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antoine winfield

As the post below indicated, Christian Ponder (elbow) is amazingly going to be inactive for what should have been his first playoff appearance.  Joe Webb, who Vikings fans are very familiar with, will be starting in his place.

Webb’s backup will be McLeod Bethel-Thompson who has never appeared in a regular season NFL game.  With the way Webb runs the ball, and may be asked to do a lot today, it is reasonable to wonder if our postseason hopes won’t end up on MBT’s shoulders.

The team’s other inactives are receiver Stephen Burton, cornerback Brandon Burton, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, offensive lineman Troy Kropog, end George Johnson and end D’Aundre Reed.

This means rookie linebacker Audie Cole will be asked to replace McKenzie on special teams.  Cole made a big splash in the preseason by returning two interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back plays.

The inactives list also does not include Antoine Winfield which is good news for a Vikings secondary that will need all the help it can scrounge up against Aaron Rodgers and the potent passing attack of the Green Bay Packers.

As I mentioned earlier this week, injuries on both teams make Saturday night’s game between the Vikings and Packers a completely unique matchup compared to their previous two.

The Vikings special teams struggled last week with linebacker Tyrone McKenzie leaving due to a shoulder injury.  He has been ruled out once again making the Vikings coverage team a point of interest in this one, especially since electric return man Randall Cobb (ankle) is probable to return to the field.

In fact, Cobb’s return means that the Packers talented group of receivers are now healthier than they have been all season long.  Greg Jennings is at 100% now while Jordy Neson (knee) and Jermichael Finley (quadriceps) are both listed as probable.

The sudden health of Aaron Rodgers passing weapons unfortunately coincides with the Vikings secondary having some substantial health questions.  Rodgers threw a pass in Antoine Winfield’s direction only once prior to Winfield leaving last week’s game with a broken hand that swelled up on him, and then proceeded to pick on his replacement, Marcus Sherels, 10 times in the remainder of the game.

Winfield is listed as questionable but has indicated he will be wearing a new cast on the hand and plans on playing through the pain.  His injured teammates in the secondary are Harrison Smith (knee) and A.J. Jefferson (ankle) are both listed as probable, however.

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was only able to prepare for his latest biggest career game on a limited basis this week due to an elbow injury in his throwing arm.  Leslie Frazier indicated that Ponder is doing everything possible to get ready for this game, and it seems highly unlikely that anyone else gets the start, but one can’t help but wonder if Joe Webb might be making an appearance Saturday night.

Adrian Peterson (abdomen), Brian Robison (shoulder), Jared Allen (shoulder), George Johnson (quadriceps), Chris Kluwe (knee), and Phil Loadholt (knee) are all listed as probable.

Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Jerel Worthy have both been ruled out after suffering injuries last week.  Running back James Starks (knee) is listed as questionable.

Cornerbacks Tramon Williams (illness) and Davon House (hip) are both considered probable.  Also probable is Charles Woodson (collarbone) who is expected to give the Packers a boost in pass defense after missing considerable time.

The weather forecast for Green Bay is looking to be sub-freezing conditions and possible frozen precipitation.  Considering the Packers passing prowess, and Adrian Peterson’s dominance on the ground, I say the nastier the weather is the better off the Vikings are.

After all, an ice pellet or two clinking off of Mason Crosby’s helmet might just be enough to…

Three players.  The undetermined futures.  Three attempts at an answer.

Antoine Winfield

As readers pointed out to me last night, I was wr-wr-wr-wr-mistaken in saying that Antoine Winfield would be playing for a $3 million salary next season.  Winfield played enough snaps this season to trigger an escalator for 2013, and reverse a de-escalator for 2012, and he will be owed $7.25 million if the Vikings keep him next season.

The way Winfield has been playing at age 35, there is little reason other than the salary to expect the Vikings to part ways with him, as he has arguably been as valuable as any member of this defense.  Evidence of this can be seen by watching last weekend’s game and seeing the passing game of the Packers pick up after Winfield made his early exit.

All indications are that Winfield will do everything possible to play this Saturday night, and he has also reportedly has no interest in hanging up his cleats after this season.  Depending on just how much longer Winfield plans on playing may determine his willingness to renegotiate a contract extension to reduce his 2013 cap number.

