NFC North: Chris DeGeare

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing our review of the Minnesota Vikings' recent draft history today, with a look at how the team did in 2010:

First-round pick: No. 30 (traded to Detroit with fourth-rounder for second-rounder, fourth-rounder and seventh-rounder)

Number of picks: 8

Total Draft AV: 35 (31st; San Francisco was the best with a 128 AV)

Highest player AV: RB Toby Gerhart, 13 (T-75th; San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman was the best with a 50 AV)

Gerhart
How they did: If the 2009 draft was one of general manager Rick Spielman's best, the 2010 draft might rank as his worst. The Vikings began with the 30th pick in the draft, so they weren't going to get the top player on the board, but the number of players who didn't live up to expectations or simply didn't contribute makes this draft a significant missed opportunity for the Vikings. It came in a year when they were coming off an overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game and had designs on getting back there the next season. It is worth noting that of the teams who had the seven best drafts, according to Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic, six -- San Francisco, New England, Denver, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Green Bay -- have played in a Super Bowl since then. The four teams who played in conference title games that season -- New Orleans, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and the Vikings -- all struggled to pull value out of late-round picks and haven't been back since.

Pivotal pick: The Vikings started the second round of the draft with two picks -- Nos. 34 and 62 overall -- after trading out of the first round. They used the first to select cornerback Chris Cook, but traded the second, along with a third-round pick, to Houston, in order to move up 11 spots and select Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. The former Heisman Trophy runner-up gave the Vikings a backup for Adrian Peterson after the departure of Chester Taylor, and the previous trade gave them ammunition to move back up in the draft, but Gerhart's role limited how much of an impact he would make. The 62nd pick wound up in the hands of the New England Patriots, who selected linebacker Brandon Spikes, and the Kansas City Chiefs acquired pick No. 93 to take tight end Tony Moeski -- two picks after the 49ers took Bowman.

Griffen
Best pick: It's a low bar, given the fact only one player from this draft is still on the team, but fourth-rounder Everson Griffen might win the title on that basis alone. The Vikings gambled on Griffen after character concerns dropped him in the draft, and have seen enough flashes of a dynamic pass-rusher that they spent $20 million in guaranteed money to make sure Griffen stays on their roster. After Gerhart signed with Jacksonville and Cook ended a disappointing tenure with the Vikings by signing with San Francisco, Griffen will run unopposed in his bid to become the most productive pick from the Vikings' 2010 draft.

Worst pick: There are several candidates here. One could make a case for fifth-rounders Chris DeGeare or Nate Triplett, who were both out of the league by 2012, and there is an equally compelling case to be made for Cook, who struggled with injuries, was suspended in 2011 after a domestic assault charge and didn't intercept a pass in 29 starts with the Vikings. According to Pro Football Reference, only one cornerback in NFL history has started more games than Cook without recording an interception.

BBAO: Loving this Bears team

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

We're going to get a lot of mileage out of the Bears Insider radio show that Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jerry Angelo and team president Ted Phillips taped Monday night.

We've already discussed Angelo's announcement on the conclusion of the Matt Forte contract talks (for now) and Phillips' explanation for why the team didn't re-sod Soldier Field last weekend as planned. Now, let's get to a simple assessment from Smith on this year's Bears team.

Said Smith: "This is the best team I think we've had since I've been here."

