Minnesota Vikings: Shaun Prater

Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

The Minnesota Vikings still haven't identified their starting strong safety for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams (though it looks like Robert Blanton is in the lead for the spot). But in the meantime, they're trying to cross-train another one of their defensive backs to play multiple positions.

Cornerback Shaun Prater has been working with the Vikings' safeties in addition to his work as a cornerback (both on the outside and in the slot). Coach Mike Zimmer had discussed trying Prater at the position, calling him a "tough, feisty kid who can do a lot of jobs," and Prater -- who played for Zimmer in Cincinnati -- is getting a chance to show he can contribute in several different ways.

"He’s been playing safety on the scout team so I thought I’d just give him some drills there," Zimmer said. "Honestly, we’re trying to see what guys can do and how many guys you might need at emergency safety, and he’s got to know what to do when you go in there."

As Zimmer said, Nate Clements played both cornerback and safety for him in Cincinnati, and the Vikings are building a group of defensive backs who can move to different positions. Blanton and Antone Exum are converted corners, and Prater could be an option at some point if the Vikings aren't happy with their safety options next to Harrison Smith. Zimmer prizes flexibility among his defensive players, and Prater -- who is still buried on the depth chart at cornerback -- could help himself by showing some of it.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
Best of the rest:
The Minnesota Vikings cut 14 players on Monday morning, trimming their roster to 76 players. They'll have one more cut to make before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, at which all teams must be down to 75 players.

Most significant move: The Vikings signed former San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox to help with their depth at that position, and Cox -- who'd excelled in systems where he'd been able to play press coverage -- seemed like a good fit for the Vikings' defense. Despite a couple interceptions in training camp, he never was able to elevate himself on the team's depth chart, and his release creates more room for young cornerbacks such as Jabari Price to make the team.

Clarity at cornerback: With Cox and Robert Steeples among the players the Vikings released, the team is down to eight cornerbacks on the roster, and it's conceivable as many as six of those players could make the final roster. Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn are safe, Marcus Sherels would seem almost assured of a roster spot, as well, and three of the remaining five players (Josh Robinson, Jabari Price and Kendall James) were Vikings draft picks. If one of those players gets bumped, it could be James, who hasn't shown much in camp and could get beat out by Shaun Prater, who had an interception in Saturday's game.

Vikings' cuts: The Vikings released 13 players -- S Brandan Bishop, T Pierce Burton, CB Cox, WRs Andy Cruse, Kamar Jorden and Erik Lora, T Kevin Murphy, DT Kheeston Randall, DEs Tyler Scott and Jake Snyder, TE Kory Sperry, CB Robert Steeples and WR Ty Walker -- and waived S Mistral Raymond with an injury designation.

Vikings Monday practice report

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A few observations from the Minnesota Vikings' Monday practice:
  • Safety Robert Blanton was back at practice, but the Vikings were still using Chris Crocker as their first-team safety alongside Harrison Smith. Blanton is listed atop the Vikings' depth chart, but he'll have to earn his way back into the race for a starting spot after missing time with a hamstring injury. Coach Mike Zimmer said Crocker didn't see enough action in Saturday's preseason game for the Vikings to evaluate him properly, but the Vikings seem to want to take a longer look at the 34-year-old. Zimmer said on Monday he's evaluating players like Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman as much for what they do in pass coverage as what they're able to do near the line of scrimmage. That'd explain why Crocker is getting a long look, and why Blanton had put himself in the mix for a starting job before his injury. We'll see if he can reassert himself now that he's back.
  • Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught a 51-yard touchdown pass during the Vikings' preseason game on Saturday night, was back at it on Monday, snatching passes away from Crocker and Michael Mauti in tight coverage over the middle. At 6-foot-5, Rudolph is already an inviting target for quarterbacks, and he's shown several times already how much it helped him to drop 15 pounds in the offseason in an effort to be a bigger downfield threat in Norv Turner's offense.
  • In 11-on-11 work on Monday, quarterback Matt Cassel hit 8 of 11 passes, getting one batted down at the line of scrimmage and throwing one away downfield. Teddy Bridgewater went 8-for-10, with his only misses coming to Rodney Smith and Jarius Wright -- who sustained a left ankle injury while trying to catch Bridgewater's sideline pass in tight coverage. And Christian Ponder, who didn't play at all on Saturday night, didn't throw a pass in full-team work during Monday's practice.
  • The Vikings made one roster move on Monday, cutting linebacker Dom DeCicco, who had hip surgery last week, and claiming linebacker Justin Jackson off waivers from Detroit.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings seem down to their final few open competitions, and it's possible they'd have things settled in the secondary if players had been able to stay healthier. Injuries have been a constant factor in the race for starting spots at both cornerback and safety, and while the Vikings are getting closer to having a fully healthy group at the latter position, they're still affected by health questions at the former spot.

