Vikings win pre-season finale
MINNEAPOLIS—Tennessee coach Mike Munchak gambled by playing much of his starting offence in the final pres-eason game.
Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier wanted no part of that, and was reminded just how dangerous the NFL can be when one of his back-ups was carted off the field in the second quarter.
For Locker, it was chance to get one last bit of work in and build on a solid pre-season before they open the regular season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 8.
“I feel really comfortable with this group,” Locker said.
“I like what we’re doing offensively and I’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing, so I’m excited.”
Hoping to avoid a spot on the practice squad, Rusty Smith completed 13-of-21 passes for 178 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for the Titans (1-3).
Back-up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 5-for-5 for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Marcus Sherels, meanwhile, returned a kick 109 yards for a touchdown and intercepted a pass in a last-ditch effort to make the team for the Vikings, who were thankful that a scary collision involving offensive lineman Seth Olsen only resulted in a concussion.
Olsen was taken off the field on a stretcher after linebacker Scott Solomon’s knee collided with his helmet.
He received a standing ovation from the crowd and gave a thumbs-up with his left hand as he was wheeled off the field.
A few hours later, Olsen was walking around in the locker-room and speaking with teammates.
Munchak took the unusual approach of playing his starting quarterback, starting offensive line, and several of his most important skill position players in the fourth pre-season game.
One of the few offensive starters who did not see action was star running back Chris Johnson.
But Munchak felt the risk of injury just over a week away from the season-opener was outweighed by the desire to get Locker as much work as possible to prepare him for his second full season as the starter.
Locker missed five games last season because of a shoulder injury, and many consider this year make-or-break for the 2011 first-round pick.
So Munchak threw him out there in a game that traditionally calls for coaches to rest starters, especially at the game’s most important position.
Many Vikings’ fans wanted to see Frazier take the same approach with Christian Ponder, also about to enter his second full season as the starter.
Ponder was unimpressive in the first three pre-season games, completing 62 percent of his passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Vikings no doubt will ride MVP Adrian Peterson in pursuit of a return to the playoffs, but Ponder’s development into a consistent play-maker may be the biggest key to their chances.
But after watching starting defensive tackle Kevin Williams go down with a knee injury in the third quarter last week at San Francisco, Frazier wasn’t about to take any chances with the opener at Detroit so close.
“From my standpoint, in today’s NFL with the depth issues that you have, it’s not worth the risk,” Frazier reasoned.