I know Smith is notoriously optimistic and confident about his team's prospects, and maybe he's said the same thing every year and I've missed it. But with the Bears set to begin practicing in earnest for Sunday's season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, it's worth anchoring his sentiment in a Week 1 blog post and referring to it in our discussions moving forward.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Mike Mulligan notes that six of the Bears' defensive starters "are on the wrong side of 30."
  • Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald wonders why Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox aren't the Bears' starting receivers.
  • Forte's agent, Adisa Bakari, told Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "It's the team's prerogative not to negotiate. Matt's going to do his best to focus on the season."
  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's approach in a story headlined "Master of the pieces."
  • Packers defensive end Mike Neal to Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel: "People are writing me off. I read what people are commenting on stories and how they're feeling. If I was in this to please the fans, I wouldn't play. I could care less what anybody's saying or how they feel about me. My thing is just to come in here and do my job."
  • Packers guard Josh Sitton's new contract is worth $33.75 million in new money, including $8.9 guaranteed, according to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel.
  • Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette sits down for a Q&A with McCarthy. A highlight: "Let me make something clear: I have an ego. What I've learned in this business is everyone has an ego. It's the discipline of your ego, and that's what I've learned to do a much better job of. I didn't mean to cut off your question, but when people say I don't have an ego or I'm humble, that's not accurate. You wouldn't survive in this business if you didn't have an ego and weren't confident in your abilities. Yeah, I have an ego, but I've learned."
  • Packers linebacker Vic So'oto suffered a back injury during a weightlifting session and is out for Thursday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
  • The Detroit Lions are going to have a hard time sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman this Sunday, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Mike O'Hara writes for the Detroit News that the Lions have a legitimate playoff opportunity in 2011.
  • The Lions learned in 2008 that a perfect preseason means nothing, writes Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com.
  • Minnesota Vikings guard Chris DeGeare was "shocked" after getting released over the weekend, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. DeGeare re-signed to the Vikings' practice squad.
  • The Vikings are a mix of youth and experience, writes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • The Vikings are eager to get tight end Visanthe Shiancoe back on the field, writes Myron P. Medcalf of the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Vikings cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:23
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Check here for a complete list of the Minnesota Vikings' roster moves.

Surprise move: Either the Vikings have confidence in a number of unproven offensive linemen or they have their sights on some veteran acquisitions later this weekend. They released guard/tackles Chris DeGeare and Ryan Cook, both of whom saw substantial action at right guard during the injury rehabilitation of starter Anthony Herrera. This version of their 53-man roster features three centers and a total of 10 offensive linemen. The group includes two rookies (DeMarcus Love and Brandon Fusco) and one first-year player in Patrick Brown. The Vikings' arrangement here remains under construction, as far as I’m concerned.

No-brainers: Undrafted tight end Allen Reisner was one of the big surprises of camp. He not only pushed veteran Jeff Dugan off the roster but also forced the Vikings to keep four tight ends on their roster. I wondered whether the Vikings would release safety Tyrell Johnson, who has struggled to maintain his starting job in the face of a modest challenge from Jamarca Sanford. In the end, the Vikings didn’t have enough in-house experience to make that move. But watch out down the road for rookie Mistral Raymond, who forced his way onto the initial 53-man roster and is clearly respected by coaches.

What’s next: You would think the Vikings would be on the lookout for two areas in particular: Linebackers and running backs. The decision to release veteran Heath Farwell left them with five linebackers, only two of whom have starting experience. The current backups are special-teams ace Kenny Onatolu and undrafted rookie Larry Dean. With new starter Erin Henderson still establishing himself, you wonder if that is enough depth. Meanwhile, the Vikings kept only three tailbacks (and no fullbacks). Both of Adrian Peterson's backups, Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker, were dealing with injuries as recently as last week. Depth is definitely an issue and could be addressed in the next 24-48 hours.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Most of the consternation surrounding the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line has focused on the left tackle position, where newcomer Charlie Johnson has made only fits and starts of progress and most recently allowed a scary blindside sack of quarterback Donovan McNabb in Saturday's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.

But Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com points out another simmering issue: right guard, where the Vikings have started two different players this preseason and still aren't sure when presumptive starter Anthony Herrera will be ready to go. Herrera is nine months removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and predictably had a tough first few days back in practice last week.

Chris DeGeare started the first preseason game and journeyman Scott Kooistra started Saturday night.

The Vikings' first-team offense has accounted for three points in the first two preseason games. When healthy, Herrera is a feisty run-blocker who gets by on competitive juices and raw desire. It's clear the Vikings have planned for his eventual return, but the timing yet isn't clear.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press grades the Vikings at the midpoint of the preseason.
  • Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "I think the biggest thing has been getting used to the speed of the game and on top of that learning this offense and building team chemistry. I think the biggest adjustment is the windows aren't as open as they were in college, and you have to make the reads a lot faster and get the ball [out] a lot quicker than last year. It's an adjustment, and I'm part of that learning curve right now but it's been fun."
  • Jason Wilde's profile of Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson at ESPNMilwaukee.com includes this thought from Woodson on his coverage: "It's funny [that] people say my coverage has slipped, but they ignore everything else that I do. I mean, what else do you want me to do? I give everything I have out there on the field, and if you're sitting here telling me I'm getting beat every play [in coverage], then you're wrong. I go out there and play any way they want me to play because that's what I like to do. Sure, yeah, they could sit me out there on the edge all game. Then what? Yeah, they could waste me out there if they wanted to, but why? Then everything else drops off. The point of me doing all that other stuff is that I can go find the ball."
  • Packers quarterback Graham Harrell appears to be solidifying his hold on a roster spot, according to Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers are happy to have defensive lineman Howard Green, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Chicago Bears guard Lance Louis has reached the turning point of his career as a starter with the team, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. A poor performance against the New York Giants on Monday night could force a lineup shift.
  • The entire offensive line will be under scrutiny Monday night, notes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Kellen Davis is ready to take over as the Bears' top tight end, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Detroit Lions rookie receiver Titus Young returned to competitive drills for the first time since injuring his hamstring on the second day of training camp, notes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
  • Lions left tackle Jeff Backus on his return to practice after suffering a pectoral injury, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "I've worked my butt off in the training room and the weight room trying to get my chest right. It's to the point now where it's not an issue. We just move forward from here."
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com breaks down Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's 27-yard pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew from Friday night.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

