NFL Nation: Charlie Johnson

The Minnesota Vikings won't have guard Charlie Johnson nor linebacker Anthony Barr for Sunday's game at the Miami Dolphins.

Barr won't play in the Week 17 season finale, either. The team decided to shut him down so that he could undergo what coach Mike Zimmer told reporters was a "very minor" procedure on his knee.

Barr, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft, originally suffered the injury in Week 11 and hasn't played since Week 14. Prior to the injury, Barr showed promise as a playmaker -- recording four sacks, forcing two fumbles and returning one for a game-winning touchdown -- and also was among the Vikings' leading tacklers with 70 in the first 12 games.

Meanwhile, tight end Kyle Rudolph returned to practice Friday to test his injured knee and ankle but is listed as doubtful to play on the final injury report of the week. Safety Robert Blanton (ankle), who also returned to practice, is listed as questionable.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will be without three defensive starters and an offensive lineman on Sunday in Detroit, and Cordarrelle Patterson's status is uncertain.

Barr
The Vikings listed linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and guard Charlie Johnson (ankle) as out for Sunday's game against the Lions. Patterson, who showed up on the injury report for the first time on Friday, is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.

Patterson was returning kickoffs during the open portion of practice, which means he could have tweaked his hamstring later in the session once it was closed to reporters. He played only one offensive snap last week against the New York Jets and lost a fumble on the opening kickoff in the second half.

The loss of Barr and Floyd, in particular, might hinder the Vikings as they face the 9-4 Lions on Sunday afternoon. Detroit's offense thrives when Matthew Stafford has time to throw downfield to Calvin Johnson, and though the Lions beat the Vikings with quick passes in Week 6, Johnson wasn't on the field for that game. Stafford has been sacked 39 times this year; the Vikings can hope for another big day from Everson Griffen, but having Barr and Floyd would certainly help them generate a pass rush.

With Blanton out, Andrew Sendejo figures to start at safety next to Harrison Smith. Vlad Ducasse will likely start at left guard with Johnson sidelined, meaning the Vikings will have just two of their five preferred linemen (Matt Kalil and John Sullivan) on the field against a Lions pass rush that took Teddy Bridgewater down eight times on Oct. 12.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings' 30-24 win over the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday:

Patterson
"I still don't think it was a fumble:" A week after he got just three snaps on offense, Cordarrelle Patterson's only touch on offense was a 6-yard gain off a pitch in the first half. His frustrating day included a pair of gaffes on kickoffs, as well; Patterson fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, setting up a Jets field goal, and bobbled his next opportunity, before returning it to the 14-yard line. The Vikings hoped Patterson would be ruled down before the ball came out, but officials upheld the on-field call of a fumble. Patterson didn't want to answer many questions after the game, but said, "I don't think it was a fumble. I still don't think it was a fumble." Coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn't lack confidence in Patterson, though, adding the two talked about the receiver's role this week.

Johnson, Blanton to have MRIs: Guard Charlie Johnson and safety Robert Blanton will have MRIs on Monday after leaving the game with leg injuries. Johnson had a walking boot on his right ankle and was on crutches after Matt Asiata fell on his ankle, but said X-rays showed nothing was broken in his foot. The guard yelped in pain after he was injured. "It was more scary at first, but I looked down and everything was straight," he said.

Vikings honor Pearl Harbor survivor: The Vikings commemorated the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor by honoring Richard Thill, the 91-year-old St. Paul native who is one of the few living Pearl Harbor survivors from Minnesota. Thill, who was aboard the USS Ward -- the ship credited with firing the first American shots of World War II -- was recognized during the second quarter. Former Vikings coach Bud Grant, a World War II veteran himself, was part of a pregame flyover in a B-25 bomber.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It would appear Chad Greenway has a good chance to get back on the field this Sunday after a three-game absence.

Greenway was with the Minnesota Vikings at the start of their practice Wednesday afternoon, after doing some limited work on Friday for the first time since he broke three ribs on Sept. 21 in New Orleans. As the veteran returned, linebacker Gerald Hodges -- who started the last three games in Greenway's place -- was sitting out of practice after injuring his hamstring Sunday, so Greenway could have an open path back to his spot as the starting weakside linebacker.

Coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday afternoon he would "possibly" consider making changes to the starting five on the Vikings' offensive line after the team gave up eight sacks on Sunday, but the Vikings had the same five starting linemen from Sunday's game -- Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Vlad Ducasse and Phil Loadholt -- working together during the open portion of Wednesday's practice.

Cornerback Jabari Price and defensive end Corey Wootton also appeared to not be practicing, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, of course, remains out with a sports hernia.

The Film Don't Lie: Vikings

September, 15, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Vikings must fix:

Minnesota allowed six sacks Sunday afternoon in a game where the New England Patriots moved Chandler Jones from a 3-4 outside linebacker position to a 4-3 defensive end spot, putting him in position to work against left tackle Matt Kalil for a large portion of the game. Kalil gave up two sacks -- one to Jones on a speed rush, and one to linebacker Dont'a Hightower on a blitz.

Even though the Vikings will face a New Orleans Saints team that has just two sacks this season, they'll be returning to a dome, where noise figures to be a factor in the Saints' home opener. If the Vikings want to avoid a second consecutive loss and get their offense in order after a 30-7 defeat on Sunday, they'll have to do a better job protecting Matt Cassel.

One thing to keep in mind is how much more help the Vikings were able to give Kalil in Week 1 than they did in Week 2 through the use of either tight end Rhett Ellison or Kyle Rudolph in a blocking role. Part of that, of course, was due to the score of the game against the Patriots and the fact the Vikings had to spend much more time in three-receiver sets as they tried to rally than they did in Week 1. But if the Vikings find themselves in that situation again, they have to be able to trust their left tackle to handle his man. It's worth noting, too, that Kalil and Charlie Johnson gave up a combined three quarterback hits and six hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

With Adrian Peterson back this week, the Saints undoubtedly will have more to think about in stopping the Vikings' offense, but if the pass protection isn't better, there's only so much even Peterson can alleviate.
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 New England Patriots' first outing with their 3-4 defense didn't yield positive results, especially against the run; the Patriots gave up 191 rushing yards to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, after hoping they had fixed a run defense that allowed 2,145 yards last season.

Fusco
Though the Minnesota Vikings' own 185-yard rushing total against the St. Louis Rams was helped more by Cordarrelle Patterson's 67-yard touchdown run than by the Vikings' bread-and-butter plays with Adrian Peterson, there could be plenty of room to run against the Patriots on Sunday, too.

"We've seen it before. We see more space out there," guard Brandon Fusco said. "I'll be more out in space, getting to the second level more, running around a little more. I'm fine with that."

Fusco, in particular, saw plenty of action last week, as the Vikings gained 152 of their 185 yards on the right side of the line, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Their new running scheme frequently employs Fusco as a pulling guard, and he was out in front of Peterson on his two biggest runs last week -- a 17-yarder in the first quarter when Fusco was pulling with center John Sullivan, and a 16-yarder in the third quarter, when Fusco and fullback Jerome Felton were leading Peterson.

"(Left guard) Charlie (Johnson) and I are athletic guards, and we're using it to our advantage," Fusco said. "It's something (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) likes to do. Sully's out there pulling a little bit, too. It's getting us out in space and hitting the little guys.

"The St. Louis game, there was a play where we're pulling, but they couldn't stop it, so we just kept running it over and over. It seemed like maybe it was a coincidence that I was pulling a lot more than usual, but they couldn't stop the play."

Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt are typically the players behind whom the Vikings run the most, and after seeing the Dolphins push Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork around last week, the Vikings could find room to be aggressive with New England's front, as well.

"Miami did a great job, especially with Wilfork in the middle," Fusco said. "They pushed him around a little bit, and we've just got to be physical with these guys."

Vikings re-sign Charlie Johnson

March, 15, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings will have their entire offensive line intact for a third consecutive season. They agreed with left guard Charlie Johnson on a two-year, $5 million deal on Saturday, according to a league source.

Johnson, who turns 30 in May, had a subpar year with the Vikings in 2013; Pro Football Focus held him responsible for four sacks, and he struggled at times to pick up blitzers. He'd been a solid cog in the Vikings' line in 2012, when Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, and the Vikings evidently wanted to keep the group together by re-signing Johnson.

