Dwight Freeney (Andy Lyons/Getty)
The Vikings will be near full strength Sunday in Indianapolis while the Colts are expected to be missing some key players. Alan Williams returns to Indy, where he coached the longest, Chris Cook still has the confidence of coaches, John Carlson is feeling much better, Letroy Guion discusses his fine and other injury notes.
The Minnesota Vikings had two starters return to practice Friday while the Indianapolis Colts will be without their biggest impact player on defense.
For the Vikings, center John Sullivan returned to practice after sitting out Thursday to rest an ankle injury that happened in the season opener but didn’t cause him to miss any snaps.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield missed Thursday’s practice to attend the funeral of his brother in Akron, Ohio, but he, too, was back on the practice field Friday. Both are expected to start Sunday in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, the Colts declared outside linebacker Dwight Freeney as out after he suffered what is reportedly a high ankle sprain against the Chicago Bears last Sunday. Freeney has long been the Colts’ best defensive player, but with the Colts’ move to a 3-4 defense, Freeney was making the position switch to linebacker from defensive end.
Second-year player Mario Addison is listed as Freeney’s backup on the depth chart.
Earlier in the week, Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil said he expected Freeney to play and be effective.
“He’s a Hall of Fame type player, so I’m not underestimating him at all. He played in the Super Bowl with a bad ankle and he didn’t do too bad in that game either,” Kalil said. “I’m preparing this week like he’s going to play and that’s my mindset.”
The Colts also listed starting receiver Austin Collie as doubtful.
The Vikings listed LB Marvin Mitchell and WR Jarius Wright as questionable with ankle injuries, but Mitchell appears to be the biggest injury concern for head coach Leslie Frazier.
CB Chris Cook (biceps), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle), Sullivan (ankle), TE Rhett Ellison (ankle), RB Adrian Peterson (knee), and CB Josh Robinson (hip) are all listed as probable, defined as a “virtual certainty” they will be available to play.
Robinson and Peterson were full participants all week while Mitchell and Sullivan were still limited on Friday.
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams was an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts for 10 years, but he still doesn’t figure to have too much insight into the Colts offense.
With a new head coach, new offensive coordinator and rookie quarterback, too much has changed for Williams to have much insider information that applies to schemes in Indianapolis.
“Not a bit. A little bit in terms of the personnel, but in scheme, not one bit,” Williams said.
“I looked at the sheet and I counted the number of people and I think it was somewhere between 19 and 22 guys that are still there, so it’s changed dramatically in the past few months.”
The Colts ended up losing their season opener to the Chicago Bears and will try to avoid starting the season 0-2. Last year it took until midseason to notch their first win, but No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck has given the Colts a renewed sense of hope. Williams worked through the Colts’ 2-14 season and was happy to get a win in his first outing as defensive coordinator with the Vikings.
“It’s nice to come up here after a ballgame and after a win. I got a lot of phone calls from people around the country congratulating us about the good win and I rest assure you, every win is a good win,” Williams said. “There are no homecoming games on the schedule and everyone in the NFL is a professional and they play well.”
Williams was referring to the idea that Jacksonville was considered a soft opponent, but this weekend’s game will be a homecoming of sorts for Williams, as he returns to Indianapolis.
“You know what, it is a homecoming,” he said upon further review. “Ten years is the longest I’ve been anywhere in my life and it was 10 very good years in Indy. It will be nice to go back and play in Lucas Oil Stadium. It’ll just be on the other side now.”
COUNTING ON COOK
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook gave up what could have been the game-winning touchdown Sunday on a 39-yard pass to Cecil Shorts III with 20 seconds left, but kicker Blair Walsh bailed out the Vikings with a 55-yard field goal to send the game to overtime and a 38-yarder to win it.
Still, Williams gave Cook generally favorable reviews from Sunday’s performance.
“Promising. He tackled well. For the most part, he covered well,” Williams said. “A lay person may look at the ballgame and say, ‘Oh, wow. Not good.’ But we don’t look at it that way at all. We still have a ton of confidence in him and I think that when you see the jump from the first ball game to the second ball game, you’ll see what you would expect.”
Cook allowed Shorts to get behind him, failing in his primary responsibility for the defensive coverage that was called at the time, but he still might have had an opportunity to knock the ball away if he had turned the right way to locate the ball.
“We talk about playing situational football. In those situations, you want to be as deep as the deepest and as wide as the widest and keep the ball in front of you,” Williams said. “I think they had 17 to 23 seconds on the clock and you just need to keep those balls in front of you and tackling those balls is a good thing because time is on your side and if we did that, we would have been in great shape. It was a good learning experience. There were a lot of situations in that game that it may take three or four games to actually get, but we had them all in one ball game. It was a good learning experience for us and we’ll be better for sure the next time.”
CONFIDENT IN CARLSON
The Vikings’ biggest free-agent acquisition of the offseason, tight end John Carlson, didn’t have a catch in the opener and was only targeted once, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Carlson is looking better as he recovers from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee that happened in training camp.
“He looked better (Wednesday), I’ll say that. It didn’t look like he was wearing the big bulky brace that he has been wearing since he was injured and looked to be more confident,” Musgrave said.
Carlson played in only 31 percent of the offensive snaps Sunday while Kyle Rudolph played in 100 percent of them, the only offensive player other than Ponder and the offensive linemen to play every snap.
“I feel real good physically. It has been good to feel like I’ve had a full week of doing everything I need to do on the field in terms of practice,” Carlson said Friday. “Mentally, I was in all the meetings through training camp. I was at all the practices. I didn’t miss any time in that sense.
“There’s no hesitation. I feel really good.”
Besides Freeney (ankle), the Colts also listed starting guard Joe Reitz (knee) and backup LB Pat Angerer (foot) as out.
Also for the Colts, WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) is questionable and T Winston Justice (head) is probable.
Vikings defensive lineman Everson Griffen was fined $15,750 for roughing the passer on a play that wasn't penalized during Minnesota's 26-23 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He made helmet to helmet contact with the opposing QB,” an NFL spokesman said in explaining the fine.
The hit came early in the third quarter after Blaine Gabbert released the ball and left him grabbing at his facemask after hitting the turf.
DT Letroy Guion was fined $7,875 for his late hit on QB Gabbert Sunday. LB Erin Henderson tripped up Gabbert as he tried to escape the pocket and Gabbert stumbled and fell outside the pocket, where Guion jumped on top of him.
“It wasn’t like I hit him with a stinger shot. I was playing football. It looked like he was going down to me. I just went over there and kept playing football and tackled him, jumped on him,” Guion said.
“I didn’t see (Henderson touch him). I was playing the double team in front of me and was trying to get off them and go to the left. I didn’t know Erin had hit him from the backside to the right. I thought he was trying to slide and tripped or something. That’s what I seen coming around to the left. There was no way I could have seen to the right side.”
Guion, who called the fine “crap,” said he plans to appeal it.
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.