During Tuesday's SportsNation chat, David of Florida asked whether Jordy Nelson or James Jones would be the Green Bay Packers' best candidate for the No. 2 receiver. It was as if veteran Donald Driver was no longer in the picture.

That's clearly not the case, as Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out. Driver remains entrenched in the Packers' No. 2 role, well accustomed to the annual questions about his future.
Driver: "I said I want to play until I'm 40. Will that day come? I hope. If not, I'm willing to know when it's over, it's over. And right now for me it's not over. It's been a proven fact I'm still playing at a high level. I'm competing at a high level."

If Nelson and Jones continue their development, it's going to be hard to keep them off the field. The emergence of rookie Randall Cobb also adds a layer to that dynamic. But Driver isn't ready to concede anything, nor should he.

Continuing around the NFC North:
MANKATO, Minn. -- The summer of 2011 is not the time for Nervous Nellies. After the NFL lockout wiped out five months of offseason work, there is a lot to do and (almost) no time to do it. If you freak out under stress, you aren't going to be much good to anyone this August.

Fortunately for the Minnesota Vikings, their new coach is probably the most serene leader in the NFL. Leslie Frazier makes Tony Dungy look like a spaz. No matter what curveball he has been dealt since accepting the Vikings' interim job last November, Frazier has projected a tranquility that should serve the team well during the hectic run-up to the 2011 season.

In the span of about six weeks, Frazier will oversee the installation of a new offense. He'll preside over the transition to quarterback Donovan McNabb, develop a new left tackle and do his best to instill a tone of professional confidence that reflects his own personality.

Three days at Minnesota State University, Mankato, revealed the Vikings are well on their way to adopting Frazier's style. Players and staff worked hard but with an emotional ease that belied the tense tenure of former coach Brad Childress. It's been a while since I've seen smiles during a full-contact Vikings practice, and I was amazed at how downright happy people were -- from the elite players on the roster to the lowest-level staffers. Even left guard Steve Hutchinson, whose next career is certain to include a role as Oscar the Grouch, chatted gregariously with reporters after last Wednesday's practice.

As a football team, the Vikings have a long way to go in terms of chemistry and scheme. But I can tell you this: No one seemed worried.

"I've been around enough successful teams," said Frazier, who won a Super Bowl as a player [the 1985 Chicago Bears] and assistant coach [the 2006 Indianapolis Colts]. "I think I have an idea of what it takes to win in this league. That's what I've tried to get across to the players over and over, and will continue to do that."

THREE BIG ISSUES

1. How quickly can the Vikings install Bill Musgrave's new offense? Players are learning different terminology and an entirely new scheme, one that will roughly resemble what the Atlanta Falcons run under coordinator Mike Mularkey. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder received a partial playbook during the one-day lockout respite in April, and he helped distribute it to teammates by making copies himself.

Still, Musgrave freely admits there isn't enough time to install everything. He has cut back the volume of the playbook and won't have his full arsenal installed for some time, if at all, in 2011.

"We're in uncharted territory," he said. "We've never been through anything like this, whether as a coach or a player. We're trying to be smart in whittling down the volume that we present to the players. We want to be diverse and difficult to defend on offense, but at the same time, we want to know what the hell we're doing. We also want to get these guys back in football shape, so we don't want to work hard mindlessly. We want to work smart. We're balancing all those factors."

