Rodgers Facing Bigger Challenge

Antoine Winfield adds a star player to the Vikings' beleaguered secondary, which Aaron Rodgers destroyed when the teams met on Oct. 23. Plus, injury reports and more from Friday.

Antoine Winfield's return should bolster a Vikings secondary that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers riddled when these teams met at Minnesota three weeks ago.

"He's a playmaker," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the three-time Pro Bowler, who had missed the last four games with a neck injury. "Antoine is clearly one of the leaders of that defense. He makes a ton of plays for the defense. Has a great understanding of their scheme. Very instinctive. They'll be a different secondary with him back there. I have a lot of respect for Antoine Winfield. I've admired him from afar as far as his game. He's tough in the run game and support. Has a very unique way of coming underneath blockers and making plays. He's a damn good football player."

Still, the Vikings, with their 30th-ranked pass defense, are well aware that they're in for a monumental challenge against the red-hot Rodgers, who is making an assault on the record books with arguably the best eight-game stretch in NFL history.

With Winfield sidelined when the teams met at the Metrodome on Oct 23, Rodgers threw only one legit incompletion in a 24-of-30 performance. The Vikings' secondary was completely outclassed by the Packers' deep receiving corps, and Rodgers' accuracy only compounds the issue.

"He has thrown some balls in there," Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac told reporters at Winter Park on Friday. "He has great confidence in himself and he has great confidence in his receivers, and at times he is throwing the ball when the guy is covered and he is making plays."

Considering the Packers' reliance on three- and four-receiver sets, Winfield will spend much of the night operating in the slot — where he has the same sort of impact on games as Charles Woodson with his run-stopping and blitzing ability.

"He's a great player," Rodgers said. "He's a great tackler, probably the toughest pound-for-pound player in the league. I would put him up against anybody. He's a savvy veteran. This is his 13th season, so he knows how to play the game, he knows how to make plays from his corner position. If they bring him inside to play the nickel, he's very good in their scheme. He definitely adds a lot to their defense."

Packers injury report

Out — LT Chad Clifton (hamstring); OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring). Limited participation — OLB Clay Matthews (knee); DE Mike Neal (knee); G Josh Sitton (knee). Full participation — S Morgan Burnett (hand).

For the second consecutive day, Neal took part in individual drills, including a one-on-one pass-rushing drill on Friday. He hasn't been ruled out, officially, but he's not going to play.

"I think you have to really increase his activity yet at practice to get to the point where we feel he's ready for a game," McCarthy said. "He hasn't participated in team drills yet. Once again, we're just going one hurdle at a time, and as he continues to cross 'em and everything is positive from a medical standpoint, time will answer that. I don't have a timeline."

Vikings injury report

Out — CB Chris Cook (not injury related); G Anthony Herrera (knee). Full participation — T Phil Loadholt (illness); CB Antoine Winfield (neck).

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier ruled out former starting cornerback Cook, who is in legal hot water, as well as Herrera, who had started the first seven games this season.

Four-point stance

— In a fan vote, Rodgers won the FedEx Air Player of the Week Award for the fifth time in six weeks, with the sixth week being last week's bye. Rodgers beat out Miami quarterback Matt Moore and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. Because of Rodgers, FedEx is donating $2,000 to the Northern Wisconsin chapter of Junior Achievement.

— McCarthy celebrated his 48th birthday on Thursday. Well, maybe "celebrate" isn't the right word. "Ah, yeah, actually I didn't really get to open any of (the presents), but I had a good time at home with my family and was made fun of all day at work yesterday. So, that was a good day."

— The Vikings are using defensive end Everson Griffen as a gunner on their punt team. "I've had linebackers before but I've never used a defensive end," Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer told reporters in Minneapolis. "He's a unique athlete as you guys know, Everson. And he's playing at a very high level right now and I hope he keeps playing at that level because to me, I think the more experience he gets doing that, the harder he'll be to block. He's going to be very difficult to block, especially for the smaller corners and safeties that are out there."

— Running back Ryan Grant got a season-low four carries last week against San Diego. "All good," Grant said. We're winning. We're winning."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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