Vikings finding time to talk it out

Vikings veterans are starting to address the team after a frustrating 1-4 start to a season in which they believed they could return to the playoffs.

It took a little while longer than last year, but a few veterans have stepped up to address the Minnesota Vikings team after a 1-4 start.

Last year, veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield talked to the team after a 1-1 start when he was concerned that not everyone realized how hard it was to get a win in the NFL. This year, there is no Winfield to try to inspire teammates because the Vikings released him prior to the start of free agency in a cost-cutting move.

So who were the leaders to step up recently?

"If that guy wants to tell you he stepped up, I'll let him do that, but we definitely had some guys step up and just all the way around being more accountable to each other, and it starts in practice," Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton said.

"I think that's something that will get done going forward. We've got some good guys in here that have had a lot of success in the NFL. We have the right people to do that. Last year, (Winfield) kind of stepped up to say some stuff. We've got some of that stuff going on. We'll move forward and do everything we've got to do this week to get a win on Monday Night Football."

Felton said Pro Bowlers to well-respected veterans are all in play to try to help turn the Vikings' season around before it's too late, if that point hasn't already come.

After a one-point loss the Chicago Bears and a four-point loss to the Cleveland Browns, the lowlight of the season was actually Sunday, when the Vikings were blown out, 35-10, by the Carolina Panthers, who entered the Metrodome with the same 1-3 record as the Vikings.

"I think we all need to stand up. I don't think it needs to be one or two guys," defensive end Brian Robison said after that loss. "I think the whole defense needs to stand up and figure it out. That's myself included. Nobody is exempt. If we have individual players that are playing well right now, we still need to play better. We've got to figure it out and get this thing going or this is going to be a long season."

The recuperative benefits of the bye have already passed. The Vikings have 11 more consecutive weeks ahead of them and they would have to overcome very long odds to reach the playoffs. Felton knows that, but doesn't want to hear about them.

The Vikings have to figure things out quickly or the locker room could be lost for a long second half of the season. That's why players addressing a team in tough times can sometimes help.

"I don't think anything dramatic. We've got to hold each other more accountable and it starts in practice. Just doing the things we need to do to play winning football. We didn't do that last week. It has to happen this week," Felton said.

"Honestly, I would say more player to player, but the coaches, they don't let their egos take over. They say, ‘Come to us if you need something, if you think something.' And they do a good job of doing that."

Felton said players will take advantage of an open invitation Frazier put on the table to come talk to him about issues they may be having.

"You want it to be open and that's the good thing about our coaching staff. They're humble people also," Felton said. "They don't let their ego take over. They're open to listening to players and what we think. That's why I love being here."

Winfield is no longer with the team and the indication was that no great speeches got made after Week 2 this year, like Winfield did last year after a close win that put the Vikings at 1-1.

So do the Vikings, especially the defense, miss his leadership?

"I won't get into that. Some guys got in trouble talking about personnel earlier in the year so I don't want to get into it," cornerback Chris Cook said. "Antoine is a good guy and I miss him being around as far as his personality and his leadership."

With a 1-4 record, something probably needs to be said among players and sounds like it already has. How much it helps remains to be seen.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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