The Vikings took steps this week to try and hold off the flu bug that has been running rampant through their locker room, while Washington has been trying to lay blame on coach Joe Gibbs for the Redskins' struggles. Plus, find out which players for both teams are healthy enough to play and which ones will be sidelined as the Vikings try to earn their way into the playoffs.
The flu bug still has his grip on the Vikings this week, but at least QB Daunte Culpepper
, CB Antoine Winfield
and TE Jermaine Wiggins
returned to practice Thursday after being excused on Wednesday.
Culpepper and Wiggins rejoined the starting offense. Winfield, who also is battling a high left ankle sprain, worked as the nickel back while Terrance Shaw
continued working with the first team.
Winfield has missed three consecutive starts because of the injury. He returned last week in a limited role in the 34-31 loss to Green Bay.
Coach Mike Tice
said 10 players are feeling the affects of an upper-respiratory virus that has lingered with the team for up to a month. Shaw has been playing despite the illness and a mild case of pneumonia. P Darren Bennett
was spotted vomiting during Wednesday's practice.
"I don't expect the (players who are sick) to be doing cartwheels," Tice said. "But hopefully by Friday they'll be feeling good, which will give them plenty of time to still get some rest."
The Vikings are trying to contain the illness. Under rules set up after a stomach virus swept through the team in 2002, the team is re-enforcing a policy in which players must use hand sanitizers often. They're available in nearly every room.
Doorknobs are disinfected often and personalized towels have been distributed.
VIKINGS PERSONNEL NEWS
With QB Daunte Culpepper ill from the flu and watching from the sideline in practice on Wednesday, WR Randy Moss took some snaps as the emergency third quarterback. Culpepper returned to practice Thursday and is expected to play against Washington on Thursday. But Moss brushed up just in case. If Culpepper ever had to miss a game, the Vikings would start Gus Frerotte. They would use Moss instead of No. 3 QB Shaun Hill only if Frerotte suffered a minor injury and had to miss a few plays. Under NFL rules, the Nos. 1-2 quarterbacks can't come back and play once the designated inactive No. 3 quarterback takes a snap.
RB Michael Bennett will start for the third consecutive game. There is a possibility either RBs Onterrio Smith or Mewelde Moore will be deactivated to make room for an additional defensive back because of CB Antoine Winfield's sprained left ankle.
CB Antoine Winfield's high left ankle sprain appears to be better than it was at this point last week. Winfield missed two consecutive games before returning as a nickel back on third downs last week against Green Bay. Winfield might have to play a limited role again this week at Washington.
S Corey Chavous and CB Brian Williams have seen action on 190 plays over the past two weeks. The Vikings gave both of them rest in practice this week. The team also wants to cut those numbers by taking Chavous and Williams off some of the special teams. Williams has looked especially dead-legged near the end of the past two games.
Ss Brian Russell and Corey Chavous, who combined for 17 interceptions last season, have one apiece this season entering Sunday's game at Washington. Russell tied for the league lead with nine last season. Chavous had eight on his way to his first Pro Bowl.
Coach Joe Gibbs admits he has gone through some growing pains in coming back to the NFL after 11 years of retirement.
The Hall of Fame coach seems to have struggled with a number of areas in his return. Notably, elements such as offensive play-calling, game management and personnel appear to have tested Gibbs, who is fondly remembered as doing no wrong during his first stint.
The coach, who has tried to shoulder much of the blame during his first season back, acknowledged he may have been a bit rusty this season.
"I'm sure there's some of that," Gibbs said. "How much, I don't know. I remember my uncle taking a car apart. I said, ‘Do you know how to do that?' He said, ‘The only way you know how to do something is to dive into it.' I figure that's the only way you learn things."
The Redskins have slumped to 5-10 this season — at best finishing a game ahead of Steve Spurrier's 2003 club — largely because Gibbs never got his offense going.
He has drawn criticism from outside the club for acquiring quarterback Mark Brunell, waiting too long to play Patrick Ramsey, and running too conservative an offense. In addition, his use of timeouts and challenges clearly has been awry at times.
But people within the Redskins organization levy a staunch defense of Gibbs, saying that he has done an incredible job of keeping this team together and competing hard. The other things, they say, will take care of themselves.
"All the terrible things that have happened to this team throughout the course of the season, for them to still compete like we compete week in and week out, that's leadership," defensive line coach Greg Blache said. "That's a talent. That's the thing that's been lost. Just because we didn't win a Super Bowl doesn't mean Coach didn't do a great coaching job."
REDSKINS PERSONNEL NEWS
CB Fred Smoot (back) won't play the Vikings on Sunday while recovering from a bruised kidney. Smoot was hobbling around Redskin Park Thursday and called his pain, on a scale of one to 10, "an eight or nine."
LB Marcus Washington (knee) skipped practice again Thursday and is questionable for the Vikings game. Assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, however, is confident Washington will play.
CB Shawn Springs (foot) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday but is probable for the Vikings game.
LT Chris Samuels (ankle) practiced this week and is probable for the Vikings game.
RB Clinton Portis is being sued by former Redskins S Ifeanyi Ohalete for failing to fulfill a contract that said Portis would pay $40,000 to use Ohalete's No. 26 jersey. Portis, according to Ohalete's lawyer, only paid half the sum. Ohalete was cut during the preseason.
NT Brandon Noble has quietly reassumed the starting position from Joe Salave'a, though the two still pretty much split snaps equally. Both have performed well for the Redskins' second-ranked defense.