Not many football players start the week with one team, get released on a Monday, practice with a new team for the first time on a Thursday and play an ultra-important role three days later.
That’s what Napoleon Harris’ previous week was like. He was inactive for the Kansas City Chiefs’ last game, released on Monday and signed by the Vikings officially on Thursday. After three days of practice, Harris didn’t start – that duty went to Vinny Ciurciu for the first series – but Harris was the team’s base-defense middle linebacker after that.
Head coach Brad Childress said the Vikings wanted to see how the Bears approached the game offensively with the more familiar Ciurciu in the game to start, but Harris was making the plays after that first series. Meanwhile Dontarrious Thomas, who was signed last Monday to bolster depth at middle linebacker, played on special teams but didn’t register a tackle.
“D.T. showed up on the special teams and Napo showed up on the football field. I’ve got to give it to those guys,” Childress said.
Harris finished with five tackles and helped limited Chicago’s running game to 53 yards, easily their lowest output of the season. Their previous low was 118 yards, the previous week against Atlanta.
WR Sidney Rice was back active for the Vikings Sunday after spending three of the past four games inactive with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament, but his impact was almost nothing. Rice didn’t make the start and only played sparingly early in the game.
He wasn’t a target of any Gus Frerotte passes.
The Vikings’ receivers corps was getting a good opportunity against a wounded Bears secondary that saw three important players – CB Nathan Vasher, CB Charles Tillman and S Danieal Manning – all inactive with injuries. Backups Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride ended up making the starts at cornerback in place of Tillman and Vasher, and had expectedly up-and-down performances.
Gus Frerotte had the highest passing yardage of any Vikings quarterback this season with 298 yards, but he was also intercepted four times – once by McBride, once by Graham and once by rookie Zack Bowman, who also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Safe to say the Bears’ young substitutes had a better day than the Vikings’ 37-year-old quarterback.
RUFUS’ BIG CHANCE
Linebacker Rufus Alexander was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster and was even part of the Vikings’ 45 active players on Sunday. He played on special teams but didn’t register a tackle.
In order to make room for Alexander, the Vikings waived LB Erin Henderson, the younger brother of E.J. Henderson, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this month with a foot injury.
The Vikings deactivated safety Madieu Williams, who was cleared to practice fully last week after suffering a neck injury in training camp. Williams missed all the preseason games and the first seven games of the season.
Had the Vikings known it would take this long for Williams to make his way back onto the field, they could have put him on the physically unable to perform list, which would have kept him out of action for the first six games. However, that would have allowed the team to keep another player on the 53-man roster for that duration.
As it stands now, Williams has missed seven games, but with a bye next week, it is expected he should be ready for action Nov. 2 against the Houston Texans.
Williams was one of the Vikings’ top free agents this offseason, signing a six-year, $33 million contract that had $4 million roster bonuses each of the first two seasons.
One of the Vikings’ other free-agent priorities last offseason was fullback Thomas Tapeh, who was released last week. Tapeh signed a five-year, $6 million contract with a $500,000 signing bonus and $700,000 roster bonus for 2008.