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Talking Points: Coach Frazier Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2011 – 5:05 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held a press conference after Monday’s opening practice and he obviously was asked about a lot of relevant topics. We’ll post the press conference in on-demand format soon, so you’ll be able to listen and watch it in its entirety.

Until then, here are a few comments I thought were of particular significance:

– The Vikings signed free agent OT Charlie Johnson on Monday. He was actually in Mankato for practice but was unable to suit up because of a new CBA rule that requires players with new contracts to sit out of practice until the new League starts (August 4). But it was good to see Johnson in camp because he is permitted to sit in meetings and bond with his teammates in the dorm. Frazier said the plan for Johnson is to get him in the offensive line rotation and see what he can do. Johnson was most recently in Indianapolis, where he protected Peyton Manning’s blindside. But he has some versatility and is a candidate to slide down the line and perhaps play some guard as well.

– Staying with the offensive line, Frazier said that starting RG Anthony Herrera will open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Herrera is coming back from an ACL injury and also a triceps injury, so this development is not unexpected. Frazier said the goal is not to rush Herrera back into action; rather, the goal is to get him ready to play once the season arrives.

– Former Vikings WR Randy Moss is going to retire, according to his agent, Joel Segal. Frazier was very complimentary about Moss when asked to comment about the WR, saying he was a tremendous player and a (future) Hall of Famer. Frazier said he had a good relationship with Moss when they were together in Minnesota last year and he also commented that Moss commanded two and sometimes even three players in coverage during his prime. Before some of you get too excited, I still don’t see Moss as a good fit here, even with Frazier saying so many nice things about him.

– We’ve talked about CB Cedric Griffin quite a bit on vikings.com lately, and Frazier was asked about him on Monday as well. Frazier described Griffin as a “key component” to the Vikings defense and to the team. The Vikings plan is to take it slow with Griffin, largely because they weren’t able to be with him during the offseason to fully monitor his progress. As is the case with Herrera, the goal with Griffin is to make sure he’s ready to play once the regular season rolls around.


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Herrera May Be Lost For Season

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 21, 2010 – 4:25 pm

Adding injury to insult for the Vikings, starting RG Anthony Herrera may miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress made this disclosure during his post-game press conference, saying indications are that it’s an ACL injury and it’s possible he’ll be out for the season because of it. Herrera left in the 1st half and was replaced by Ryan Cook.

Childress did say that nothing official has been decided and an MRI will be conducted tomorrow on Herrera’s knee to determine the nature of the injury.


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Who’s The Man In The Middle For Thursday?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 7, 2010 – 2:39 pm

Starting C John Sullivan was sidelined for much of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury, leaving his status for Week 1 in question and prompting the Vikings to take a look at alternatives at the position. That’s the not-so-great news.

But the better news is that Sullivan has returned to practice over the last couple of days; he was listed as a limited participant for both Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices. Making the news even a little better is what both Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had to say about their starting C this week.

“He seems like he hasn’t missed a beat,” Childress said while meeting with reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “I think that probably he’s going through some of the soreness that you get, maybe not to the same extent as camp, just when you come out here and practice and get pushed around and your muscles talk to you a little bit. I think he’s going through some of that. He’s just working hard to get some of that stamina back.”

Bevell also acknowledged this week that Sullivan seems to be improving, but he also noted that looking good on the practice field and then performing in a regular season game are different monsters.

“He’s looked good,” Bevell said on Monday. “His conditioning has looked good. He’s done things on the side, whether it’s in the pool, whether it’s with [athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman, to keep his conditioning up. But it’s a matter of loading it up and making sure that it will hold up under 65 or 70 plays a game, all the way up to 90 plays.”

The Vikings have done a nice job developing alternatives at the position should Sullivan be unavailable on Thursday night or at another point in the season. Starting RG Anthony Herrera has taken both practice reps and preseason game reps at C, and regular backup Jon Cooper has also taken turns with the 1st-team offense.

“We like what we saw from Anthony,” Bevell said. “We like what we’ve seen from Cooper. It gives us the flexibility to say who we would put in there. We’re not going to put that out there. Both guys have done a nice job. I think both guys are capable of it, and we want to make sure that when we put those guys out there that we’re going to have the five best guys that are going to help us win.”

The line is at its best with Sullivan at C, but the possibility exists that he won’t be able to go on Thursday night in New Orleans. If that’s the case, either Cooper or Herrera will fill in. My sense is that Cooper would get the call at this point, which is the simplest change for the Vikings to make.

But Childress and Bevell could also decide to put Herrera in at C, which would keep Cooper as the 1st reserve and would then slide rookie Chris DeGeare in at RG. Herrera has performed well while playing C this preseason, but the issue with this alignment is it takes away from the team’s depth at G because the 1st reserve at the position – DeGeare – would be forced into the starting lineup with Herrera moving over from RG.