While safety Robert Blanton is scheduled to return from a hamstring injury and be back at practice on Monday, coach Mike Zimmer said cornerback Jabari Price would likely miss Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs because of injury. He also seemed to be running out of patience for cornerback Josh Robinson, who has been dogged by a hamstring injury throughout camp.

Asked about Robinson last week, Zimmer said, "It's hard to make the club in the tub," and added on Monday that Captain Munnerlyn, not Robinson, would likely start in the Vikings' base defense. And when he was asked for injury updates on Blanton and Robinson, Zimmer provided information on Blanton before saying, "The other guy? Who knows."

If Robinson isn't starting in the base defense, he'll have to hope he can beat out enough other cornerbacks to hang onto a spot in the Vikings' sub packages and keep his position on the roster. The Vikings have enough questions at cornerback that Robinson might be fine, but it was clear Zimmer was miffed on Monday about how long it's taken Robinson to get back on the field.

Cornerback Shaun Prater, who left Saturday's game with a concussion, should be back on the practice field on Tuesday, Zimmer said. And the coach added defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who still won't play on Saturday after getting hit by a stray bullet two weeks ago, is starting to do more rehab work.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' interest in former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, as reported by 1500ESPN.com, requires a bit of conjecture about how Flowers would fit into the Vikings' defense. After five impressive seasons with the Chiefs, Flowers struggled in 2013 as part of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's new scheme, which emphasized press-man coverage, and even though he made the Pro Bowl for the first time, his release seemed like a foregone conclusion after he chafed at being moved to nickel back in Kansas City's defense and skipped the team's offseason workouts. That's not the ideal résumé for a team that will employ plenty of press coverage, like the Vikings plan to do.

But the Vikings' cornerback depth might still be the biggest question mark on their roster, which means they're not in a position to rule out any options that could help their secondary, especially with just five weeks to go before training camp. The Vikings' defense will be based in man coverage with some zone principles, so it's possible Zimmer and his staff could find a fit for Flowers, who also was hampered by a knee injury last season and should be healthier in 2014.

The alternative, of course, is hoping that Derek Cox -- who's also trying to remake his career after a bad scheme fit in San Diego -- can play well on a one-year contract, Josh Robinson can figure things out in Year 3, Marcus Sherels can continue to overachieve or a serviceable corner can emerge from a group containing Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples, Julian Posey and rookies Kendall James and Jabari Price.

If the Vikings are willing to spend a decent chunk of their remaining $7.7 million in cap space to see if they can work Flowers into their defense, they'll likely be motivated by the knowledge that cornerback depth is vital in a division loaded with prolific quarterbacks, and the need to make sure they have enough of it a year after allowing the most points in the NFL. They should be better in 2014, with Xavier Rhodes starting Year 2 in a scheme that fits his skills nicely and Captain Munnerlyn on the roster to man the slot position. But it's good to have options, and if the Vikings wind up with Flowers, it'll be because they're more willing to gamble on their ability to work a talented player into their scheme than they're willing to assume they're all set in the secondary.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A quick look at the highlights of the Minnesota Vikings' third open OTA of the offseason on Wednesday afternoon:

1. Yankey returns: Fifth-round pick David Yankey, who finished his last final exam at Stanford and caught a red-eye flight to join the Vikings on Wednesday, became the first of the team's three draft picks on the quarters system to rejoin the Vikings. UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton will both be with the team for its mandatory minicamp next week, but Yankey was able to return in time to get some extra work with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who stayed on the field well after the end of practice to run his rookie linemen through additional drills.

2. Sherels in the nickel: Cornerback Marcus Sherels saw some work in the Vikings' first-team nickel package, playing left cornerback while Captain Munnerlyn moved inside. Kendall James and Shaun Prater also saw some time at slot cornerback on second- and third-team defense, where Munnerlyn would normally play. Josh Robinson was still out nursing an injury on Wednesday, and Derek Cox, who had an interception during last week's open OTA, didn't see much time on Wednesday.

