NFL Nation: Rhett Ellison

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The noise -- a mechanical ker-chunk as Rhett Ellison slams his shoulder into the blocking sled -- has occupied a familiar place in the soundtrack of Minnesota Vikings practices for the last three years. The tight end makes a significant part of his living off the inglorious task of blocking defenders, and either before or after practice, Ellison is often all alone on the field, going over the steps of his dance with the sled.

"If you're ever out here early to practice, you'll notice he's the first one out here -- all the time," tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think that's not an accident. I think that's something that, he's very serious about doing the little things, working on his techniques. You can't fake that. That truly is him."

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Rhett Ellison
Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesKnown mostly for his blocking, Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison caught a pass for 22 yards on Sunday, just the 13th of his career.
It's been him since he was a kid, getting his first taste of sports while playing rugby in his New Zealand schoolyard and learning the game through football drills with his father Riki -- a former linebacker and three-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers. Ellison, whose great uncle Thomas was the first captain of the All Blacks national rugby team and whose rugby-playing relatives still tell him "football is for pansies," learned one of the secrets to the game is embracing its gritty side. He didn't think he'd be drafted until the Vikings selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, doesn't know that Pro Football Focus calls him one of the most underrated players in the league and doesn't particularly seem to care about the attention he's beginning to receive for how well he performs his arduous role.

Ellison seems to have found a perfect fit as Norv Turner's utility knife, lining up as a blocking tight end, motioning into the backfield as a H-back and breaking three tackles to turn a tight end screen into a 22-yard gain after the Rams' defense seemed to forget about him late in the Vikings' 34-6 victory on Sunday. He's only in the third year of his rookie deal, making just $570,000 this year, but Ellison's value to the Vikings might never have been higher.

"He's somebody that is tough, does things the right way, does the things that Coach [Mike] Zimmer talks about [as being] important to winning," said Stefanski, who's in his first year coaching tight ends after previously serving as the Vikings' assistant quarterbacks coach. "It's been interesting to see it up close."

The 25-year-old's catch on Sunday was just the 13th of his career, and his longest since his rookie season, but there could be more out there for Ellison in Turner's offense. He played half of the Vikings' offensive snaps on Sunday, after getting that much action in just four games last year, and is now working for an offensive coordinator who typically uses two-tight end sets more than any in the league.

"He loves using two tight ends all the time," Ellison said. "You're excited any time you have an offensive coordinator who's been in the NFL that long. You trust him right away."

Ellison's role as a blocker will likely continue to be a prominent one, though, and it's not one he seems interested in trading. He learned one way to play the game from his father -- who now lives outside Washington -- and was indoctrinated in the blocking sled drill by former USC offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. Any other way of doing his job would be foreign to Ellison.

"It's just that whole, keep sharpening your tools," Ellison said. "You've got to stay up on that kind of stuff."
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.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When he was asked last Thursday at the NFL scouting combine about his impression of the tight end class in the 2014 draft. Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman admitted he'd paid little attention to the group.

"We have pretty good tight ends, so I wasn't really focusing on that," he said. "There's some depth at that position. I know there's some guys that have some character issues at that position. But we've got them all graded and stuff. We've kind of focused on some other areas."

[+] EnlargeNorv Turner
AP Photo/David RichardIn Norv Turner's offense last season, the Browns ran the fourth-most plays with two or more tight ends.
It's not surprising to hear Spielman say the Vikings aren't focusing on the position, considering the presence of Kyle Rudolph on their roster. The 24-year-old was on pace for career highs in catches and yards when he broke his foot against Dallas last November and missed the rest of the season. But the Vikings will have to address some depth questions at the position, especially considering how much new offensive coordinator Norv Turner has used tight ends in the past.

Rudolph will be a free agent after 2014, though he would seem in line for a contract extension. The bigger question involves John Carlson, who restructured the second season of his five-year deal last year and could have to do so again to avoid being released. Carlson has a $5 million cap hit this season, and the Vikings would still have to count $3 million of his signing bonus against the cap over the next three years if they released him. If Carlson is healthy enough to continue his career after his concussion issues cropped up at the end of the season, he could fit nicely in Turner's offense with a restructured contract.

The Vikings also have Chase Ford, who showed flashes as a pass-catching option at the end of the season, and Rhett Ellison, who has played mostly as a run-blocker. Whoever stays could find a bigger role on offense than he's had in the past; Turner has made a career out of working with prolific tight ends, from Jay Novacek to Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron, and while he was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland last year, the Browns employed as many multiple-tight-end sets as almost any team in the league.

They lined up with two or more tight ends on 466 plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was the fourth-most in the league -- for what it's worth, Mike Zimmer's old team (the Bengals) was No. 1 -- and the Browns' 7.84 yards per attempt out of those sets were the seventh-most in the league.

