The Vikings will get their first taste of TCF Bank Stadium tomorrow when the team does a brief walkthough a day before they will meet the Chicago Bears in an unscheduled outdoor home game.
This afternoon, Leslie Frazier addressed the media for the last time prior to the game, confirming what many had been speculating all week – rookie Joe Webb, who came to the Vikings projected as a wide receiver, will start Monday night against the Bears and Brett Favre has once again been ruled out.
While to an outsider this could be viewed as a shutdown to the Vikings season, Frazier said he believes just the opposite. Part of life in the NFL when a team has been eliminated from postseason contention is to see what they have on the roster. A year ago, the rookie class of the Vikings contributed, each starting at least one game. This year’s rookie class has been a mixed bag, but Webb is going to get a long look to see if the promise he showed in the first rookie minicamp that got him moved to QB will bear frozen fruit on the field Monday.
Frazier, who likely needs a couple more wins in the final three games to solidify his chances of retaining the head coaching job, said that he’s getting a little fired up about making the best of a unique situation – the Vikings playing outdoors at home 29 years to the day they played their last game at Metropolitan Stadium.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really looking forward to the fact that we are playing at home and having our fans there on Monday night,” Frazier said. “In talking to our players earlier, the field conditions look terrific from everything I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. We’re looking for tomorrow, getting a chance to go down and do a walk-through as a team and get a feel for the surface along with the surroundings.”
As expected, Frazier spent quite a bit of his press conference discussing Favre, who, contrary to what many have speculated, not only isn’t shutting down his career, he tried to push himself Saturday morning to see if he could return this week for what would be his final home game as a Viking.
“Brett tried to some things prior to practice and that arm just is not quite where it needs to be,” Frazier said. “He definitely won’t participate on Monday night.”
Frazier said Favre didn’t simply go through the motions. He tried to dial up a few passes with some zip on them to see if he could make his first career missed game his last and only missed game. However, when he tried to get in typical “Friday form” it just wasn’t happening.
“He tried to throw, just to see what kind of velocity he would have throwing the football and how much pain he would have in throwing it,” Frazier said. “The pain was just too much for what he would have to do on Monday night … he can throw it, but the pain is too excruciating right now.”
Frazier said the plan currently isn’t to put Favre on season-ending (and, in his case, almost surely career-ending) injured reserve. Although there is a lot of buzz that Favre has tapped the brakes on pushing himself to come back, Frazier said nothing could be further from the truth.
“The fact that he tried to do something today tells me he has a strong desire to get back out there,” Frazier said. “It was just his body wouldn’t let him. I know how difficult it is for him. Everyone knows how competitive he is – to play 321 consecutive games (including playoffs) in his career – this is hard for him. But the fact that he would give it a try just tells you what kind of competitor he is.”
Whether Favre plays again or not, Frazier said that, as the coach, he is keeping all options open and, given Favre’s willingness to push his injured body to see what levels of healing have taken place and how much pain he can endure, he said not to rule out anything (even though Favre is listed as “out” for Monday).
“It could change by Tuesday or even on Monday,” Frazier said. “Some of the pain has subsided from a week ago, so he’s gradually getting better – just not enough where you could put him out there to play. Next week may be a little bit different, so we just have to gauge it.”
With both Favre and Tarvaris Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, out of action, the baton has been passed to Webb, who will be making his first career start under the glare of the Monday night spotlight. Frazier said there is sure to be a lot of pressure on Webb, making his NFL debut on national TV against a team that could potentially clinch the division title with a win and Packers loss.
Frazier said Webb is going to be given as much help as can be provided, but said he’s trying not to put too much pressure on Webb to play outside of what his skill level dictates. Steps have been taken to minimize potential exposure to the Bears defense, but Frazier said he is just one of 22 offensive and defensive starters and another dozen specials teams players – all of whom have to do their job for the Vikings to pull off what now would appear to be a home upset win.
“We’ve tried to be as encouraging as we can as a staff and make sure we give him the best chance to be successful,” Frazier said. “That’s what this game plan was designed to do and, at the same time, remind the other players that it’s not about Joe Webb. Our offense has to play well around him. Our defense has to play well. Our special teams have to play well. If that’s the case, then Joe doesn’t have to feel as if (he) has to do what Brett Favre does for our football team or what Tarvaris (Jackson) does for our football team. We’ve got to help Joe as a team. This is truly – of any sport – a team game.”
Frazier said that typical jitters a young quarterback has when thrown into the starting lineup seems to be absent from Webb, who remains on point with trying to master the game plan and make as much of a difference as he can. For all appearances, he seems unphased by the Herculean task in front of him Monday night, which has Frazier saying he’s glad he’s got a free ticket to the show.
“We’re really pleased with progress he has made,” Frazier said. “He really seems as if this whole thing is not too big for him and I’m really looking forward to watching him play on Monday night.”
Favre wasn’t the only player declared out for Monday night. Guard Steve Hutchinson (thumb) and safety Tyrell Johnson (knee) are also out.
Defensive end Ray Edwards (ankle), running back Adrian Peterson (ankle/knee) and safety Jamarca Sanford (concussion) are questionable.
Cornerback Asher Allen (ankle) and Webb (hamstring) are probable.
The Bears have only one player questionable, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee).
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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