For now, at least, less will have to be more.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Cedric Griffin
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PRESSWIRECedric Griffin has recovered from injuries to both of his knees last season and coach Leslie Frazier plans to start him in Week 1.
2. Cedric Griffin's quick recovery: I'm not sure if Griffin's story has gotten enough national attention, but it will be remarkable if it holds up. Griffin tore both anterior cruciate ligaments in a span of 10 months, starting with the right knee in January 2010 and then the left knee last October. But doctors cleared him for full participation when training camp began and he was working with the first team throughout my three days in Mankato.

Griffin was never the fastest cornerback in the NFL, and it's fair to wonder how two major knee surgeries will impact his ability to run downfield with receivers. But the Vikings appear to be counting on Griffin, who is backed up by a pair of young cornerbacks -- Chris Cook and Asher Allen -- who each struggled last season.

Griffin probably won't play in the preseason opener, but Frazier said he has every intent of starting him in the Sept. 11 season opener against the San Diego Chargers. Said Griffin: "Injuries are a part of this game. If you get hurt, you get back up and continue to work hard. That's what I do."

3. Replacing Sidney Rice: The reality is the Vikings weren't going to find a receiver who could duplicate Rice's ball skills and leaping ability. Instead, they signed Michael Jenkins to offer reliable hands and precise routes. They renegotiated the contract of receiver Bernard Berrian, who should be motivated to put aside two lost years caused by a poor connection with former quarterback Brett Favre.

Most of all, however, the Vikings have thrust their faith behind third-year pro Percy Harvin, whom they hope will be their pseduo-No. 1 receiver and the top playmaker in their passing game. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Harvin doesn't have the prototypical size for that role. But he has already earned the respect of McNabb, for one.

"I have played with guys that play big, but are short in stature and have been so successful," McNabb said. "You talk about guys like DeSean Jackson and Santana Moss. There is no reason why Percy can't be a perennial Pro Bowler, as a starter at the receiver position with over 1,000 yards receiving, 90-100 catches."

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The release of left tackle Bryant McKinnie could qualify as both the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment of the Vikings' summer. We'll classify it as the former because no one, not even Frazier, saw these circumstances coming. Specimens like McKinnie, who is 6-foot-8 with a 94-inch wingspan, are rare and can take years to suitably replace.

Last week, I suggested McKinnie's departure was a warning shot to a roster that might have underestimated Frazier's demeanor. But I really don't think Frazier arrived at training camp intending to make that kind of splash, a belief Frazier reinforced during an interview.

"It really wasn't intended to send a message to our team," he said. "I had not planned in this offseason to have a new left tackle. That was not the plan. It was just a matter to do what's best for our team and our organization. If there is anything from them to get from this, it's that. That's why I did what I did it. Every decision I make is going to be what's best to bring a championship to Minnesota. No hidden agenda. No personal agenda, that was it."

Indeed, Frazier could have chosen a less crucial position if he was just looking to make a point. No, Frazier arrived in Mankato to find he had an unexpected crisis on his hands: a key player who was in no condition to play anytime soon. The Vikings planned for uncertainty at quarterback. They orchestrated intentional changes at receiver and defensive line. All the while, they were counting on McKinnie as their left tackle. His condition stunned and angered them and will leave them weakened for some time.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Donovan McNabb
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMinnesota quarterback Donovan McNabb is with his third team in three seasons.
MOST DELICATE JOB

The Vikings acquired McNabb for the shortest of short-term jobs: To help them win until Ponder is ready to start. In order to give McNabb a fair chance to do that, Frazier and Musgrave must give him unconditional support. But they'll have to do it while keeping one eye on Ponder's development as well.

The first week of training camp suggested the Vikings aren't close to having a quarterback controversy on their hands. McNabb authoritatively took control of the offense, working with several veterans at a local high school until he was eligible to practice, and then learning enough of the playbook to effect a smooth transition on his first day as the starter.

Ponder, on the other hand, looked like a rookie in his first week of professional practices. He displayed a quick release and an obvious ability to throw on the run, but his inexperience manifested itself in poor downfield accuracy and some bad interceptions.

McNabb's one-year, $5.05 million contract doesn't suggest he is in the team's long-term plans. But Frazier said he hasn't given much thought to the eventual quarterback succession, and I for one believe him.

"I really haven't thought that far ahead," Frazier said. "From time to time I'll look a little bit ahead, but there is so much to get done right now. It's all-encompassing. So to start saying right now what we're going to do a year from now or two years from now, that we're going to do this or that in certain positions. ... With all the changes we're having in 2011, you better get your focus on right now or you'll look back and regret certain things."