3. Rhodes steps up: Xavier Rhodes had an impressive interception during an 11-on-11 drill, stepping in front of a Matt Cassel throw on a quick hitch route. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray yelled, "It's about time!" when Rhodes showed the instincts to jump the route, and for as solid as Rhodes was in press coverage toward the end of last season, he's still learning when he can take some chances and bite on a route. It's part of the development process for any young cornerback, but Rhodes had eight interceptions in three years at Florida State, so there is reason to think he can create some turnovers as he figures things out in the NFL. "I'm impressed," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He wants to be very good. He's got great acceleration, learning the techniques and staying on point better."

4. Struggle for QBs: After both Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater looked sharp in last week's open OTA, each of them had a rougher day on Wednesday. Cassel had his final throw batted down in 11-on-11 work, and Bridgewater was intercepted by Dom DeCicco on a pass over the middle. The rookie also was sacked a couple times during a blitz drill, and missed three of his four throws. The Vikings' defense was using a number of different looks on Wednesday, though, and it seemed clear that the offense was trying to digest a number of new concepts while facing a more nuanced defense. Days like Wednesday are part of the growing pains in a new system. Christian Ponder didn't get as much work as Cassel or Bridgewater, but he actually made some nice throws, hitting Jarius Wright on a throw over the middle in a receiver-vs.-cornerback drill and connecting with Kain Colter on a long pass off a broken play during a two-minute drill.

5. Safety rotation: With Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo still out with injuries, the Vikings rotated through a number of safeties on Wednesday, with Robert Blanton getting much of the first-team work alongside Harrison Smith.

6. Hodges in nickel: Linebacker Gerald Hodges joined Chad Greenway in the Vikings' top nickel package for a handful of snaps, as the team waits to work in Barr once he returns from school next week. The Vikings are trying a number of different players in various spots (rookie Brandon Watts also got some nickel snaps), but the nickel package could represent an opportunity for Hodges, who has the quickness to play in passing situations.

7. A healthier team: One of Zimmer's first initiatives was to get high-fat items out of the team's cafeteria and to change the Vikings' weight program, and he said on Wednesday it's been working. The Vikings, Zimmer said, have lost 170 pounds of fat and gained 70 pounds of muscle during their offseason program.

8. Sullivan away for wedding -- and Birk returns: Center John Sullivan, who is getting married this weekend, was gone on Wednesday, but will return for mini-camp next week. His predecessor, former Vikings center Matt Birk, returned to take in practice on Wednesday. Birk, who lost 75 pounds after he retired from the Baltimore Ravens, has been touting his steps to better health since his career ended after Super Bowl XLVII.
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. We're handling our second set of questions for the week, after our first edition of the mailbag on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly after they finished a deal with former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to add another cornerback to their roster. According to a league source, the Vikings were finalizing a deal on Thursday night with former San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox, who could add some depth to their group of defensive backs next season.

The 6-foot-1 Cox began last season as a starter for the Chargers, but lost his starting job for good after he was benched three times in four weeks last November. Cox gave up three catches and a touchdown on three targets last Nov. 24 against Kansas City, and didn't play a significant role after that. Still, he had been a serviceable player in 2012, and intercepted four passes that season for the Jaguars. He'd give the Vikings another big corner, and he'd represent a low-risk gamble by the Vikings on the ability of coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to get something out of Cox.

He might also represent another closed door for a return by Chris Cook to the Vikings. The four-year player's future seemed uncertain after a conversation with Zimmer last week, and though Zimmer mentioned his ability to improve players who have a history of underachieving, like Cook does, the Vikings' order of business might tell the story better than anything else. They signed Munnerlyn and Cox on the same day Cook was scheduled to visit the San Francisco 49ers, and the Vikings now have eight cornerbacks signed for next season.

Of those eight -- Munnerlyn, Cox, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards -- only a handful might make the team, but the Vikings could also take another cornerback high in the draft. Those players might occupy whatever real estate and cap space was remaining for Cook to make a return to Minnesota.
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.

Vikings inactives: Rhodes out

December, 29, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from the late, great Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which sees its final NFL game today as the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions finish their seasons (and possibly the tenures of their respective coaches). We'll have plenty more on that later, but from a competitive perspective, today's game will be missing a few things.

Both the Vikings and Lions are out of the playoff chase, both will be missing their star players (Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson) and both will be missing at least two of their top five cornerbacks. For the Vikings, that means rookie Xavier Rhodes will be out with a sprained ankle. Rhodes had been listed as questionable for the game after working out late last week, but he evidently wasn't able to go today. Chris Cook, Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will be the Vikings' top three corners today. Not having to defend Johnson will make things easier, but the Lions showed in September they can gash the Vikings' defense with Reggie Bush, too.

