The bye week helped a couple of Vikings defenders feel better about their chances to play an increased role next Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who has missed the last four games with a neck strain, reaffirmed Monday that he will play against the Packers.
“Last week I was questionable, but we had the bye and I’m good to go. I’ll definitely be out there,” he said.
Winfield tried some contact with a blocking sled three days before the Vikings’ game Oct. 30 in Carolina, but he was held out of that game as well. For a physical cornerback like Winfield, playing with a neck injury can be risky business.
“The way I play the game, I love contact. I love to hit and put my head in there, and then with the neck injury it made it that much harder,” Winfield said. “So I took the time I needed, I feel great, body feels great, so I’m ready to go.”
Winfield and cornerback Chris Cook, who was reinstated on the Vikings’ 53-man roster but is out indefinitely after being charged with felony domestic assault, didn’t play in the Vikings’ last matchup with the Green Bay Packers, so having Winfield back in action should help the Vikings’ 30th-ranked pass defense deal with the Packers’ third-ranked passing offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who on a record pace this season.
The Vikings may also get an increased contribution from middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who returned from the bye week and said the swelling in his knee decreased.
“It definitely helped me having a clear week off. Definitely helped me, I feel a lot better,” Henderson said. “I feel refreshed, like mostly everybody, so it should be fun to get out there Monday night.
“Swelling is down, everything’s down. I’m feeling pretty good.”
The Vikings have the next two days off and then begin preparations in earnest for the Packers on Thursday before facing them on in a nationally televised Monday night game from Lambeau Field.
Henderson said he would see how his knee progressed during the week before the team would make any decisions about him returning to play in the nickel defense. In his stead, his younger brother Erin, who moved into a full-time starting role this year, started playing in the nickel defense in an attempt to minimize the strain on E.J.’s knee.
“I know Erin’s been doing a good job out there, so maybe we can rotate or see if I can get in there or something. But I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there,” E.J. said.
E.J. had his knee drained after the season opener in San Diego, but that’s the only time it’s been drained this season, he said. He also had it drained last year, but the swelling hasn’t been as serious this year, he said.
“I think the way that we approached it from the start instead of waiting until it got too serious, I think the way we approached it was the right way, listening to (head coach Leslie Frazier) and the coaches, taking a couple of weeks off,” Henderson said.
Henderson admitted he may have to deal with soreness in his knee for the rest of his career.
“I hope it dissipates a little bit, but I’m pretty sure it’s something that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of the time that I play,” he said. “It’s just something that comes with the territory, the procedure that I had, amount of snaps that I have, the amount of football that I play, so I just think it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with. We’ve got a good plan and have worked that plan pretty good. I think it will work for us in the future.”
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.