslingESPN: I wouldn't say the safety competition is exclusively between Jamarca Sanford and Antone Exum; there are plenty of other players, like Andrew Sendejo, Kurt Coleman, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond, who will be fighting for playing time at safety. The thing I think the Vikings like about Exum is that he should theoretically have good cover skills as a safety, having played cornerback in college. General manager Rick Spielman has talked about the new coaching staff's desire to have safeties who can cover receivers, and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has held up Seattle's safeties (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor) as a model of the versatility that safeties who can cover receivers buy for their teams. That said, I can't see the Vikings having three safeties on the field unless one of them is good enough to moonlight as a cover corner. Exum might be able to do that, and Blanton played slot cornerback some last season, but the Vikings doing that would likely mean something went wrong with their group of cornerbacks.

@GoesslingESPN: The possibility of NFL discipline for wide receiver Jerome Simpson is one reason why I thought the Vikings might take a receiver in the middle rounds of the draft. The fact that they didn't means that they'll have to hope the league doesn't come down on Simpson for his drunken-driving arrest last November, or that someone else on their roster can emerge. Jarius Wright has shown flashes of being a contributor as a slot receiver, and he might be less at risk of getting lost in Norv Turner's offense than he did at times in Bill Musgrave's, but the Vikings could really use another receiver that can line up outside and allow Greg Jennings to work in the slot, where he saw much of his success in Green Bay. I wouldn't discount Adam Thielen, who spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad and offers some of the size they need at 6-foot-3. Even if Simpson isn't disciplined, the Vikings could benefit from another receiver emerging, since Jennings will be 31 in September and Cordarrelle Patterson, for all his talent, is still only three years removed from junior college.

@GoesslingESPN: We'll close here for the week, since this question will be a natural follow-up from the previous one. That's because Erik Lora, who was Jimmy Garoppolo's favorite target at Eastern Illinois, could have a chance to fight for a roster spot at slot receiver. Antonio Richardson, the Tennessee tackle who went undrafted after being projected to go on the second day of the draft, could be a nice pickup if the Vikings can figure out how to manage his health (there were concerns before draft that Richardson would only play several years because of arthritic knees). Tight end AC Leonard is intriguing because of his speed (a 4.5 40) and the fact he can play a number of different spots, but he'd have to learn to play in-line and handle blockers effective (he's just 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds). All three have potential, and some significant question marks, but it's becoming more common for teams to find solid contributors in the ranks of undrafted free agents. The Vikings will have to hope they've got a couple this year.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings begin their three-day voluntary minicamp on Tuesday, and as players head back to work at the team facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, getting on the field with coach Mike Zimmer for the first time, we're continuing our look at the team's salary cap picture with a breakdown of the Vikings' defense.

Defensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space: 22.26

Total cap charge: $27.86 million

NFL average: $21.65 million

Biggest cap hit: Everson Griffen, $8.2 million

Biggest bargain: Corey Wootton, $1.7 million

[+] EnlargeEverson Griffen
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerEverson Griffen recorded 5.5 sacks this past season for the Vikings.
Thoughts: This position represents the biggest investment on the Vikings' roster, with the team banking on young players like Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph to succeed Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and -- in some senses, since the Vikings haven't found a solid nose tackle since his time with Minnesota ended in 2011 -- Pat Williams. There are some potential key contributors on the lower end of the salary structure, though, like Wootton, who had seven sacks in 2012, and Tom Johnson, who could provide some value in a three-technique tackle rotation with Rhodes. He's making just $845,000, but if he gets around 20 snaps a game, he could make a meaningful contribution to the line.


