Vikings coach Leslie Frazier voiced confidence in Bernard Berrian amid speculation that the team was considering cutting ties with the disgruntled receiver.
“We’ll get him back on the field on Wednesday and he’ll get back into the rotation,” said Frazier, who made Berrian a surprise game-day inactive on Sunday after Berrian reportedly missed two team meetings at the team hotel the night before. “I don’t foresee any future problems. I really expect him to play at a high level for us and play well.”
Berrian’s value to the team has been in question for three years. He never meshed with Brett Favre in 2009 and 2010, but a new offense and new quarterback Donovan McNabb was supposed to change that this season.
Berrian was cast again as the team’s deep threat, but has only two catches for 37 yards. He created a distraction last week when he engaged fans in a war of words on Twitter. But that, Frazier said, had nothing to do with the decision to deactivate Berrian for Sunday’s 34-10 win over the Cardinals at Mall of America Field
Frazier wouldn’t confirm reports that the decision stemmed from Berrian missing two meetings.
“I really don’t want to get into why we chose to have discipline in this particular case,” Frazier said. “But one thing that all of our players know, we’re going to try to do the right things when it comes to what we’re asking of him, and we expect a reciprocation from them to do the things that we’re asking them to do. Then there are consequences. But Bernard knows what we want to get done, just like the other 52 guys on our roster.”
With their passing attack ranked 31st in the NFL, the Vikings desperately need a jolt from the quarterback and receiver positions. Berrian has lost some of the speed that made him a deep threat in 2008. But without depth at the position, the Vikings are holding out hope that Berrian can give them some help over the next 11 games.
Berrian, however, is a moody – even surly – player. So it remains to be seen how he’ll react to being made inactive.
“I think Bernard’s head is in the right place,” Frazier said. “He wants to help this football team win. We’re going to give him every opportunity to help this football team win.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
–Even after a 24-point win, coach Leslie Frazier continues to face questions about why he’s sticking with Donovan McNabb at quarterback. McNabb struggled again Sunday, completing just 10 of 21 passes with several short-hops and other off-target throws. “You know, we’re going to continue to work with Donovan and all of our players on continuing to progress,” Frazier said. “In Donovan’s case, like a lot of our other positions, it’s a matter of progression, just trying to improve every single week. That’s what he’s trying to do. That’s what our running backs, our defensive backs, our wide receivers, everybody is trying to improve in areas where they are a little bit short.”
Frazier finally was asked if he’s had to justify his decision to stick with McNabb to other players or ownership. “No,” he said. “Our players, our ownership have confidence in our QB and the rest of our ball club as well. We’re not at a point where we’re second-guessing whether Donovan can help us win against Chicago.”
–Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson loves the feistiness that RG Anthony Herrera plays with. Sometimes – well, a lot of times – that attitude causes some on-field skirmishes. One of those times came on the Vikings’ third offensive snap of Sunday’s game.
“Just playing football,” Herrera said with a smile. Herrera said the Cardinals “didn’t like the way I finished my block all the way to the whistle.” A shoving match broke out. “They jumped me,” Herrera said. “Then my boys jumped in to help.”
Herrera said his attitude comes from having never been handed anything, including a spot in the NFL. He was an undrafted rookie in 2004. “It’s the way I grew up,” he said. “I never grew up with anything. Whatever I got, I had to take so I could make a better life for myself. So I go to the whistle, man. If people don’t like that, so be it.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–CB Antoine Winfield, who missed Sunday’s game because of a neck strain, is getting better. But the team is being especially cautious because it’s a neck injury. Winfield is day-to-day and probably will be limited, at best, in Wednesday’s practice.
–QB Donovan McNabb’s one-hop throws and other wildly off-target throws continued Sunday during a 10-for-21 passing performance. Even after a 24-point win, coach Leslie Frazier is having to answer to why he’s still sticking with McNabb as the starter.
–LB E.J. Henderson had his snaps limited again because of his bothersome left knee. His role as the middle linebacker in the nickel was taken over by his brother, Erin, for the second straight week. The Vikings are hoping that two weeks of reduced snaps will help Henderson become an every-day linebacker again.
