Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson, who has started the last five games as the injury replacement for Chris Cook, had his own injury to deal with this week after suffering a concussion that left him momentarily unresponsive on Mall of America Field.
Jefferson took a hit to the head from teammate Jamarca Sanford as the two of them and Erin Henderson were trying to tackle Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte.
Jefferson laid motionless on the field for a few seconds, but he said he wasn’t unconscious.
“Actually, I wasn’t out cold. It was crazy. I’ve never had a concussion before so that experience for me was … I was actually conscious. I was kind of unresponsive for a little bit,” Jefferson said Friday, two days after being clear of his concussion by an independent neurologist. “I was kind of dizzy and didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t talk or respond for a little bit. Everything came back slowly. As soon as I came to, I felt fine. Of course, they have to take you in and test you.”
Jefferson didn’t return to the game, but his mother was in the locker room before the game had ended with concern that quickly turned to relief.
“My mom came down right in the middle of the game and she was in the locker room. She was fine until she saw that was OK and she actually started balling her eyes out,” Jefferson said. “I was like, ‘You can’t cry now. I’m fine now.’ I guess it was a cry of relief for her.”
Jefferson passed his final post-concussion test on Wednesday and began practicing on a limited bases Thursday. He was also limited Friday, but the Vikings listed him as probable on the injury report, meaning he is a “virtual certainty” to be available for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams.
He said it was the first concussion he’s had and he didn’t even experience any “major headaches” on Monday. That’s quite the recovery considering how bad the incident initially appeared on Sunday.
“Yeah, it was crazy, man. I seen everybody talking to me and everything,” he said. “You have that kind of experience and you’re like, alright, you’ve got to take these head injuries seriously because that’s not something I ever want to experience again.”
The Vikings did list CB Antoine Winfield, the veteran starter of the team’s secondary, as questionable on the injury report with a knee injury that has been bothering him more this week, but he is expected to play, according to head coach Leslie Frazier.
The Vikings will discuss whether to limit Winfield’s snaps in Sunday’s game. He didn’t practice in the team portion Friday, according to the injury report.
The only other player to be limited in Friday’s practice was RB Adrian Peterson, who was listed as probable for Sunday with an abdomen injury.
FAMILIAR WITH FISHER
Frazier and Rams head coach Jeff Fisher joined the Chicago Bears in 1981 and played together through the 1985 Super Bowl season.
“We were rookies together in ’81. That was obviously a long time ago,” Fisher said. “He was a great teammate. He was an undrafted free agent and made the club. We made the team together. We were there together for five years.”
“… He’s very smart, well-spoken, communicates well, understands big picture. He’s very patient. I’m just really happy that he got an opportunity there and then obviously happy for his success so far this year.”
BEST SINCE PAYTON?
Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis became the linebackers coach with the Chicago Bears in 1986, the year after Frazier’s career essentially ended when he blew out his knee in the Super Bowl and the year after Fisher’s professional playing career ended.
McGinnis has been coaching in the NFL ever since, and he went to the way-back machine when asked about Peterson.
“He’s a special type of runner because he’s strong enough to be able to power through when you stack a line against him, but at the same time he’s got that God-given jump-cut ability where he sticks that foot in the ground and he can go,” McGinnis said. “He’s probably got the best stiff arm I’ve seen since Walter Payton. When he brings that thing out, it’s a weapon. He’s a very, very gifted runner. You can tell he’s very passionate about it. Plus, those great runners, you can just tell by watching that they want the ball and he’s all of that.”
HIGH PRAISE AT 35
Winfield didn’t practice this week, but the Vikings know how to preserve one of their best defensive players. Winfield’s ability to talk earned high praise from Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“I think one of the most underrated players in the league – it’s funny to say this for a 14-year veteran – but Antoine Winfield is still playing at an extremely high level,” Schottenheimer said.
“… It’s amazing. He’s probably still, of all the guys we’ve played this year, the best supporting defensive back, corner in the league. He will come up and pop you. And so I think that whole secondary takes their lead from him and they’re a very physical group.”
LB Jasper Brinkley (shoulder), G Charlie Johnson (ankle), RT Phil Loadholt (knee) and TE Kyle Rudolph (shoulder) were limited on Thursday but all full participants Friday and among the 10 Vikings listed as probable.
Jared Allen and Everson Griffen both avoided fines after being flagged for unnecessary roughness penalties against the Bears last Sunday. Griffen ended up with a helmet-to-helmet hit on QB Jay Cutler as Cutler was being pulled to the ground by Allen. Bears WR Devin Hester also avoided a fine for taking off his helmet in the field of play, but CB Charles Tillman was fined $7,875 for jumping on the pile after a Toby Gerhart run.
RB Steven Jackson, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Mario Haggan, S Craig Dahl, C Scott Wells, CB Cortland Finnegan, TE Mike McNeill and WR Danny Amendola are all probable for the Rams. DT Jermelle Cudjo (foot) is questionable.
Kyle Rudolph has caught a touchdown in three of his last four games, but didn’t catch any passes Sunday against the Bears.
In his past two games against St. Louis, Jared Allen has two sacks, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries, including a 52-yard he returned for a touchdown.
Peterson was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Week after his 31-carry, 154-yard effort against the Bears. That is the fan-voted award at NFL.com, which earned another $2,000 donation to the Minneapolis Junior Achievement office. Peterson was already awarded the NFC Offensive Player of the Week earlier in the week.
Rookie safety Harrison Smith is going for his third straight game with an interception and has already returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns.
Although Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins is known to miss some tackles, he also is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, has returned two of those for touchdowns and has added another fumble return for a touchdown.
Rams DE Robert Quinn has 9½ sacks in his past 13 games and fellow DE Chris Long has 7½ in his past 11 games.
Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has seven field goals of 50 yards or more and one more to tie for most in a season all-time.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.