Vikings largely keeping clean amid rash of NFL suspensions for alleged dirty play

December 7, 2017

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he preaches to players about “playing clean” and avoiding penalties, so the former Bengals defensive coordinator likely wouldn’t have liked what he saw Monday night had he been watching.

The nationally-televised, primetime game between the Steelers and Bengals turned ugly when yet another player, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, was carted off the field due to a head and/or neck injury. This one came from a malicious hit by Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was later suspended for one game by the NFL.

It was the NFL’s eighth suspension handed down this season for player safety violations.

“I didn’t see the second half of that game, so I don’t know exactly what happened or what was going on,” Zimmer said. “We talk to them about playing clean. We try to play by the rules. We try to do things the right way.”

The Vikings are, in fact, in the top half of least-penalized teams (13th) and are tied with the New England Patriots for the fewest unnecessary roughness penalties (2) this season. However, one of the Vikings’ flags resulted in a one-game suspension for safety Andrew Sendejo after he hit the head of Ravens receiver Mike Wallace. The NFL sidelined Sendejo for the following week against the Browns.

Zimmer, who coached in the heated Bengals-Steelers rivalry, said he and Vikings coaches teach players about targeting certain areas and hitting “legally,” while trying to keep emotions in check.

“We talk to them about how you have to put a target on the receiver where you want to him them legally, and the same thing on running backs and quarterbacks,” Zimmer said. “We don’t want to be a high-penalized team.”

Remmers, Morgan held out

Mike Remmers’ durability was a big reason why the Vikings signed him away from the Panthers in free agency, but the right tackle could miss his fifth straight game Sunday against his former team in Carolina.

Remmers ran through warmups with his Vikings teammates, but was unable to practice Wednesday due to a low back injury suffered a week ago. He missed three games prior due to a concussion.

Tight end David Morgan remains in the concussion protocol after injuring his brain in a high-speed collision with a Falcons defensive back on Sunday. He did not practice Wednesday. Center Pat Elflein was limited due to a shoulder injury.

NFL’s defensive elders

The NFL’s two oldest defenders will take the field Sunday in Charlotte, where 39-year-old Vikings cornerback Terence Newman and 37-year-old defensive end Julius Peppers continue remarkable careers.

Both play part-time roles in their respective defenses. Newman starts as the Vikings’ slot cornerback then rotates with Mackensie Alexander. Peppers, who recently moved into fourth on the all-time sack list ahead of Vikings legend Chris Doleman, leads the Panthers with 8.5 sacks.

“Part of it we’ve tried to do is monitor his snaps and try to keep him as fresh as possible down the stretch,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

For Dalvin, in the back

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, currently on injured reserve, popped into a media scrum surrounding defensive end Everson Griffen on Wednesday to ask a quick question.

“Are we going to see the sack dance this week?” Cook asked Griffen after the Vikings went without a sack on Sunday in Atlanta for the first time in a year.

“I’m hoping so,” said Griffen, whose 12 sacks rank fourth in the league. “If they give me enough rushes, I’m hoping to get back there a few times.”