Notebook: Vikings Battle Illness

At a time of year when injuries usually affect the availability of players, sickness was and is a factor in the Vikings' locker room. Plus, the Vikings got away with some confusion on a few plays Monday night in a game they believe will build character.

Wide receiver Robert Ferguson was standing in front of his locker at the Metrodome shivering with a tiny stream of blood creeping out from a behind a bandage on Monday night.

He had just finished receiving intravenous fluids, as did offensive tackle Ryan Cook, who missed a few plays for what was announced as a stomach problem midway through the third quarter.

Ferguson called it a stomach virus and said he couldn't even keep fluids down. He and Ryan Cook were getting intravenous fluids after the game.

"Hopefully it'll get out before Sunday night," Ferguson said, a train of thought he repeated again on Wednesday. "A few guys have been sick a couple weeks ago. Hopefully it will run its course and get out of the locker room."

Ferguson wasn't announced as missing any time during the game because of the illness and was looking much better as he ate by his locker on Wednesday and later practiced, but the Vikings could hardly afford to lose him with Troy Williamson being a healthy scratch before the game and the Bears loading up their defensive front to stop the run.

Cook, on the other hand, was replaced for a short time in the third quarter by Marcus Johnson while Cook went to the locker room. Cook showed no signs of sickness on Wednesday in the locker room and was smiling about the incident. Two weeks ago, E.J. Henderson missed practice time with the flu and head coach Brad Childress said the team got flu shots about the time that they had a bye.

Even with his queasy stomach and shaking after the game, Ferguson was able to come through with one of the biggest plays of the game, a 71-yard reception when the Vikings desperately needed a big play. They were trailing 13-6 and facing third-and-11. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson found him in the middle of the field, Ferguson made the deep reception, bounced off of three defenders and raced to the 1-yard line before being pulled down from behind.

"I wasn't holding anything down all day (Monday), so I was looking for somewhere to land once I caught it," Ferguson said while keeping a sense of humor. "I told A.D. I was going to stop at the one-inch line and let him get in and get the crowd involved.

"When the defense is trying to make tackles and there are a lot of guys around, they're just trying to take shots and not wrap up. We saw that on the field that they were trying to take big hits. We were talking all week that we'd just try to bounce off those guys and make something happen."

It was precisely the pick-‘em-up the Vikings needed, but the team can ill afford to have too many players missing action this Sunday night against the Washington Redskins, who have much more to play for than the Bears did. A Washington win would put them in position to claim a playoff spot in the final week of the season.

To add to the concern, the team's second-leading receiver and top touchdown receiver, Sidney Rice, left the game Monday with a sprained ankle. His status is questionable.

"That's all we want out of offense is explosive gains in the passing game and that will hopefully loosen them up in the running game," Ferguson said.

For now, they might just want to have enough healthy receivers by Sunday night.

MAKING LEMONADE

The Vikings had a couple of miscommunications during the game, but each of them produced good results.

When Tarvaris Jackson left the game temporarily, Brooks Bollinger came in quickly and handed off to Adrian Peterson. However, a mixup in the play had Bollinger and Peterson running into each other before Peterson bounced the play outside to the left and scored an 8-yard touchdown.

"I was going one way and he was going the other and it worked out really well," Bollinger said. "I was still going – ‘What the …' – and he just took it and still made it happen. Sometimes that's how you've got to play the game."

Peterson's run gave the Vikings an 18-13 lead, but Bollinger would be required to run one more play to get the team a seven-point lead. On their two-point conversion attempt, he took a designed run play to his left and just got across the goal line.

"My eyes kind of lit up because I thought we had a good look for it. It worked out," Bollinger said, adding that he wasn't surprised to see that call come in from the sidelines with him so fresh in the game. "You usually don't have too many two-point plays.

"We've got a good thing right now. Obviously we're on a roll."

While Bollinger's run wasn't part of a string of miscommunications, the Vikings' next offensive snap was. Pinned back to their own 2-yard line, Peterson and Jackson had a bit of a broken play that the running back bounced outside and turned into the longest running play of the game, a 28-yard gain.

NEVER A KNEE

Safety Darren Sharper said he didn't consider taking a knee after his interception with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Sharper caught a Kyle Orton pass at the 2-yard line and his momentum carried him into the end zone, but he returned the ball to the 39-yard line.

"I heard someone tell me to take a knee. I think it was one of the linebackers that said, ‘Get down, get down,' but that was the first time I got my hands on one in a while and I wanted to show I could still run with it when I get my hands on the football," Sharper said.

CLOSE FOR CHARACTER

Several Vikings talked about the team's first close game in the last month as never being in doubt in the halftime locker room despite trailing 13-6 at the time.

"Nobody thought we were going to lose this game coming into halftime. We know we were going to go out there, fight, overcome adversity," Ferguson said. "I was talking to my young quarterback and let him know that nobody was down on him. We're not thinking about the bad (plays) he made and he smiled. Once he got his confidence up, he knows we're behind him, he goes back out there and makes big plays."

"It's something we haven't been used to the last few weeks, turning the ball over like that and being down seven," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said.

Ferguson is one who believes in the theory that closer games can be good for a team.

"You're not going to go out there and blow teams out in the NFL. … We went out there and battled," Ferguson said. "This is the most important game that we've had compared to the blowouts. This is what Vikings football is about. This is a character-builder in this locker room."

The net result is that the Vikings remain in control of their playoff destiny.

"Each week, each game gets more important. That's all you can ask for. You want to play meaningful games," Ferguson said.

NOTES

  • CB Antoine Winfield (shoulder), LB Dontarrious Thomas (groin) and WR Sidney Rice (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday. S Tank Williams (knee) was limited.

  • The Redskins only had a walk-through version of practice on Wednesday, but QB Jason Campbell (knee), RB Clinton Portis (illness) and WR Santana Moss (illness) did not participate in that.

  • Childress said he still needs more information before he makes a decision on Dwight Smith's status for Sunday night's game. Smith was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana last week but started on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.

    "A lot of that is going through the legal process. It's really pretty simple, and people have asked me before, ‘Well, you did this the last time …' This time I don't have all of the facts. Last time I had all of the facts, so when I get all of the facts, then we'll do what we need to do," Childress said.

    Ironically, Smith was deactivated the last time the Vikings played the Redskins, in the team's first game under Childress, the season 2006 season opener, when he was cited for indecent conduct with a woman in a downtown Minneapolis stairwell. He has also missed starting two other games for disciplinary reasons.

  • Former Vikings receiver Cris Carter was asked in his Yahoo.com question and answer session why he isn't coaching. "They can't pay me enough for what I'm worth and I don't want to work that hard. I'm happy with the other things I'm doing right now; coaching is not a consideration," Carter wrote.

  • Kicker Ryan Longwell, offensive guard Steve Hutchinson and defensive tackle Pat Williams are slated to be the captains on Sunday night. All three made the Pro Bowl, with Longwell selected as an alternate.

  • How big are turnovers? According to Childress' numbers, teams that are minus-1 or worse in turnover margin have a record of 28-152 this season. At home, those numbers improve slightly to 15-67.

    "Right now a giveaway in the National Football League costs you 2.82 points," Childress said.

    He also said that a defensive touchdown turns out to be more important to winning than a special teams touchdown.

  • Former Vikings offseason safety Kyries Hebert, one of the training camp stars who was released before the season, had a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • The Dallas Cowboys gave former Vikings running back Artose Pinner a tryout.


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