Kicker Ryan Longwell has added distance to his field goals with a stretching routine he incorporated two years ago.
Two years ago, Ryan Longwell
took a different approach to offseason conditioning. For years, he and other kickers had equated hitting longer kicks with lifting weights. Longwell took a different approach following the 2006 season and the results have been nothing short of amazing.
"At first, I wasn't sure about switching my offseason training more to stretching and working out different muscle groups," Longwell said. "We decided to switch things up to see if going in a different direction would help my distance on kickoffs. I hadn't been worried about field goals, but in this game, most teams don't use two roster spots for kickers, so I needed to try something to increase my distance on kickoffs."
While his kickoff distance has improved, the biggest change has been on long field goals. In his first two years with the Vikings, Longwell made just one of six field goals of 50 yards and beyond. This year, he has tied a personal and franchise record by making all four of his attempts from 50 yards or more, including a pair of 54-yard field goals.
"(Special teams) Coach (Paul) Ferraro deserves a lot of credit too," Longwell said. "He monitored my work at training camp and made sure that I didn't waste a lot of kicks while we were in Mankato. I'm feeling strong right now and my kicks have been doing much better."
It will be a longshot that Longwell scores 15 points on Sunday, but if he does he will move in 23rd place on the NFL's all-time scoring list – passing kicking legend Lou Groza with 1,349 points.
Artis Hicks is going to be a game-time decision tomorrow as to whether he will start at right tackle. Hicks, who replaced Ryan Cook as the starter last week at Jacksonville, suffered an elbow injury in the second half that has limited his practice time. If Hicks can't go, Cook will regain his starting position against the Bears.
The Vikings released their final injury report Friday. DT Letroy Guion, who wasn't on the injury report until Thursday, is listed as a doubtful with an ankle injury. Four others – Hicks (elbow), Garrett Mills (ankle), David Herron (shoulder) and Vinny Ciurciu (hand) – are listed as questionable. Two defensive starters – Jared Allen and Madieu Williams – are both probable with shoulder injuries.
Bears CB Nathan Vasher has been ruled out with a hand injury. WR Marty Booker (knee), TE Desmond Clark (knee) and FB Jason McKie (quad) are listed as questionable. Three defensive players – safety Mike Brown (calf), DT Tommie Harris, and LB Jamar Williams (groin) – are listed as probable.
Last week, the Bears showed off their version of the Wildcat offense, using Devin Hester on a handful of direct snaps. With Chicago looking to incorporate Hester more into the offense, expect to see him lining up in the QB spot at least a couple of times Sunday night.
Lane Kiffin, who was fired in the humiliatingly ridiculous saga in Oakland earlier this year, is expected to be announced as soon as Monday as the new head coach at the University of Tennessee.
While the Bears are known for their playmaking defense, the Vikings' 15 defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2006 season is tied for most in the NFL.