Percy Harvin

I got this question more than once since the Vikings qualified for the postseason, and the answer is “no,” Percy Harvin cannot be reactivated from the injured reserve and make a playoff appearance.  In a new rule, teams are allowed to designate one player per season as “eligible for return” when they are placed on injured reserve, but the Vikings has already used this designation on Chris Cook prior to Harvin’s injury.  Cook, of course, has since been able to return and have an impact in the last two games.

Disclaimer:  The rest of this is 100% pure speculation.

Harvin suffered a ligament tear in his ankle and was placed on injured reserve on December 5th, a time when the Vikings playoff hopes looked to be all but dead.  He has since had an emergency appendectomy.

What isn’t know, however, is whether or not Harvin would otherwise be healthy enough to return at some point during a playoff run if the rules allowed it.  Earlier in December, there was some speculation that Harvin has once again grown disgruntled with the Vikings brass and his decision to rehab in Florida instead of Minnesota will only fuel such speculation, whether it is founded or otherwise.

I just can’t help but wonder if we will soon be getting word from Harvin, via Twitter of course, that he feels healthy enough to play football and wishes he were on the field.

This type of development would prove that Harvin is not happy with the Vikings, but also divide a fan base with half of them wondering if Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman prematurely ending his season was a huge blunder.  After all, guys like defensive end George Johnson, who found a roster spot thanks to Harvin’s absence, haven’t exactly had a huge impact at the bottom of the roster.  A guy like Harvin could potentially be a game changer at any point in any game.

His future with the team remains a mystery, but I expect we’ll be hearing much more very soon.

Jerome Simpson

A troubled receiver receives a prove-it deal in Minnesota.  Said receiver proceeds to get himself constantly hurt and underperform greatly.  If that wasn’t enough to guarantee his ticket out of town following the season, then calling one of the local media’s most respected beat writers a “douchebag” ought to do the trick.

Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN said that on Tuesday Jerome Simpson, for unknown reasons, called him a douchebag and that Leslie Frazier later called the reporter to apologize for his receiver’s words.

Now, I don’t know Pelissero personally, but I have spoken with him on a couple of occasions and interacted with him plenty and would not characterize him as anything other than honest, opinionated, and hard working.

I don’t know the whole story, but I am guessing that if Frazier is anything like any boss I have ever had, having to call and apologize for one of his employee’s actions will not sit well with him.

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Well, this is it.  The Vikings need to win to secure a ticket to the postseason, and here is who will not be on the field today:

VIKINGS:  QB Bethel-Thompson, WR Burton, CB Burton, S Blanton, LB Cole, OL Kropog, and DE Reed.

This means that the Vikings will have both Brian Robison and Antoine Winfield at their disposal.  Meanwhile, the Packers have put receiver Randall Cobb on the inactives list which is considerable news since he has been such a productive member of their offense this season.

Some would argue that Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bears was the end of the Vikings season in terms of participating in any week 18 games.  What we know for sure is that Jared Allen’s blind side block ended Lance Louis’s season.

On an Antoine Winfield interception, Allen launched his body at the offensive lineman in an attempt to block during the return, but the result was a knee injury that has brought more criticism Allen’s way than he has seen since he did this to Matt Schaub in 2008.

The hits to Schaub resulted in the NFL making a rule change the following offseason, but this time around Allen’s hit on Louis was one that is already illegal despite the fact that he wasn’t penalized for it.  Allen can expect a hefty fine from the NFL and plenty of jabs from the team that currently leads the NFC North but now has to finish out the regular season without their best offensive lineman.

Head Coach Lovie Smith offered up his take on Monday.

“Jared Allen plays the game a certain way, a good player in our league,” said Smith.  “I think there are some plays when you look at them again, you say, ‘Hey, we could have done without that.’ I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it. I think he could have gotten blocked a little bit differently, but that’s about all I can probably say about it. I’m sure the league will look at it and give another opinion about what they think.”

I can’t honestly say that I believe Allen is a dirty player that intentionally hurt Louis, and he echoed that in his post-game comments about the play and his apology to Louis and his family, but I also think the play is one that the NFL could indeed do without and that Allen will (and should) hear from the league office.

What do you think Allen should expect provided the evidence and testimony mounting against him on this one?

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