Vikings’ 2014 rallying cry is ‘Next man up!’

MINNEAPOLIS -- Running back Adrian Peterson might be done for the year; quarterback Matt Cassel and guard Brandon Fusco definitely are. The Vikings on Wednesday placed Cassel and Fusco on injured reserve, ending their seasons. With tight end Kyle...

Teddy Bridgewater
Photo by Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, middle, scrambles away from New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, left, and outside linebacker Junior Galette on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

MINNEAPOLIS - Running back Adrian Peterson might be done for the year; quarterback Matt Cassel and guard Brandon Fusco definitely are.
The Vikings on Wednesday placed Cassel and Fusco on injured reserve, ending their seasons. With tight end Kyle Rudolph out for about six weeks following groin surgery on Tuesday, Minnesota heads into Sunday’s game against Atlanta at TCF Bank Stadium without four key offensive starters.
“I never envisioned that, but it’s a part of football,” first-year coach Mike Zimmer said.
Peterson is on the NFL’s except list following a Sept. 12 indictment in Texas on a felony charge of child abuse. He already has missed two weeks, during which the Vikings went 0-2 and averaged 56.5 yards rushing as a team.
Cassel suffered a broken left foot in last Sunday’s 20-9 loss at New Orleans and will be evaluated Thursday in Charlotte, N.C., by Carolina Panthers team doctor Robert Anderson. Fusco will have surgery Thursday to repair a torn pectoral muscle.
Zimmer said it was “not realistic” that either could have come back the season.
It’s against this backdrop that rookie Teddy Bridgewater will make his first NFL start.
“It’s a challenge when you’re talking about some great football players,” Bridgewater said. “I feel that we have a group of guys in the locker room that are pretty talented, also. For me, it’s not all about me; I don’t have to do it by myself.”
The Vikings can put one player on the injury with a designation to return list, but to be eligible, a player must miss eight games. Zimmer said Rudolph isn’t expected to be out that long.
Rhett Ellison will replace Rudolph, Zimmer said, but the coach declined to reveal the player who will step in for Fusco. However, Vladimir Ducasse was working with the first team in practice Wednesday and said he anticipates getting the call.
“Obviously, I’m next one up,” Ducasse said. “So, I’ve just got to be ready to go.”
‘Next man up’ has been the Vikings’ motto since losing Peterson on Sept. 17.
“It’s always tough when you lose guys, but this is ‘next-man-up’ theory,” Zimmer said. “We go on and feel bad for them, but we go on about what our business is. ... Things happen in the NFL, so this is a survival-of-the-fittest game. It’s always a marathon. The toughest teams always go on.”
To replace Cassel and Fusco on the roster, the Vikings promoted tight end Chase Ford and offensive lineman Austin Wentworth from the practice squad. Taking their places on the practice squad were quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who returns to the Vikings after playing for them from 2012-13, and tight end Ryan Otten.
It remains to be seen whether Cassel will play again for the Vikings. He signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal in March and his 2015 salary of $4.75 million, with a $500,000 roster bonus, would be due only if he’s still with the team a week into free agency next March. Minnesota can cut him before that with no further obligation.
Fusco signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension on Sept. 6, the day before the regular-season opener. He was the best run blocker on a Minnesota team that has had serious problems running the ball since Peterson has been out.
Over the past two games, the Vikings have gained just 113 yards on 41 carries, a meager average of 2.8.
“It’s going to take a team effort, whether it’s in the passing game or in the run game,” Bridgewater said.
Injuries also have hit the defense. Sitting out practice Wednesday were cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), defensive tackle Linval Joseph (shoulder) and linebacker Chad Greenway, who played last Sunday with a broken hand and broken rib but could sit out against the Falcons.
“We can’t sit here and dwell on what happened the last couple of weeks,” said defensive end Brian Robison. “We’ve got to move forward and prepare for Atlanta. The next guy steps up. We’ve got to support him and get him ready for the next game.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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