Percentage of salary-cap space: 9.28

Total cap charge: $11.60 million

NFL average: $15.64 million

Biggest cap hit: Chad Greenway, $7.2 million

Biggest bargain: Audie Cole, $570,000
Thoughts: The Vikings have plenty to figure out at the position, where only Greenway seems like a lock as a starter right now. There will be competition at both middle linebacker (between Cole, Michael Mauti and Jasper Brinkley) and weak-side linebacker (between Gerald Hodges, Terrell Manning and possibly Mauti and Cole, who have both played outside before). Greenway will have plenty to prove this season, as well, after the Vikings asked him to restructure his deal following a disappointing and injury-plagued 2013 season. He'll be a free agent after 2015, and with an $8.8 million cap hit for 2015, he could be a candidate for another restructuring -- or a release, if the Vikings feel they can go younger. It also wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings address this position high in the draft.


Percentage of salary-cap space: 6.34

Total cap charge: $7.93 million

NFL average: $8.19 million

Biggest cap hit: Jamarca Sanford, $2.5 million

Biggest bargain: Andrew Sendejo, $866,666

Thoughts: There will be competition at the spot opposite Harrison Smith, where Sanford, Sendejo and Kurt Coleman could all compete for playing time. Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton are still on the roster, too, so the Vikings will have no shortage of options. Smith should be recovered from turf toe after missing half of last season, and if he's on the field for 16 games, the Vikings could see him continue to turn into a star. He's got great range, plays with an edge and seems to have an innate feel for the position.


Percentage of salary-cap space: 7.34

Total cap charge: $9.18 million

NFL average: $12.29 million

Biggest cap hit: Captain Munnerlyn, $3.33 million

Biggest bargain: Marcus Sherels, $1 million

Thoughts: It's likely the Vikings will add another cornerback in the draft, but they should be better here in 2014 than they were in 2013, after adding Munnerlyn in free agency to solve their problem at slot cornerback. Xavier Rhodes looks like he could be a fixture at one cornerback spot, and if the Vikings can add another one and make Josh Robinson a dime cornerback, they should be in good shape. The undersized Sherels acquitted himself well when injuries forced him into action last season. He always gives a full effort, and has become a good punt returner.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Of the many young players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster who earned playing time and performance bonuses from the NFL for their work last season, right guard Brandon Fusco topped the list.

Fusco earned an extra $237,060.74 for his work last season, giving him the biggest share of the Vikings' $3.46 million total distribution, according to figures released by the NFL management council. The total amount is negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, and while every player gets at least a small bonus, the system is designed to reward low-salaried players who see the most playing time.

For a team like the Vikings, that meant a number of players saw big boosts to their paycheck; Fusco made just $594,167 last season, and he started 15 games.

See the NFL's full list of performance-based pay distributions here.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the defensive backs.


2014 free agents: Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels (restricted)

The good: In a year where the Vikings' pass defense gave up more touchdowns than any in the league, it was tough to find bright spots in their secondary, but a few did emerge toward the end of the season. Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes thrived when the Vikings let him play more press coverage, and seemed to make a significant leap in December. Cornerback Shaun Prater also had an impressive interception against Philadelphia, and was at least serviceable once injuries depleted the Vikings' cornerback depth. Second-year man Robert Blanton moved from safety to nickel cornerback in December. And at safety. the Vikings found out they might have a solid contributor in Andrew Sendejo, who filled in for the injured Harrison Smith and looked like he might be able to push Jamarca Sanford for playing time in 2014.

The bad: Where do we start? At cornerback, the Vikings look like they might have something in Rhodes, and the 5-foot-10 Sherels competed as hard as anyone on the Vikings' roster. But general manager Rick Spielman made the decision to cut Antoine Winfield based on the belief the Vikings would get enough development from their young corners to survive, and that just didn't happen. In the first two months of the season, slot cornerback Josh Robinson was targeted more than any other cornerback in the league, and was struggling so much in September that the Vikings nearly re-signed Winfield before their Sept. 29 game in London. And Cook, who was supposed to be the leader of the group in his fourth season, had another rough season; Pro Football Focus had Cook getting beat for nine touchdowns, which tied the most in the league.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Sanford ($2.75 million), Harrison Smith ($1.94 million), Rhodes ($1.77 million), Sendejo ($866,666), Robinson ($811,250), Mistral Raymond ($669,483), Blanton ($622,763), Prater ($570,000), Robert Steeples ($495,000). It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings make a run at a free-agent cornerback like Tennessee's Alterraun Verner, whom new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray coached as the Titans' defensive coordinator. The Vikings need to add some quality corners to their roster, and just for the sake of opening up roster space, it might lead them to cut some of the low-priced corners at the bottom of their roster.

