Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is officially listed on the injury report as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Packers even though Floyd says his injured knee “feels good” today.
Floyd banged knees with a teammate in practice Wednesday. An MRI showed that there was no major damage. But Floyd was unable to practice yesterday or today.
He was in good spirits in the locker room, though, and shared a good laugh with reporters when I asked him about the crutches that had been leaning up against his locker stall the past two days.
Floyd glanced back at them and said unconvincingly, “No, they’re not my crutches.”
“Yeah, right,” said a couple of reporters while the rest of us chuckled.
“Somebody must have left them there,” Floyd said with a grin before joining in the laughter.
Floyd indicated that he would like to play but said that the decision will be up to head coach Mike Zimmer and the team’s medical staff.
“It’s all in Coach’s hands,” he said. “I go as he go.”
As for left tackle Matt Kalil, who missed practice today, Zimmer said that he is dealing with a “minor aggravation.” Zimmer would not say where, but it was listed as a knee injury on the injury report. Kalil, of course, had minor knee surgery in the offseason. He is listed as questionable for Sunday, but on his way out of the locker room he said he expects to play.
Running back Matt Asiata has been ruled out with a concussion.
Wide receivers Greg Jennings (rib) and Jarius Wright (hamstring) are both questionable for Sunday.
Running back Jerick McKinnon (lower back), outside linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), offensive tackle Mike Harris (ankle), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle), defensive Everson Griffen (neck), tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) are among those officially listed as probable to take on the Packers.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was excused from practice today for personal reasons.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will not hear running back Adrian Peterson’s appeal on Dec. 2. Instead, he has appointed Harold Henderson for the appeal, though it might not make a difference.
“Under Article 46 (Commissioner Discipline), appeals of discipline for off-field conduct are heard and decided by the commissioner or his designee,” a league spokesman said of Henderson’s appointment. “Harold Henderson has been designated as the hearing officer for this appeal. Harold has served for many years as a hearing officer for Article 46 discipline.”
And Henderson, who in the past served as NFL Executive Vice President for Labor Relations and Chairman of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, has often sided with the league.
The latest example of this was earlier this year when he upheld the league’s 10-game ban of Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon after his latest violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
The NFL Players Association reacted to Henderson’s appointment by saying a longtime NFL executive could not be neutral. The NFL responded by defending Henderson, saying he has heard 87 appeals under the CBA since 2008 and that language in every CBA since 1993 has stated the appeals of discipline for off-field conduct are heard and decided by the commissioner or his designee.
Vikings running back Ben Tate participated in his second practice in purple on Friday, and head coach Mike Zimmer said he’s catching on quickly to the offense. He’s
“He’s got some explosiveness hitting the hole and obviously he’s a big-bodied guy,” Zimmer said. “He’s done a good job with protection so far. So we’ll see how it goes.”
The Vikings might have to rely on Tate against the Packers with running back Matt Asiata likely out with a concussion. He’ll only have three days to become acclimated with the playbook, and his teammates, if the Vikings do activate him on Sunday.
“I’ve never been in this type of situation before,” Tate said. “So just try to interact with everybody as much as I can and get to know everybody as much as I can so I can get comfortable and they can get comfortable with me faster.”
Tate isn’t sure how much his comfort with his other teammates will help his play if he serves as rookie running back Jerrick McKinnon’s backup, with Joe Banyard as another option, but he’s mainly concerned with understanding his assignments when the Vikings need him in the backfield.
“I’ve got to all focus on football and let everything else happen,” said Tate, dealing with the hectic off-the-field ramifications of switching teams during the middle of the season. “Whatever I got to do outside of that is secondary. The first thing is making sure I understand my plays and just coming out here ready to go, full speed, and being ready to help in any aspect needed.”
Last Sunday, the Vikings ran their first fake punt in nearly a decade. It paid off with backup safety Andrew Sendejo, the right wing in the punt formation, running 48 yards before tackling himself at the Bears’ 7-yard line. The well-executed fake set up a Teddy Bridgewater touchdown pass.
Yesterday, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer explained why the play worked — and why it had been so long since the Vikings ran a fake punt.
Priefer, who is in his fourth season with the Vikings, said that head coach Mike Zimmer is more aggressive than this predecessor, Leslie Frazier, when it comes to trickery on special teams.
Back in the spring, as Zimmer was just settling in, he asked Priefer and his assistant, Ryan Ficken, to come up with some clever plays to exploit any weaknesses they would see on special teams.
“We’ve been more creative and Ryan Ficken, my assistant, does a great job because he’s got an offensive mind,” Priefer said. “He has an offensive background so he and I tinker with stuff and talk about things and look at what people are doing on punt return and what they’re doing on field goal block and get ideas every week.”
