Vikings Return Refreshed

The Vikings left the locker room dejected last week, but they returned this week seeming genuinely refreshed. See what several players had to say about the time away and what it did for them mentally and physically.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield wasn't going to stand up and criticize the Vikings' operation last week despite the frustration he and his teammates felt entering the bye with a three-game losing streak and a 1-3 record.

One week later, the players returned to their Winter Park practice facility on Monday for a good workout and a new attitude. Last Monday, after dropping their third straight game, the locker room was much sparser during the media availability time with a stream of cars looking to leave Winter Park after their occupants' final film study of the week.

One normally talkative player didn't want to comment, but that was last Monday. A week of rest and time away from the game seems to have brightened attitudes in the locker room.

"There is always a little bit of extra zip, extra pep when you come back," head coach Brad Childress said after Monday's practice, which didn't include a conditioning test upon the players' return. "It's important that they whistle while they work, and I think they did a good job of doing that."

Winfield got away to Las Vegas and returned all smiles after the poker tables treated him well. He said he spent little time dwelling on the issues of the team or analyzing the league. For him, this was a mental break from the grind of a season that can wear on players.

"I thought it was great timing. Guys get away, go get refreshed, take trips, just get away from the game," Winfield said. "A lot of guys had a lot of fun. I heard a lot of stories. (Now we) come back in, get focused, get back to work Wednesday and get ready to get a win."

On Wednesday, the team starts preparing in earnest for the Chicago Bears in another critical NFC North matchup, but Monday was their time to concentrate on themselves.

Wide receiver Bobby Wade said the bye came at a good time for the team.

"Big-time. You look at it two ways. Optimistically, it gives us a break. We had three tough losses, but it gives us a chance to put that to rest and move forward. Kind of like a fresh season, understanding where we're standing," he said.

After returning from a trip back to Phoenix with his wife, Wade said he noticed the more upbeat attitude of the players on Monday.

"It's a good time to take your mind off it and just sit back and reflect, spend some time with your family, somebody that doesn't necessarily be around football all the time," he said. "I think guys are excited to get back in here working again and understand where we're going and the opportunities that we have in front of us. It's just going to be what we make of it."

For other players, the week off wasn't just a mental break, it was a physical break. Two of the most important skill-position players on the offense – running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson – used the time away to help their bodies heal.

Last year, on Chester Taylor's way to carrying the ball 303 times, Childress listed his workhorse running back as having "general body soreness." This year, with Taylor suffering a hip injury in the first quarter of the season opener, Peterson has carried more of the load. While he wasn't listed on the injury report, he still appreciated the time away.

"I feel good, feel refreshed," Peterson said, saying it was a lot different than how he entered the bye.

Jackson needed the time away to continue to rehabilitate his strained groin. He stayed at Winter Park for treatment until Wednesday last week, then returned to the South for at least a few days away, but the Vikings continued to monitor his work.

Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman talked with trainers at Jackson's alma mater of Alabama State to ensure he was doing the proper workout to rehabilitate his injury. Jackson said he worked out "at home" on Friday and that "it felt even better" on Monday at Winter Park.

"I'm pretty confident in the way I felt (Monday) and it's only going to get better," he said.

However, he admitted that he still isn't 100 percent healed is still a little sore, but the Vikings could use his mobility in the pocket and he could use all the time he can get with his receivers to get back into a rhythm after throwing four interceptions in his last outing in Detroit.

"Right now, I'm just trying to get my rhythm back with everybody. I've been out almost a month now and not really doing too much," he said. "I was kind of worried about it coming back because it was three weeks, and quarterbacks, we pretty much have to do everything full speed. It was good to get back out there live and the tempo of practice that we had was good."

T-JACK II

Jackson also took time to see his new son for the first time. Tarvaris II was born in Mississippi on Sept. 14, but the father didn't have a chance to the son until Oct. 3 because the infant was too young to fly and Jackson couldn't pull away from work long enough to see his offspring.

"That's part of being an NFL player, man,." Jackson said, adding that once he held his baby "I didn't want to let him go. It will probably be a while before I get to see him again because they can't fly right now."

NOTES

  • Childress said the team's first practice back was "a good, fundamental practice – lot of our skills that we didn't get a chance to get back to and spend time on since training camp and they all responded very well."

  • Jackson returned to his role as a starter in Monday's practice, but wasn't the only quarterback taking turns with the first-team offense. "We rotated those guys in and out just because I didn't feel like you expose him to the volume of things and the number of plays that we had out here," Childress said. "Taking each and every snap, I didn't think that was the smart thing to do with the long individual period, but he was there all the way through up until the two-minute drill at the end, so we rolled guys in and out.

  • Childress said Erasmus James' health is not holding him back any longer, as the defensive end returns from two knee surgeries in the last 12 months. "(His health is) not a factor at all," Childress said. "Matter of fact, he had a very, very good day of practice here (on Monday). He was very active."

    James could have a chance to be active for the first time this season, as Darrion Scott was moving through the locker room with a boot on his foot with the assistance of crutches. Scott injured his foot during practice.



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