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Updated: November 21st, 2011 7:04pm
Notebook: Penalties continue to be a problem for Vikings

Notebook: Penalties continue to be a problem for Vikings

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Vikings are sitting at 2-8 for a variety of reasons, including a lack of discipline in their play.

That was a problem again Sunday as they were assessed nine penalties for 50 yards in a 27-21 loss to Oakland. The Raiders took 12 penalties for 117 yards to overshadow the Vikings total, but defensive end Jared Allen still wasn't happy.

"You can't have penalties. Penalties kill you," he said. "They prolong drives, they back you up and they're drive killers on offense, so it's something we got to work (on), and guys just got to play smarter.

"It just comes down to being disciplined in what you are doing and it sucks because no one ever goes out there and tries to get a penalty. False start and offsides and stuff like that are just guys jumping the gun a little bit so you never fault a guy for trying hard. Things are going to happen but you have got to try to play a little smarter and play a little more disciplined."

On the Vikings' opening possession of the game, left tackle Charles Johnson was called for a false start before the team even got a play off. That put the Vikings in a first-and-15 from their own 27-yard line.

Percy Harvin had a 35-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty on Michael Jenkins in the first quarter, although the Vikings did eventually get into the end zone on that drive.

In the second quarter, cornerback Cedric Griffin was called for lining up offsides.

While Jenkins' efforts did not bother Harvin, some of the penalties certainly did.

"Pre-snap penalties is nothing but focus," he said. "False starts, it's people looking at the ball. Like I said, we've been doing that collectively as a team, whether it's offense, defensive line, corners, receivers, everybody. It's unexcusable."

After being called for four penalties in a 24-21 victory on Oct. 30 at Carolina, the Vikings have had 19 accepted penalties assessed against them in the past two games.

"You should really be able to go through a game and have very limited defensive penalties, for sure," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "That's something you have to continue to try and limit, but it's been a problem all year. We haven't had that type of focus in game situations that we probably should have. I don't know why that is. It's just the way it has been."

A short absence

Linebacker Erin Henderson went through a pregame workout Sunday to test out a hamstring injury he suffered the previous Monday against the Green Bay Packers.

"He was close," to being able to play, coach Leslie Frazier said Monday. "But not quite there. We didn't want to run the risk of losing him for two to three weeks."

Henderson, in his fourth NFL season but first as the starting weak-side linebacker, was replaced by Kenny Onatolu. It was the first game Henderson has missed this season but he's expected back on Sunday at Atlanta.

"By not playing him we definitely think we'll have him back," Frazier said.

Henderson said there was concern about him being able to run at full speed because the hamstring was "grabbing a little bit."

"(We) just didn't want a little minor setback to be a major, major thing," Henderson said. "You never want to miss a game, but I'd miss one week rather than missing three or four."

Henderson underwent about 3½ hours of treatment on Monday and was headed home to "work on some more stuff on my own and just try to get ready."

Changes on special teams?

The Vikings special teams units have struggled in losses to Green Bay and Oakland and Frazier isn't happy about it.

On Sunday, the Raiders' Taiwan Jones had a 46-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, Denarius Moore had a 34-yard punt return in the third and Bryan McCann added a 36-yard kick return in the fourth.

"The last couple of weeks we have had a couple of containment issues and it has happened at the same spots, so we have to assess whether we have the right people in those spots," Frazier said. "Do we need to make a change?

"Or what do we have to do to help those people perform better? That's something we will talk about throughout this day and make the necessary changes to hopefully not see it happen on Sunday against Atlanta. We have to fix that because it has cropped up two weeks in a row."

And that doesn't include holder Chris Kluwe's failure to handle a snap on what would have been a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Ryan Longwell in the second quarter or Lorenzo Booker's fumble on a kickoff return later in the quarter.

Those miscues led to 14 points for the Raiders.

The final thought

Frazier was asked for his assessment of left guard Steve Hutchinson, who has been to seven Pro Bowls but at 34 appears to have taken a step back.

"He's still a very good player," Frazier said. "He's still a guy who's very respected around the league and people still are conscious of what he's able to do from a run-blocking standpoint.

"He's probably not the same Steve that he was five years ago or four years ago, but he's still very effective for our team, both in run-blocking as well as pass protection."

Hutchinson missed the final five games of 2010 because of a hand injury, but Frazier said the veteran has been "pretty healthy this season."

"He's getting a little bit older, but that equates to experience in his case," Frazier said. "It allows him to do some things from a mental standpoint that he might not be able to do quite as well from a physical standpoint.

"He's offset whatever he doesn't have from the physical standpoint that he had earlier by the fact that he has a number of years of experience and he can anticipate things a lot quicker than a younger guy could. He's still a very effective football player for us." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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