Vikings short-handed with short turnaround
NOV 05, 2013 5:31p ET
Limited on Tuesday -- with the Washington Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III coming to town Thursday -- were Minnesota's top three cornerbacks. Winning Thursday's game is important for a 1-7 team, but the Vikings might struggle to fill out the active roster for the game and have the proper depth.
Right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion), left guard Charlie Johnson (elbow), tight ends Kyle Rudolph (broken foot) and Rhett Ellison (ankle), defensive tackles Letroy Guion (chest, knee) and Fred Evans (knee), safety Jamarca Sanford (groin) and running back Matt Asiata (shoulder) were out Tuesday for the Vikings, with the status for each unchanged with only two days left to prepare. Cornerbacks Chris Cook (hip), Josh Robinson (chest) and Xavier Rhodes (shoulder) were limited on Tuesday.
"Yeah, nothing really changed this morning," coach Leslie Frazier said. "So we'll see who is able to participate in this afternoon's practice. But pretty much the same as yesterday."
Asiata, the team's third-string running back, has also missed time to deal with the death of his father last week.
Frazier has already ruled out Rudolph, who fractured his foot in Sunday's game and will be out four to six weeks, and Loadholt, who left Sunday's game with a concussion, for Thursday night. J'Marcus Webb will start for Loadholt and the Vikings will likely have to add another tackle, possibly Kevin Murphy from the practice squad, to help the depth along the offensive line.
"Phil is a vital part of our offensive line, one of our top players," Frazier said. "Very good right tackle for us. But that's one of the reasons we signed J'Marcus, gives him a great opportunity. He'll go in and he'll play well, he's familiar with our system now. It's a great opportunity for him."
Frazier is hopeful Johnson will be able to play Thursday. Joe Berger filled in for Johnson at left guard during practice on Tuesday. The team also has rookie guard Jeff Baca on the active roster.
John Carlson will step up into Rudolph's starting role at tight end. Rudolph was second on the team in catches and first in receiving touchdowns this season. It's a big opportunity for Carlson, who's disappointed with just 19 catches in two years since signing as a free agent in 2012.
"We're going to miss Kyle," Carlson said. "He's a tremendous asset to our offense and to our team, but Chase (Ford) and I are going to do the best we can to fill in and help the team get a win."
Carlson has dealt with his own share of injuries. He was sidelined early last season with a knee injury and then missed time with a concussion later in the year.
"You know, the injury stuff isn't fun," Carlson said. "Not being on the field is clearly not a good thing, not being on the practice field, not being in training camp. So it's been good (this year). It's been fun to be out there for all the practices and not miss anything so far. But sometimes you can't control injuries and you just have to fight through it."
With Rudolph missing the end of Sunday's game, Carlson had his best game since signing with Minnesota with four catches for 23 yards. Ford was added to the active roster the past two weeks to help ease the loss of Ellison.
Minnesota might have to add another tight end if Ellison isn't able to return this week. He has missed the past two games.
Cook tried to work out his hip injury during practice on Tuesday, after doing some running on the side with athletic trainers recently. Frazier wasn't sure if Cook would be able to return for Thursday.
"If he can do something, that'll definitely help," Frazier said. "But it's hard to say now because we haven't seen him work in a while."
Frazier wasn't sure which defensive backs he will have available on Thursday.
"Depending on what happens with Chris Cook today, along with Jamarca, that will probably determine who's going to play," Frazier said before Sanford missed the afternoon practice. "Xavier's going to be fine. Josh is going to be fine. It's more Chris and Jamarca, where are they at?"
Not revealing the backup: Frazier has said Christian Ponder will start at quarterback for the third straight game, but he hasn't made a decision yet on if Matt Cassel, who was the backup Sunday, or Josh Freeman will be the backup on Thursday night.
"We'll talk about it after this practice," Frazier said. "We'll go through what we've got to go through. We'll see down with those guys and give them an idea where we're at after this practice."
Frazier kept the decision on the backup last week until the very end too, and waited until he had a chance to talk with Cassel and Freeman before making a final decision. Freeman, who was signed a few weeks ago and started just two weeks later, was the third quarterback and inactive for Sunday's game, despite being healthy and cleared from a concussion.
