Winfield, Rice Iffy For Sunday

The Vikings need to keep the foot on the gas in the NFC wild card playoff chase, but might have to do so without Antoine Winfield and Sidney Rice at least for practice and perhaps for the game itself.

One of the Vikings biggest struggles this season has related to the passing game. The team has neither consistently been able to get strong receiving play on offense nor stop in on a regular basis defensively.

While the Vikings came away from Monday night's game with a win, the team may have lost one of their most critical players on both sides of the ball to addressing their biggest weakness. Antoine Winfield had a MRI Tuesday on a pectoral muscle around his left shoulder, while rookie wide receiver Sidney Rice suffered a sprained ankle. Not helping their situation is a shorter-than-usual prep week, giving the less healing time than mormal.

"The guys don't have a lot of time to recover," Brad Childress said Tuesday. "Their status is uncertain right now."

If Winfield can't go, rookie Marcus McCauley, who started four games while Winfield was sidelined earlier in the year, would take over again. If Rice can't go, Troy Williamson, who has missed time recently with a concussion, would likely replace him on the 48-man gameday roster. Williamson was available to play Monday night, but was de-activated before the game because the Vikings typically go with four wide receivers on game day.

While injuries are part of the game, these two couldn't come at a worse time. With the heat ratcheted up as the Vikings try to hold on to their playoff positioning, both Winfield and Rice are key cogs that will be needed down the stretch. But as it stands now, both might be in jeopardy of missing Sunday night's game.

* Only the Cowboys and Chargers (eight each) had more players named to the Pro Bowl than the Vikings. An argument could be made that E.J. Henderson should have been named to the Pro Bowl and, if either of the middle linebackers (Seattle's Lofa Tatupu and the 49ers' Patrick Willis) pull out for any reason, he still could be.
* Three other Vikings were named as alternates – Ryan Longwell as first alternate at kicker, Heath Farwell as second alternate among special teamers and Bryant McKinnie as second alternate at left tackle.
* Tank Williams, who has missed three games with a knee injury, is expected back at practice today.
* As of late Tuesday, only about 1,400 tickets remained for Sunday's game. Since the game is being carried on NBC, it seems only fitting that if some remain, KARE, the local Twin Cities NBC affiliate, would pony up the dough to get the only Vikings game of the season on their network in prime time, which should all but assure that their won't be a blackout and that the Vikings streak of consecutive sellouts will increase to 104.
* Childress hinted that Cullen Loeffler's problems with long snaps Monday could have been the result of the labor pains of his wife. Childress said he may not have been able to completely block that out from his usual snapping routine.

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