The unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that rookie right guard Kyle Long drew last Sunday for attempting to kick St. Louis defensive William Hayes cost him $7,875 but not the confidence of his coaches.
"Kyle is a good-hearted guy, and he's a mature guy, and he knew right away, 'Gosh, I wish I wouldn't have snapped,'" said Aaron Kromer, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.
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"But in the heat of the moment, a young player who plays with an emotional passion as he does … he lost his mind, and that's not him.
"It concerns me that he snaps ever; you've got to correct it. You can't have a guy get a 15-yard penalty because he takes the law in his own hands. By the time he got to the sideline he was already apologetic, and he was worried he hurt the team.
"So there wasn't much to say to him. He knows, and he's really working hard to fix that so it doesn't happen again."
Coach Marc Trestman said he watched Long closely after he came to the sideline and was convinced that he would be able to move on without further incidents.
"He's a highly emotional guy," Trestman said, "but he has the ability to put it behind him very quickly. I watched him closely on the bench, and he was able to put it to rest, very remorseful. We've just got to continue to work with him. This is as much as he's ever played the game for as long as he's ever played it."
After two years at Saddleback Community College, Long played just one season at Oregon, where he started only five games before entering the NFL draft. But Trestman said he doesn't detect signs of Long hitting the proverbial rookie wall late in the season.
"He continues to ascend," Trestman said. "He continues to get better. He's a joy to coach. So I'm not concerned about that at all. His energy is good. Kyle and (rookie right tackle) Jordan (Mills) are surrounded by some pretty sharp veteran players in (left tackle Jermon) Bushrod and (center Matt) Garza and (left guard) Matt (Slauson), so they're in a good place."
There was one?
It's not that coach Marc Trestman isn't interested in what's going on with the other teams in the NFC North, but he didn't watch any of the Packers-Lions game on Thanksgiving Day.
"We were still in the office during the afternoon," he said. "I saw the score."
The Lions' 40-10 victory elevated them to 7-5 and left them 1½ games up on the 5-6-1 Packers and in control in the division, since they hold the first tiebreaker over the Bears (6-5), having defeated them twice.
Trestman said his team can't afford to shift any focus from the game at hand against the Vikings (2-8-1) by worrying about what other teams are doing.
"All these games now are certainly important," he said. "In this league, I truly believe that records have no effect on the two teams that play. If you're not at your best, you will not be able to compete against any team in this league, on any Sunday."
Point to Ponder:
The Vikings started the season with Christian Ponder at quarterback, switched to Matt Cassel, then to Josh Freeman and are now back to Ponder en route to a 2-8-1- record.
In his last three starts, Ponder is 1-1-1, with a 92.0 passer rating, including a 113.1 mark in a victory over Washington and a 103.9 in last week's tie at Green Bay, but his career has been plagued by inconsistency.
"Everybody on this phone knows that this is a quarterback-driven league," Minnesota coach Les Frazier said on a conference call. "If your quarterback position struggles, whether it's because you're rotating guys or you haven't found the right guy, it has an effect on your special teams, your offense and your defense.
"That's the NFL, and it's been that way now for a while. Especially with the new rules, how it's so slanted toward offenses to score points.
"So, if you don't get good quarterback play, it just puts you in a tough spot, no matter how good you are at other positions. You need that position to play well week in and week out."
Ponder's passer rating is 78.7 this season; all Vikings quarterbacks have a combined 75.6 mark, compared to the Bears' 92.8.