Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Veteran Vikes urge on kids

Play your way into destiny, don't sit back and let others lose you in, rookies told

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In Jared Allen's ideal scenario, he'd be able to watch today's regular-season finale from the Minnesota Vikings' bench, a playoff berth already secure.

Of course, that isn't the case. Nothing is assured for the Vikings at this point beyond the knowledge that all it takes to get in the playoffs is a win against the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field. The Packers can secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye with a win. The Packers won the first meeting, 23-14, on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field.

The Vikings have not lost since.

"It's as stressful as it gets," Allen said. "As good as it gets, it would to be to have this thing locked up and be chilling on the bench. From a fan's standpoint, this is going to be a fun game, you don't get much better."

The Vikings are expecting to have star running back Adrian Peterson at full strength after he missed all of two practices this week and was limited on Friday because of a strained abdominal muscle. Head coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson "moved well" on Friday in his return to practice. Peterson left last week's game against Houston early as a precaution.

Peterson needs 102 rushing yards to reach 2,000, and 208 total yards to break the NFL's single-season record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.

"I don't think we'll have to go into thinking about having to limit his carries, it'll be full-speed ahead," Frazier said. "That's what he wants, that's what our doctors are telling me. He's ready to go."

Frazier said he also expects starting cornerback Antoine Winfield to be able to play despite a broken bone in his right hand. Winfield is officially listed as questionable and did not practice on Friday, though he did try out a padded protective cast.

"He showed me today he can grip with it, I feel like he'll be able to tackle and do what he has to do. I think he'll make it, just being cautious today," Frazier said.

Allen was part of a group of veteran players who have addressed the full Vikings team over the last month, urging a roster that includes 22 first- or second-year players to appreciate the chance to play their way into the postseason. The Vikings can also get in with a loss on Sunday, but only if Chicago (vs. Detroit), Dallas (vs. Washington) and the New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia) all also lose.

"You've got to win, that's all we're thinking of. That simplifies things. Win and you're in," said rookie safety Harrison Smith.

Smith is one of the young players who particularly took the veterans' speeches seriously. A 15-game starter, Smith said he and other younger teammates understand teammates Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, Peterson and Winfield, who know what it feels like to play into January.

Minnesota last made the playoffs in 2009.

"To us, there are a lot of situations we haven't dealt with yet, so having one of the vets that we all respect and look up to stand up and tell us what's on their mind and how they see it and how we should act with each other moving forward really means a lot. We really value what they say," Smith said.

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 30, 2012 B4

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