NFL Nation: Marcus Sherels

Our weekly attempt to expose and explore the gray area involved in officiating NFL games. Sunday suggestions welcome via Twitter (@SeifertESPN).

Play: No flag for a helmet-to-helmet hit by Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy on Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White
Referee: Walt Anderson
Analysis: As Matt Ryan's pass approached White, Mundy took a textbook 2014 approach, initiating contact with his right shoulder and first striking White's left shoulder. At live speed, however, White's head snapped back -- a tell-tale action that routinely draws flags against modern NFL defenders.

[+] EnlargeRoddy White
Todd Kirkland/Icon SportswireRyan Mundy wasn't penalized for this hit Sunday on Roddy White.
The assumption is that helmet-to-helmet contact causes a head-snap. On cue, Anderson's crew dropped a late flag. But after discussion, Anderson waved it off and said there was no foul because the "contact was with the shoulder."

Watching the play in slow motion revealed that, after the shoulder contact, the crown of Mundy's head struck the lower left side of White's helmet. White qualified for defenseless player protection under NFL rules -- "a receiver attempting to catch a pass" -- and Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7(b) prohibits "forcibly hitting [the] head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder even if the initial contact is lower than the player's neck."

A note added to that rule states it "does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle."

The past few years have conditioned us to expect a penalty on this kind of hit, even though it was once a standard part of legal defensive play. White was defenseless, Mundy made at least some contact with the helmet and White was slow to get up.

But was the contact "incidental?" Former NFL vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, thought it was and indicated as such on the Fox broadcast. Former NFL referee Jim Daopoulos, on the other hand, tweeted that the hit "is a foul and the flag should not have been picked up."

Anderson's explanation indicated he hadn't seen any helmet-to-helmet contact, so it's difficult to know whether he considered the "incidental" exception. Based on the rules cited, you can make an argument for "incidental" contact even if it wasn't at the root of Anderson's decision. Still, Mundy and the Bears should consider themselves fortunate. These days, any contact forceful enough to cause a head-snap usually leads to a penalty.


Play: Offsetting penalties overturn a Minnesota Vikings turnover against the Detroit Lions
Referee: John Parry
Analysis: Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels fumbled after a 14-yard return in the second quarter. The ball was recovered by the Lions' Tahir Whitehead.

After the play, Parry's crew sorted through three separate penalties. Two were on the Vikings: holding by Shaun Prater and an illegal block on a player Parry announced as No. 47. (There is no 47 on the Vikings' roster.) In addition, the Lions' Julian Stanford was called for illegal use of hands.

The NFL rule book has an entire section devoted to offsetting penalties on a change of possession. The end result was a replay of the down, even though the Vikings had committed two of the three penalties and the Lions had recovered Sherels' fumble.

Why the inequity? The two-word answer is "clean hands."

Here is what Rule 14, Section 5, Article 2 says about a double foul with a change of possession: "[T]he team last gaining possession will keep the ball after enforcement for its foul, provided it did not foul prior to gaining possession ('clean hands'). If the team last in possession does not have "clean hands" when it establishes possession, the penalties offset, and the down is replayed on the previous spot."

In other words, the Lions didn't keep the ball because Stanford committed his penalty before Whitehead recovered the fumble. The Lions didn't have "clean hands" prior to gaining possession, and it was irrelevant to this rule that the Vikings had committed two penalties to the Lions' one. Here's hoping for better hygiene next time.


Play: Unsportsmanlike conduct on Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes for … what?
Referee: Walt Coleman
Analysis: In the first quarter, the Bills' defense stopped New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley for no gain on third-and-1. Hughes celebrated with teammates, at one point reaching over the pile to slap teammate Ty Powell's helmet as Ridley rose from the ground.