OBSERVATION DECK

  • After spending four seasons in a West Coast, zone-blocking scheme, tailback Adrian Peterson appears invigorated by the potential of Musgrave's offense. "The running back is definitely asked to do a lot more," Peterson said. "I'm excited about it. [There are] different formations, different looks that a running back has outside of the box. I'm excited to get this installed in my mind, this playbook, and get out there on Sunday to showcase the new Vikings offense." If all goes as planned, Peterson will play a much bigger role in the Vikings' downfield passing game than in previous years.
  • Peterson wants to be on the field for every play, but obviously the Vikings will need to establish both a backup and some potential relief on third down as well. Conventional wisdom suggests it will be Toby Gerhart, a second-round pick in 2010 who ran for 322 yards in limited service as last season. But I wouldn't rule out fourth-year pro Lorenzo Booker, a late addition last season who could also return kickoffs. During full-padded goal-line drills, Booker hit the holes quicker and more decisively than Gerhart, who seems to need time to gather a head of steam.
  • The Vikings' left tackle transition has attracted national attention, but it's not the only offensive line position in flux. Right guard Anthony Herrera is still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last November and has not yet returned to practice. His status for the start of the regular season is uncertain at best. The Vikings are using second-year player Chris DeGeare in his spot, but they also re-signed veteran Ryan Cook as a possible alternative. From what I saw, neither player can match Herrera's aggressive play. On the plus side, Hutchinson and right tackle Phil Loadholt both reported to camp in the best shape of their Vikings careers.
  • While the offense is under significant schematic renovation, the defense doesn't appear much different under new coordinator Fred Pagac. That's no surprise. Pagac was the Vikings' linebackers coach for five years, including four under Frazier, and will run a similar hybrid form of the so-called "Tampa-2" scheme. Pagac implied that his game-day calls might be more aggressive than Frazier's, and there was plenty of blitzing during the team drills I saw. "The calls might be a little different according to the different situations but that's just a difference in philosophy," Pagac said. "Our defense is going to be the Viking defense that you've seen here for the last five years except again, we're going to push running to the football, playing with our hair on fire and having fun. We're going to get after it."
  • Fourth-year pro Erin Henderson is working with the first team at outside linebacker, the position vacated by the unsigned Ben Leber. It's not clear if Henderson is merely the first of a rotation of players who will get an opportunity or if the Vikings intend for him to be their starter. Henderson has been a good special-teams player but hasn't previously done much to distinguish himself on defense. Another candidate, Kenny Onatolu, is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.
Some quick-hitting nuggets from across the NFC North knowing that two of our teams, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, are still practicing as we type and/or read...

Item: Bears defensive tackle Marcus Harrison still isn't practicing because he reported to training camp 11 pounds overweight.
Comment: I wonder when the Bears' patience with Harrison will run out. While he works on conditioning, the Bears are looking at a host of defensive linemen who could take his roster spot.

Item: Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (hip flexor) returned to practice.
Comment: Not a moment too soon. A couple of young tight ends, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, opened some eyes during the first week of camp.

Item: Packers defensive end Mike Neal participated in his first team drills since major shoulder surgery last fall, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Comment: That should be a welcome sign for all Packers fans who hope he is ready to take over for the departed Cullen Jenkins.

Item: The Detroit Lions used newcomer Stephen Tulloch at outside linebacker in his debut practice Thursday.
Comment: Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com believes Tulloch eventually will be moved inside. I agree. It makes sense to give him a chance to ease into the scheme before giving him play-calling responsibility.

Item: Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he doesn't consider right tackle Phil Loadholt a possible replacement at left tackle.
Comment: That makes sense. Shifting Loadholt would put another position in flux. As it stands, the Vikings are also using Chris DeGeare at right guard while Anthony Herrera continues his recovery from knee surgery. The only way Loadholt should be a possibility is if current starter Charlie Johnson proves he can't handle the job.

Item: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is expected to return Friday from a three-day absence. Peterson's fiancé gave birth to a son in Houston.
Comment: His return will give the Vikings their full complement of offensive players for the first time this summer.

Some big names on the inactive list

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
11:48
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DETROIT -- Wow. We've had an interesting morning of roster machinations here in the NFC North. Let's get right to them, starting with three big losses for the Minnesota Vikings.

