Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Mike Zimmer would rather lie face down on a bed of nails than put himself on the therapist's couch for a primal session of self-reflection, but there he was Tuesday poised to tell Barbara Walters what kind of tree he is. Chasing an undefeated season down the rabbit hole of dysfunction should humble the heartiest of NFL men right down to their Nikes.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Vikings guard Mike Harris remains optimistic he will be cleared to resume his stalled career but offered no definitive timetable Monday and deferred questions about his medical condition to coach Mike Zimmer. "It is my body, but I just ... I feel fine," Harris said as players cleared out their lockers at Winter Park. "It was a tough couple of months, not being out there, but I feel great. I feel fine, but I need the trainers to just let me play. When that happens, I'll let you guys know. For now, I can't say much about it."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—"Miscommunication" was the buzzword Monday as Vikings cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman sought to downplay their freestyle coverage of Packers receiver Jordy Nelson as defying coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer blamed himself for being too vague with Rhodes and Newman about their shifting assignments and too blunt assessing the pass defense in his news conference after Saturday's 38-25 playoff-squelching loss at Lambeau Field.
MINNEAPOLIS—Hard to bury a team that does not bother to show up at its own funeral, but let's pour one out anyway for your 2016 Minnesota Vikings, who redefined rock bottom Sunday with an unforgivable performance for the ages. They climbed into a steam drill, bore through mantle and went full throttle into the center of the Earth, a soft core rivaled only by the failed leadership of this locker room and coaching staff.
MINNEAPOLIS — Must-win games can fray the nerves of veterans and rookies alike, but in many ways they are liberating for players because the stakes are obvious. The Vikings (7-6) have zero margin for error as they prepare to play host to the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) on Sunday at U.S Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — How fitting that the hot air thawing the Vikings' practice field blows the tarp into a Big Top now that the Adrian Peterson circus has returned to Winter Park. Peterson is back practicing three months after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the question of will-he-or-won't-he-play Sunday against Indianapolis is consuming most of the oxygen from the locker room he dominates.
MINNEAPOLIS — Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck began their NFL careers from identical pole positions as No. 1 picks shouldering the pressures and expectations inherited by franchise quarterbacks. What a long and winding road they have traveled to their first showdown Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was optimistic punt returner Marcus Sherels will be able to play Sunday at Jacksonville, which would be a boost to a special-teams unit that struggled in several phases in last week's loss to Dallas. Sherels has missed three of the past four games because of injury, including the previous two. Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson assumed punt-returning duties against the Cowboys with poor results.
MINNEAPOLIS — If it's Week 14 and the Vikings are on the road, safety Anthony Harris must be on the clock. Exactly one year after the undrafted free agent started his first NFL game in place of an injured Harrison Smith, it appears Harris will replace the former Pro Bowler again Sunday at Jacksonville. Smith did not practice again Thursday after aggravating an ankle injury in last week's 17-15 loss to Dallas. A source told the Pioneer Press this week that Smith tore a ligament that might require surgery and that he might not play again this season.
MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer wanted to talk about neither his vision nor Adrian Peterson's future on Wednesday. Peterson had no such issues, telling reporters he will play again this season only if there is a playoff spot at stake. Just more drama for a Vikings team that spent the past seven weeks having the optimism kicked out of it. Now, the confident club that broke training camp in Mankato four exhausting months ago — and the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team on Oct. 9 — is dissolving in plain sight.