Any way it shakes out, the Vikings offensive line will be prepared for Thursday night’s game.


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Choosing The Right Combination

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 31, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress recently described his offense as “in flux” and no position represents that billing more accurately than the offensive line, specifically the C and RG positions. An injury to C John Sullivan has sidelined him for most of training camp and as a result both starting RG Anthony Herrera and backup C Jon Cooper have seen extra time in the middle of the 1st-team offensive line.

“We’re still kind of filling out that position, exactly what would be the best lineup,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell explained. “Is it moving Anthony (Herrera) in (at C) and putting Chris in (at RG)? Is it using Coop (Jon Cooper) and leaving Anthony at guard? Or if Sully’s (John Sullivan) even going to be back.”

With the regular season now just over a week away, the time will soon come for the Vikings to decide on a starting C for Week 1. If that choice is Cooper, a 2nd-year player who spent the first 4 weeks last season on practice squad but then was elevated the 53-man roster for the final 12 weeks, then the flux factor remains minimal. But if the Vikings decide to move Herrera to C, the flux factor is a bit more complicated.

Moving Herrera to C would slide 5th round rookie Chris DeGeare into the starting lineup. DeGeare has had a nice training camp and it’s possible he’d be a solid performer right off the bat at RG for the Vikings. But that move would take away the Vikings depth because DeGeare is currently a swing lineman capable of playing multiple positions.

“Chris has done a nice job for us,” Bevell explained. “He’s a quick learner. He’s done some good things. I think there are still things he can improve on. That would be probably the toughest environment (to make his 1st start), that game, going into New Orleans. If that is how it shakes down, then we are confident enough to go with it.

“We’ve been able to move the combinations around a little bit. It gave us an opportunity to look at some different guys and different combinations. All we can do is look on the bright side of it and see how we’ve been able to make adjustments by moving Anthony, putting Coop in and some of those other adjustments.”

Whichever lineup the Vikings go with to start the season, the good news is the team will have had plenty of reps with that individual at C. Sullivan’s injury happened early enough in camp that both Cooper and Herrera have spent significant time working with the 1st team at C.

Ultimately, the ideal outcome is for Sullivan to make it back healthy in time for Week 1. If he can’t, someone will have to step up along the offensive line in Week 1.


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What 2 Watch 4 Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 28, 2010 – 12:29 pm

Tonight marks the 3rd preseason game for the Vikings as they host the Seattle Seahawks at Mall of America Field in a game scheduled to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. CT. The 3rd preseason game is considered the “dress rehearsal” for NFL teams as they make final preparations for the regular season, so tonight is a good time to keep a keen eye on the squad.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’ll be specifically watching tonight…

Safety
Unquestionably the position fans were the most displeased with coming out of the 2009 season. I’m not sure they played as poorly as many thought, but there is definitely room for improvement. Madieu Williams has one of the starting spots nailed down, but the other spot is still up in the air, with both Tyrell Johnson (last season’s regular starter) and Jamarca Sanford battling it out. My sense is that Johnson has an edge in this competition, but Sanford did start last week in San Francisco and Johnson didn’t come in until the 3rd quarter. I’m not sure how to read into that, but tonight’s rotation and performance from each guy will go a long way in determining who will be the Week 1 starter.

Offensive Line
Probably the position fans are the most displeased with currently, especially after the sack QB Brett Favre took last week. I’m less concerned with the starting 5 and more concerned about the depth behind the starting 5, specifically at OT. Rookie G Chris DeGeare should provide adequate depth on the interior line, but I think Patrick Brown and Drew Radovich have a lot to prove as reserve OTs. They’ll get their chance tonight in the 2nd half as well as in next week’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos.

Another area to watch will be the starting C position, where John Sullivan has made it back from a leg injury and should see substantial time tonight. But last week starting RG Anthony Herrera played some at C, so it will be interesting to see if the Vikings offensive staff plays Herrera at C again tonight, even with Sullivan back in the lineup and able to play. If Herrera does play C tonight, this might be a development worth watching over the next couple of weeks.

New WRs
Both Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker should see their 1st game action as Vikings tonight. Walker was brought in via free agency earlier in the week and Camarillo was brought in via trade a day later. My sense is that Camarillo has a real shot to be a factor in the Vikings passing game this season. He caught 55 and 50 passes in consecutive years with the Dolphins, a run-heavy team, and he’s never played with a QB at the level of Brett Favre, so perhaps Camarillo will be a productive possession receiver with the Vikings. Walker is a bigger target than Camarillo and also brings with him a rapport with Favre from their days together in Green Bay. Walker also knows the offense better than Camarillo at this point, which is why I expect Walker to look better tonight.

It’ll be interesting to watch both of these guys play and I’m specifically interested to see what my initial impressions of Camarillo are after tonight’s game.