NFC North Friday injury report

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
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Getting inside the Friday injury report, including less-than-positive updates on a number of prominent players around the division:

Chicago Bears: Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) won't play Sunday against the Detroit Lions, coach Lovie Smith said. Nick Roach will make his second start in three games. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports Tinoisamoa experienced significant swelling his right knee this week but at this point is not considered a long-term injury situation. All other Bears players should be available.

Detroit Lions: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (knee) did not practice this week, is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play against the Bears -- a huge loss for a Lions team that is disintegrating from a personnel standpoint. Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson are expected to play in Vanden Bosch's position, but neither can offer the leadership and tenacity Vanden Bosch has provided all season. The Lions listed right tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee) as questionable, but he practiced Friday and seems likely to play. Other than quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and Shaun Hill (finger), all other players will be available Sunday.

Green Bay Packers: Cornerback Pat Lee (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Safeties Atari Bigby (hamstring) and Anthony Smith (ankle) are listed as doubtful, but not expected to play. All other players should be available.

Minnesota Vikings: Tailback Adrian Peterson (ankle) practiced Friday and seems on track to play in at least some capacity Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Receiver Percy Harvin missed a second consecutive day of practice because of migraine headaches and is listed as questionable. Of all the migraine bouts Harvin has endured in the past two years, only one has kept him from playing in a game. Left guard Steve Hutchinson sat out the entire week of practice to limit impact on his fractured thumb and will be a game-time decision Sunday. Rookie Chris DeGeare would replace him if necessary. Meanwhile, cornerback Chris Cook was ruled out for a second consecutive week because of a knee injury.
Two significant streaks could be in jeopardy this week for the Minnesota Vikings.

As we've discussed, tailback Adrian Peterson is dealing with a sprained right ankle. He did not practice Wednesday and has his work cut out for him to extend his streak of playing in 51 consecutive games. Interim coach Leslie Frazier told reporters that "we've all got our fingers crossed" that Peterson will play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Meanwhile, left guard Steve Hutchinson revealed that he fractured his right thumb during Sunday's 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins. Hutchinson, who has started 123 consecutive games dating back to 2003, continued playing but endured significant swelling afterward. Like Peterson, he sat out practice Wednesday.

Rookie Chris DeGeare would start in Hutchinson's place if necessary, leaving the Vikings with backups starting at both guard positions. (Ryan Cook has already replaced right guard Anthony Herrera, who was lost for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.)

Hutchinson, however, said he would be fitted with a new cast on Wednesday and hoped to find a way to play with it Sunday.

"That's the plan," he told reporters. "Now the issue becomes casting it up enough to protect it. We can cast it up, pad it up enough where it doesn't hinder me from doing my job."

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
11:50
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WilfAP Photo/Andy KingOwner Zygi Wilf missed an opportunity Monday to lay out a vision of the Vikings' future.
After the Minnesota Vikings' 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and the subsequent firing of coach Brad Childress, here are three issues that merit further examination:

1. I'll be fascinated to see the extent to which the Vikings' offense changes with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell presumably in complete control. Bevell has been associated with Childress since his days as a college quarterback at Wisconsin, but I've always suspected he subordinated some of his own ideas to mesh with Childress' rigid version of the West Coast offense.

The scheme opened up a bit in 2007, when Bevell took over the play calling. But anyone who watched the sidelines carefully knew that Childress was still heavily involved in play selection.

Obviously, the next six games will be an opportunity for interim coach Leslie Frazier to prove he is a viable head-coaching candidate. But on a different level, Bevell now has an opportunity to separate himself from the pocks of Childress' scheme and establish his own voice as an NFL coordinator for the first time. Frazier figures to have some input, but his career-long devotion to defense suggests he'll give Bevell more latitude than ever.

I'm curious to see how, and if, Bevell uses it.

2. Frazier and new defensive coordinator Fred Pagac have their hands full with a secondary that played a significant role in Childress' firing. For reasons I can't explain, the Packers are really the only opponent this season to take full advantage of mismatches against cornerbacks Asher Allen and Chris Cook. The Packers completed four passes of more than 20 yards on sideline routes, leading to the sideline bickering that indicated Childress had lost control of the team. (The Dallas Cowboys, among other teams, should have done the same.)

