Notebook: Vikings looking for ways to get ball to rookie Jarius Wright
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Three weeks ago, it was still unclear when or if Jarius Wright would make his regular-season debut with the Minnesota Vikings.
Now, the rookie receiver has shown enough in the past two games Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday the team is actively trying to devise ways to get the ball in Wright's hands.
"I think he's definitely gaining confidence," Frazier said. "You can see it in practice. We're relying on him a little bit more in some of the things we're doing. We're actually putting in some plays directly for him because of the confidence that he's shown and the confidence that we've developed in him."
Inactive for the season's first nine weeks, Wright made the most of his opportunity in top receiver Percy Harvin's absence on Nov. 11 against Detroit.
The fourth-round draft pick (118th overall) out of Arkansas had three catches for 65 yards, including a 54-yard reception and a 3-yard touchdown, against the Lions.
With Harvin inactive again last weekend at Chicago, Wright led the Vikings with seven receptions for 49 yards while playing 39 of 66 snaps (59.1%) -- up from 29 snaps (41.4%) in his debut.
"Seen some good play-making ability," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "Jarius is a little bit slight in stature (5-10, 180 pounds) as we all know, but he's tough and he's proven his toughness in the last two games."
Wright will be active again on Sunday at Green Bay and figures to get more chances, with Harvin listed as doubtful (25% chance of playing) on the injury report because of the same left ankle injury that has sidelined him since the Nov. 4 game at Seattle.
"We're not asking (Wright) to do a lot of things route running-wise," Frazier said. "But you can see the improvement in some of the things he's doing. Now, the next step will be for him -- because we run the ball so well and we count on our receivers to block -- that phase of his game coming along. But that'll come over time."
Everyone else on the Vikings' injury report was listed as probable (virtual certainty of playing).
That included tight end Kyle Rudolph (concussion/shoulder), who sat out Wednesday's practice, was limited on Thursday and then returned to full participation on Friday.
"He's done well," Frazier said. "Really picked it up (Thursday) and he had a good practice (Friday). Really hasn't shown any residual effects from either the shoulder or the concussion. He's practiced well the two days he's been out."
Also listed as probable for the Vikings were: linebacker Jasper Brinkley (shoulder), right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), safety Harrison Smith (concussion), cornerback Antoine Winfield (knee), right end Jared Allen (shoulder/back), nose tackle Letroy Guion (foot), halfback Adrian Peterson (shoulder) and punter Chris Kluwe (left knee).
The Packers ruled out six players -- defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), end C.J. Wilson, running back Johnny White (concussion) and tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) -- and listed linebacker Terrell Manning (shoulder) as doubtful.
Receiver Donald Driver (thumb) and safety Sean Richardson (back) were listed as questionable (50% chance of playing). Receiver Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (quadriceps), tackle Marshall Newhouse (wrist) and safety M.D. Jennings (rib) are probable.
How's this for sticking with the plan?
The Vikings waived tight end Allen Reisner on Sept. 27 to make room for receiver Jerome Simpson, who had been suspended, then re-signed Reisner on Nov. 4 to replace cornerback Chris Cook, who was placed on injured reserve with a broken arm.
Those are the only two moves the Vikings have made on the 53-man roster since the season began -- seemingly an overt vote of confidence from general manager Rick Spielman in the group he has assembled.
"That, and our depth is probably better than it's been in a long time," Frazier said. "We've got a lot of young players in backup roles and even in sub-starting roles. So, you really want to develop the young players that we have that we do have a lot of confidence in."
It also speaks to their health. Only Cook -- who is eligible to return to the active roster on Dec. 20 -- has suffered an injury significant enough to put him on IR since camp.
By comparison, the Vikings made 14 additions to the 53-man roster in 2011, although seven of those moves came in December as injuries mounted. The Packers have placed five players on IR since this season began.
Is such stability a good thing?
"I think so," Frazier said. "Over time, that'll tell. But we think the young guys that we have that we want to develop -- we don't want to let those guys out the door. So, time will tell if we're right on that."
Allen's $21,000 fine for an illegal blindside block wasn't the only costly play in the Vikings' loss to Chicago.
Three Bears were also fined -- including quarterback Jay Cutler, who was fined $10,000 for taunting, an NFL spokesman said.
Cutler was flagged on the play, which ended with him flipping the ball into cornerback A.J. Jefferson's chest after running out of bounds.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was fined $15,750 for a horse-collar tackle and Henry Melton $7,875 for a facemask, both while trying to tackle Peterson.