–WR Percy Harvin caught one pass and had two touches, yet he earned a game ball from Sunday’s game. Coach Leslie Frazier gave him a game ball because of his exceptional blocking, especially on Adrian Peterson’s three touchdown runs. Harvin is only 185 pounds, but he attacks his duties as a blocker in the Vikings’ run-oriented attack.
–LB Chad Greenway continues to make plays all over the field. He had a game-high nine tackles, all solo, and had a pass defensed 30 yards downfield when he went up and challenged Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald on a fourth-down pass to the goal line.
REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS
PASSING OFFENSE: D – Never has a quarterback been booed more during a 28-0 first-quarter lead than Donovan McNabb was on Sunday. His first pass was way off target and his second and third passes were nearly picked off. He had one completion when the Vikings built a 28-0 lead thanks to defense, field position and Adrian Peterson. McNabb continues to throw bounce passes and show an overall inability to throw precise passes. He completed just 10 of 21 passes against the Cardinals. Granted, he’s still new to this offense, but the inaccuracy is alarming and makes one wonder if rookie first-round draft pick Christian Ponder could do better. Coach Leslie Frazier remains committed to McNabb.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus – This was Adrian Peterson at his best. Frustrated by the team’s 0-4 start, he ran angry and made the Cardinals pay with three first-quarter touchdowns of 4, 24 and 14 yards. The 24-yarder was vintage Peterson as he stiff-armed cornerback Richard Marshall at the 21 and blasted through rookie corner Patrick Peterson near the goal line. On the next touchdown, the Vikings’ Peterson drove the Cardinals’ Peterson from the 6-yard line into the end zone. Donovan McNabb also ran for a first-quarter touchdown. The Vikings ran for 172 yards on 37 carries (4.6).
PASS DEFENSE: A – Missing their leader and best player – Antoine Winfield (neck) – the secondary had three interceptions, a key fourth-and-1 stop and an early tone-setting tackle for loss. Asher Allen, mostly a disappointing third-year pro, had his best game with an interception, six solo tackles and a great tackle of 6-2, 229-pound running back Beanie Wells on fourth-and-1. Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford had the first two interceptions of his career as theVikings finally closed out a game in the fourth quarter. Vikings corners also contained receiver Larry Fitzgerald by jamming him at the line of scrimmage. He had only four catches for 66 yards. He had no catches when lined up across from Chris Cook, who started in place of Winfield. The Vikings’ pass rush also worked in perfect tandem with the coverage. Kevin Kolb was sacked four times, twice each by ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus – Beanie Wells is a powerful back that never got untracked. He ran 20 times but only got 60 yards and a second-half touchdown. The Cardinals averaged only 3.2 yards on 24 carries. Cornerback Asher Allen’s stop of Wells on fourth-and-1 at the end of the third quarter kept the Cardinals from building on the momentum of a touchdown earlier in the quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B – Punter Chris Kluwe was questionable because of a hamstring injury, but was exceptional once again. He averaged 47.5 yards on four punts, none of which was returned. His first punt was a 51-yarder that was downed at the Arizona 3-yard line. When the Vikings got the ball back following a three-and-out, they were at the Arizona 18. Punt returner Marcus Sherels averaged 22.5 yards on two returns. The only drawback was Ryan Longwellhooking a 43-yard field-goal attempt wide left. The miss kept him from reaching a career-best 17 consecutive field goals made. But he did come back and make a 53-yarder later.
COACHING: C – The Vikings avoided another second-half collapse, not to mention a 0-5 start that would have matched the 1962 team for the worst start in franchise history. But McNabb and the passing game are so out of sync that it’s hard to imagine the Vikings being able to keep pace in most games played in today’s pass-happy game. Adrian Peterson had an outstanding game, but the Vikings can’t always count on the kind of gifts the Cardinals gave them in the first quarter. The Vikings’ first three touchdown drives had an average starting point of the Arizona 22-yard line. In other words, Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has to do something to get McNabb on track and more comfortable throwing the ball. If that’s not possible, it’s time to give Christian Ponder a look.