Coleman called Hughes for unsportsmanlike conduct, with no further explanation, to give the Patriots a first down. (The extended possession did not result in points.) Why would a player be penalized for hitting his own teammate's helmet? There are a few possibilities, although none are immediately apparent when watching the replay.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(b) prohibits "using abusive, threatening or insulting languages or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the league." Did Hughes use a word or phrase toward Powell that Coleman's crew interpreted as "abusive, threatening or insulting?" In addition, Article 1(c) prohibits "using baiting or taunting acts or word that engender ill will between teams." Hughes' helmet blocks any visual view of whether he was saying anything, let alone something that qualifies here.

Meanwhile, Article 1(d) prohibits "prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations," defined as a player continuing "to celebrate after a warning from an official." If Hughes was warned for what seemed to be a short-lived celebration, it's not visible on the replay.

Ridley had to redirect himself slightly to get around Hughes' arms as he rose from the ground. Was that enough to qualify as an "abusive" gesture? I would think not. Nor should it qualify under Article 1(a), which prohibits "throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made."

Absent a more specific ruling from the NFL, the likeliest explanation: Coleman's crew thought Hughes either smacked Ridley's helmet or was trying to. Otherwise, the call is difficult to explain.

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

October, 7, 2014
10/07/14
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A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

The Packers nearly played a complete game in Thursday's 42-10 rout of the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Nearly.

But if there's an area where coach Mike McCarthy might have to place an extra emphasis this week in preparation for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, perhaps it's on special teams, specifically on kickoff coverage.

The Vikings got a 46-yard kickoff return from Marcus Sherels and a 56-yard return from Cordarrelle Patterson (although it was called back of a holding penalty). Special-teams coach Shawn Slocum's coverage units have been much improved over last season, when they ranked 29th out of 32 teams in both average yards allowed on kickoff returns and punt returns.

But against the Vikings, they had problems tackling. The Packers missed a season-high five special-teams tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.com. In their previous three games combined, the Packers missed only one special-teams tackle. That followed four misses in the Week 1 loss at the Seattle Seahawks. A superb effort by punter Tim Masthay, who tied a team record with five punts downed inside the 20, aided the Packers punt coverage unit.

The Packers made one special-teams-related roster move this week, releasing core player Ryan Taylor, who had only one special-teams tackle in five games this season. They replaced him with receiver Kevin Dorsey, who played on several of the No. 1 special-teams units during the preseason. Dorsey was promoted from the practice squad.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 12

August, 10, 2014
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings came out of Friday's preseason opener relatively healthy, but the Vikings were missing several players at practice on Sunday afternoon. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson and linebacker Dom DeCicco weren't on the practice field, and safety Mistral Raymond (who suffered a concussion during Friday's game) was doing work on the side with safeties Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford, who missed Friday's game with hamstring and back injuries, respectively. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, of course, was not practicing after a stray bullet struck him in the calf in a nightclub incident on Saturday morning. On a more positive note, cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels returned from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) was once again out of a walking boot.
  • The Vikings began their practice outside, but had to move indoors for the first time during training camp thanks to a jagged bolt of lightning off to the west of their practice field. That turned Sunday's session into a glorified walk-through, and the Vikings were only able to do so much work inside the Minnesota State field house. Zimmer said he hadn't written practice schedules for this week until after Friday night's game, and the Vikings will have to resume the work of drilling their mistakes once they get back outdoors on Monday.
  • Zimmer wasn't thrilled with the way the Vikings' secondary played the run, particularly on Darren McFadden's 23-yard burst at the end of the first quarter. Safety Antone Exum had a shot at McFadden at the Raiders' 29, but came down with inside leverage and couldn't fight through McFadden's stiff arm to bring him down until the Raiders' 43. "I tell our guys all the time that long runs are typically because of the perimeter run force," Zimmer said. "We did not do a good job when the safety was coming downhill on that play, so we ended up giving him 14 more yards on that run than we should have."
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen continued to win praise for his work on special teams, after returning three punts for 53 yards and making a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt at the end of the first half. Thielen was visibly upset he didn't score on his second return, which went for 26 yards, but special teams coach Mike Priefer said that was just a matter of Thielen making one more move. "He is probably disappointed that he didn’t score on the one, but that’s something that a young punt returner, that’s a mistake they are going to make," Priefer said. "He saw the seam and he just went for it full speed. He’s got to kind of dip and go to the outside or widen them and go back inside but it was a very, very well-blocked play." Priefer said Sherels is still entrenched as the Vikings' punt returner, but with Sherels fighting a hamstring injury, it's not bad for the Vikings to have another option they trust.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen did well in Friday's game, Zimmer said. He wound up with five tackles in the game and showed some nice push up the middle on a couple run plays. With Joseph likely to miss some time, the seventh-round pick could see some more opportunities.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 11