Josh Freeman, of course, ends his season on the inactive list, which could bring his bizarre tenure in Minnesota to a close. Freeman has only been active as a backup quarterback since his "Monday Night Football" debacle in October, and it seems unlikely he'll be in the Vikings' plans going forward, unless a new coach would have some strong ties to him.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings could get cornerback Xavier Rhodes back for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, but it appears they're not necessarily counting on it.

The team signed Robert Steeples off their practice squad on Friday, giving themselves another cornerback for Sunday's game in case Rhodes isn't able to play. The rookie corner is questionable for Sunday's game with a sprained ankle.

"He did OK today," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He missed quite a bit of time (in the last two games with a sprained ankle). We'd probably work him in there. I want to see how he feels tomorrow, when we come back out here."

Rhodes would give the Vikings another cornerback to deal with the Lions' passing attack, and if he's up to the task, Rhodes could also give the Vikings a taste of how he'd fare against Calvin Johnson in future seasons. It seems more likely that Chris Cook will be matched up with Johnson, but Cook is also dealing with a knee injury that kept him out two weeks ago against the Eagles and limited him last week against the Bengals.

To make room for Steeples on the roster, the Vikings put linebacker Audie Cole on injured reserve; Cole had already been ruled out for the season finale with a high ankle sprain.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Before he missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, Rhodes had been turning into one of the Vikings' best cover corners, and the team especially suffered without him in Cincinnati last weekend, when Chris Cook gave up two touchdown passes in a 42-14 loss. If the Vikings were to get Rhodes back on the field, it could help them against Calvin Johnson and give them one more chance to see the rookie against top competition this year. Cook has typically covered Johnson in Vikings-Lions matchups, but if Rhodes is healthy enough to start, he could see time lined up against Johnson.

The Vikings are also trying to get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a sprained ankle, and coach Leslie Frazier said his starters would depend on "how healthy they are."

"They should all be out there tomorrow," Frazier said. "We'll figure out how healthy they all actually are."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart looks like a long shot to play Sunday; Gerhart was not on the practice field again on Thursday with a strained hamstring.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

Vikings missing eight at practice

December, 24, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings won't put out their first injury report of the week until Wednesday, but they had an extensive list of players not practicing on Tuesday.

Running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, cornerback Shaun Prater, safety Harrison Smith, linebackers Larry Dean and Audie Cole and defensive tackles Fred Evans and Letroy Guion were all sitting out of practice during the portion open to the media on Tuesday.

Of the missing players, only Evans registered any surprise; he's had injuries earlier this season, but was not on the injury report before Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

Coach Leslie Frazier said on Tuesday that it looked unlikely Gerhart would get back from a strained hamstring in time for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. Gerhart missed the Vikings' Dec. 15 game against Philadelphia and re-injured the hamstring on the first series of Sunday's game while he was chasing the Bengals' Reggie Nelson on a fumble return.

Smith, Frazier said Monday, is still sore after coming back from injured reserve two weeks ago. Peterson's rest is likely also precautionary, after the Vikings took him out to rest his sprained foot and sore groin on Sunday.

Guion injured his quadriceps on Sunday, Prater sprained his ankle, Dean has been dealing with a knee injury and Frazier already said Cole will miss Sunday's game with a high-ankle sprain.

The Vikings did, however, get cornerback Xavier Rhodes back on the practice field Tuesday. Rhodes has missed the Vikings' last two games with a sprained ankle, but Frazier is hopeful he'll be able to play on Sunday.
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."

Peterson, Gerhart active for Vikings

December, 22, 2013
CINCINNATI -- The Vikings won last week without Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, but they won't have to play without either one in Cincinnati on Sunday.

Both Peterson and Gerhart are active for the Vikings, returning from a sprained right foot and strained hamstring, respectively. Peterson will start at running back, with Gerhart backing him up, as usual. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings divide the workload between the two players. Gerhart has played well in recent weeks, and the Vikings might look to take some stress off Peterson two weeks after he sprained his foot.

The Vikings will officially be without cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who was listed as out with a sprained ankle. Shaun Prater will start in Rhodes' place at cornerback after recording his first career interception last week, but as well as Rhodes has played, the Vikings would undoubtedly like to have him to deal with A.J. Green on Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives: