NFC North: Xavier Rhodes

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Of all the opponents to expose the holes in the Minnesota Vikings' secondary last season, perhaps none did it more effectively than the Chicago Bears. The Vikings 31-30 loss to the Bears in Week 2 at Soldier Field was capped by Jay Cutler's touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left, when confusion reigned in the Vikings' secondary. Last December, wideout Alshon Jeffery torched the Vikings for 249 yards at the Metrodome, frustrating Chris Cook so thoroughly that he was ejected from the game for bumping an official while arguing a call.

Robinson
 The Vikings will face the Bears for the first time this year on Sunday, and if anything, the matchup is a chance for Minnesota to show just how drastically its secondary has changed since last year. Cornerback Josh Robinson is finding his comfort zone as an outside cornerback in nickel situations after flailing in the slot last year. Second-year man Xavier Rhodes continues to develop as a cover corner, and third-year safety Harrison Smith is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Captain Munnerlyn has a pair of interceptions in his past two games, and the Vikings have eight as a team this year, after picking off just 12 passes all of last year.

"Everybody's starting to work together," Robinson said. "That's what's really helping everyone look great, as a secondary, as a front, as a linebacker corps."

Robinson, in particular, is in a different spot than he was a year ago, when quarterbacks often targeted him half a dozen times a game early in the 2013 season. He's been thrown at just 13 times in the Vikings' past four games, according to Pro Football Focus, allowing seven completions for a total of 95 yards, and the 40-yard pass he allowed to Mike Evans against Tampa Bay is one of just two he's given up over 20 yards this season.

"[The outside] is where I'm comfortable. I made that known last year, and I said the same thing this year," Robinson said. "It's really simple to just cover the guy in front of you. That's something I did a lot at [Central Florida]. I'm trying to do it more here, and do it well."

Robinson credited coach Mike Zimmer with helping him improve his technique in press coverage, and against the Bears' two big receivers (Jeffery and Brandon Marshall), the Vikings will have to be ready for a physical matchup. Their confidence in their own ability to match up with a passing attack like Chicago's, however, is in a different place than it was last year.

"[Facing them last year] just helped me realized I can go against great players," said Rhodes, who broke up three passes while covering Marshall at the Metrodome last year. "I can go out there and compete against anyone. I played great against those guys, and it let me know to never doubt myself."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Continuing our Q&A with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (you can find Part 1 here):

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Scott BoehmVikings coach Mike Zimmer says his team has a lot of confidence in rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.
 You go into the season assuming Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback, and you'll have the chance to develop Teddy Bridgewater at his own speed. How much does that change expectations for your team when you have to make the switch to a rookie quarterback?

Mike Zimmer: I don't think it changed the expectations of the team. I think the team had a lot of confidence in Teddy. I think they had a lot of respect for Teddy in everything that we've done. I think it's always a little bit of a mindset change when your quarterback gets hurt, but I don't think it's changed any expectations. It hasn't changed mine, and hopefully it hasn't changed the defense's or the offense's either.

You talked about him becoming a leader of this team eventually. Have you seen his mindset change in the time that he's been the starter? Is he getting more comfortable with more people listening to him and looking to him for leadership?

Zimmer: He's still being pretty much Teddy. I don't think he's trying to be the leader of the team. I think he's just trying to do his job as good as he can. And I'm fine with that. As long as he continues to play good, I think that's what will make him a leader. I know at Louisville, he did lead, but it's more important for me and for him that he just continues to do what he's doing, studying and getting the respect of the other players.

When you had kidney stones crop up a couple weeks ago, how scary was that, or how much did you wonder if it was something more serious?

Zimmer: I had one in June, I believe, too. It happened fast. I mean, I was in a lot of pain. The procedure on [that] Tuesday was not fun, either. They're making me drink a lot of water -- lemon water, per the doctor. But no, it didn't change anything.

You've seen coaches like Gary Kubiak and John Fox go through health scares in the past couple years. How hard is it to keep some balance when you're in this job and keep yourself healthy?

Zimmer: It's hard during the season, at least for me. I'm kind of a Type A personality anyway. During the season, it's really hard. I just try to go as hard as I can until the season's over, and then take a breath and try to get back into normal life, I guess. I think as coaches, we all try to get on a routine and stick with the routine, whatever it is. I try to get out of this office and go home at a fairly early hour, because I'm in here pretty early, but I do go home and work when I go home.

As you get into the second half, and you've had a chance to set up what you want to see happen, what is the next step? Do you feel like players pretty much know what to expect from you, or is there still more of that work that needs to be done?

Zimmer: I think they have a pretty good idea of what to expect from me, and how I am, and how I go about things. A lot of times, I hear the players say, 'Don't listen to how he says it; listen to what he says.' Things like that. I think they get used to me, and in the same way, I understand a lot of the players better, too -- which ones to push a little harder, and which ones to back off. Like, with Xavier Rhodes, some of these younger players that I expect to be consistent all the time with what we're asking them to do, it takes time to do that. But when they have success, and they see themselves having success -- a guy like Sharrif Floyd, who's a young guy [who] a lot of people said things about -- when he starts having success, and he starts saying, 'Wow, this guy knows what he's talking about,' it just breeds more confidence. When they get out on the practice field, I don't know when it will all happen, but I'm hoping at some point that everything we do is natural for Xavier and Sharrif and Cordarrelle [Patterson] and all these guys, and it just clicks. That's when you become a really good football team -- when guys are thinking about playing and having fun and kind of free-flowing.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Half a season into Mike Zimmer's first year as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, the team's defense in the midst of an impressive turnaround.

A group that allowed the most points in the NFL last season has improved to 17th overall, having allowed 173 through eight games. The Vikings fare even better in yards allowed, where they've gone from 31st to ninth, and third-down conversions, where they've improved from 30th to seventh. So far this season, the Vikings have given up a first down on just 36.5 percent of third downs, after failing to get off the field 44.2 percent of the time last year.

Griffen
After sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon five times on Sunday, the Vikings now have 25 sacks, which ties them with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-most in the league (last season, they tied for 13th overall with 41 sacks). Linebacker Anthony Barr leads all rookies with three sacks, defensive tackles Tom Johnson (five sacks) and Sharrif Floyd (three) have already hit career highs, and defensive end Everson Griffen is third in the league with eight sacks. Safety Harrison Smith is tied for third in the league with three interceptions.

Zimmer has shown little interest in comparing his defense to what the Vikings did last year and has maintained he came to Minnesota with no expectations of how good the group could be. He said he typically doesn't even look at statistics for another month, when there's a larger body of work.

"Talk to me at the end of the season and I’ll tell you what I think," Zimmer said. "There’s a long way to go. I never look at defensive rankings or anything like that until at least Thanksgiving. I think by then you kind of know what you are. I hope we can get better than what we are now."

But after what the Vikings had last year -- an often toothless unit that blew five last-minute leads and couldn't stop drives when it had to -- it's striking to look at how much the group has improved this year. With so many key players (Griffen, Floyd, Linval Joseph, Barr, Xavier Rhodes, Smith) all 26 or under, there's plenty of reason for optimism about the team's defensive foundation.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It might be in part because of the quarterbacks he's facing, but Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is getting more comfortable turning up the heat on opposing quarterbacks.

Zimmer ordered 16 blitzes of Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon in the Vikings' 19-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's the most he's blitzed all season, up from 13 the week before against Buffalo and 11 against Detroit. The last three games represent three of the Vikings' four highest blitz totals of the season, and in a game controlled by their defensive front, they were effective when bringing extra pressure.

Griffen
They registered two of their five sacks on blitzes, intercepted Glennon once and held him to 5.69 yards per dropback on blitzes. The Vikings also exemplified the selfless rush concept Zimmer has been preaching; Sharrif Floyd's second-quarter sack came after Glennon was flushed by Anthony Barr and Tom Johnson, and on the next play, Everson Griffen took Glennon down after Floyd's initial pressure.

"I like the way they’ve played the last three weeks," Zimmer said of the defensive line. "Again, talk to me at the end of the season and I’ll tell you what I think. There’s a long way to go. I never look at defensive rankings or anything like that until at least Thanksgiving. I think by then you kind of know what you are. I hope we can get better than what we are now."

Here are some other observations about the Vikings' defense after a film review of their win over the Buccaneers:
  • Zimmer sent Barr on 11 of his 16 blitzes and unveiled some new looks to pressure Glennon. On one third-quarter blitz, both Floyd and Johnson dropped into coverage, while Barr and Smith came after the quarterback.
  • Griffen was at his most disruptive again Sunday, whether he was showing his quickness off the edge, taking an inside rush lane off the stunts with Floyd, peeling off a block to take down Robert Herron on a reverse or ripping down Doug Martin with one hand on a screen. The 26-year-old is an exponentially better fit for Zimmer's defense than a player like Jared Allen; he can move around, drop into coverage and take away the edge with his power and speed.
  • Barr talked about how he's getting more comfortable in pass coverage, and though he was trailing Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the Buccaneers' fourth-quarter touchdown and got crossed up on a throw to Bobby Rainey earlier in the fourth, he had some nice moments in zone coverage, working with Harrison Smith and either Captain Munnerlyn or Josh Robinson to take away options on the left side of the field.
  • If there's one nitpick, it's with Xavier Rhodes, who got flagged for two penalties, including an illegal contact call that was declined after Mike Evans beat him for 23 yards. We looked earlier today at the Vikings' penalties late in Sunday's game, and Rhodes is still getting in trouble at times when he carries contact too far up the field. On his illegal contact call in the third quarter, he started jamming Evans about three yards off the line of scrimmage but stayed in contact with him for nearly another 10.

The Film Don't Lie: Vikings

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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A weekly look at what the Minnesota Vikings must fix:

It wound up a moot point, considering what the Vikings' two first-round picks (Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr) did this past Sunday to turn a late-game collapse into a victory in Tampa Bay. But as the Vikings try to curtail one of the league's most proficient passing offenses in the Washington Redskins on Sunday, their young corners will have to be better about covering receivers without getting penalized.

Second-year man Xavier Rhodes and third-year cornerback Josh Robinson were flagged for a combined three penalties Sunday, including on back-to-back plays on Tampa Bay's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Rhodes put his hands on Mike Evans and carried him too far downfield, thereby earning a defensive holding penalty the Buccaneers declined after Evans caught a 23-yard pass. After Rhodes spent some time pleading his case to side judge Jeff Lamberth, Robinson was called for a 9-yard pass interference penalty when he got too physical with Evans and shoved him to the ground with his right hand while Evans tried to turn for a pass.

Rhodes' eight penalties tie him for third most in the league this season, and he in particular seems to be learning how to play the position without crossing a line. He'll face a group of Redskins receivers who average a league-leading 6.83 yards after the catch, according to ESPN Stats and Information, so it stands to reason Rhodes won't want to give them too many free releases Sunday. His penalties are products of aggressiveness, but he's still learning how to take away catches through his positioning -- and not completely through his physical handling of receivers.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As he stepped to the podium for his postgame news conference in Buffalo on Sunday, following a 17-16 last-minute loss in a game he coached while fighting off pain from kidney stones, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer looked as drained as he had all season. Zimmer talked about the progress he'd seen with the Vikings despite the loss, and it wasn't hard to sense he had realized turning the team around was going to be a longer project than just one season.

One of the enjoyable things about covering Zimmer is his Monday news conference, when he's taken some additional time to reflect on the game after watching film and generally has some insightful thoughts about the direction his team is going. On this particular Monday, Zimmer was keenly aware of the balance between coaching one of the league's youngest teams -- which has lost several veterans to injuries already this season -- and working in a business as fixated on current results as the NFL.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesMike Zimmer called the Vikings' coverage on one particular Sammy Watkins play, "poor technique."
"I don't want to ever give the indication that we're thinking about the future or anything like that," Zimmer said. "I understand that we're a young football team, I guess is what I'm saying. And that we're going to have some learning experiences with some of these situations. We've got a young quarterback, we've got some young guys in the back end. And these things are all learning experiences for them."

The Vikings' inexperience showed up in several situations at the end of the game on Sunday, particularly on a couple plays with cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson, who failed to reroute Sammy Watkins and gave up an 18-yard completion on a slant on third-and-12. "It was poor technique. Poor technique," Zimmer said. Two plays later, Rhodes got beat on a jump ball at the 2-yard line by Chris Hogan.

"It was a double move, and when Xavier made the first move, he transferred his eyes back to the quarterback and he kind of got out of position -- just a little bit, not bad," Zimmer said. "But he recovered, because he does have outstanding recovery speed, he recovered, had the guy on the sideline, had him on his back, and the guy went up and made the catch. Other than, when you get in that position, make the play -- that's the thing I talk to the players about. Part of my job is to get them in the right position to be able to make the play. When they get in position, their job is to make the play. He's been in those positions a lot, and made an awful lot of plays. I think receivers in the NFL, and the quarterbacks, they're going to make some plays, too."

Then, Rhodes played too far inside on Watkins' game-winning touchdown, giving up the sideline instead of forcing Watkins toward the Vikings' inside safety help. "It's getting to understand splits, getting to understand help, getting to understand formations and where you're supposed to be. I anticipate he will never make that mistake again."

Zimmer seems to genuinely enjoy the process of helping players develop, and he's been through enough projects with young defenses to know things won't get fixed overnight. That doesn't make the developmental stage any easier, particularly when wins and losses will dictate his fate in his current job more than any he's ever held. On Monday, though, Zimmer ultimately sounded hopeful.

"My expectations weren't going into the year, 'We're going to be this record or that record,"' he said. "It was about how we perform each and every ballgame and then kind of add them up at the end. I still feel that exact same way. I don't know that you can say after seven games, 'we are what we are,' only because of the fact that there's been so much change of what's going on. I think the quarterback will continue to get better, I think the young secondary will continue to get better, I think when guys realize -- I think that the emphasis that we've placed on certain things we've continued to get better. And I think if they'll realize the importance of all these little things we're talking about, we'll continue to get better. My expectations really have not changed whatsoever."
MINNEAPOLIS -- That the Minnesota Vikings were looking to trade Percy Harvin was an open secret in March 2013, when general manager Rick Spielman sent the talented, yet troublesome receiver to Seattle for three draft picks. It seemed like a situation where Spielman would struggle to create leverage, given how apparent a Vikings-Harvin split seemed, but the Seahawks were willing to unload a first-, a third- and a seventh-round pick for reasons that Harvin made obvious during his dynamic performance in Seattle's Super Bowl win in February.

Harvin
Eight months later, with Harvin on the way to the New York Jets for the paltry sum of a mid-round draft pick, the reasons the Vikings wanted to part with him again seem as obvious as the reasons the Seahawks wanted him in the first place. Harvin leaves Seattle with a fresh set of reports swirling in his wake about how the receiver was a bad fit for Seattle's culture, to the point where the team's front office wanted him off the roster. Now, he goes to a 1-6 team that will owe him no guaranteed money after this season, and especially if the Jets have a new power structure in place next year, Harvin could again be looking for a team to gamble on his immense talent.

That Harvin seemingly couldn't function in the Seahawks' ecosystem -- seen as one of the most player-friendly in the league -- is as dumbfounding as the fact he clashed with a coach as genteel and likable as former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. It's not as though Harvin's recent stops have seen him matched with coaches regarded as difficult to work with, and even though he seemed thrilled to join the Seahawks when the Vikings dealt him 19 months ago, his durability and behavioral issues surfaced as quickly there as they did in Minnesota.

The Vikings used the picks they received for Harvin on cornerback Xavier Rhodes (who looks like a mainstay in Mike Zimmer's defense), offensive lineman Travis Bond (who was released last year) and running back Jerick McKinnon (who could develop into a solid weapon for offensive coordinator Norv Turner). That remains an impressive haul for a radioactive player like Harvin, and even if Rhodes and McKinnon fail to capitalize on their potential, Spielman appears vindicated by his decision not to consider giving Harvin a lucrative multi-year contract.

Harvin is someone else's problem now, a step further removed from the Vikings and a step closer to an uncertain future in the league. He will return to Minnesota with the Jets on Dec. 7, and even if he makes a few splash plays against his former team (as he did last November in Seattle), it's doubtful the Vikings will miss him much. His abrupt exit from a championship team suggest the Vikings were right to turn him loose, and shrewd to sell as high on him as they did.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In a week where we've spent plenty of time talking about an unexpected concern for the Minnesota Vikings -- their pass protection -- it only seems fair to take a look at a pleasant surprise: the performance of their young cornerbacks.