It seemed possible the team would try to draft a young lineman, or work second-year man Jeff Baca into the lineup. That could still happen, though Johnson's contract likely gives him the benefit of the doubt in the early part of the team's evaluation process. The Vikings had been giving players roster bonuses in lieu of big signing bonuses this week, to push most of the cap charges onto this season's books, and it seems likely they did that again with Johnson. We'll see how the contract looks when the details are available, but the guess here is the Vikings left themselves some flexibility for 2015, in case a young player overtakes Johnson.

The team had restructured the contracts of Chad Greenway, Jamarca Sanford and Jerome Felton to clear an extra $1.75 million in cap space, and had just over $16 million left in cap space, not counting the contract of wide receiver Jerome Simpson, before signing Johnson.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings got some good news in their first full practice since last Thursday's game: defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford, who missed the team's previous two games with a strained hip muscle and groin, respectively, both were full participants on Wednesday.

Coach Leslie Frazier said he expects both players will be ready for Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, which means the Vikings should once again have three of their four starters back in their secondary.

That extra depth could be especially important. The Seahawks could get Percy Harvin back from a hip injury, just in time to put some stress on his old team, and the Vikings will need Sanford's help in run support against Marshawn Lynch. Safety Mistral Raymond, who figures to get fewer snaps if Sanford is back, has missed a handful of tackles in the Vikings' previous two games.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder (shoulder) was officially limited, but he took first-team snaps in the portion of practice open to reporters. Quarterback Josh Freeman said Ponder "probably got the majority" of snaps with the Vikings' No. 1 offense, and it still seems likely Ponder will start on Sunday.
  • Defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) were out of practice, as was linebacker Erin Henderson (illness).
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and fullback Jerome Felton (back) were limited in practice. This is Felton's first appearance on the injury report with a back injury this season.
  • Defensive tackle Letroy Guion (chest), left guard Charlie Johnson (elbow), right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion) and linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) were full participants.

Freeman and Cassel active for Vikings

November, 7, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings deactivated guard Charlie Johnson for Thursday's game against the Washington Redskins, adding him to the list of six players they had already ruled out. That means both Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman are active for the game, and the Vikings can essentially avoid divulging who their backup quarterback is, unless Christian Ponder gets injured or is benched.

Freeman
Cassel
Cassel
Here's how banged up the Vikings are: They had listed defensive tackle Letroy Guion as doubtful for Thursday's game, but put him on their active roster simply because they had already used their seven inactive spots on other players who were injured. Essentially, the Vikings have more injured players than they have inactive designations. Guion likely won't play, and Sharrif Floyd is listed as the starting nose tackle alongside Kevin Williams.

That point is worth mentioning, because the Vikings have resisted the idea of putting Floyd and Williams on the field at the same time, preferring to play Floyd at three-technique. He has rushed from the nose-tackle spot on some occasions in the nickel package, but hasn't had to play there much against the run. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against a team that likes to run up the middle, and how he'll do against the Redskins' option offense.

Joe Berger will start in place of Johnson at left guard, and Xavier Rhodes will start at right cornerback in place of Chris Cook. That's another spot where injuries are forcing the Vikings to use their first-round picks differently than they had planned.

Here is the full list of Vikings inactives:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When the Minnesota Vikings get back to practice on Tuesday, trying to make a quick turnaround for Thursday's game against the Washington Redskins, they could have as many as 10 players miss or be limited in practice.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who could miss up to a month with a fractured left foot, is probably the most significant injury of the group. But there are five other starters who could be in danger of missing time this week: guard Charlie Johnson, right tackle Phil Loadholt (who sustained a concussion on Sunday), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (who injured his right shoulder) and defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford, who missed Sunday's game with a hip strain and groin strain, respectively.

Other players who could miss time or be limited in practice this week are defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (leg) and running back Matt Asiata (shoulder). Asiata is attending his father's funeral in Utah, coach Leslie Frazier said. Asiata did not practice last week because of the injury.

Cook wasn't going to take part in the team's walk-through on Monday, coach Leslie Frazier said, but could do some work on Tuesday. Rhodes got hurt in the fourth quarter on Sunday and came back for one play before leaving again. Frazier said Rhodes "got a little nicked up" during the game but was better afterward. Of the injured players on the Vikings' defense, Cook and Rhodes sounded the most likely to return to practice before Thursday's game.

