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Emptying Out The Notebook For OTAs 4-6

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 7, 2012 – 2:11 pm

Another productive and successful week of Organized Team Activities is in the books, as the Vikings conducted OTA #6 on Thursday at Winter Park. The Vikings are now 60% of the way through their OTA schedule and have completed seven weeks of their nine-week offseason program.

A lot happened this week during OTAs, including: Both LB Chad Greenway and WR Percy Harvin rejoining the team on Tuesday; QB Christian Ponder and WR Jerome Simpson stealing the show on Wednesday; several Vikings players and coaches helping out at a Special Olympics Minnesota Punt, Pass and Kick clinic; WRs coach George Stewart answering questions in this week’s Pick 6; and WR Jerome Simpson appearing in this week’s Wobcast.

In such a jam-packed week, it’s easy for a few important topics to slip through the cracks. To prevent that from happening, let’s empty out the notebook from this week.

Win with Winfield
Injuries held CB Antoine Winfield to just 5 games in 2011, and the crafty veteran is entering his 14th season. But don’t expect his play to decline. In fact, as Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier explained earlier in the week, Winfield will be relied up for both leadership and playmaking ability this year.

“The fact that he’s here and participating in all of these OTAs, I told him the other day that I don’t take that for granted,” Frazier said, “and really appreciate him being here because he provides veteran leadership for some of the new faces that we have in the secondary and he’s a great player. We need his leadership, we need his playmaking ability on the football field and he’s played a number of years in this League but we don’t think his best football is behind him.”

Who will be the RB3?
The Vikings have as good a 1-2 punch at RB that you could ask for in Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Both are coming back from injury, however, which makes the team’s quest for a third RB important.

“That number three back for us really needs to be a guy who can step in and play in early downs, not just in third-down situations, which is more the norm for most third-down backs,” Frazier said. “There are guys who are more specialty types, and for us he needs to be a guy who can carry the ball as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. We are looking for a little bit more out of the third back this season.”

After Peterson and Gerhart, the Vikings have four RBs listed: Derrick Coleman, Jerome Felton, Lex Hilliard and Jordan Todman.

Sully takes charge
One of the best draft picks the Vikings have had since Rick Spielman joined the club is C John Sullivan. The Vikings selected Sullivan in the 6th round in 2008, and initially he studied behind veteran Matt Birk while also playing special teams. In 2009, Sullivan was the starter and snapped to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Those two seasons were key for Sullivan in terms of learning how to operate as an NFL center and as a leader.

Now, those two years are paying off both for Sullivan and the team. Sullivan is a leader on the offensive line, and he’s also taking on more of a leadership role with the whole team, according to Frazier.

“John is a guy we’re really counting on from a leadership standpoint,” Frazier said. “He was rewarded, as you know, this past season with a good contract and because of how he has matured on the football field, he’s really come along and he’s begun to accept that role as a leader.”

Frazier is right – it’s clear that Sullivan has taken a leadership role with the club. Every team has high draft picks who end up being impact players, but just as important as those players are the John Sullivans of the world. The Vikings are lucky to have Sullivan.

Another late-round gem?
Sullivan is one example of a late-round pick making a big difference on the team. Is Stephen Burton an example in the making? We don’t know yet. The former 7th-rounder out of West Texas A&M has flashed quite a bit during OTAs and he’s even caught the eye of Frazier.

“You can see the confidence and that’s a big thing for a receiver, big thing for any young player,” Frazier said. “He has tremendous athletic ability and he is one of those guys who can jump out of the gym and make the acrobatic catch, but his confidence, that’s the one thing that you can see is coming through now.”

Burton, who played in 3 games as a rookie last year, measures in at 6-1, 224 pounds and could also be a contributor on special teams, perhaps as a returner.

“The good thing for Stephen is that he was able to get some reps in ball games a year ago when I know he wasn’t expecting that early on and neither were we,” Frazier explained. “That helped him because he has a lot more confidence at this stage than when we had him in training camp.”

Burton has clearly taken a step forward in 2012, and I’m looking forward to watching him compete during the summer and into the preseason. The Vikings currently have 12 receivers on the roster.


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