Draft priority: High. The Vikings took Rhodes in Round 1 last year, and if there's a good cornerback available at No. 8, they could look in that direction if they can't find a quarterback. There are two things you absolutely have to be good at in today's NFL -- throwing the ball and stopping the pass -- and the Vikings weren't very good at either of them. Someone like Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert could be a good fit for the Vikings in the first round.
Welcome back to our chronological look at the 10 plays that most shaped the Minnesota Vikings' 2013 season. Today: Play No. 8.

WHEN: Nov. 24, 2013

WHERE: A 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers.

THE PLAY: Matt Flynn's 28-yard completion to James Jones after Everson Griffen jumped offside.

WHAT THEY SAID: Linebacker Chad Greenway: "It’s that same shoot-yourself-in-the-foot kind of feeling we’ve had before. We get in a position where we need some stops and we can’t get them. Or we get them and then there’s a penalty.”

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: The Packers had turned a 23-7 deficit into a three-point game once Flynn replaced Scott Tolzien in the second half, but they were still facing fourth-and-6 from the Vikings' 40 with just over a minute left when Flynn barked a hard count and got Griffen to jump. The backup quarterback bought himself a free play, just ahead of Audie Cole's blitz, and lofted a jump ball to receiver James Jones, who separated from Marcus Sherels and came back for the pass. It put the Packers in field goal range, allowed Mason Crosby to tie the game and set up the Vikings' fifth last-minute blown lead of the season. The Vikings would give the Packers another reprieve in overtime when Robert Blanton was called for defensive holding on third-and-9 (on a call coach Leslie Frazier and many Vikings fans disagreed with), and Flynn drove the Packers to a field goal. While the defensive breakdowns were a constant theme of the Vikings' season, this one was particularly galling because it was directly enabled by penalties, which typically aren't among the Vikings' biggest problems.
Leslie FrazierAP Photo/Tom UhlmanA 42-14 loss to the Bengals didn't help Leslie Frazier's case to remain the Vikings' head coach.
CINCINNATI -- The Minnesota Vikings had just finished their 10th and most lopsided loss of the season, falling by four touchdowns to the Cincinnati Bengals at a time when such a shot could prove fatal to the chances of coach Leslie Frazier keeping his job. Running back Adrian Peterson -- who had said on Friday he looked forward to playing for Frazier "for the rest of my career," was even more pointed in his support of Frazier on Sunday.

After the season, Peterson said, he planned to communicate that support directly to ownership.

"I'm definitely not an individual that's looking for dramatic change. It would hurt if he leaves," Peterson said. "I try to say what I think, but there's a time and place for everything. With the season getting wrapped up, that time is coming. I'm going to give my input, see what they have to say and we'll go from there."

By that time, it might be too late for Peterson or anyone else looking to stump for Frazier. The Vikings need wins more than words to make that case, and instead of following up a blowout of the Philadelphia Eagles with another win over a playoff contender on Sunday, they got steamrolled, 42-14, by the Bengals in a game that guaranteed Frazier will have more seasons with double-digit losses (two) than double-digit wins (one) to his name as the Vikings' coach.

The loss, as much as anything, highlighted the glaring deficiencies on the Vikings' roster. Frazier can do little about his quarterback situation, where the inconsistent Matt Cassel has looked like the best of a weak bunch, and on Sunday, the coach's list of healthy cornerbacks included a converted safety (Robert Blanton), an undrafted free agent (Marcus Sherels), two practice-squad additions (Shaun Prater and Robert Steeples) and former second-round pick Chris Cook, who's been so unreliable that the Vikings were rotating him with Prater and Sherels on Sunday. That situation hangs more on general manager Rick Spielman than it does Frazier, but in light of how much the Vikings have apparently been doing their homework on coaching candidates, Frazier's fate might be sealed.

