Antoine Winfield (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The Vikings are holding out hope that Antoine Winfield will play Sunday, but he is listed as doubtful. Meanwhile Chris Kluwe returned to practice and is questionable. Plus, the Vikings signed long snapper Cullen Loeffler to an extension, the playmakers have a strong history against the Cardinals and more.
The Vikings continue to hold hope that starting cornerback Antoine Winfield will be able to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, but time is running out.
Winfield didn’t practice for the third straight day Friday after straining his neck Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and showing up for work Monday with stiffness. Winfield is listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report, which means, by definition, that he has a 25 percent chance of playing.
“We’re holding out hope that there’s a chance between now and what happens Sunday at noon,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow when he wakes up, as well.”
Frazier said Winfield is showing progress and coaches and trainers will continue to monitor him.
“He told me yesterday that he felt like he was getting better. He had more movement than he had the previous day, so he’s headed in the right direction,” Frazier said.
Not only is Winfield important to the Vikings’ coverage ability against the three-receiver sets the Cardinals often use, but he is also the team’s leading solo tackler this year with 29. His three tackles for losses also lead the team and he is tied for the team lead with one interception.
If he can’t play, second-year cornerback Chris Cook would slide into the starting rotation and Asher Allen would be used in the nickel defense. Allen was inactive for the first week of the season with turf toe but has played each of the last three weeks.
“When I was able to get to the point I was able to explode off of it, that was really the parameter for me to get back on the field,” Allen said. “Now I can do that so I can get back on the field.”
Winfield’s injury might also open up the opportunity for Marcus Sherels to see extended time on defense after a strong offseason but no opportunities to prove himself on in the secondary during the regular season.
Punter Chris Kluwe is listed as questionable after hurting his right hamstring in Sunday’s game. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday but was a full participant on Friday. The Vikings worked out another left-footed punter on Friday after working out Chris Jones (left-footed) last Friday and Nick Harris (right-footed) on Tuesday. Frazier said today’s workout was a precaution if Kluwe can’t play.
“We have to make sure that if Chris is not where he needs to be that we have somebody in mind. That’s what we’ve got to be able to do and Friday’s a good day to do that,” Frazier said.
“[Kluwe] did some pretty good things today, so we’re optimistic that he’ll be fine for Sunday, but we have to be a little precautious on how we handle things, but he seemed like he’s going to be alright.”
Center John Sullivan (left ankle) was the other big injury concern throughout the week and he remained limited on Friday but he is listed as probable, meaning there is a “virtual certainty” he will play.
The Vikings also added Adrian Peterson (ankle) and S Tyrell Johnson (hip) to the injury report Friday, but both were full participants and were listed as probable.
LB E.J. Henderson (knee), T Charlie Johnson (elbow), S Husain Abdullah (pelvis) and S Jamarca Sanford (knee) were also probable. Among those, Henderson and Johnson were limited, with Abdullah and Sanford being full participants on Friday.
For the Cardinals TE Jim Dray (pectoral) is out. TE Todd Heap (hamstring), T Brandon Keith (knee), WR Chansi Stuckey (hamstring), RB Beanie Wells (hamstring), P Dave Zastudil (right knee) were all questionable. All other injured players were listed as probable.
LOEFFLER FOR THE LONG TERM
The Vikings signed long snapper Cullen Loeffler to a three-year extension, the team announced Friday.
“Cullen is one of those guys that if you’re not careful you take him for granted because of the position he plays, but as soon as you don’t have someone operating in the fashion that he does you’re searching, and fortunately for us we have a guy that provides great security as a long snapper and we’re fortunate that he wanted to stay with the Minnesota Vikings,” Frazier said.
Loeffler has been with the Vikings since 2004 and has snapped for five of the six longest field goals in team history and four of the six longest game-winning field goals in team history. He is only the second Vikings long snapper to appear in 100 games, as his 116 games trails Mike Morris’ positional team record by 28 games.
With Loeffler’s extension through 2014, it will keep the three specialists, including kicker Ryan Longwell and Kluwe, together through at least 2013. Longwell signed a four-year deal before the start of training camp and Kluwe is signed through 2013.
Loeffler hasn’t missed a game since signing with the team in 2004.
STRONG PLAYMAKER HISTORY
The Vikings’ playmakers on offense and defense have fared well against the Arizona Cardinals.
QB Donovan McNabb has won his last three games against Arizona and has completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards, 19 TDs and six interceptions for a 102.4 rating in eight career games against the Cardinals. In his past three meetings, he has 890 yards, 11 TDs and two interceptions for a 117.3 rating.
RB Adrian Peterson has averaged 124.7 scrimmage yards per game in three meetings against the Cardinals and had two touchdowns in his last game against them.
The receivers have also been strong against Arizona. Percy Harvin has 15 catches for 205 yards and a TD in two games against Arizona and even Bernard Berrian has done well, catching nine passes for 89 yards last year. TE Visanthe Shiancoe has had touchdowns in each of the last two meetings against Arizona.
DE Jared Allen, who makes his offseason home in Arizona, had 2.5 sacks against the Cardinals last year and has 5.5 in four games against the Cardinals. Allen already has 6.5 sacks this year. Since entering the NFL in 2004, he has a league-best 89.5 sacks and has 9.5 sacks in his last seven home games.
Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb is averaging 262.3 yards passing per game with the Cardinals this year while McNabb is averaging only 170 per game.
Arizona RB Beanie Wells, who has been limited with a hamstring injury most of the week, rushed for a career-high 138 yards and three TDs last week, the first Cardinal to rush for 130 yards or more and three TDs in a game since 1968
The Vikings will have to be aware of WR Early Doucet on third downs. He has eight third-down catches for the Cardinals this year.
DE Everson Griffen wasn't fined for a face-mask penalty on Chiefs QB Matt Cassel during a sack.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.