August, 6, 2014
8/06/14
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • In the team's final practice before Friday's preseason opener, coach Mike Zimmer let the Vikings work without pads, and the team finished about 45 minutes early. The afternoon session had the feel of a dress rehearsal, with no 7-on-7 periods and some extra full-team work. The Vikings' starters will likely play a few series on Friday night, and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could play as many as two quarters, with some of his work coming with the Vikings' first-team offense.
  • Bridgewater was intercepted for the fourth time in training camp when he threw a high screen pass that bounced off the fingers of running back Dominique Williams and landed in the arms of cornerback Kendall James. Bridgewater finished the day 6-for-10 in full-team drills, and Matt Cassel was 5-for-6. Third-string quarterback Christian Ponder, who figures to get plenty of playing time once the starters are out on Friday night, had one of his busier days of camp, throwing a total of 13 passes and completing nine. Ponder waited a beat too long on a downfield throw to Erik Lora, but fared better against the Vikings' first-team defense than he did on Tuesday.
  • Zimmer again spent plenty of time coaching cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who appeared out of position on a downfield pass. The coach said on Wednesday he's had to adjust his approach to Rhodes somewhat, trying to go a bit softer on him than he did early in practice. "That's about every player; you try to figure out what buttons to push," Zimmer said. "He's better when he's playing off (the receiver); that was one of his weaknesses early on. He's done that a lot better. He understands the coverages much better. He understands the alignments and where he's supposed to be. The press technique, we've still got some work to do, but he has great recovery speed. He's improved in about every area."
  • Safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Marcus Sherels didn't practice Wednesday, in addition to injured safety Robert Blanton and tight end Chase Ford. Sherels watched practice next to Blanton from the sideline. Sanford wasn't seen on the field.
  • The Vikings received a visit on Wednesday morning from Hall of Fame defensive end Alan Page, who addressed the team about what it takes to be great in the NFL. "He said he went to Notre Dame, and I was the only guy who clapped," said tight end -- and Notre Dame product -- Kyle Rudolph. "We've got to get these other guys up on their history." And in the afternoon, Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders was on the sideline, chatting with general manager Rick Spielman. The Timberwolves have regularly held training camp at Minnesota State, where the basketball area is named after owner (and Minnesota State graduate) Glen Taylor. We know what you're thinking, and no, we didn't see Saunders on his phone, trying to complete a deal for Kevin Love.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Of the many young players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster who earned playing time and performance bonuses from the NFL for their work last season, right guard Brandon Fusco topped the list.

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

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

See the NFL's full list of performance-based pay distributions here.

Vikings sign cornerback Derek Cox

March, 13, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly after they finished a deal with former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to add another cornerback to their roster. According to a league source, the Vikings were finalizing a deal on Thursday night with former San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox, who could add some depth to their group of defensive backs next season.

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

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

Of those eight -- Munnerlyn, Cox, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards -- only a handful might make the team, but the Vikings could also take another cornerback high in the draft. Those players might occupy whatever real estate and cap space was remaining for Cook to make a return to Minnesota.
GriffenAP Photo/Jim MoneEverson Griffen's new contract could be followed by several more big moves by the Vikings.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings retained another one of their free agents on Sunday, giving defensive lineman Everson Griffen a whopping $42.5 million over the next five years, including $20 million guaranteed, according to a league source.

