Notebook: Vikings players happy to see regular officials back to work
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson called it a "wonderful thing" when asked about the fact the NFL's regular officials had settled with the league, ending a lockout that led to replacement referees working the opening three weeks of the season.
"I guess the step-in officials, they did OK," Peterson said. "I just felt like they were trying to do too much and sometimes that can hurt you. But it's good for the NFL. Just for the integrity (of the game). ... Hopefully, we'll have (not) as many terrible calls as we had here recently."
The final straw came Monday night when Packers safety M.D. Jennings clearly intercepted a last-second pass by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson but somehow referee Wayne Elliott's crew ruled it a catch and touchdown for the Seahawks' Golden Tate.
That gave Seattle a 14-12 victory and set into motion the negotiations that got a deal done with the regular officials late Wednesday night.
The regular referees still must ratify an eight-year deal - a vote will be taken Friday and Saturday in Dallas - but they were due to work Thursday night's game between Cleveland and Baltimore.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen joined Peterson in expressing his happiness that the replacements won't be working any more games.
"A lot of these (regular) officials have been in the league since I've been here, so you kind of get a rapport with them," Allen said. "You kind of get a feeling of how a game is going to get called."
It didn't cost the Vikings the game, but the crew led by replacement referee Ken Roan did give the San Francisco 49ers two challenges that they shouldn't have been granted last Sunday at the Metrodome.
The Vikings won the game, 24-13, but Allen was still bothered by the mistakes.
"You take (that) situation," Allen said. "Everybody is dumbfounded (by those mistakes). That's something we shouldn't be worrying about. You shouldn't be worrying about challenges. We try to put the best product we can personally put on the field and we expect the same from the NFL. To put the best product that they can put on the field. That is the best referees, the best coaches, all that kind of stuff."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made it clear from the start that he wasn't going to speak about the replacement officials much - he told his players not to focus on the subject either - and he continued to downplay the situation on Thursday when asked about the settlement.
"As you know, I don't have a whole lot of say about the officials and whether it's replacement officials or the (regular) officials," Frazier said. "We've got to go out and play no matter who the officials are and we've got to play well."
Eleven and counting
The Vikings have not beaten an NFC North opponent since Week 3 of the 2010 season, when they defeated the Detroit Lions, 24-10, at the Metrodome.
Since then they have dropped 11 in a row in the division, including three in a row to the Lions.
The Vikings will look to end that streak on Sunday at Ford Field.
Peterson, for one, said Thursday he wasn't even aware of the streak.
"That hasn't been stuck in my head because I didn't know it was 11," he said. "Good thing I didn't know. It's time to end that. It's time to get back on track, just playing Vikings football, and just continue to head in (the right) direction. But we can't focus on the things that we can't control. That was last year and it's all about moving forward this year."
The Vikings have dominated the series against the Lions, posting a 66-33-2 all-time record and a 30-20-1 mark in Detroit. The last time the Lions won both games in a season series against the Vikings before 2011 was 1997.
Frazier, though, isn't going to put any more importance on the game because it's within the division.
"It's the next game on our schedule and as you know we want to win every game," he said. "That's our goal. We want to win on Sunday."
Asked about the added importance of it being in the NFC North, Frazier smiled and said: "We want to win the next game on our schedule. No matter who the opponent is, we want to win."
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder chuckled Monday as he recounted watching film of tight end Kyle Rudolph's 2-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter Sunday. Rudolph was covered by 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner but still managed to make a nice catch.
What Ponder didn't realize until he watched the film was that as the pressure was coming at him, Peterson was wide open in the end zone and waving his arms to try to get his quarterback's attention.
Peterson, who laughed about it Thursday, admitted he was thinking to himself that Rudolph had better make the catch.
"That's exactly what I was thinking," Peterson said. "I can't lie. I was wide open, the free safety came off the corner, off the edge and I just remember (Ponder) throwing the ball in Kyle's direction. I saw him adjust his body. It was a heck of a catch.
"I'm watching it frame by frame, and I see the ball hit his hand and I'm just like, 'The only thing I can do now is just run and just in case it gets tipped or something I can be there to dive on it.' When he caught it, I was like, 'Thank you Jesus.' Because I was wide open and if that would have been an incomplete pass he would have heard about that."
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was not upset that Ponder did not throw it to Peterson.
"You can't count on the defense screwing it up and they screwed it up," Musgrave said of the 49ers. "They didn't cover Adrian. (Ponder has) been trained to give ground and give Kyle a catchable ball when they do bring one more than we can block. They ended up bringing two more than we could block because the guy that was supposed to cover Adrian declined to do so."
Looking for improvement
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer wasn't pleased to see San Francisco kick return man Kyle Williams take the opening kickoff of the third quarter 94 yards to the Vikings 14-yard line and then have Williams return another Blair Walsh kick 50 yards to the Niners 43 in the fourth quarter.
"They blocked us up well, and we knew going in they were very good at it," Priefer said. "We did not do a great job with lane integrity, we had guys on the ground, we got trapped and that's stuff that we worked on those exact returns during the week.
"That's one of their staples, one of their better returns and we didn't fit on it well and we didn't have great lane discipline unfortunately and it hurt our football team. But they responded well, our defense responded well."
The 49ers got only three points out of the two returns.
Priefer said the Vikings will not make any personnel changes in their kickoff coverage units because of those returns and instead will look at it as a learning experience.
"It was kind of a nice little kick in the butt," Priefer said.
Block that kick
Priefer was very pleased with the work of Letroy Guion on the David Akers kick he blocked in the second quarter last Sunday.
"Letroy comes off the ball so hard and so low and he's got great timing," Priefer said. "Being a defensive lineman, it's a little bit easier than for a guy like (left tackle) Matt Kalil, who's obviously going off the snap count. Our goal is to get Matt even better with his get-off and have those two working together and continuing to work together as the year goes on."
Priefer said that if Guion hadn't blocked Akers' kick that Kalil would have gotten it. Kalil blocked a field-goal attempt by Jacksonville in Week 1 at the Metrodome.
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said that, although Jared Allen moved to left end for a couple of snaps last Sunday because of a neck issue, that doesn't mean the Pro Bowl right end is going to see any type of regular time on that side.
"I think guys should do what they do best," Williams said. "He's been on the right side and that's where he rushes from and let the left tackle handle our best guy from the left side. I think you do what you do and don't try to outsmart yourself."