Freeman was signed so the Vikings could evaluate his long-term prospects and possibly had a chance to start in the future. Frazier wants to see the preparation from Cassel and Freeman for Thursday.
"Just where they are and where we are with our game plan, and what the expectations are with for that guy who has to step in and play," Frazier said of deciding on a backup. "You make a decision based on that."
Texas football: Adrian Peterson equaled a season-high with 140 yards rushing on Sunday, but did so with a little help from Ford, the recently activated tight end. Peterson scored a touchdown on a fourth-and-one carry after being helped into the end zone by Ford.
Peterson was lifted off the ground by a defender five yards short of the end zone, but Ford helped Peterson get back to his feet and helped push Peterson into the end zone.
"It's kind of funny, because I was looking back at that play, him being from Texas as well, that's how we play football down there, you know," Peterson said. "So it wasn't too surprising to see him coming in and helping me scratch for those extra yards to get into the end zone."
Peterson, who grew up in Palestine, Tex., about two hours from Dallas, went to the Oklahoma University. Ford, from Corrigan, Tex., north of Houston, went to the University of Miami.
Peterson appreciated the help from Ford.
"That was a heads-up play by him, because I was definitely going down, and I got lifted up, and he came and hit me in my back to keep my feet down and helped pushed the pile forward," Peterson said. "It seemed like he slammed me into the end zone, and it couldn't have come at a better time. That's what you're looking for: guys scratching for every inch. And we can win with that type of effort from each guy."
Peterson had 25 carries on Sunday after getting 36 total the previous three weeks. He was happy to see Minnesota get back to its run-first ways.
"If we're behind, and we have to pass the ball more, OK I understand that," Peterson said. "But if that's not the case, and we're a running team, and we've been a running team since I've been here, then it's kind of like I'm not the only one sitting there like, ‘What is going on?' I mean the world is, probably the defense that we're going against is thinking the same thing and they're probably happy we're not running the ball. Even with that, I take it for what it is, go out there and play my game. Whatever the call, just try to block to the best of my ability, or get out on a route and make sure I catch my ball and getting yards after the catch and just play."
Would RGIII have been the pick?: After Minnesota's 3-13 record in 2011, the Vikings were slated to pick third overall in a draft that was considered to have two top quarterback selections in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Luck, out of Stanford, went to the Indianapolis Colts with the top pick and Griffin, from Baylor, went to the Washington Redskins. Both have shown the promise expected as difference-making talents at the top of the draft.
Minnesota ended up trading the third pick to the Cleveland Browns, who selected running back Trent Richardson, and the Vikings dropped one spot and still got the player they coveted all along, left tackle Matt Kalil.
But might Griffin have been in purple if Washington, this week's opponent, passed?
"I didn't have any contact with the Vikings before the draft, although I was told not to rule anything out," Griffin said Tuesday on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. "Not by anybody in their front office, or the head coach, but obviously I know Adrian, we have the same agent and things like that. They try to tell you, 'You never know what can happen.' And specifically I was told by a few people on the outside that if I had fallen to No. 3, they weren't going to leave me on the board. But nothing as far as them going to move up or just dying to have me, just kind of if I was there, they were going to take me."
Griffin said he and Peterson had talked about playing together.
"We did, but this isn't basketball and it wasn't free agency," Griffin said. "It wasn't like I had a choice, so we didn't have any control over that. It would have been awesome, but I feel blessed to be in the situation I am with the players that I have around me."
Of course, Minnesota would have been in line to select Griffin -- or get the bounty the St. Louis Rams received in a trade with Washington for the No. 2 pick -- if the Vikings hadn't won a late-season game at Washington.
Minnesota beat the Redskins in Week 16 with a comeback led by quarterback Joe Webb, who came in for an injured Ponder. Of course, Adrian Peterson also tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the game as well.
"We just want to win; 2011, 2010, 2013, a win" coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday when asked to reflect on the win in 2011. "I'm not looking at what's happening at the draft. I just want us a win. That might be a question for Rick Spielman and Mark or Zygi (Wilf), but not Leslie Frazier. Every game we play, I'm going to tell you this, we're going to try to win."
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