[size=13pt]Player committee helps communication[/size]

Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
Last update: September 14, 2006 – 10:28 PM

Among the things the Vikings have done this season to create an open line of communication is establish a committee of veteran players who meet on a semi-regular basis with coach Brad Childress.
"It's kind of a bridge between the players and the coaches as far as any issues that we might have as a team or any issues they have as a coaching staff that he wants to pass throughout the locker room," said safety Darren Sharper, a member of the committee. "[Childress] doesn't necessarily have to address the whole team [this way], he can tell us."

Sharper said the group has met with Childress a handful of times since training camp. Most of the get-togethers have been organized by Childress but on occasion the players have asked to talk.

In addition to Sharper, the committee includes guard Steve Hutchinson; center Matt Birk; receiver Travis Taylor; tight end Jermaine Wiggins; linebacker E.J. Henderson; defensive tackle Kevin Williams; cornerback Antoine Winfield; and safety Dwight Smith.

"If different guys from here have any problems with things or they have concerns that they want to be brought to the coach they don't have to necessarily go to him and go up in the office," Sharper said. "They can tell the committee, and those guys will address it with the coach."

Sharper, who spent the first eight seasons of his 10-year career with Green Bay, said he was on similar player committees under former Packers coaches Mike Holmgren and Mike Sherman.

Kicking matters

Although Chris Kluwe's 38-yard punting average Monday night against Washington left him near the bottom of the NFL statistics, special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro does not seem concerned.

"I just think he had a bad night," Ferraro said Thursday. "I don't expect to see that kind of a performance from him again. He knows he needs to improve, and he will."

Ferraro said he doesn't believe Kluwe's struggles had anything to do with the directional punting style the Vikings want him to use.

"If you look at the four games prior to the Washington game, he did a great job with directional punting," Ferraro said. "So we're not going to look at one game and all of a sudden decide he can't do that."

Ferraro also said he wants to see Ryan Longwell's kickoffs travel deeper than they went in Washington. Long- well put his kicks to the Redskins 10-, 9-, 14- and 11-yard lines.

"It was one of those things where I was trying a bunch of different things to try and get them deeper," Longwell said. "The first one I hit really well and it came down at like the 9 or 10-yard line, and I was shocked it came down that short. So they'll definitely be deeper [Sunday against Carolina]. And they were all preseason, but the other night was just weird with the way the wind was blowing and the balls we had just didn't fly."


• Carolina receiver Steve Smith sat out another practice Thursday because of a strained right hamstring and remains listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Smith has not taken the field since suffering the injury Sept. 5. Center Justin Hartwig (groin) also did not practice and is listed as questionable.

• Vikings running back Ciatrick Fason (shoulder) and safety Will Hunter (hamstring) practiced Thursday and are probable for Sunday.

• The Panthers returned 400 tickets for Sunday's game. They can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 651-989-5151 or online at Ticketmaster.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Judd Zulgad • [email protected]