The Vikings will have to wait and see with the rest of their injuries.

"We have a ready list of potential candidates," Frazier said. "You never know from season to season how you’re going to get hit with injuries. Last year we were fortunate we didn’t get hit as much like we have this season, but there’s always a ready list."

#NFLRank: What we've learned so far

August, 26, 2013
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We all like to think we know football. We know that it "all starts up front" and that "games are won in the trenches." It's hip to recognize football as "the ultimate team game" and ridicule quarterback-crazed amateurs who see it through a fantasy lens.

And then we conduct an exercise like #NFLRank. And the truth comes out.

As you probably know, ESPN.com asked 63 people connected to the company's football coverage to rate each NFL starter on a scale of 0-10. The idea was to develop a comprehensive list of the top 100 offensive players in the game as well as its top 100 defensive players. What we got, as we can see here even at the midpoint of the project, is a skewed viewpoint that I think accurately reflects the way most of the (educated) general public sees the game.

A few representative numbers:
  • Of the 32 offensive linemen who made the top 100, 22 have already been revealed among the bottom 50. There will only be 10 among the top 50.
  • Of the 16 quarterbacks who made the list, only four have been revealed thus far. That means 12 will be among the top 50.
  • Six running backs have been revealed, leaving nine to make the top 50.
  • There are almost as many receivers (30) in the top 100 as there are linemen (32), even though teams have more than twice as many linemen in their starting group as receivers.
  • In all, the top 50 offensive players will include 40 skill-position players and 10 linemen.
  • Defensively, the thought process is similar. More than half (51) of the 100 defensive players come from recognizable "pass-rushing positions" -- either linebackers or defensive ends.

This is neither surprising nor an indictment of the project. Even those of us who love the game aren't going to recognize the skill of an offensive lineman, a defensive tackle or a safety who produce neither game-changing plays nor have easily understood statistics unless we have a reason to.

Take me, for example. I've covered the NFC North for five years. I can name all eight starting guards on those teams and, within reason, can rank them based on skill. (Josh Sitton, Rob Sims, Kyle Long, T.J. Lang, Charlie Johnson, Matt Slauson, Brandon Fusco, Detroit Lions TBA.)

But I had a lot of studying to do just to know the rest of the NFL's guards for this project, and I'm sure my evaluations left something to be desired. I'm like the rest of you. I'm not watching a random team's guards unless I specifically set out to do it. Like many others, my eyes are drawn to the pass-rushers, the pass-throwers, the pass-catchers and the runners.

In the NFL, there are 160 starting offensive linemen and 32 starting quarterbacks. Are we to believe that 12 of those 32 passers are as good at their positions as the best 10 of the 160 linemen? Are 14 of the league's 32 starting receivers as good as the best 10 linemen? Are there 34 linebackers and defensive ends whose play measures up to the best 16 defensive tackles, cornerbacks and safeties? Probably not, but that's how we, too, often view the game.

To this point, the biggest reader objections to the rankings via comments have centered around running back Alfred Morris (No. 75) and quarterbacks Cam Newton (No. 100) and Tony Romo (at No. 62) -- all of whom were deemed to have been rated too low.

Omar "stopped reading when I saw Cam Newton was ranked 100." Jade added: " How is cam newton 100? Who dares call themselves a analyst when they put such a good player so low? ESPN definitely lost credibility after putting out such a sloppy article. Player haterrs."

In fact, Newton ranked No. 16 in the NFL in Total QBR last season, and he is the 16th of 16 quarterbacks ranked in this project. Is he too low? Or do we just not know enough about the people ranked above him?

Meanwhile, Ryan wrote: "Lol wait a minute, Alfred Morris is behind some guy named John Sullivan and 74 other guys when he was 2nd in the NFL in yards last year? Is this list in alphabetical order or something?"

In fact, Sullivan was one of the NFL's top centers last season. Looked at another way, Morris is ranked one spot below arguably the best player at another position. Morris might have been second in yards last season, but he had the third-most carries. Sometimes opportunity is as important as skill.

