EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The postgame admission by Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes that the Vikings went rogue from coach Mike Zimmer's plan for covering Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson was surprising in its own right, a snapshot of a spoiled season.
That the source of this suggestion of defiance came from the secondary, where Zimmer long ago made his mark as a mastermind of pass defense and has developed some of his strongest professional relationships, was even more of a stunner for a team that has endured all kinds of unpredictable setbacks this season.
Two days after the 38-25 loss to the rival Packers that eliminated the Vikings (7-8) from postseason contention, erasing the last shred of hope lingering from their 5-0 start, Zimmer and his players made a thorough attempt to dismantle any controversy or tension.
''It was a miscommunication,'' Rhodes said, ''and we got it fixed after the first series.''
The fourth-year player and first-time Pro Bowl pick used the term ''miscommunication'' nine times in a two-minute interview session at his cubicle at team headquarters on Monday.
Then Terence Newman entered the locker room a few minutes later and said the same word six times in a little more than five minutes.
The veteran of 14 NFL seasons was more willing to speak about the situation than Rhodes, but equally adamant about it being a non-issue.
''I'd like to get that clear: This thing is not what people think,'' Newman said.
That was the message from Zimmer on Monday, too.
''I probably wasn't specific enough in the things I was asking them to do, and it went out there,'' Zimmer said.
''The one thing about it is Xavier and Terence, these guys are as good of people as there is in the world.
''They're going to do their best every single time. They come out and they work every single day. They study, and they're really good kids.''
Nelson was targeted seven times in the first half on Saturday. He caught all seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns as the Packers built a 28-13 lead at halftime, with Rhodes beginning to follow him late in the first quarter.
When asked afterward about the apparent change in the coverage plan, Zimmer said Rhodes was supposed to shadow Nelson the entire game, but ''someone decided'' otherwise.
For much of the first quarter, Rhodes stayed on the right side and Newman or backup Trae Waynes was on the left, though when Nelson lined up in the slot the responsibility landed with nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Rhodes was then asked for his view and, after initially hesitating to discuss the matter, let loose in describing how the defensive backs decided during the week to stay on their sides rather than dispatching Rhodes to follow Nelson.
That could've been his attempt to cover for and avoid public criticism of a teammate, if Newman were the one who steered the strategy.
Zimmer, who began his NFL coaching career as a defensive backs coach and has long been lauded for his developmental work with players at that position in addition to his success calling rushes and coverages during games, had clearly softened his stance by Monday after the situation became a national headline.
The coach claimed some responsibility for confusion in a plan that evolved from the beginning of the week to the beginning of the game.
''Typically when we lose and we don't play good in the back end, I get upset,'' Zimmer said.
''So there's a lot of different things I was upset about I think when I said it. That was one of the things that came to my mind. I probably shouldn't have been as honest after the games as I typically am, which I'll learn my lesson.''
Both Rhodes and Newman, relative to their age, role and expectation, have performed well all season and are about as low on the list of problems for the Vikings as players could be. That made this situation all the more jarring in a year that's been full of them.
''We're all the same page. We're all in this thing together. We got beat,'' Newman said. ''There's no issue. I promise you. There's no issue at all.''
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