There isn't much from a personnel standpoint the Vikings can do at this point. But schematically or otherwise, the Vikings need to do more to protect both players. "People are going to try to attack our young corners going forward and we know that," Frazier said. "We'll have to adjust some things based on that."

3. Lost in the coaching change is this nugget of news: Right guard Anthony Herrera will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Backup Ryan Cook struggled in Herrera's spot on Sunday, and you wonder if the team will turn to rookie Chris DeGeare this week against the Washington Redskins. Herrera is a hard-nosed bull who doesn't get much attention until he is replaced by an inferior player.

And here is one issue I don't get:

In a number of off-the-cuff conversations with owner Zygi Wilf over the years, I've found him to be articulate, passionate and smart. So I have no idea why he freezes up during press conferences. But after five years of owning the team, I think it's fair to expect a better articulation of his vision for the franchise -- and for him to provide at least a partial explanation for his actions and inactions.

Wilf's performance during Monday's announcement of Frazier's ascendance should be disappointing to anyone who wanted insight into the move or hoped to hear some accountability taken for the chaos of the past few months. Wilf spoke exclusively from prepared remarks, shuffling papers to find prewritten answers to anticipated questions. I think he literally skipped a line when addressing Childress' departure, because this is exactly what he said at one point: "It's often difficult to articulate one reason why change is needed. But obviously want to know is important to great a strong positive and successful rest of the season. We wish he and his family only the best."

Look, not everyone is a dynamic public speaker. We should remember that Wilf originally joined this ownership group intending to be a silent minority partner. He assumed the managing partner role only when lead investor Reggie Fowler encountered financial difficulty. And to be clear, I want no part of the snickering that went on during Monday's news conference. There will be no cheap shots here.

What I'll say is this: If I'm a Vikings employee, fan or sponsor on such a dramatic day, I want to hear more from the chief executive than a few minutes of clichés and garble. I want to hear something that tells me there is a plan for the near and long-term future, and for it to be articulated in a way that gives me confidence it can be executed.

I think Wilf and his partners have been the best owners this franchise has ever had. But I can't understand why he hasn't worked to get better at publicly representing it. Communicating a message is a learned skill, and this is a man with vast resources. If he wanted to, Wilf could hire presidential speechwriters and take private lessons from Tony Robbins.

I'm guessing Wilf doesn't consider it important enough to devote the time it would take to improve. If that's the case, he's mistaken. Whether he wants to or not, he ultimately sets the public perception of this franchise. If the owner doesn't communicate in public effectively, how can he expect a message to be heard?

NFC North Friday injury report

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
4:47
PM ET
Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Detroit Lions: Linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin/ankle) and receiver Bryant Johnson (foot) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) are questionable. Levy has indicated he will try to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins in what would be his second start of the year. Other than quarterback Shaun Hill (arm), all other players will be available.

Green Bay Packers: Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf) returned to practice Friday and has a chance to play Sunday against the New York Jets. Like defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle), he is listed as questionable. But it appears Jenkins has a better chance of playing than Pickett. Receiver Donald Driver (quad) also practiced Friday and is listed as probable. As we noted earlier, coach Mike McCarthy has already decided that cornerback Al Harris (knee) won't be activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Safety Atari Bigby (ankle) hasn't been ruled out.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback Brett Favre (foot) was listed as questionable, but his status obviously won't be determined until Sunday. The Vikings also listed cornerback Lito Sheppard (hand) and guard Chris DeGeare (ankle) as questionable, but all other players will be available.
NEW ORLEANS -- It appears as though one pregame question mark for the Minnesota Vikings has been answered. Barring a change of heart during pregame warm-ups, the Vikings have decided to start center John Sullivan despite a lingering right calf injury that cost him most of training camp and the entire preseason, according to ESPN's Ed Werder.

Sullivan returned to full practice earlier this week after spending more than a month dealing with the injury. The Vikings experimented with two options in the interim; one was using backup Jon Cooper and the other was shifting over right guard Anthony Herrera and inserting rookie Chris DeGeare at right guard. Ultimately, however, the Vikings decided to inflict minimal collateral damage by using an established starter who probably still isn't in full game condition rather than moving one or more players to different positions.

For our next trick, we'll endeavor to find out if the Vikings will add a cornerback to their roster or if they really do plan to enter this game with three healthy players at this position.

