D-Line Shakeup Expected

With Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards suspended four games and Erasmus James at less than 100 percent, rookie Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell are going to be asked to step up and fill the void for the Vikings this weekend and perhaps the rest of the season.

The Vikings' players were uncharacteristically late and/or no-shows for the early media session Wednesday and, as reporters huddled in the cold outside to get in and later tried to regain feeling in their hands and toes inside, the word began to spread that Ray Edwards had been suspended for four games due to a violation of the league's anabolic steroid and related substances policy.

According to what Edwards' agent told the Pioneer Press, he was taking some workout supplements he believed were legal under NFL standards and that the positive test was the result of a taking the supplements all the way back in January.

Compounding the problem, coach Brad Childress said, is that Erasmus James (who would be the top replacement for Edwards) may have availability issues of his own.

James did not work out in the open media session and had his left knee wrapped. Childress said during his press conference that James "banged his knee a little bit" in Sunday's win over the Lions.

James has endured a brutal last couple of years. He missed most of last season with a torn ACL and partially torn MCL and was inactive for the first four games of this season. He missed two more games with a shoulder injury.

If James can't go – and even if he can – the starting job might revert to rookie Brian Robison with Jayme Mitchell being asked to see considerably more playing time. Robison, who has seen time at both end positions, said Wednesday he's ready for the challenge and has been doing everything he can to not hit the "rookie wall" – the standard year-end swoon rookies suffer due to the extended schedule in the NFL compared to college.

"I've been told about the rookie wall and have been doing everything I can to make sure I get my rest and stay focused on what I need to do," Robison said. "It was every bit as hard to break through as the guys said it was. But I got through it and I haven't been feeling worn down lately, so I think it's working and I'm past it."

Robison said he didn't find out about the Edwards suspension until a meeting Wednesday morning, but said he and Mitchell are up to the challenge of being asked to step in and make a difference.

"Jayme and I have both been ready in case we're asked to do more," said Robison, who led the Vikings with 4.5 sacks until Edwards was credited with a sack from Sunday's game. "Our job is to step in these next four games and make sure that we don't have a letdown. We have to step it up and we're ready for the challenge."

THURSDAY NOTES

  • After missing all but one half of the last five games, Antoine Winfield took part in Wednesday's practice on a limited basis and has pronounced himself ready to go for Sunday's game. Winfield said he was close to 100 percent last week, but, after suffering a setback in his return to game action against the Raiders, the medical staff decided to hold him out of last week's game to make sure he was back at or near full strength to avoid another potential setback down the stretch.

  • Five Vikings – James (knee), Mike Doss (hamstring), Robert Ferguson (personal), E.J. Henderson (illness) and Tank Williams (knee) – did not participate in practice. Five others took part on a limited basis – Winfield (hamstring), Adrian Peterson (knee), Spencer Johnson (groin), Dontarrious Thomas (groin) and Troy Williamson (concussion).

  • Running back Adrian Peterson and fullback Tony Richardson still lead their respective positions in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl. Peterson has 557,873 votes by the last announced tally and Richardson leads fullback voting with 146,238 votes. The fan vote counts one-third of the voting, with the other two-thirds coming from players and coaches. They will turn in ballots Dec. 13-14.

  • Bryant McKinnie was one of many college teammates of Sean Taylor that attended his funeral Monday.


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