The week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 13.
Carolina misses CaptainThe Carolina Panthers have a lot of talented players on their defense, including one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL (Luke Kuechly) and a disruptive group of defensive tackles. In the secondary, S Thomas DeCoud is a quality signing and young CB Josh Norman is developing well.
But while Carolina has retained and acquired talented players on its defense since Captain Munnerlyn left there to sign with the Vikings, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera did acknowledge this week that a void exists because of Munnerlyn's absence.
"I tell you, he's one of the toughest players I've been around," Rivera said. "He's got a good sense of feel for the game. He's a different kind of guy. He's his own person. He works hard at his craft. He wants to do things the right way, he wants to do things well. I've got a lot of respect for how hard and how tough he is as a player."
The Panthers drafted a talented player to help fill the void in Bene Benwikere, but he's dealt with an ankle injury and has missed significant time.
"Unfortunately, he got hurt in our fifth game of the year and we've missed him," Rivera said. "Because we've missed him, we've missed Captain. That's the truth of the matter. Captain was a guy that did some really good things for us."
McKinnon is doubtful for SundayRB Jerick McKinnon is second among all rookies with 538 rushing yards and he's in search of his first career touchdown, but his quest may go on hold this week because he's listed as doubtful on the week's final injury report with a lower back injury. If McKinnon does indeed miss Sunday's game, expect Matt Asiata (probable – concussion), Joe Banyard and perhaps even Ben Tate to share playing time.
The Vikings signed Tate last week and dressed him for Sunday's game versus Green Bay with Asiata out, but it was Banyard who split carries with McKinnon. Banyard finished the game with 26 yards on five carries and also caught three passes for 19 yards.
"He extended drives, he caught the ball and extended drives and made plays," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Banyard. "I thought he showed some juice getting to the perimeter a couple of plays and was explosive hitting holes."
Loadholt is done for 2014, but says he'll be "full-go" to start 2015The Vikings received bad news on RT Phil Loadholt this week, learning that he's done for the 2014 regular season because of a pectoral injury sustained last week against Green Bay. The good news, though, is that Loadholt said he expects to be "full-go" for the start of training camp next summer.
Loadholt will be entering his seventh season in 2015 after the Vikings selected him with a second-round pick in 2009, and he has become a team leader for the Vikings both with his play on the field and his charity off it.
With Loadholt on the mend, expect Mike Harris to see time at right tackle. The Vikings could also train Austin Wentworth at that position and they also signed free agent J'Marcus Webb earlier in the week.
The Kalil brothers talk football with each otherSticking along the offensive line, Vikings LT Matt Kalil isn't the only member of his family playing for a NFL team. Matt's older brother, Ryan, is a veteran center for the Carolina Panthers. Ryan spoke with Twin Cities media this week, and one disclosure he made was that he spends time each week watching his younger brother's performances on tape.
"We get footage of all the games, end zone copy, sideline copy, so I'm able to come in before we do our film study and see how he plays," Ryan said. "I talk to him after every game and it's been real frustrating for him individually, but more so his team, sort of in a similar situation here."
Ryan is in his eighth season with Carolina, so he has a great perspective on life in the NFL and is a great resource for his younger brother as he battles through just his third season in the League. With Matt's talent and a supportive football family, most notably an older brother who plays in the NFL, there's no question he will be an important part of the Vikings in the future.
A street near the new stadium will be named after Bud GrantMany Vikings fans would love to see the new Vikings stadium named after the legendary Bud Grant. While that is unlikely to happen, one thing that will happen is a street near the new stadium will be named after the Vikings Hall of Fame coach.
The City of Minneapolis announced it will name the area on 9th Avenue South between 6th Street and 7th Street near the new Vikings stadium "Bud Grant Way". Learn more about the event dedication ceremony, which will be open to the public, by clicking here.
Jennings was selected by teammates as Vikings 2014 Ed Block Courage Award RecipientVikings WR Greg Jennings was selected by his teammates as the club's 2014 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. The veteran receiver was recognized by teammates for his leadership, generosity and willingness in community outreach efforts in the Twin Cities and his hometown of Kalamazoo, MI.
Since 1984 the Ed Block Courage Awards annually honors one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The Ed Block Courage Award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts. Winners travel to Baltimore every March to receive their trophy at a gala in their honor and spend time at the local Courage House at St. Vincent's Center, a facility specializing in working with abused children.