Rudolph could be in line for a bigger role in the offense, and if Carlson is still around, he might help the Vikings create the two-tight-end passing attack they'd intended to implement when they signed him. If the Vikings decide not to keep Carlson, they'd have to determine whether Ford can fill that role, but with more opportunities likely coming to tight ends in the passing game next season, the Vikings' decisions about their tight end depth could carry greater significance.

With Turner's emphasis on multiple-tight-end sets and his use of three or more receivers (the Browns had them on 559 snaps, or 112 more than the Vikings last season), one player who could have a tough time finding a spot in Turner's offense is fullback Jerome Felton. The Browns had two running backs on the field for just 53 snaps last year -- ninth-fewest in the league -- and ran on just 23 of those plays. Considering Turner's intent to get Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game, a pure blocking back like Felton might have to adapt into a more diverse role or risk being phased out. He'll be a free agent after 2015, but there's just $666,000 left on Felton's signing bonus from last spring.

The Vikings' offense, quite clearly, looks like it will be changing in 2014. And as Turner comes in, the tight ends on the roster could see a more prominent role.
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.

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.

Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 13

December, 2, 2013
A review of four hot issues after the Minnesota Vikings' 23-20 win over the Chicago Bears:

Peterson wills his way past Bears: Adrian Peterson might not have all of his breakaway speed as he plays with a strained groin, but the performance he turned in on Sunday was the kind of tour de force he churned out so often in the second half of his MVP season a year ago. Peterson ran for 211 yards against a steady diet of eight- and nine-man fronts; he faced at least eight defenders in the box on 24 of his 35 carries, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and averaged more yards per carry with eight or more in the box (6.1) than he did against seven defenders or fewer (5.8).

[+] EnlargeRhett Ellison
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsRhett Ellison's tipped ball for an interception was one of his two crucial plays that could have cost Minnesota the game.
QB decision looming: The Vikings will wait to see how Christian Ponder recovers from a concussion as they try to make a decision on their quarterback for Sunday's game in Baltimore, but Matt Cassel once again had the Vikings' offense running smoother than Ponder has at many points this year. Cassel threw for 243 yards, and handled extra pressure better than either Ponder or Josh Freeman has this season. He hit 11 of his 17 throws for 148 yards and a touchdown against five or more pass-rushers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His completion percentage against such fronts (65.9 percent this season) is better than Ponder's (61.9 percent) or Freeman's (33.3 percent). Cassel could be competing with either Ponder and Freeman, or just Freeman, to play next week against the Ravens, but he did enough to possibly get another start.

Special teams confusion: The end of Sunday's game brought a number of odd special teams situations that seemed to confuse the Vikings. First, after Blair Walsh tied the game in regulation, the Vikings kicked deep to Devin Hester, who returned the ball 57 yards and might have scored if Walsh hadn't angled him out of bounds. Coach Leslie Frazier admitted after the game the Vikings shouldn't have kicked to Hester, adding they expected him to down the ball in the end zone like he had with Walsh's other deep picks. When the Bears tried a 67-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, the Vikings hurried Cordarrelle Patterson out to return the kick, barely getting him on the field in time. And then, after Rhett Ellison's face mask penalty wiped out Walsh's would-be game-winning field goal in overtime, the Vikings' field goal unit stayed on the field before the offense came back out to try to get Walsh closer than 54 yards on third down. Frazier said the Vikings wanted to get 4 more yards for Walsh, but Peterson lost three and Walsh missed from 57.

Ellison gets "elephant off my back:" Had the Vikings lost, Ellison likely would have worn much of the blame; he couldn't control what might have been a touchdown pass from Cassel with less than five minutes to play. He wound up tipping the ball toward the Bears' defense, where Khaseem Greene wound up intercepting it and running it back to midfield. Then, Ellison's face mask penalty negated Walsh's field goal, setting off a bizarre scene in which referees sorted things out amid postgame fireworks. Wide receiver Greg Jennings had to be pulled back from the tunnel up to the Vikings' locker room. Asked what he was thinking after the mistakes, Ellison replied, "That I really screwed the team over and that I made a big mistake." And when Walsh hit the game-winning field goal, Ellison said it was "like an elephant off my back. I don't know. It was just a miracle, I guess."
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.
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."

Josh Freeman inactive for Vikings

November, 3, 2013
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Hello from AT&T Stadium, where the Vikings will try to get their second win of the year this afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys. Now that inactives are official and we have a couple lineup changes, we can tie up a couple loose ends from this week.