Wrapping up preseason Week 2

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
10:15
AM ET
Let's formally wrap up preseason Week 2 by examining the last of the NFC North's four weekend games:

San Francisco 49ers 15, Minnesota Vikings 10
Preseason record:
1-1
Of interest:
While everyone focused on quarterback Brett Favre's four plays, middle linebacker E.J. Henderson completed his miracle comeback from a fractured left femur. Tackle statistics are unofficial, but I had Henderson getting involved in seven over the first two series of the game, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Unless something turns up over the next week or so, I would say Henderson is a lock to open the season as the Vikings' middle linebacker. Amazing. Meanwhile, the Vikings seemed to be in crisis mode on their offensive line. Center John Sullivan (calf) is expected to return to practice this week, but the shift of right guard Anthony Herrera to center was telling. It's possible they would consider Herrera at center with rookie Chris DeGeare at right guard rather than immediately re-inserting Sullivan. Finally, Joe Webb's 48-yard touchdown run was a sign that he might have a future as a playmaker. Favre lobbied after the game to get him on the field somehow. That will require some creativity.
Local coverage:
Running back Adrian Peterson said he got "out-tempoed" by 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis on a blitz pick-up, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. The Vikings' offense is a mystery, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "These Vikings, with their late-arriving quarterback and ailing receivers and short-handed offensive line, have so little work together offensively it's hard to imagine all their talent on that side of the ball showing up Sept. 9 at New Orleans." Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Pocket protection was an afterthought for the Vikings as all three quarterbacks were left scrambling for their lives."
Next: Saturday vs. Seattle Seahawks

Earlier: Our review of Saturday night's games.
MANKATO, Minn. -- Let's get to some first-day impressions of the Minnesota Vikings, now that I've mopped off after a few hours on a steamy practice field where the heat index surpassed 100 degrees Monday afternoon:

  • When team drills began during the morning practice, these players were part of the first-team offense: Receiver Greg Lewis, center Jon Cooper, guard Chris DeGeare, tight end Jim Kleinsasser and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. I wouldn't expect any of those five players to be in the starting lineup in the season-opening game Sept. 9 at New Orleans. Injuries, family death and indecision are all to blame.
  • [+] EnlargeHenderson
    AP Photo/Andy KingE.J. Henderson has made strides in his recovery from a fractured femur.
    Nose tackle Pat Williams, 37, and linebacker E.J. Henderson, who has a titanium rod in his leg, have each participated in more practices than receiver Sidney Rice, receiver Percy Harvin, center John Sullivan and quarterback Brett Favre combined. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has been added to the injury list with what coach Brad Childress called a strain, and he missed both of Monday's practices.
  • I plan to write more about Henderson soon, but for now you should know that Monday was the best day yet in his recovery from a fractured femur. For the first time, Henderson participated in all of the defensive repetitions for his group in the morning practice (first team) and afternoon practice (second team). "It felt good," Henderson said. "No pain. No worries. Ready to keep it moving."
  • DeGeare, a fifth-round draft pick in April, was filing in for injured right guard Anthony Herrera and appears on his way to winning a roster spot as a backup who can play both guard spots and perhaps tackle in a pinch. With DeGeare and Cooper on the roster, you wonder if the end is near for center/tackle Ryan Cook -- the player drafted in 2006 with the choice acquired from Miami in the Daunte Culpepper trade.
  • I thought the Vikings looked pretty sharp defensively. The best play I saw was linebacker Chad Greenway's diving tip of a pass intended for Kleinsasser.
  • Count me in agreement among those who have already observed that rookie quarterback Joe Webb is struggling. I counted three ducks on basic go routes and got the sense he has hit the rookie wall of training camp. Even offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted that Webb's head is "swimming" with terminology and added: "There's been times out here where he's flashed some great plays, but there's been times where he's flashing that he's definitely a rookie."
  • Here's an interesting wrinkle to the Harvin situation we discussed earlier: Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports that in addition to dealing with the death of his grandmother, Harvin might be suffering from the migraine headaches that plagued him for parts of last season. Childress reiterated Monday afternoon that he isn't certain when Harvin will rejoin the team. "I'm kind of flying in the dark a little bit," Childress said.
  • The Vikings have a full-pads practice scheduled for Tuesday morning. It will include some live scrimmaging and probably be their last real contact until Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis.
  • I made it almost a full day without addressing the elephant next door. Childress said he texted with Favre as recently as Monday morning but had no information on Favre's scheduled visit this week with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the routine surgery on Favre's ankle.

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