It's important to remember that this project wasn't intended to name the 100 most important players on offense and defense. It was a raw evaluation of how the players compare to others at their position. I think we know football. But do we know the players who play good football? That's another story entirely.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For most of the time they were at Minnesota State in Mankato for training camp, the Vikings practiced under unusually mild temperatures. It might have been his Mississippi upbringing, or the time he spent playing for Mike Ditka with the Bears in the 1980s, but coach Leslie Frazier didn't like it.

"This new CBA (which limits practice time) and then you get weather like this? This is a player's dream," Frazier said on Aug. 12. "I like a little heat. I think it's good for our linemen to sweat a little bit."

With Minnesota temperatures finally in the 90s this week, Frazier has taken advantage.

He put the Vikings through their second straight padded practice of more than 2 1/2 hours on Thursday, continuing a regimented camp that new receiver Greg Jennings said was more rigorous than what he'd been used to in Green Bay in a radio interview this month. Frazier heard half-joking pleas from veterans like Jared Allen and Brian Robison this month to take a break from padded practices, too. He's kept pushing the Vikings, though, and this week, he has the weather to back him up.

"The guys know it's something we were hoping for, and I'm glad it's here," Frazier said of the heat. "It should help us in the long run. (The long practices) are more of a factor for the new schedule that we're on as much as anything. But it is good to have some sun and sweat."

Some other notes and observations from the Vikings' practice:
  • Linebacker Erin Henderson went through a brief scare when a teammate stepped on his left heel, causing Henderson to kick a cooler in frustration before going to the ground for a trainer to examine him. But Henderson only had a cut on his heel, and returned to practice after trainers applied a bandage.
  • Offensive guard Charlie Johnson missed practice with a personal issue, and he'll likely be gone tomorrow, as well, but should play on Sunday in San Francisco.
  • Wide receiver Jarius Wright returned to practice after sitting out with a concussion suffered on Friday night in Buffalo, but was still limited to individual drills and needs to clear the final step in the NFL's concussion protocol before he can return to full-contact work. Frazier said he would likely keep Wright out of Sunday night's game in San Francisco.
  • With Sharrif Floyd out until the start of the season because of knee surgery and Christian Ballard still gone because of a personal issue, the Vikings' defensive line depth could be stretched on Sunday night. But the team won't overwork veteran Kevin Williams, which could open up opportunities for reserves like Chase Baker, and rookies like Everett Dawkins to see a little more playing time.
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder looked sharp in individual drills and some of the Vikings' 7-on-7 work, hitting deep balls to Wright and Jerome Simpson. But he underthrew a deep pass to Simpson that was tipped and intercepted, and Ponder fired short on a few throws over the middle once he faced pressure. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the Vikings' starting offense could play into the third quarter on Sunday, and in what will likely be his last game action before the start of the regular season, Ponder will get a chance to work with a full range of receivers. "We’re looking for more turns at it this third preseason week," Musgrave said. "I think they’ve had a quarter and a half out there together, and we’ll get a couple more quarters and a half to see if we can get some more turns with everyone so we can be ready to go at Ford Field in September."
  • The Vikings pumped in crowd noise for most of their 11-on-11 work, trying to simulate a little of what they'll get in San Francisco. But realistically, the noise was probably geared more at what they'll face in Weeks 1 and 2 in Detroit and Chicago, respectively. "We're treating (the 49ers game) more like a game in the regular season," Frazier said. "I thought about that for a while. I thought it'd be the right thing to do. If we're going to treat everything else like a true game situation, in-season, why not do the same thing on the road with the crowd noise like we would in the regular season?"

The men in front of Adrian Peterson

December, 28, 2012
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Thursday was Adrian Peterson day at ESPN.com. We brought you Jeffri Chadiha's Hot Read profile of Peterson's pursuit of history, a ranking of the top 10 individual seasons in NFL history, a chance to rank those seasons yourself and a photo gallery.

To that list, let me add a nod toward the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line and the role it has played in Peterson's season. (We've already noted the performance of fullback Jerome Felton in several posts.)

[+] EnlargeJohn Sullivan
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsVikings center John Sullivan says winning has made the team's rushing success more enjoyable.
The Vikings are one of four teams that have started the same five offensive linemen for all 15 games this season. Two of them, center John Sullivan and left tackle Matt Kalil, have had Pro Bowl-caliber seasons. (Sullivan earned a first-alternate status and Kalil is a second alternate.)

