View images from the Wednesday, December 30 practice at Winter Park.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —When the Lambeau Field clock strikes zero Sunday night, an NFC North champion will be known across the league.
Harrison Smith and the Vikings (10-5) want the Packers (10-5) to know something else. Smith told Wisconsin media Wednesday that he wants Green Bay's players to know that Minnesota played with a toughness that Vikings Head Mike Zimmer has instilled in his team.
"No matter what happens, when it's over, the other team should know they were in a scrap, they were in a fight with us in between the whistles obviously," Smith said. "That's something we kind of let him down with the last time we played the Packers. That's the identity that we want to have."
Asked if the Vikings performance in the prior matchup was tough to swallow, Smith said, "I guess it's more embarrassing from a pride standpoint, but it's not a hard thing to swallow because that's what we put on tape last time. We also had a good amount of penalties that we deserved, so we need to clean those things up and come out with a good attitude, a physical attitude and keep those penalties off the board and see what happens."
Smith played 94 percent (72 of the 77 defensive snaps) in the teams' first meeting, despite suffering a knee injury that sidelined him the following week. He pushed to come back against Seattle on Dec. 6, but suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter that forced him to miss Weeks 14 and 15. He returned to the lineup this past Sunday and turned in his franchise-record fourth interception for a touchdown against the Giants.
The Vikings were flagged eight times for 110 yards, including three infractions that awarded first downs. This past week they were flagged twice, and forced three turnovers (interceptions by Smith, Andrew Sendejo and Captain Munnerlyn) for a defense that also was helped by Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr returning to action.
"All three of those guys are impactful players, and they're impact players on all three levels of their defense, so they're clearly a different defense with those three guys in the game, and that's what we're focused on," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb said Smith and Sendejo also make their presence known in the run game.
"Whenever you look at Harrison Smith and Sendejo, they're both hard hitters," Cobb said. "They're great in the run game, they're great in coverage. They make it tough on us as far as in our run blocking and finding ways to get open in the zones."
Extended plays: An element that Smith, Sendejo and other Vikings defensive players will have to deal with is the ability Aaron Rodgers has to extend the length of plays, move around and fire the ball down the field with accuracy.
"It's a lot of fun," Sendejo said. "It's one of those deals where as soon as you see him starting to scramble out, you've got to find your guy. We have to work together. We depend on the front to keep them contained and they depend on us to cover our guys. We'll have to play good team defense."
Vikings.com's Eric Smith caught up with Brian Robison, who has recorded a sack in each of the past four games and has 48.5 for his career, for how the defensive line is preparing for the challenge presented by Rodgers' mobility.
Tough toe:Sendejo's toughness stretches from head to toe, which came up during open locker room when media members noticed a paint job on the safety's toenails.
"If you saw this toe without makeup on it, it looks disgusting," Sendejo said. "Why get a pedicure? You might as well just paint it. It looks disgusting, so I just had them paint it matte black."
All on the line: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater also has used mobility with success this season to buy time, escape pressure or gain rushing yards. Bridgewater's dive across the goal line against Chicago scored points with teammates for the effort he put forth.
"He's playing great for us, and we're all excited to have him leading this team and making the plays he is," Bridgewater said. "He's a tremendous competitor and always has been. I don't know how often people talk about it but he's always laying his body on the line and trying to get the extra yards. He's a guy that I love playing for."
Despite the flying touchdown, Bridgewater said the Vikings don't need to wear a Superman S* *on their chests or capes in the regular season finale.
Vikings.com's Lindsey Young noted Zimmer's thoughts on Bridgewater's performance in recent weeks.
Crowded injury reports:The Vikings and Packers have wrapped up practice and released their first injury reports of the week, and yep, they are December-going-into-January-football long, particularly for Green Bay (16 players, compared to eight Vikings). The 16 players listed on the Packers report include all five starting offensive linemen and seven defenders listed atop Green Bay's depth chart.
For the Vikings: Adrian Peterson (ankle/shoulder) and Linval Joseph (foot) did not participate, Matt Kalil (lower leg), Harrison Smith (hamstring), Everson Griffen (shoulder) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) were limited. Anthony Harris (hip) and Adam Thielen (low back) were full participants.
For the Packers: T David Bakhtiari (ankle), DT Mike Daniels (ankle), LB Jayrone Elliott (quad), LB Mike Neal (hip), TE Justin Perillo (hamstring) and DT B.J. Raji (concussion) did not participate. T Bryan Bulaga (ankle), DT Letroy Guion (foot), CB Casey Hayward (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (rib), G T.J. Lang (shoulder), C Corey Linsley (ankle), CB Sam Shields (concussion) and G Josh Sitton (back) were limited. LB Clay Matthews (ankle) and LB Nick Perry (shoulder) were full participants.