First, Josh Freeman will be inactive today, as Matt Cassel backs up Christian Ponder. The Vikings worked with Ponder, then Cassel, then Freeman taking practice snaps all week, and that order turned out to be a good indicator of the depth chart for today. Some of you have been asking on Twitter why the Vikings are making Freeman inactive again, but if he's still trying to handle the Vikings' offense while coming off a concussion, do you really want him stepping into a game in relief on the road? If the Vikings are indeed trying to manage the process by which they bring Freeman along after rushing him into their lineup last month against the New York Giants, they might as well not leave anything to chance.

Also, Xavier Rhodes will start at right cornerback for the Vikings in place of Chris Cook, who is out today with a strained hip muscle. The Vikings had previously been unwilling to put Rhodes on the right side because it would take him out of his routine of playing left cornerback in the nickel. The Vikings figure to spend plenty of time in nickel against the Cowboys' prolific passing game, though, so it will be interesting to see how they line things up when they have three cornerbacks on the field.

In addition to Cook and Freeman, Jamarca Sanford, Rhett Ellison, Fred Evans, Matt Asiata and Jeff Baca are inactive today. Defensive tackle Chase Baker is active for just the second time this year, and both wide receiver Rodney Smith and cornerback Shaun Prater will play today.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- If the Vikings were hoping for defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford to make a quick recovery from injury and show they were ready to play on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, the early signs on Friday didn't look good.

Both Cook (who has a hip muscle strain) and Sanford (who has a groin injury) were out of practice; Cook was working on the side with trainer Eric Sugarman, while Sanford was not on the field. Tight end Rhett Ellison, defensive tackle Fred Evans and running back Matt Asiata also were not practicing while reporters were allowed to watch, and wide receiver Greg Jennings was limited with a knee injury. When coach Leslie Frazier announces injuries later today, it appears he'll have a long list to run through, and many of them will involve key positions for a team getting ready to face one of the league's top offenses.

Christian Ponder was still taking first-team snaps at quarterback on Friday, and all signs continue to point to him starting on Sunday in Dallas. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings explain the move, if they are indeed sticking with Ponder and not going back to Josh Freeman. Both Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman are scheduled to address reporters today.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford both missed practice for the Vikings again on Thursday with a strained hip muscle and groin, respectively, and time is running out to get either player ready for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Coach Leslie Frazier said both players could play on Sunday if they were able to do enough in practice on Friday to prove they'd be ready to go in Dallas, but he still wasn't sure if he could expect much from the two starters.

"If they were cleared tomorrow, definitely (they could play)," Frazier said. "But if Chris and Jamarca couldn't go, it really thins us out. It's a little scary when you start getting into your depth this early in the season."

The Vikings might have to make a roster move to add depth to their secondary, particularly if Sanford is unable to play, Frazier said. They have just three safeties on their roster other than Sanford -- Andrew Sendejo, Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton -- with Harrison Smith already on injured reserve because of turf toe. The Vikings could pull safety Brandan Bishop or cornerback Robert Steeples up from their practice squad.

If Cook is unable to play, Frazier said, Xavier Rhodes, Marcus Sherels or A.J. Jefferson would start at his right cornerback spot. Josh Robinson would remain at left cornerback.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee) returned to practice as a limited participant, and Frazier said Jennings should be fine to play on Sunday. He initially hurt himself during an off-day workout on Tuesday, Frazier said, but didn't need a MRI on his knee.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) did not participate, and the timetable for his return is unclear after his father was killed in a bus accident in Utah earlier this week. "We'll just give him the time he needs," Frazier said. "That far exceeds what we're doing here."
  • Tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) was again out of practice, and could miss his second straight game after getting injured against the New York Giants.
  • Defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee) and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (illness) were limited participants.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For most of the season, the majority of the Minnesota Vikings' injuries have been on the defense. But three days after he was nearly shut out against his former team, wide receiver Greg Jennings was unable to get back on the practice field because of a knee injury.

Jennings, who caught just one pass for 9 yards in a 44-31 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, was on the practice field without a helmet in the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media. He was one of six players who did not participate for the Vikings, joining running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), cornerback Chris Cook (hip), safety Jamarca Sanford (groin), tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and defensive tackle Fred Evans (knee).

We'll learn more throughout the week about how severe Jennings' injury is, but the injuries to Cook and Sanford could be an even bigger problem for the Vikings on Sunday. The team is already without safety Harrison Smith, and missing both players would leave the Vikings with four healthy corners (Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels. A.J. Jefferson and Xavier Rhodes) and three healthy safeties (Andrew Sendejo, Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond).

For the league's 29th-ranked pass defense, facing the eighth-best pass offense in the league, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.

"With defensive backs when you have muscle issues it’s always a concern because we need them," coach Leslie Frazier said. "I’m hoping they’ll get through this, but muscles in defensive backs or receivers it’s always a concern."
MINNEAPOLIS -- There are no major surprises among the Minnesota Vikings' inactives for Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers, but Josh Freeman is officially out with a concussion. He was ruled out on the Vikings' injury report on Friday, and was one of the team's seven inactives for the game.

Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hip), running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) and tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) are the other Vikings players missing the game with an injury. Ellison is a key run blocker for the Vikings, and the team promoted tight end Chase Ford from the practice squad to make up for Ellison's absence. He is active for the game, as is fourth-round pick Gerald Hodges, who has had a tough time getting on the field so far this season.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Safety Jamarca Sanford and defensive tackle Fred Evans are questionable for the Minnesota Vikings' game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, when the team's battered defense will try to stop one of the league's top offenses.

Sanford, who was limited in practice Friday because of an ankle injury, showed up on the team's injury report for the first time this week, as did Evans, who coach Leslie Frazier said "tweaked his knee" Thursday. Both are questionable for Sunday's game; Frazier didn't address Sanford's injury but said Evans should be fine.

If either player is limited Sunday, though, the Vikings could have an even tougher task against the Packers. Green Bay has the league's sixth-best rushing attack, and both players would be counted on to slow down powerful rookie running back Eddie Lacy. The Vikings are already without safety Harrison Smith, who is on injured reserve because of turf toe, and linebacker Desmond Bishop, who had season-ending knee surgery, so they're hoping they won't have to weather more losses to their defense.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Frazier said he was trying to decide if kicker Blair Walsh, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury to his non-kicking leg, will handle kickoff duty Sunday night. Punter Jeff Locke has been kicking off for the last two weeks, and Walsh was short on a 53-yard field-goal attempt on Monday night (the first time in his career he has missed from more than 50 yards).
  • On offense, the Vikings will be without tight end Rhett Ellison, who was part of the three-tight-end set the team used to open Monday's game against the New York Giants, and is one of the team's key run-blockers. Ellison has played fewer snaps than he did last year, but Frazier said his absence does limit some of the Vikings' flexibility with personnel.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder), an important blocker on the Vikings' kickoff unit, will miss Sunday's game after sitting out of practice all week.
  • Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hip) is out for his second straight game, though it's unlikely Smith would have been active were he healthy.
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman (concussion) was officially ruled out for Sunday's game. Christian Ponder will start at quarterback, with Matt Cassel backing him up.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not practice on Wednesday because of a lingering right hamstring injury, but based on how the Vikings proceeded with Peterson last week and what he said about the injury after Monday's loss to the New York Giants, there's little reason to think Peterson won't play on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.

The Vikings held Peterson out of one practice last week and limited him twice before the Giants game, and while Peterson said after Monday's game he could feel his hamstring, it wasn't a huge detriment to his game. He'll likely get a light workload all week in practice, but the injury doesn't seem like one that would cause him to miss time.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Quarterback Josh Freeman (concussion) did not practice, and coach Leslie Frazier said earlier Wednesday that Christian Ponder "more than likely" will start on Sunday.
  • Running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) and tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) were both held out of practice. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hip), who didn't play on Monday against the Giants, also didn't practice.
  • Defensive back A.J. Jefferson (ankle) and left tackle Matt Kalil (low back) were limited; Jefferson missed Monday's game, while Kalil played through his injury.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (left hamstring) was again limited. Walsh was short on a 53-yard field goal on Monday, the first time in his career he'd missed from longer than 50 yards, and ceded kickoff duties to Jeff Locke.
  • Lastly, linebacker Chad Greenway was limited with a wrist injury.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice on Thursday after attending a funeral for his 2-year-old son on Wednesday, but Peterson was limited because of a hamstring injury.

Peterson has not been on the Vikings' injury report because of a hamstring ailment this year, and while a major injury would likely have kept Peterson out of the entire practice, a lingering hamstring issue could pose a problem for the reigning NFL MVP on Monday night against the New York Giants. The Vikings, of course, construct their offense heavily around Peterson, and they're certainly hoping he'll be ready to go with Josh Freeman playing his first game this week.

We'll continue to monitor Peterson's status. If he can't play, Toby Gerhart would start at running back.

In other Vikings injury news:
  • Cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle) did not participate; he was initially injured in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, and coach Leslie Frazier said Jefferson's injury flared up on him this week.
  • Kicker Blair Walsh (hamstring) also missed practice. Walsh did not kick off on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers because of the same injury, which is to his non-kicking leg, but was still available for field goal duty.
  • Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was limited with a sprained ankle. So was defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) and wide receiver Jarius Wright (ankle).
  • Quarterback Christian Ponder (rib), center John Sullivan (hand) and tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) were full participants.
  • Lastly, as we discussed earlier today, Harrison Smith (turf toe) missed practice, and could head to injured reserve if he needs surgery.


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