Robinson
Rhodes
Secondary depth looked like an issue for the Vikings as recently as training camp, when Josh Robinson was dealing with a hamstring injury and struggling to prove he'd progressed from a disastrous second season. But Robinson has performed well as an outside cornerback in nickel situations -- albeit in fewer snaps than Xavier Rhodes or Captain Munnerlyn -- and Rhodes has been a solid cover corner in his second year, as well.

According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 53.3 when throwing at Robinson (the seventh lowest in the NFL), and a mark of 71.0 when targeting Rhodes (19th lowest among cornerbacks). Passers have had more success against Munnerlyn, completing 16 of 22 passes targeted at him for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

"They are getting better with their techniques," coach Mike Zimmer said of Rhodes and Robinson. "They’ve got a tough job when you’re out there one-one-one with good receivers all the time it’s not an easy job because those guys are terrific athletes and we ask them to do an awful lot. So far they’ve been good at what they’ve been doing."

The Vikings have five interceptions this season, which puts them 15th in the NFL (though Harrison Smith, who has three already this year, is on track to become the first player since Cedric Griffin in 2009 with more than three interceptions). Still, Zimmer said there's much more that matters to him at cornerback than just interceptions, and on that front, his two young corners are getting better.

"Everybody wants to get interceptions; I got that, but there’s something to be said about your guy not catching the ball and them having to go somewhere else," Zimmer said. "To me, that’s a big value if my guy isn’t catching the ball, because I can worry about other things. Maybe I’m the only one that thinks that way but I do."
Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Minnesota Vikings beat:

For a Vikings team that's been staking plenty of its plans on Xavier Rhodes turning into a top-end cover cornerback, his performance Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons had to deliver a shot of encouragement. Rhodes had one of the best games of his career at TCF Bank Stadium, two weeks after one of his worst on the same field. He was targeted frequently by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan but broke up four passes, handled the right side of the field well and thumped running back Steven Jackson for a 2-yard loss in the second half.

Rhodes
According to Pro Football Focus, Rhodes was targeted 11 times Sunday but gave up just five catches for 66 yards, with none of the completions going for more than 20 yards. The Falcons eventually found more success targeting linebacker Anthony Barr on short passes (as several teams have) and attacking Captain Munnerlyn on the other side of the field, but Rhodes held up well when the Vikings needed it.

"I have a lot of confidence in Xavier," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think he’s got a chance to continue to be a very good player. He’s like a lot of these guys we have on defense -- so young and learning so much of trying to figure out what we’re trying to do in situations and how we play the techniques and the different combinations. (Defensive backs coach) Jerry (Gray) is doing a great job with him, but I do think Xavier is continually getting better and he’s got a chance to be very, very good if he keeps working on the little things to make him really good."

Rhodes will be in for another test Thursday night when the Vikings travel to Green Bay to face the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but if he's able to take away his side of the field as effectively as he did Sunday, he'll have a chance to throw off the Packers' rhythm on offense. Green Bay essentially decided not to throw to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's side of the field in its season-opening loss to Seattle, and while Rhodes hasn't come close to earning that kind of reputation, he could force the Packers to look elsewhere if he handles his assignments well Thursday night. What he did Sunday against the league's top passing offense was a good step.

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer still sounded optimistic on Thursday he'd have Chad Greenway on the field this Sunday in New Orleans, despite Greenway's broken left hand. But the Vikings have injuries to several starters to track on the other side of the ball.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was added to Thursday's injury report after being limited in practice with a chest injury, and tight end Kyle Rudolph was again limited in practice with an abdominal injury. Right tackle Phil Loadholt was a limited participant with an ankle injury for the second straight day, though Zimmer thought Loadholt would be ready to go for Sunday's game.

"He'll be fine," Zimmer said. "He's tough."

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) returned to full participation on Thursday, while defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was a limited participant after missing Wednesday's practice. Linebacker Brandon Watts also worked in a limited capacity for the second consecutive day, after returning from a knee injury.

"He's got great speed," Zimmer said of Watts. "He's a young, developing player that I think has a great future in this league. He's got some coverage ability and it's hard to find linebackers with coverage ability nowadays, the way the league is."