On the fake against the Bears, wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was lined up as the upback, caught a direct snap and handed it off to Sendejo, who ran right to left from his right wing spot. The trick play was executed to perfection. It was also designed to perfection, as Priefer kept Thielen and Sendejo in their normal spots to handle the ball to ensure the Bears weren’t tipped off.
“I think we’ve probably worked on it the past month,” Priefer said. “Wanted to run it earlier. It was just a great opportunity to run it — good time and area of the field. We have an aggressive head coach who wants to run those things and that’s great for me. It obviously turned out well for us.”
Priefer said the Vikings typically have two or three fakes in the special-teams game plan every week. And if their opponent shows the look they are hoping for, they will sometimes bust one out.
“I don’t think I have to sell [Zimmer]. Like I said, he’s been aggressive since he got here. He asked me back in the offseason about running fakes — field goal fakes, punt fakes, surprise onsides — and it has forced me to be more creative, which is good,” Priefer said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to get our guys excited about a big play like that, and obviously they were very excited to run it and succeed with it.”
Running back Matt Asiata and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd were not practicing during the open portion of practice today, and their statuses for Sunday against the Packers appears to be in doubt.
Asiata has not been cleared by the league’s concussion protocol and has not practiced at all this week. Fellow running back Jerick McKinnon, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a lower back injury, practiced today for the second straight day. Ben Tate was at practice today, too, of course.
Floyd, meanwhile, has missed two straight practices with a knee injury. He was listed as limited on Wednesday, but we have not seen him since. We have, however, seen crutches next to his locker.
Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright both practiced today. Jennings missed the previous two practices with a rib injury. Wright sat out only Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
There was one more absentee today, and it was a new one: left tackle Matt Kalil. He was at practice Wednesday and Thursday and was not listed on the injury report. But no sign of him this morning.
|Cleveland||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|St. Louis||11/23/14 3:05 PM|
|Miami||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Washington||11/23/14 3:25 PM|
|Dallas||11/23/14 7:30 PM|
|NY Jets||11/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Baltimore||11/24/14 7:30 PM|
|Chicago||11/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Philadelphia||11/27/14 3:30 PM|
|Seattle||11/27/14 7:30 PM|
|Coll of Charleston||50|
|Central Conn St||49||FINAL|
|Stephen F Austin||63||FINAL|
|North Dakota St||68|
|South Dakota St||74|
|Sam Houston St||93||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||69|
|(12) Kansas State||26||FINAL|
|San Diego St||30|
|San Jose St||7||FINAL|
|Char Southern||11:00 AM|
|South Alabama||11:00 AM|
|(10) Michigan State|
|(18) Marshall||11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Penn State||11:00 AM|
|(14) Eastern Ky||11:00 AM|
|TX-San Antonio||11:00 AM|
|Virginia Tech||11:30 AM|
|Washington St||12:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State|
|Louisiana Tech||12:00 PM|
|Western Mich||12:00 PM|
|New Mexico||12:30 PM|
|(22) Colorado State|
|Eastern Mich||1:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||1:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||2:30 PM|
|(8) Ole Miss||2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||2:30 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||2:30 PM|
|Boston College||2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Georgia State||2:30 PM|
|Western Carolina||3:00 PM|
|New Mexico St|
|So Florida||3:00 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||6:00 PM|
|(4) Miss State|
|(19) Missouri||6:30 PM|
|Oklahoma State||6:30 PM|
|(24) USC||7:00 PM|
|Boise State||9:15 PM|
|Oregon State||9:30 PM|
|Fresno State||9:30 PM|
|Ohio U||11/25/14 6:00 PM|
|LSU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(5) TCU||11/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/28/14 10:00 AM|
|(21) Nebraska||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|UCF||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Houston||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Ball State||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Toledo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Arkansas||11/28/14 1:30 PM|
|Navy||11/28/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) Colorado State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||11/28/14 7:00 PM|
|East Carolina||11/28/14 7:30 PM|
|BYU||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(20) Utah||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(3) Oregon||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Kentucky||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Notre Dame||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|So Carolina||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Florida||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Wake Forest||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Pittsburgh||11/29/14 2:00 AM|
|Montreal||11/23/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||11/23/14 3:30 PM|
|TBA||11/30/14 5:00 PM|
|Sam Houston St||48|
|(3) Notre Dame||88|
|William & Mary||59||FINAL|
|San Diego State||43||FINAL|
|East Tenn St||79||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||42||FINAL|
|Long Beach St||85|
|SE Missouri St||56|
|Stephen F Austin||82|
|Cal State Fullerton||43|