Adrian Peterson (Jeremy Brevard/US Presswire)
Running back Adrian Peterson will be back on the field Sunday, but he may not be getting his previous workload. Plus, talk of the secondary going against Drew Brees, killer penalties, fines and more.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is expected to play on Sunday, but his workload may not be as extensive as it was before he missed three games with a high ankle sprain.
“He went through everything (Friday) we wanted to see based off work we gave him yesterday – if there would be a hang-up, but there wasn’t. He finished the day with no problems and he’s ready to go,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after Friday’s practice.
Because Peterson hasn’t played since suffering the sprain to his left ankle on Nov. 20, he may not get the same number of carries he was accustomed to before the injury. In his absence, 2010 second-round draft pick Toby Gerhart played solidly.
“He’s missed time, so we’ll have to kind of work him in there. It wouldn’t be as if he had not missed a game. So we’ll have to monitor how he’s doing,” Frazier said.
“Toby played good in his absence and that makes us feel comfortable in not trying to get Adrian 25, 30 carries based on the way Toby has played.”
Peterson had been averaging 20 carries a game before he was hurt. Gerhart averaged 19 carries over the last three games and had 91 and 90 yards rushing, respectively, over the last two games.
All the injured players for the Vikings this week were listed as probable on their Friday injury report. That list includes Peterson, WR Greg Camarillo (concussion), LB E.J. Henderson (shoulder), S Jarrad Page (hip), CB Asher Allen (shoulder), QB Christian Ponder (hip) and DT Letroy Guion (ankle). CB Chris Cook (legal issues) is out once again, as he is likely to remain for the rest of the season.
For the Saints, RB Mark Ingram (toe) and LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) are out. LB Jonathan Vilma (knee) and DE Turk McBride (ankle) are questionable. CB Tracy Porter (wrist), DT Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), TE Jimmy Graham (back) and LB Scott Shanle (shoulder) are probable.
BACKUPS VS. BREES
Cedric Griffin will continue to take a back seat to the younger, less experienced – although healthier – cornerbacks Sunday against the New Orleans Saints’ top-rated passing game.
The Vikings expect to go with Asher Allen and Benny Sapp as their starting cornerbacks and Marcus Sherels entering during their nickel defense, according to defensive coordinator Fred Pagac. Brees is on pace to easily eclipses Dan Marino’s all-time single-season passing yardage mark of 5,084 yards in 1984. Brees has 4,368 yards with three games to go.
“Even if you have a top-notch secondary, he’s still pretty good. He’s torn up a lot of secondaries,” Frazier said. “We’ll have to play at a high level and really try to do some things to slow him down. Our guys are going to try to fight to the very end. That’s what you like about Benny Sapp and Asher and some of the guys that will be playing. They’re going to try to give it all they can. (Brees is) a good player, they got good receivers, they’ve got a good offense. They’re the No. 1 offense in the league. They’re going to make some plays, but we’ve got to find a way to make some plays as well.”
Sapp said he’s not intimated by Brees.
“Not concerned at all. As long as we play our role and do what we’re supposed to do, everything will be alright,” Sapp said. “Drew Brees is Drew Bress. We all know what he’s capable of doing. Our goal is to go out there and try to stop him a little bit. A little bit.”
The Vikings have the 26th-ranked passing defense in the league. Despite their defense having gone eight straight games without an interception, Sapp is aiming for the Vikings to get two interceptions and two fumble recoveries against the Saints.
Asked about the eight-game streak with an interception, Sapp said: “It’s a drought. Everybody has a drought. If you’re one of the individuals sitting back saying, ‘Vikings secondary sucks’ … it will change. Things will change as long as we keep believing and working hard.”
Pagac, the first-year defensive coordinator (at the NFL level), said Griffin handled last week’s demotion “professionally.”
“He is obviously hurt, I’m sure, but he is being a professional about it and he’s working and doing his job at this point,” Pagac said.
Griffin was benched in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions when he failed to jam receiver Titus Young at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Lions receiver to run free for a 57-yard touchdown.
“At this point, we are trying to get the techniques of the call, play our responsibilities and make plays when we have the opportunity,” Pagac said.
Griffin has struggled this year while trying to come back from his second torn anterior cruciate ligament in two years.
STILL PREACHING PENALTIES
The Vikings have been struggling with their coverage units on special teams this year, but the more consistent area of concern of late has been penalties on punt returns.
The Vikings have seven penalties this season for illegal blocks above the waist, a typical penalty on returns. Lorenzo Booker, Mistral Raymond and Greg Camarillo have each been flagged for that in the last three weeks.
“I hate to make excuses. We have emphasized it from day one and in some of the phases we have done very well and not gotten any penalties, but for some reason on punt return our guys get in that mentality where they want to do well,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “We have a stat, which is a ‘Gave Up Tackle’ stat, which is a bad stat. I think we have talked about it before, where if your man makes the play, you get a G.U.T. and it’s on the board, and the guys see it. And the guys don’t want to see their name on the board.”
Priefer said if the players are getting beat on one block, they should be going to find another person to block instead of trying to make up for it by blocking the player that beat them in the back.
Lions LB Stephen Tulloch was fined $10,000 for a blindside hit on Ponder after his third interception Sunday because it was away from the play.
Vikings DE Brian Robison was fined $15,000 for a horse-collar tackle of Lions RB Keiland Williams in the fourth quarter.
Frazier said the league acknowledged that Lions LB DeAndre Levy had a facemask of Vikings QB Joe Webb on the final play of the game that wasn’t called, but Levy wasn’t fined for the facemask. If called, the Vikings would have had another untimed down to try to score a touchdown from inside the 5-yard line. Instead, they lost 34-28.
Frazier said there is a “very good chance” receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux will be active for his first NFL game Sunday. Arceneaux, the former CFL star, was elevated to the 53-man roster earlier this week after Stephen Burton was placed on season-ending injured reserve. “You could see the difference in his demeanor, his attitude, everything,” Frazier said of Arceneaux. “It’s a little bit different when you’re on the 53 versus practice squad. But I think as the week went on, he became a little bit more comfortable. Earlier in the week, he was a little bit quieter than he ordinarily is, but he’s starting to loosen up now and get back to the Manny he usually is.”
Frazier on Packers WR Tori Gurley, who elected to stay on the Green Bay practice squad (with a pay raise) instead of joining the Vikings’ 53-man roster this week: “He and his agent obviously must feel good about it and they made a decision.”
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.