Linebacker Michael Mauti was a full participant with a foot injury for the second straight day, and could be in line to make his regular-season debut on Sunday. If Greenway is unable to go, Mauti or Gerald Hodges might start in his place at weakside linebacker, but Zimmer said he thinks Greenway is improving.

"He feels a lot better today," Zimmer said. "He didn't practice, but he feels a lot better. He was running around pretty good, so we'll see how he does tomorrow."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings were without linebacker Chad Greenway -- because of a broken hand and a rib injury -- at practice on Wednesday, as well as right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder).

Tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes joined those three players on a list of Vikings starters who missed practice time on Wednesday. Rudolph was limited with an abdominal injury, which showed up on the Vikings' injury report for the first time, while Rhodes was limited because of the groin injury he played with last Sunday. Coach Mike Zimmer said Rhodes will be "fine" to play on Sunday, after he played last week's game against the New England Patriots.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed the Vikings' first two games with a knee injury, also practiced in a limited capacity for the first time this season. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) was limited, and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) was a full participant.

Zimmer: Chad Greenway has broken hand

September, 17, 2014
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We'll attempt to squeeze in some football news on a day where most of the news surrounding the Minnesota Vikings is of a different nature. Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that linebacker Chad Greenway broke his hand Sunday against the New England Patriots, though Zimmer is hoping Greenway will be able to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Greenway
Zimmer added that right tackle Phil Loadholt is not practicing Wednesday because of an ankle injury,

Zimmer said he thought Greenway broke his hand early in Sunday's game against the Patriots; Greenway received medical attention in the first quarter but finished the game. Zimmer wasn't sure to what extent the injury will affect Greenway's tackling, a year after the linebacker played much of the season with a broken wrist.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd should be ready to play after dealing with a shoulder injury last week, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes -- who was questionable last week with a groin injury -- will be fine for Sunday's game against the Saints as well.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Coach Mike Zimmer continued to sound optimistic on Friday that cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd -- who both did some work in practice on Friday -- would be able to play for the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Rhodes
Floyd
Rhodes was officially listed as questionable with a groin injury, as Floyd was with a shoulder injury, but Zimmer said there is a "good chance" Rhodes will play, and added Floyd is feeling "much better" after getting hit in the shoulder late in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, is the only player whom the Vikings declared out for the game. Wide receiver Rodney Smith is questionable with a hamstring injury; he had been a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was limited on Friday.

Linebacker Michael Mauti is probable to play on Sunday after missing last week's game with a foot injury. Fullback Zach Line is also probable with an ankle injury after missing last week's game, as is guard Charlie Johnson, whom Zimmer said injured his ankle in practice on Wednesday. Tackle Mike Harris and cornerback Jabari Price are both probable with shoulder injuries.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The prospect of cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd playing in the Minnesota Vikings' home opener on Sunday appears to be improving.

Floyd
Rhodes
Coach Mike Zimmer said on Thursday afternoon that there is a "good chance" that Rhodes (who is nursing a groin injury) and Floyd (who has a shoulder injury) could be ready for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Rhodes said on Thursday that he is feeling better than he did early in the week, and he was on the field with his helmet during the portion of Vikings practice open to reporters on Thursday.

"He was alright," Zimmer said. "We're just getting him in some (drills)."

Floyd did not practice on Thursday, but Zimmer said there was a possibility he would be able to do at least some work in the game on Sunday. If Floyd isn't available, Tom Johnson would likely start at tackle for the Vikings.

"We'll know more tomorrow and the next day," Zimmer said.

Also, Adrian Peterson did not participate in practice after going through warm-ups with the team during the open portion, but the Vikings say his absence was not injury-related.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will find out more about their injury situation by the time players return for practice on Wednesday, but on Monday afternoon, coach Mike Zimmer didn't have any reason for great concern.

Zimmer said both cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who left Sunday's game with groin and arm injuries, respectively, are day-to-day. But the coach said on Sunday that he didn't think Rhodes' injury would be a long-term problem, and Floyd said he'd be ready to play against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Zimmer also said that cornerback Josh Robinson, who appeared to injure his leg on a long pass late in the game, is fine.

He added linebacker Michael Mauti and fullback Zach Line, who missed Sunday's game with foot and ankle injuries, would try to practice on Wednesday.

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