Citing multiple sources, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Vikings ownership has told others around the league that it is planning to make a head coaching change after this season, though one team source was adamant that nothing has been decided yet. Vikings ownership has told others that it believes it presides over an attractive opportunity, one that will have another premium draft pick, along with the promise of a new stadium coming. The Vikings already have been doing their due diligence on potential replacements for Frazier, and their wish list is said to include Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, among others.

I'd heard rumblings of candidates putting out feelers for the Vikings job as early as November, when the team was 1-7, and in reality, Frazier was in a tough spot last January, when ownership decided not to offer him a contract extension after a 10-6 season, choosing instead to pick up his 2014 option and effectively forcing him to repeat a season where the Vikings enjoyed a soft schedule, good fortune with injuries and the singular brilliance of Peterson during his 2,097-yard march on Eric Dickerson's record.

The odds of doing that were slim when the Vikings had so much uncertainty at possibly the two most important positions in the NFL -- quarterback and cornerback -- and while Peterson insisted after the loss that the Bengals weren't better than the Vikings, Frazier almost sounded at a loss for what he could do with his young secondary racked by injuries and not only Peterson, but backup Toby Gerhart trying to play through injuries.

"It's been tough, now. I'm not going to sit here and sugarcoat that," Frazier said. "Where we are in the secondary, and where we were today, having to get [running back] Joe Banyard up with Toby going down [after re-injuring his hamstring on the Vikings' first series], we tried our best to maximize the roster. ... The good thing about Joe Banyard, about Shaun, all those guys is, they're playing as hard as they can and giving you everything they have. But some of those matchups can be difficult, for sure."

Frazier said this week he was just making a "general comment" in a Sirius XM Radio interview when he praised the Rooney family for their patience with the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaches, but it's hard to believe he wasn't uttering the remarks without an eye toward his own situation. His status looked as bleak as ever on Sunday, when his players could only offer statements of support while the results pushed Frazier to the brink.

"We'll have some internal discussions, but I've got one more game in this season," Frazier said. "I'm looking forward to hopefully coaching that final game and getting us a win at Mall of America Field as we close out the [Metrodome]. That's where my focus will be."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings won't have cornerback Xavier Rhodes on Sunday in Cincinnati; the rookie will miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle, meaning the Vikings' depleted secondary, which controlled Philadelphia's prolific offense last week, will have to try to do it again to Bengals receiver A.J. Green.

Cornerback Chris Cook should be back from a knee injury that kept him out last week, but Rhodes has been the Vikings' best cover corner in recent weeks, and Cook has struggled at times this season when put on an island against top receivers like Chicago's Alshon Jeffery. Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will likely be the corners the Vikings rely on most, other than Cook, and safety Robert Blanton could again see time at cornerback, though he got beat for two touchdowns last week against the Eagles.

Tight end John Carlson is doubtful to play after having recurring post-concussion symptoms this week; coach Leslie Frazier said he hasn't talked with Carlson yet about the possibility of finishing the season on injured reserve, but considering there is only a week left in the season and Carlson has sustained three concussions in the NFL, the Vikings could think about shutting him down for the season.

"We just have to decide what is better for him and what is best for the club and see where he is when we come back and talk again tomorrow and see if he is better," Frazier said.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

  • Out: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle).
  • Doubtful: Tight end John Carlson (concussion).
  • Questionable: Running back Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), running back Matt Asiata (ankle).
  • Probable: All others.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were taking part in light drills in the portion of Friday's Minnesota Vikings practice open to the media, but it was too soon to tell if either would be able to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Coach Leslie Frazier said this week that the Vikings wanted to see if Peterson, who suffered a mid-foot sprain on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, could run and cut effectively on his injured right foot. He was more optimistic about Gerhart being able to play with a strained hamstring, saying the Vikings just "need to see him burst a little bit." Depending on how they looked, Frazier said the Vikings could possibly wait until Sunday before declaring Peterson or Gerhart out.