Over the past two weeks, I've checked in with all five starters -- Sullivan, Kalil, right tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco -- for their thoughts on what this season has been like for them. Here they are, in their own words:

Left tackle Matt Kalil

"Adrian is a great player and explosive runner, and obviously one of the hardest workers in our locker room. It's been fun. It's been fun all year. Every game, you get that highlight run. It's been special to see.

"I take a lot of pride in it. The offensive line as a whole, I think we take pride in him rushing for over 150 yards per game like we've done so many times this season. We're definitely very prideful of it, and it will be an even bigger accomplishment if we can get him to break that [Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record] this week."

Center John Sullivan

"The best part is the success we've had rushing the ball has helped us win. It's nice when we're able to break long runs. But a lot of times, they've come early in games, and we've been able to set the tone for a successful day on offense.

"Blocking for a guy who is a home-run threat is awesome. I loved it in the St. Louis game [in Week 15]. He was able to crease the line on that 82-yarder early. I was able to see that no one was going to catch him. So you can just start walking. As an offensive linemen, it's pretty nice when the play goes so well you can just walk down to kick an extra point."

Left guard Charlie Johnson

"It's been fun, especially coming off last year. There weren't a lot of fun times last year. To be able to come out even as a team and have a little bit of success and be a part of what Adrian is doing, that's what you hope for.

"Adrian is the definition of a downhill runner. Being new here last year, I hadn't been around that before. It takes some time to adjust.

"People are always asking what Adrian might do for us after the season. This sounds like a cliché, but I'm just doing my job. I get paid pretty well to do what I'm doing. But at the same time, I'm not going to turn anything away."

Right guard Brandon Fusco

"For a lineman, there is a lot of pride in seeing your back get near 2,000 yards. It obviously hasn't happened much in the history of football. Blocking for Adrian is amazing. He's a great player, a special player. It's really special to see him, after the injury he had, come back and perform like he did. We take to heart everything he does. We've got his back and he's got ours. I'm just glad he is on our team. He makes us look good with his cuts. I'm really happy for him.

"I come from a small school [Slippery Rock]. When I got here, I had never really seen a player like him. It was just, 'Wow,' at first, to see how athletic and special a player he is. He makes all the reads and the cuts and all the quick decisions he makes, it's just amazing.

"His cuts are hard. I never seen a back cut so hard. He's so physical. He's a big running back. He's a downhill runner. He's not afraid to run over you, either. That's what is so special about him. He's pretty much a fighter rat running back. He'll fight for a yard for anything. We like that."

Right tackle Phil Loadholt

"It's been a lot of fun, and we're always pulling for him to keep doing what he's doing.

"He gets to the hole as fast as I've ever seen. Not only that, but he has good vision to make cuts and things like that. You just look at it and see his anticipation. It makes our job that much easier and makes you want to work that much harder for him.

"He is always letting us know how much he appreciates us after every big game, practice and everything. He's always letting us know. He has always been a guy that respects what we do and understands the relationship.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 23, 2012
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Let's get inside the NFC North's Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) practiced Friday for the second consecutive day but is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, mostly because he must be cleared Saturday by an independent neurologist. Coach Lovie Smith has been optimistic all week about Cutler's chances to be cleared, so the guess is Cutler will start. Receiver Alshon Jeffery won't play because of a knee injury, and the only other player who might not be available is tight end Kellen Davis (ankle).

Green Bay Packers: The Packers ruled out linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), who did not practice at all this week, for Sunday night's game against the New York Giants. Linebacker Terrell Manning (shoulder), defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (shin) are also out. Receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring) was elevated to questionable, but the guess is that he'll need one more week before returning to action. Tight end Andrew Quarless (knee), who is questionable, is the only other player who might not be available.

Minnesota Vikings: Receiver Percy Harvin tried to give it a go in practice Friday but his ankle is still sore. He is listed as doubtful and almost certainly won't play Sunday against the Bears. Guard Charlie Johnson (toe) returned to practice Friday and should be ready for the game. Nose tackle Letroy Guion (foot) is questionable.

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