Now what?

In the past five months, they have signed Brian Robison and Griffen to contract extensions, committing a combined $33.15 million in guaranteed money to the players. That would seemingly set their defensive end tandem up for the next few years, with Griffen replacing Jared Allen on the line. But wait, there's more!

Once the NFL's three-day negotiating window opened on Saturday, the Vikings made it one of their first priorities to express interest in former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and put themselves in the middle of what will likely be a heated race for Johnson. The 27-year-old stood out at right end for new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, and the Vikings would have been working on Griffen's deal while calling about Johnson. But wait, there's more!

They also called about former Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray while he was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee and who has to be feeling emboldened today after news that Sam Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers. While the Vikings had more than $41 million in cap space last week, they have since signed Griffen and quarterback Matt Cassel, not to mention restricted free agent cornerback Marcus Sherels. They also reportedly brought back linebacker Jasper Brinkley for his second stint with the team, and according to a league source, they will host former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for a visit on Monday.

While the pertinent question might be, "Who can the Vikings afford?" a better one might be, "On what does it make sense for them to spend their money?"

Without having seen the full breakdowns of the new deals yet, let's assume they account for about $16 million of cap space. That would still leave the Vikings with about $25 million of room for next season, with the cap likely to go up over the next few years. Paying both Johnson and Verner would be doable, but it could also chew up another $16-20 million in cap space for 2014, meaning the Vikings wouldn't have much leeway to sign tight end Kyle Rudolph to an extension, pursue other needs like a big-bodied nose tackle, or pay their draft picks. And in the case of Johnson, there is also the question of where the Vikings would use all their toys if they signed him.

Let's say Johnson came to Minnesota, filling the right end spot he played for Zimmer in Cincinnati. If Robison stayed at left end, the Vikings would be looking to move Griffen around again. He played 60.1 percent of their defensive snaps without starting a game last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Vikings aren't giving him $20 million guaranteed to use him in a part-time role. I think it's possible they could experiment with him at linebacker -- Zimmer likes his linemen to occupy blockers and allow his linebackers to run free, which isn't that different from a 3-4 scheme and could actually utilize Griffen's talents well -- but the previous regime tried a similar experiment, and the Vikings would have to see if Griffen could hold up in pass coverage. And with cornerback being a bigger need at this point, the Vikings might be better-served using their money to ensure they get an upgrade there.

It's also worth considering what Zimmer said last week, arguing for a reasoned approach to free agency while stating his preference for something with the dependability of a Ford F-150 over the flashiness of a Maserati. To this point, all the Vikings have done -- in fact, all they have been allowed to do by NFL rules -- is retain their in-house free agents. While they have expressed interest in two of the top defensive players on the market, that hasn't cost them anything yet. They could always clear more room by restructuring the contract of 31-year-old linebacker Chad Greenway, who is to make $8.7 million next season, and the Vikings still have enough room to do some contract gymnastics and sign a couple free agents while staying well under the cap, but for a team that has gone back to a draft-and-develop philosophy after years of shelling out for free agents, it might make sense not to get too carried away.

Could the Vikings still sign both Johnson and Verner? Yes. Would they have checked in with both of them so early, knowing Griffen's deal might get done, if they didn't have a scenario where they could land them? Probably not. But the size of Griffen's deal does mean the Vikings would have some pieces to fit in place if they were to get aggressive on the open market, particularly at defensive end.

All-NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

January, 2, 2014
1/02/14
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NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 The Vikings had five players named to the All-NFC North team, which was the second fewest in the division. Of those, only running back Adrian Peterson is headed to the Pro Bowl (though kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson probably would have earned a spot if the NFL hadn't curtailed kickoffs from the game).

Other than Patterson -- who is a rookie -- and Brian Robison, it's tough to say that any of the selections played better in 2013 than they did in 2012. Offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt round out the Vikings' representation.

