Notebook: Key players returning to Vikings

The Vikings are getting some key players back on offense this week, including a rare Wednesday practice appearance by Adrian Peterson. Also, Matt Cassel will remain the starter, Jerome Simpson won't pursue comments by an official, Greg Jennings jokingly tries to stir it up and more.

The Vikings are getting some of their offensive firepower back this week, including Adrian Peterson.

Despite lobbying head coach Leslie Frazier to play late last week, Peterson was inactive for the Vikings game last Sunday because of a sprained foot, the first game he has missed this season.

Frazier said Peterson "is feeling better" and he tested the foot in Wednesday's practice on a limited basis. He didn't practice last week until Friday, when he was limited.

In fact, Peterson hasn't practiced on a Wednesday since Nov. 13.

"If he's healthy we'd like for him to get some work. We think that helps with the timing and helps the offensive line as well," Frazier said.

The Vikings did just fine without Peterson against the Eagles. Without him, they had a season-high 370 yards passing, more than 100 yards more than their next closest game of the season. But they did have only 85 yards rushing, including 51 from Matt Asiata, who averaged only 1.7 yards on 30 carries but had three touchdowns.

"I think the coaches put together a game plan and whether or not that they know Adrian's playing, we're going to go about our business the same way," QB Matt Cassel said. "You could look at the stats even from the game, I think we had 60-something plays and 30 of those were runs, so we stayed pretty balanced even though Adrian and Toby weren't playing."

Cassel said the Eagles didn't adjust their scheme too much from what he had seen on film even though the Vikings' top two rushers weren't playing.

"Their scheme is pretty consistent throughout. They don't change much and why would they? Before this game I think they gave up a (high) of 24 points I think all season and they've won five straight, so I think they came in with the mentality that we're going to do what we do," Cassel said. "I think that we had a great week of practice, great preparation and we really understood what we were trying to get accomplished with some of the plays that the coaches did a great job of putting together."

In addition getting Peterson back in the lineup, the Vikings are expecting his backup, Toby Gerhart, to be ready after straining a hamstring in the Ravens game, too. Like Peterson, Gerhart was limited in Wednesday's practice after not practicing last Wednesday or Thurdsay.

Gerhart said he anticipates being ready by Sunday and said he had a good, full practice. Still, hamstrings can be a tricky injury.

"It's hard. Hamstrings are weird because you feel fine and try to burst and then you can feel it kind of biting and locking up," he said. "I'm feeling a lot better this week."

Finally, TE John Carlson (concussion) and G Brandon Fusco (knee) are also expected back on offense, giving the Vikings a nearly fully healthy set of offensive starters (TE Kyle Rudolph was placed on season-ending injured reserve last year). Fusco was limited on Wednesday but Carlson was a full participant.

Asiata (ankle) and CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday.


After throwing for 382 yards against the Eagles, the most for the Vikings since Brett Favre's 446 against Arizona in 2010, Cassel will maintain the starting seat against the Bengals.

"You guys might not believe this, but I don't like juggling quarterbacks," Frazier quipped. "I like to have a quarterback and not even have to worry about that position at all. Believe me, things would be a lot better, a lot easier. But we're counting on Matt having success and playing again the next week and leading us to victory the next couple of weeks. But right now our focus is on this Cincinnati game. That's the most important one to our team."

Christian Ponder started the first three games of the season, was inactive for the next with a rib injury and then didn't play in the next two games. During that three-game stretch, Cassel made two starts and Josh Freeman one.

Ponder was back in the starter's seat against Green Bay on Oct. 27 during a six-game stretch before a concussion took him out and Cassel back in for the last two starts.

"My approach, I try to stay as consistent as possible. It's nice going into a week knowing that you're the starter and there's no questions being asked in the locker room," Cassel said. "So I think everybody's prepared to hopefully build off of what we did last week and go in there and have a good performance."

Ponder, meanwhile, is trying to focus on this week's preparation and avoid talk of his future with the team.

"I don't know what it means," he said when asked about his future if he doesn't start the final two games of the season. "I'm not looking that far ahead. My job is solely this week to prepare and be ready to play."


Rhodes, who had begun to push for a starting job before a sprained ankle against the Baltimore Ravens caused him to miss last week's game, said he is feeling better. He didn't practice on Wednesday but didn't rule out playing on Sunday.

He said initially he had some concern that his ankle might be broken when he saw how swollen it got in short order.

"If you see your ankle like that, you'd freak out. I freaked out a little bit. At the moment I was nervous, but now I'm good," he said.


Jerome Simpson said the league hasn't contacted him about his comments after Sunday's game, when he said an official made remarks to him and his teammates that he didn't think were right.

Frazier talked with Simpson on the phone about those comments earlier this week and Simpson said he won't pursue the matter with the NFL.

"That's just something we kind of want to just kill right now. We don't need that publicity with that," Simpson said. "Sometimes things maybe get said that they might not mean. We're just going to kill that situation. There's really nothing to talk about or make any headlines about now."

Simpson said he hasn't been contacted by the league about the situation either.


During an interview with Simpson, fellow receiver Greg Jennings grabbed a microphone and started asking questions to jokingly stir it up with Simpson regarding his return to Cincinnati.

"Are you nervous about going back to Cincinnati? Are you scared of the guys that you left to come over here and join forces with the Vikings?" Jennings asked.

"I'm definitely not scared. That's not a word that's in my repertoire," Simpson said.

Jennings: "Do you have ill will against some of those guys over there?

"I have no ill will against them, Mr. Jennings," Simpson responded.

Jennings: "You have anything you want to say negative about them?"

"That's a great guy, that Mr. Jennings, I think he was probably scared in that Green Bay game," Simpson joked.


  • Limited for the Vikings on Wednesday were CB Chris Cook (knee), Fusco (knee), Gerhart (hamstring), Peterson (foot) and S Harrison Smith (toe).

  • The Bengals placed P Kevin Huber on injured reserve with jaw and neck injuries after taking a big blindside hit on Sunday. LB James Harrison (concussion), CB Terence Newman (knee) and DE Carlos Dunlap (concussion) didn't participate. G Kevin Zeitler (foot) was limited and TE Jermaine Gresham (abdomen) was a full participant.

  • The Vikings re-signed RB Joe Banyard and DE Spencer Nealy to the practice squad. Because the Vikings promoted Banyard and CB Robert Steeples to the active roster on Saturday, they had two openings on the practice squad. Banyard was waived on Monday and re-signed to the practice squad on Wednesday upon clearing waivers. He called his promotion to the active roster a "Christmas bonus." A practice squad spot pays $6,000 per week. Minimum salary for a rookie on the 53-man roster is almost $24,000 per week.

    Cassel said he has been asked about returning often, but he tries not to consider that until after the season. He has the ability to opt out of the final year (2014) of his contract during the offseason and become a free agent.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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