I’m also looking forward to watching WR Bernard Berrian in extended time tonight with Favre. Even before issues with Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice arose, I thought Berrian was poised to have another big season for the Vikings. In 2008, Berrian fulfilled expectations as a big-time free agent signing by leading the NFL in yards per catch. Then last season, with Favre under center, Berrian missed the opportunity to develop early chemistry with #4 because of a nagging hamstring injury. With Berrian healthy and Favre back in the fold, I expect the speedy #87 to be a big factor in this year’s passing game. We’ll get a glimpse as to what the future holds tonight.

Jayme Mitchell
The 6-6, 285-pound DE has been written off by many Vikings followers over the year, partially because a knee injury ruined much of his time in Minnesota. But earlier this week assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Mitchell is now showing no ill-effects from that knee injury, and Mitchell’s play recently is bearing that out. He’s had a nice training camp and an even better preseason. After his 1st solid preseason performance against the St. Louis Rams, I said I needed to see him do it again before I jumped on-board. Then that’s exactly what he did against San Francisco last week. So I’m on-board with Mitchell making the squad for now, but we still have 2 preseason games to play. Hopefully Mitchell stays healthy and puts on another good show tonight. He could provide the Vikings with excellent depth behind Ray Edwards.


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Vikings Work Through Sweltering Heat In AM Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 9, 2010 – 11:01 am

The Vikings practiced for approximately 2 hours on Monday morning as the final week of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is officially underway. Temperatures were in the low 80s but it felt much warmer because of the humidity, but that didn’t prevent the team from having a solid practice.

“It was a hot one out there,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said to reporters following practice. “But that’s a great thing for the players. It gave them an opportunity to fight through the heat and the main thing that they need to do is focus on their assignments, focus on what they were doing, and I think the guys did a nice job of that. They were sharp in their assignments and it shows that they had some mental toughness.”

Bevell’s offense was without some key players on Monday morning. WR Sidney Rice remains on the PUP list and the following players were also not practicing – Percy Harvin (personal), RB Darius Reynaud (leg), G Anthony Herrera and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Instead of fretting about the missing starters, Bevell instead pointed out that it provides an opportunity to see other players perform.

“There are a lot of young guys and some younger veterans even that are getting opportunities to show us what they can do,” Bevell said. “That’s what’s going to happen in a game. You’re only going to have so many guys. If one guy isn’t there, if you’re starter isn’t there, someone’s got to step up.”

Bevell mentioned C Jon Cooper and WR Logan Payne as guys who’ve seen increased reps because of starters missing time. Rookie OL Chris DeGeare is another player who’s seen increased reps. He plays LG when Steve Hutchinson is out of the lineup and then on Monday DeGeare played RG in place of Herrera.

Bevell was also asked about Harvin, who has missed extended time this training camp as he grieves the loss of his Grandmother. Bevell said there is no timetable on a return for Harvin and he also said that he’s not too concerned about the absence because Harvin takes good care of his body and is a hard worker.

The Vikings will practice this afternoon from 2:45 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. The team was in helmets and shoulder pads this morning, so I’m anticipating they’ll be in shells and helmets this afternoon.


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Report: Veteran OL Pitts A Possibility For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 19, 2010 – 8:11 am

We wrote this morning about rookie OL Chris DeGeare and his first day of OTAs, explaining that the versatile 5th rounder has an opportunity to fill a void on the Vikings depth chart that was created when Artis Hicks bolted for the Washington Redskins via free agency.

DeGeare won’t be the only individual vying for that job, though. There is a roster full of young OL who will work to show Vikings coaches that they are good enough for the job. Also, as Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune pointed out yesterday, it’s certainly not out of the question for the Vikings to add a veteran free agent to the mix.

One such example pointed out by Zulgad is Chester Pitts, an experienced G who was with the Houston Texans from 2002 through last season. Before the 2009 season, Pitts had started in all 112 career games; he played and started in 2 games last year before an injury derailed his campaign.

Pitts told Sirius NFL Radio last month that a handful of teams are interested in his services, including the Vikings, and that he will work out for teams on July 15. He is recovering from knee surgery and expects to be healthy enough to workout by that date. Pitts played LG in Houston but it’s widely believed he could transition to RG.

As Zulgad pointed out, Pitts – who turns 31 this June – could join the Vikings and compete with Anthony Herrera for the starting RG spot or he could join the Vikings and add depth to the Vikings OL while also providing veteran leadership.


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Vikings, Cardinals May Start Backups Along O-Lines

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 4, 2009 – 11:15 am

Injury concerns for the Vikings and Cardinals leading up to their game this Sunday night have been largely centered on QB Kurt Warner (concussion) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot). But there are a couple of other injury situations that will impact this matchup and both of them are along the offensive line.

