Two Vikings considered to be on the fringe of making the Pro Bowl the last few years had different reactions this week to fans of the Washington Redskins stuffing the online fan ballots.
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie didn’t know about the inordinate amount of votes that Redskins players had received in voting on NFL.com, but when informed of it he responded with words that indicated frustration with the Pro Bowl process.
“I just don’t look at this whole Pro Bowl thing as reality, because sometimes guys don’t make it because they’re playing good. They just make it because they’ve been there before. Whatever, I don’t care. I really don’t,” McKinnie said. “I used to care, but I don’t care (any) more. … I’ve seen people who went who missed half of the season and didn’t play all that good.”
Other players, like cornerback Antoine Winfield, had heard about the surge of Washington fans but gave credit to those marketing the team and its players.
“Whatever they’re doing in Washington, it’s working,” Winfield said.
Said kick Ryan Longwell: “Credit to them for getting their fans out to vote. It is pretty impressive.”
But Longwell said that market size also matters.
“Usually the biggest fan base is the Cowboys and Redskins. They kind of have an in on the fan voting. I’ve always said that as long it’s going to be a third of the vote, there are really no rules that you can control it with,” he said. “… It’s definitely a popularity thing, whoever gets the most votes. It’s not necessarily the stats and stuff like that.”
Market size might help, but playing in front of a national television audience should benefit players as well, and that will happen more often with the good teams in the end of the season, as “flexible scheduling” can help ESPN air more desirable games on Sunday nights for these final six weeks of the season.
“I think it’s better if you’re making plays when you’re on television – Monday night games, Sunday night games – where all the people around the world get to see you play,” Winfield said.
That will happen on Nov. 30 for the Vikings, who will host the Chicago Bears in what could be a battle for first place in the division.
Longwell said a more legitimate way to do administer the Pro Bowl vote would be to have only the coaches and players vote, but the NFL probably doesn’t want to eliminate the fan voting, he admitted. And even the players don’t always take the time to make an educated vote, McKinnie said.
“Some people, when they don’t know who to put, especially offensive linemen because we don’t have any stats, they’re like, ‘Alright, who went last year? Alright put him there.’ If you don’t have any stats, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.
Not surprisingly, both McKinnie and Winfield felt they are having the kind of season that should put them in the Pro Bowl for the first time in their respective careers.
“Yeah. I’ve been an alternate three years in a row,” McKinnie said. “Same position. I don’t even really care. I’m just going to go out there and do my job and if I go, I go. It won’t bother me.”
“I think I’m playing at a high level,” Winfield said. “Pro Bowl? We’ll see about that. I think that comes out next month.”
GROUNDING IT OUT
Both the Jaguars and Vikings have solid run games.
The Vikings have the fourth-ranked rushing offense, including the league leader for rushing yards in Adrian Peterson, and the second-ranked rushing defense. The Jaguars have the 11th-ranked rushing offense.
“Run the ball and stop the run, that’s a great place to start,” Childress told Jacksonville reporters last week. “I know that Jacksonville certainly appears to believe in that. That’s a great formula. You have to make plays in the passing game and against the pass, and I won’t say that either has been a downfall for us. Special teams has scored a few touchdowns on us. So, it’s still a work in progress here and we’ll get judged at the end of this whole deal.”
On his conference call with Jacksonville reporters, Jared Allen admitted he was surprised the Vikings are 5-5 considering how well they’ve done in the running statistics.
“Yeah, I’m really surprised. We could easily be 8-2 right now. We constantly shoot ourselves in the foot whether it’s turnovers or special teams, whatever the case might be,” Allen said. “But luckily for us, our division has been kind of weak this year and we’re at 5-5 and still tied for first. So we have a six-game season. Our tournament starts today. If we want to get into the playoffs it all starts today and starts this week. We have to treat every week like it’s a playoff game and win one at a time.”
NOT HERE FOR THE MONEY
Allen also say he doesn’t play the game for the money, but he enjoyed a light-hearted moment on his conference call this week when a Jacksonville reporter asked him if he told the Vikings he didn’t play for the money when he was negotiating his $73 million deal.
“Not a chance. I did say I’d like to have my future secured for the rest of my life, but that’s not why I play the game,” he said.
ANOTHER SHOT AT CHILDRESS
While Troy Williamson’s desire to meet Brad Childress at the 50-yard line for a throw-down were well-publicized, he had a couple of other comments directed at Childress this week.
Asked if he was frustrated with catching only four passes this year, Williamson compared life as a Jaguar to life as a Viking last year.
“I am really not frustrated here. I can really say that I am really, truly having fun playing football down here, that includes on offense and special teams. It is just me getting back to where I started off in football and I feel like I am having fun. (I am) not frustrated at all. I am just having fun playing football,” he said.
Asked about the difference that’s causing him to have more fun, he said, “Just the whole attitude of just me being in a different spot. I feel like I am being welcomed by a head coach and not just going to work dreading it – actually going out to practice and having fun and things like that.”
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio called the Vikings’ front four probably the biggest and deepest front four in the league. “It’s probably the biggest, fastest, most athletic front four in the league.”
Vikings coach Brad Childress said that Jacksonville QB David Garrard might have the strongest arm he’s seen at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’m talking about sideline velocity. Obviously he can move around a little bit, but he’s an accurate, strong thrower. (I have) a lot of respect for him and how he’s established himself,” Childress said.
Childress said Garrard is mobile, but has a different style than Tampa Bay’s Jeff Garcia, whose scrambling ability hurt the Vikings last week.
“(Garrard) is probably a stronger runner. Jeff is a dodge, juke and make-you-miss kind of guy. Not that David can’t, but David is a bigger, thicker guy. He doesn’t turn much stuff down. He can generate some speed and then get the power behind it.”
Allen was asked if he’s ever played against a worse team than the Detroit Lions. “I don’t know if they’re the worst team I’ve ever seen. I played against some bad teams in Pop Warner,” he said. “I had the Raiders last year. And the Chiefs weren’t too good last year either, huh?”
Gus Frerotte won his only start against Jacksonville in 1997, when he was with the Washington Redskins, passing for 224 yards, throwing three touchdowns and an interception.
Adrian Peterson has rushed for 648 yards (129.6 yards per game) and four touchdowns in the past five games. His 101.7-yard average is the most in the league since he entered the NFL.
Peterson has five rushing touchdowns in roads games this year.
Through the first 24 games of his career, Peterson has rushed for 2,441 yards. With 110 yards this week against Jacksonville, he will have the second-most rush yards ever through a player’s first 25 games, surpassing George Rogers (2,498), Edgerrin James (2,542) and Jim Brown (2,550). Eric Dickerson holds the mark with 2,771 yards in his first 25 games.
In five career starts vs. the AFC, Peterson has 777 yards rushing (155.4 yards per game) and seven touchdowns.
Allen has 51 sacks since 2004, the most in the NFL, and has six sacks in the last five games.
Of Bernard Berrian’s 19 career touchdowns, 13 have been for 30 yards or more.
Through 10 games for each team, there are 21 clubs with a record of .500 or better, tying 2002 for the most such teams at this point in NFL history. The 12 teams in the AFC East, NFC East and NFC South all have a record of .500 or better. That is the first time that three divisions have had every team with a .500 or better record this late in a season since realignment in 2002.