No one on Minnesota's roster has been placed on injured reserve this year. That's quite a departure from last year, when the Vikings had seven on injured reserve (including E.J. Henderson and Heath Farwell). And it's quite a rarity this late in the NFL season. No other team has fewer than two players on injured reserve, which ends a player's season.
Although the Vikings have had players, including Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, miss extended time with injuries, they haven't had the season-ending variety. At least not yet, and that could just be the luck of the draw.
"That is the way it seems to me," Vikings coach Brad Childress said Friday. "Obviously we do different things that we believe in terms of numbers of practice reps, how we attack the offseason program, how we come to training camp. It's not a deal where it's a six-week training camp and you come to play yourself into shape anymore. With all that (said), no amount of preparation will ever take the place of dumb blind luck."
A look through all of the teams' latest weekly press releases submitted to the league showed that Dallas, Denver and Tennessee have two players on injured reserve. Dallas and Denver are each 6-3 and at least tied for the lead in their respective divisions.
So much does a team's health have to do with their success? That's debatable.
There is quite a divide in success among the teams with the most players on injured reserved. The Lions just placed their 12th player on that season-ending list, and they are tied for the worst record in the league 1-8. The Saints have 11 players in IR, and they are one of the two undefeated teams left in the league. The next in line is the Buffalo Bills with 10 players out for the season, and they are last in their division at 3-6.
This week, the Vikings had nine players appear on their injury report. Four of them – Winfield, QB Brett Favre, WR Bernard Berrian, and LB E.J. Henderson – are starters. Favre and Henderson are "virtual certainties" to play, according to the way the NFL classifies "probable" on the injury report. At questionable, Berrian has a 50 percent chance to play, and Winfield is at 25 percent being listed as doubtful.
That group of injuries is still better than having multiple starters missed the rest of the season. With the fast-pace, highly violent nature of the NFL, that's always a possibility.
"Somebody rolls this way and you go, ‘Oh boy, that could have been bad.' Sometimes you're going to have a year where you have knees or fractures or something of that nature," Childress said. "Our guys take care of each other in practice. That is not to say they don't compete. We keep people out of piles. You have to learn to do that while still getting high-speed repetitions but not being in piles. It's a delicate balance between a walk-through, which gives you not much value, and a good tempo practice where guys are breaking on the football but not splattering people and knocking them to the ground. That is usually where you get your injuries, in piles."
In the Vikings' case it's best to be lucky and good.
WHERE'S THE WILDCAT?
The talk through much of the offseason was the Vikings' implementation of the Wildcat offense with Percy Harvin taking the snaps in the same backfield with Adrian Peterson. The Vikings worked on that during several offseason practices with varying success.
Viking Update Magazine even did an extensive analysis earlier this year, detailing the formation and trends with that offense emerging in the NFL last year. But since the acquisition of Brett Favre, that offense has been more of a threat during the week of preparation than a legitimate threat to opposing defenses on game day.
So is the Wildcat dead with Favre now running the second-highest scoring team in the league? The Vikings still practice it on occasion, but Harvin doesn't seem to mind one bit that it hasn't been an offensive staple.
"I don't care. This team is explosive as it is right now," he said. "We're not a big Wildcat team and haven't been. It's always in our playbook and always in our back pocket. We practice it every now and then, so we can use it if coach sees fit it, but we'll see."
Basically with a Hall of Fame quarterback running an extremely efficient offense, there is no reason to fix something that isn't broke. "Exactly," Harvin said.
FAMINE OR FEAST?
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson likes to describe his production running the ball as ‘famine, famine, feast." It's a phrase he uses often, and with good reason.
Peterson is second in the league with 917 rushing yards, but the Vikings are ranked 30th in an unofficial statistic that Football Outsiders calls "stuffed," which counts the percentage of running plays that gain zero or negative yardage. For the Vikings, 25 percent of their running plays go for zero or negative yardage, according to the web site. Only the Texans and 49ers are worse,
That statistic doesn't take into account kneel-downs at the end of games.
"The minus-yards plays are something that we are very aware of," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "It's something that we continually harp on. … There are a lot of plays also where we are taking minus-yards hits. That's something that is a huge focus for us right now to make sure that doesn't happen. We need to stay in manageable situations, especially that your second downs are manageable because that helps your third downs then. It's obviously a domino effect. So it's something that we've been focusing on. We looked at it in the off week. It's something that we have to improve on, definitely."
The good news is that there is a "feast" factor in the running game as well.
The Vikings are fourth in the league in percentage of rushing yards that gain 10 or more yards.
The Detroit Metro Ford Dealers will be distributing commemorative "Pride of the Lions" posters to fans at the Lions-Browns game on Sunday. Two catches: The posters will be distributed toward the end of the game – making fans endure the entire contest between the one-win teams – and they (the posters, not the fans) will only be passed out "while supplies last." Hurry!
The game between the two teams with 1-8 records is blacked out in Detroit.