It appears the Vikings won't have cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who wasn't practicing because of a sprained ankle on Friday. Nor will they have tight end John Carlson, who didn't have a helmet and hasn't been cleared to return from a concussion. That will mean the Vikings' only tight ends are Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford, and at cornerback, they'll be down to Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels and Shaun Prater, in addition to safety Robert Blanton, who could see some time at slot cornerback once again. Safety Harrison Smith looks on track to return from turf toe and be activated from injured reserve, but the Vikings aren't sure how many snaps they'll be able to give him after a two-month layoff.

We should know something more definitive on Peterson and Gerhart within the hour, when Frazier speaks to reporters.
BALTIMORE -- As the Minnesota Vikings stewed over their 29-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon, with nowhere to go after a catering truck hit the plane that was scheduled to take them back to the Twin Cities, many players struggled to find the right emotions for the most dramatic loss in a season that's been full of eventful endings.

[+] EnlargeMarlon Brown
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsMarlon Brown's late touchdown won the game for the Ravens.
Were they to be upset with themselves about allowing a last-minute touchdown for the fourth time this year, or angry with officials for what they felt like were a series of short-sighted calls? Were they supposed to be grateful for the chance to participate in one of the wildest finishes in NFL history, or bitter that they had come out on the losing end of it?

The overriding emotion, after a game that featured a NFL-record six lead changes in the fourth quarter, seemed to be numbness.

"That was the first time I had ever been part of something like that," said wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whose 79-yard touchdown in the final minute put the Vikings ahead by four. "I had always wanted to play in the snow, and I got my opportunity today. It was a tough game. The way we fought on offense, defense and special teams, the way we stepped up in this game, we expected to win. And, at the end, it wasn't what we expected it to be."

So many things happened on a snowy Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium that it was hard for the Vikings to process all of it. They had reason to be encouraged by how their offense responded after losing running back Adrian Peterson to a sprained foot, by Patterson's continued emergence as a game-breaking receiver and by their secondary's resoluteness through most of the second half. But for the seventh time this year, their fate hung in their inability to stop a team in the last minute. They are now 2-4-1 in those games, and on Sunday, they allowed not one, but two Ravens touchdown drives at the end of the game, with a Jacoby Jones kickoff return sandwiched between them.

Several players -- Peterson and fullback Jerome Felton among them -- aired their displeasure with referee Pete Morelli's officiating crew, while others bit their tongues. "I'm not going to say anything to get on Roger Goodell's list," defensive end Brian Robison said. Coach Leslie Frazier said he was "bewildered," in particular, by two late pass interference calls -- one on safety Robert Blanton, the other on linebacker Chad Greenway -- that gave the Ravens 55 yards on their final two offensive series and wiped out an Andrew Sendejo interception that would have ended the game.

But in the end, all the Vikings' two quick-strike touchdowns served to do was set up their defense for another collapse.

"It was really emotional," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You try not to get too high or too low. We thought the game was over four times. But, we have to play all four quarters. Three times in the last two minutes, we had to stop them, and we didn't."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the first time since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings left Lambeau Field on Sunday evening with something other than a loss. But to get from where they were early in the fourth quarter -- sitting with a 23-7 lead, a running game that was battering the Green Bay Packers' defense and an opponent who gained just 40 yards in the third period -- to a 26-26 tie, the Vikings had to face many of the same defensive issues they've had all season.

