Latavius Murray buoyant over Vikings' hopes
Latavius Murray would not go so far as to call the Minnesota Vikings the team to beat in the NFC North, but the running back is confident they are well primed to mount a challenge.
The Vikings (6-2) have a two-game division lead on the Detroit Lions (4-4) and the Green Bay Packers (4-4). They also have quarterback Teddy Bridgewater back on the active roster 14 months after his devastating knee injury.
Bridgewater was activated this week and will be Case Keenum's backup for Sunday's game in Washington, with Murray in buoyant mood.
"We know if we take care of our business, we'll be right where we want to be," Murray told Omnisport. "We know every week is hard to win in this league, so we just try to keep our eye on an each-week approach and continue to improve. We know if we do that, the rest will take care of itself."
On Bridgewater, Murray added: "I'm excited for him because of what he's overcome, the way he's worked to be back on the field. I'm extremely happy for him.
"It speaks volumes about the kind of person he is. To stay hungry and motivated throughout that rehab process when I know, at times, it's very tough -- especially with an injury like that."
Murray ran for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns for the Raiders in 2015 and then had 788 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016. When he signed with the Vikings in March, he was expected to be the starter, but an ankle injury opened the door for rookie running back Dalvin Cook to take over.
But with Cook out for the season because of a knee injury, the Vikings are using Murray in tandem with fourth-year back Jerick McKinnon, who has 287 rushing yards and three scores.
"I'm all for winning," said Murray, who has 249 yards and one touchdown this season. "We need competition in the running back room ... I love the situation we have here. They've been pushing me to become a better player. That's what I need as a player to find ways to improve and find ways to get better."
Three questions with Vikings RB Latavius Murray
Omnisport: As an offensive player, what is it like to have a defense ranked fourth overall, eighth in sacks and that has 10 takeaways to help the offense?
Murray: "Those guys are really playing at a high level on that side of the ball. They give us a lot of chances to go out there and put points on the board. As an offense, we want to continue to light up the scoreboard so [opponents'] offenses have to drop back and throw the ball. We let our guys up front hunt and let our DBs do what they do best.
"Right now, we go hand in hand - keep them off the field as much as we can, and we know when they go back on the field, there's a good chance they'll be off soon."
Omnisport: What was that trip to London like?
Murray: "It was fun. I've been before [2014 with the Oakland Raiders], and I think it's the coolest thing when you can expand the game outside of the US. Football is a game that's loved all around the world. When you get a chance to expand that to London or Mexico, we've been [2016 with the Raiders] and give those fans a chance to experience it up close and personal, I'm sure they love it. To be a part of that is pretty cool."
Omnisport: The College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night, and Central Florida, your alma mater, are still 18th despite being undefeated with a 28-point average margin of victory. If you could speak to the College Football Playoff committee about UCF and why the Knights deserve to at least be ranked in the top 10, what would you tell them?
Murray: "I would tell them to look at the numbers. Look at our offense and what we've been able to do. We're the number one scoring offense [48.5 points per game]. Numbers don't lie. We're 8-0 with a high-scoring offense.
"Give UCF the respect they deserve. Please.
"I understand the powerhouse teams that have great traditions, but at the end of the day, every year is different. The teams that are balling and doing well, like UCF right now this year, that's what it's about. Every year is a different year, and they've got to give the teams that are balling this year the respect they deserve."