Notebook: Working without Williams

The Vikings defense will face the league's No. 1 rushing offense without Minnesota's foundation in the middle, Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams. How will they fare? We let the players and coaches answer that question, along with the debate at quarterback and the potential honors in waiting for Adrian Peterson.

Pat Williams found out one day before being named a Pro Bowl player that at least his regular season would be ending prematurely. Williams, the Vikings' interior run-stuffing presence on the defensive line, suffered a broke scapula last Sunday, the severity of the injured revealed on Monday.

Now the Vikings are left to deal with the loss on the field while Williams deals with his own emotions off the field.

"It's a tremendous loss, especially when you're getting ready to play the No.1 rushing offense in the National Football League," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, referring to the Vikings' opponent today, the Atlanta Falcons. "To not have Pat Williams in our rush defense, it makes a difference. I don't care who you put in there, it's going to make a difference. We are going to miss him."

The Falcons have the league's second-leading rusher in Michael Turner, who has a franchise-record 15 rushing touchdowns, including nine in the past six games. In addition, the Vikings will need to concern themselves with slippery change-of-pace back Jerious Norwood, who has six career touchdowns with four of those being 67 yards or longer.

Fred Evans will be expected to start alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams for the Vikings, but Pat Williams' nose tackle position is also expected to have a rotation of Ellis Wyms and the recently acquired Jimmy Kennedy behind Evans. Another possibility mentioned all week has been sliding Kevin Williams over the center, but Frazier cautioned that he didn't want to take away from Kevin's strengths by moving him too often.

"You don't want to do it a great deal because Pat's been playing on the nose, for the most part, when those two have been in there. Kevin has done a great job playing over the guards as the three-technique. That's his strength and that's why he's going to the Pro Bowl. You don't want to take that away," Frazier said. "I'm sure the guards in Atlanta would love to see us move Kevin somewhere else, but it is an option. Hopefully, Jimmy, Fred and Letroy (Guion) will do a great job inside and we won't have to resort to that because you have to weaken yourself somewhere if you move Kevin around. We like leaving him in his natural position."

Frazier spent a good portion of the individual drills on Wednesday closely monitoring the progress of Evans, Kennedy and Guion, but he appeared to have his answers by Thursday's practice.

Defensive end Ray Edwards summed up the loss of Pat Williams, who is expected to miss two to six weeks with the injury.

"It always affects you," Edwards said. "That's our cornerstone, our foundation of the defense. Losing him is like getting a crack in your foundation. You don't want that when you buy a house. That's a big loss to us as a defense."


While Vikings coaches insist that the entire playbook is available to them no matter if the starting quarterback is Gus Frerotte or Tarvaris Jackson – the latter will get the start today – receiver Bobby Wade feels the playbook was more wide open Frerotte took over for Jackson in Week 3.

Now, however, after Jackson spent almost three months on the bench watching and learning from Frerotte, Wade is getting a different feeling.

"This year, where he's at, it's a lot different. Our playbook is really being called. Guys are not so much trying to protect him from making so many mistakes and these last couple of games it's showed," Wade said.

Wade said that Frerotte knows when to put a little more touch on his passes, but he also said Jackson is improving in that area.

Jackson had a number of impressive passes in last Sunday's win over the Cardinals, but Wade is most appreciative of the one that came to him for a career-long 59-yard touchdown pass. Jackson gave a pump of the shoulders to draw CB Roderick Hood up on the route, then zipped a bullet to Wade between Hood and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. Wade said that pass needed everything it had on it.

"Every ounce of zip it had. That was a perfect ball. … He hit me dead on stride," Wade said.

"I really feel like (Jackson) is playing at a higher level. He's always been a great leader," said running back Adrian Peterson. "I know Gus has been a role model for him."

But in order for Jackson to pull off passes like that, he needs to hold onto the ball a little longer, and his pocket presence may be one of the most improved aspects of his game since he was re-inserted as the starter against the Cardinals.

"I think that's another thing that he learned from just sitting back and watching, that the pocket doesn't close as fast you think it does," Wade said. "… Gus will tell you when you're getting hit back there three or four times, that's when you're starting to get a little skiddish. Nobody starts the game skiddish. I think (Jackson) is doing a good job having a short memory and standing up in the pocket."

"We're going to roll with him," Peterson said.


Peterson has entered the national spotlight as a candidate for the league's Most Valuable Player award. As the NFL's leading rusher with 1,581 yards with two games to go, the consideration is legitimate, but Peterson thinks he'd already have 2,000 yards if he would have been more patient on some of his runs.

"On certain plays, if I was more patient or made the right read, then I would definitely be there," he said.

Peterson said he'll be bringing the rest of his running back teammates with him to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and some of his offensive linemen, although his guest list won't be quite as big as it was when he made it as a rookie last year.

As for the possibility of becoming MVP and the remote possibility of reaching 2,000 yards rushing, Peterson tried to keep the focus on team goals, saying, "I set those goals earlier in the season. I don't know. We'll see how it plays out."

Viking Update Top Stories