They let Matt Flynn throw for 119 yards in the fourth quarter after he replaced Scott Tolzien on Sunday, and gave up another 53 rushing yards as the Packers stormed back to score 16 points and force overtime. The Vikings allowed 13 first downs in the quarter -- even though the Packers went 1-of-5 on third downs -- and handed Green Bay another 43 yards in penalties. And on offense, the Vikings could manage just two first downs, once again failing to run the clock out on a trailing opponent

That meltdown didn't lead to the Vikings fourth come-from-ahead loss of the year, thanks to the Packers' failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and their inability to punch the ball in from the Vikings' 2 in overtime. But even if the final result wasn't the same as many of the Vikings' defeats, some of the symptoms were.

"It's a weird outcome," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "It feels more like a loss in this locker room. I feel like the way things went in that fourth quarter -- opportunity to get off the field, and we get a penalty -- it's kind of the same, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot things we've done all year."

Of chief concern was probably the 35-yard pass interference penalty Marcus Sherels committed on James Jones to set up the Packers' first touchdown, followed by defensive end Jared Allen's illegal-use-of-hands infraction on third-and-10 from the Vikings' 15. The Packers were a yard short of a first down before Allen's penalty, which gave Green Bay a new set of downs at Minnesota's three, and Eddie Lacy scored on the next play.

And then, on the Packers' final drive, defensive end Everson Griffen jumped offside, giving Flynn a free play and setting up the jump ball he threw to Jones, who beat Sherels for 28 yards. The issues continued in overtime, when Robert Blanton's holding penalty nullified Greenway's sack and extended a Packers drive that ended in Mason Crosby's field goal.

"It ends up obviously being a big play in the game," Greenway said. "You want to sit here and point blame at Blanton, it's just a tough situation. Those situations we were putting our DBs in today, it was a lot of man coverage, and challenging those guys. You're going to have some of that when you're doing that."

The offense wasn't without blame, either.

When the Vikings got the ball back after the Packers' second touchdown with 3:30 left, they had their fourth chance of the year to run the clock out and seal a victory. For the fourth time, they couldn't do it.

Ponder said a fumbled snap on 2nd-and-8 was due to a miscommunication in the exchange between him and center John Sullivan, adding, "It seems like late in games, we have these mess-ups that cost us games." Ponder lost three yards after recovering the ball, and was sacked on third-and-11 before the Vikings punted.

And with a chance to win the game in overtime, Cordarrelle Patterson couldn't corral Ponder's throw to the back of the end zone after Davon House tipped it slightly. Patterson said he lost focus on the ball for a second, and Ponder said, "That's something we've got to convert on to win a game."

If any one of several plays had gone differently, the Vikings might have put their division rivals' playoff chances to bed. As it was, they headed for home trying to process a strange result.

"At the end of the day, they made a few more plays than we did to get back in the game," defensive back Chris Cook said. "That's the way football goes sometimes."
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings face the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, they'll do so with a roster that has been depleted even further by injuries.

The Vikings ruled six players out for Thursday's game -- cornerback Chris Cook (hip), safety Jamarca Sanford (groin), tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot), right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion), running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) -- and listed two more as doubtful. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion (chest/knee) is unlikely to play, as is guard Charlie Johnson (elbow).

That means the Vikings could be without as many as seven of their opening day starters (Cook, Sanford, Rudolph, Loadholt, Guion, Johnson and Harrison Smith, who is on injured reserve). Their defense has struggled enough when it's been healthy, and on Thursday, the Vikings will try to slow down Robert Griffin III with a number of backups.

Safeties Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond both started last week, and each was at the center of some big plays for the Dallas Cowboys in their 27-23 win; Raymond missed several tackles, and it appeared Sendejo tried to jump receiver Dez Bryant's route on the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive, leaving space in the middle of the field for Bryant to pick up 34 yards. Robert Blanton will also see time at safety, trading series with Raymond.

And on offense, the Vikings will be without one, and possibly two, of their linemen, marking the first time since the beginning of the 2012 season they've had to split up their group of five starters.

Tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) is questionable for Thursday's game, and three players on the Vikings' injury report -- cornerback Josh Robinson (chest), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (knee) and linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) are probable.