For the Cardinals, starting LT Mike Gandy has missed 2 consecutive practices due to a pelvis injury he suffered last week in Tennessee. Arizona has started the same offensive line for 31 consecutive games but that streak may come to an end this week if Gandy is unable to play.

Starting in Gandy’s place should he be unable to go will be Jeremy Bridges, a 6-year veteran who has placed mostly G and some RT during his career. With Jared Allen and the Williams Wall coming to town on Sunday, Bridges will be tested. But he sounds confident.

“They say you’re supposed to be a little more finesse at left tackle, but it’s the same difference, man,” Bridges told the team’s official website. “You’ve got great athletes coming off that edge and you’ve got to block them. You’ve got to do a lot of dancing.”

The Vikings face a similar scenario along their offensive line, but at a different position. Starting RG Anthony Herrera has also missed 2 practices this week and he was held out of last week’s game against Chicago after suffering a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11. The difference is that the Vikings already have one game under their belt with a backup in the starting lineup.

Veteran swingman Artis Hicks, whose value with the Vikings is that he can play 4 positions along the offensive line, filled in more-than-capably for Herrera last week.

“I thought he did a good job,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said last week after the Bears game. “He is a jack of all trades. He doesn’t flinch. He’s started right tackle, he’s started right guard, he started on the over side so he’s a valuable guy and there is nobody on that team that thinks twice about him going in there.”

Against Chicago last week the Vikings offensive line protected QB Brett Favre as he threw for 392 yards and they also paved the way for the Vikings ground game to record 152 net yards rushing.

It may very well be that both Gandy for the Cardinals and Herrera for the Vikings are able to play on Sunday night. But if they aren’t, Bridges and Hicks are poised to step up and fit in.


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Will Warner Play?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 2, 2009 – 10:10 am

When we set the table for Arizona in an earlier blog entry today, a large part of the Arizona discussion centered on QB Kurt Warner, who has the league’s 9th-best passer rating (94.4) and ranks 6th in both passing TDs (20) and completion percentage (67.5%).

But we must also mention that, for now at least, Warner’s status for Sunday night’s game against the Vikings remains unknown because of a concussion he suffered in Week 11 against St. Louis.

According to the official Cardinals-Rams game book on NFL.com, Warner was replaced by Matt Leinart at the end of the 1st half. Leinart played the entire 2nd half of the Rams game and also started the Cardinals game last week against the Tennessee Titans, a 20-17 loss.

Warner was in line to start last week but woke up with neck pain on Sunday and the team decided to sit him. Now Warner is in line to start against the Vikings on Sunday night, but as was the case last week in Tennessee, those plans could change at any moment.

“The easy thing to do is just play,” Warner told the team’s official website. “The hard thing is to make that decision where you feel like you could be hurting your team, but you don’t know whether you’re putting yourself at risk or not. You’re always wondering if your teammates second-guess you or if you could have made an impact on the game.”

The Vikings dealt with a similar situation last week with starting RG Anthony Herrera, who was listed on the injury report with a concussion. Herrera did not practice at all leading up to last week’s Bears game and he of course did not suit up on Sunday, either.

The question of whether Warner will play or not will linger all week and probably even into Sunday morning. Even if the Cardinals, head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Warner or any of the QBs teammates say unequivocally that Warner will play, it’s never a sure thing until the team’s release their list of active/inactive players 90 minutes prior to kickoff.


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Versatile Veteran Hicks Steps In For Herrera

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 30, 2009 – 7:55 am

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress told reporters after Sunday’s game that he can’t recall coaching a more versatile player in his career than rookie WR Percy Harvin. But it was another versatile player on Sunday who did his job and allowed other versatile players, such as Harvin, to rack up yards and points.

G Artis Hicks, an 8-year veteran who was acquired by the Vikings from Philadelphia the same year Childress came to Minnesota from the Eagles, stepped into the starting lineup on Sunday in place of Anthony Herrera, who was held out due to a concussion sustained in last week’s win over the Seahawks. The Vikings offense didn’t miss a beat with Hicks in the fold, racking up 537 nets yards – 159 of them on the ground – and allowing just 1.0 sack.

“I thought he did a good job,” Childress said of Hicks after the game. “He had Tommie Harris in there lined up as a three technique. He is a jack of all trades. He doesn’t flinch. He’s started right tackle, he’s started right guard, he started on the over side, so he’s a valuable guy and there is nobody on that team that thinks twice about him going in there.”

When the Vikings acquired Hicks several years back, Childress recalled a time when they were both in Philadelphia and Hicks was inserted into the starting lineup at LT only minutes before the game. LT is a premier position in football, of course, because you’re protecting the QBs blindside, and Hicks stepped into the starting LT position on a Monday Night Football game and the Eagles offense didn’t miss a beat.

During his time in Minnesota, Hicks has played several positions, including starting at LT last year in place of a suspended Bryant McKinnie. This year, Hicks has contributed significantly yet again.


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