Even if several players got spots because they were the best options in a mediocre division, the Vikings' group of all-division players did provide highlights. Patterson was the best kick returner in the NFL, leading the league with a 32.4-yard return average and becoming the only player in the league to return two kicks for touchdowns. Peterson finished fifth in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards, despite carrying only 18 times in the final four games and missing two with groin and foot injuries. And Robison had the best year of his career, finishing with nine sacks and ending the year second in the NFL with 81 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

It's tough to find too many snubs on the Vikings roster. The biggest one might be punt returner Marcus Sherels, who surged at the end of the season and finished third in the NFL with a 15.2-yard return average. Sherels, though, was up against a strong field; every punt returner in the NFC North had a touchdown this season.

 

Vikings inactives: Rhodes out

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
11:50
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from the late, great Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which sees its final NFL game today as the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions finish their seasons (and possibly the tenures of their respective coaches). We'll have plenty more on that later, but from a competitive perspective, today's game will be missing a few things.

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

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

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
Leslie FrazierAP Photo/Tom UhlmanA 42-14 loss to the Bengals didn't help Leslie Frazier's case to remain the Vikings' head coach.
CINCINNATI -- The Minnesota Vikings had just finished their 10th and most lopsided loss of the season, falling by four touchdowns to the Cincinnati Bengals at a time when such a shot could prove fatal to the chances of coach Leslie Frazier keeping his job. Running back Adrian Peterson -- who had said on Friday he looked forward to playing for Frazier "for the rest of my career," was even more pointed in his support of Frazier on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

  • Out: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle).
  • Doubtful: Tight end John Carlson (concussion).
  • Questionable: Running back Adrian Peterson (groin/foot), running back Matt Asiata (ankle).
  • Probable: All others.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice on Thursday, getting treatment on his sprained right foot, but coach Leslie Frazier said he still expects Peterson to play on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peterson
Peterson
Peterson did some limited work in practice on Wednesday, which was his earliest practice of the week in more than a month, but Frazier thought it best to hold Peterson out for precautionary reasons on Thursday.

"We just thought it'd be wise to give him a day inside with our training staff, to work through some of the kinks from yesterday's practice," Frazier said. "Unless something comes up tomorrow that I don't foresee, he should be ready to go on Sunday."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart, who joined Peterson on the Vikings' inactive list last Sunday with a strained right hamstring, should be ready to go on Sunday. The same, however, might not be true for tight end John Carlson or defensive back Xavier Rhodes.

Both missed practice on Thursday -- Carlson wasn't feeling well after sitting out last Sunday with a concussion, and will have to clear some aspects of the NFL concussion protocol before he can practice again. Rhodes, meanwhile, is still unable to practice with a sprained ankle, and if neither one is able to practice on Friday, it seems unlikely either would play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings got back on the practice field, they had an unusual participant: Adrian Peterson took part in a Wednesday practice for the first time since Nov. 13, working in a limited role as he tries to come back from a sprained right foot in time for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Peterson
Peterson
The Vikings also had running back Toby Gerhart, who missed Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a strained right hamstring, as a limited participant, and coach Leslie Frazier seemed optimistic about both playing on Sunday. Peterson has been missing practice time because of a groin injury, which isn't completely healed yet, but after he was unable to do more than light work last week and missed Sunday's game, Peterson will likely get more work in the middle of the week than he has recently.

"If he's healthy, we'd like for him to get some work," Frazier said. "We think that helps with the timing and helps the offensive line as well."

Frazier also said tight end John Carlson has cleared NFL concussion protocol; Carlson practiced Wednesday, and seems likely to play Sunday.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were taking part in light drills in the portion of Friday's Minnesota Vikings practice open to the media, but it was too soon to tell if either would be able to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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

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

We should know something more definitive on Peterson and Gerhart within the hour, when Frazier speaks to reporters.

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