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Peterson Limited, Ponder Full Participant In Wednesday Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 14, 2011 – 3:20 pm

The Vikings returned to the practice field on Wednesday morning as they begin on-field preparations for the New Orleans Saints. And with the return to the practice field comes the return of injury reports. It’s mostly good news for the Vikings on the week’s first injury report.

The only player who did not participate in practice was WR Greg Camarillo, who was held out with concussion-like symptoms. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Camarillo came to the team with the symptoms on Tuesday, and he also said that Camarillo will be evaluated throughout the week.

Limited in practice for the Vikings on Wednesday were E.J. Henderson (shoulder), S Jarrad Page (hip) and RB Adrian Peterson (ankle). Frazier that Peterson looks to be much improved from even a week ago and it seems as if the team is optimistic that their star running back will be able to return on Sunday. CB Asher Allen (shoulder) and QB Christian Ponder (hip) were also on the injury report, but both were fall participants and are expected to play on Sunday.

For the Saints, the following players were held out of practice: RB Mark Ingram (toe), LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) and LB Jonathan Vilma (knee). Limited in practice was DE Turk McBride (ankle) and full participants in practice were CB Tracy Porter (wrist), DT Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), TE Jimmy Graham (back) and LB Scott Shanle (shoulder).


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After Hard Work, Rookie WR Stephen Burton Gets An Opportunity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2011 – 6:54 am

On Wednesday we discussed the possibility of Greg Camarillo’s role with the team increasing, in part because of the Vikings decision to release WR Bernard Berrian. But Berrian’s release presents another Vikings WR with a big opportunity, too.

Rookie Stephen Burton, who was selected by the Vikings in last April’s draft with a 7th-round pick (#236 overall) out of Division II West Texas A&M, was promoted from the practice squad to fill Berrian’s vacant spot on the active roster. Burton is now the 9th of 10 Vikings draft picks from last April to make the active roster.

As Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune pointed out, Burton’s promotion to the active roster comes roughly 6 months after he received a call from the Vikings notifying him that he’s been drafted.

“That draft call was incredible,” Burton told Wiederer. “Because of the lockout, if you went undrafted, it would have been months of not knowing if you’d get an opportunity. So for me, that was such a highlight. But when I got the message Tuesday about getting called up, that was a great feeling in a different way. My first thought was, ‘This is awesome.’ After all the hard work, I’m finally getting an opportunity.”

Burton stands at 6-1, 221 pounds and is a developmental prospect at the WR position. But with rookie Christian Ponder now the starting QB, the team’s record at 1-6 with the midpoint of the season around the corner and, perhaps most importantly, one of the best WR coaches in the business on staff in George Stewart, now is a great time to give a player such as Burton a chance to prove himself.

Promotion to the active roster doesn’t necessarily mean a player will be active for a game. The active roster contains 53 players, but teams are permitted to dress 46 of them on game day. So Burton could be inactive on Sundays, or his ability to impress coaches could meet a sudden need at the position, which might result in him suiting up in a game.

Increasing Burton’s chances of seeing the field on Sundays this season is his ability to perform on special teams. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday that Burton has kickoff return capabilities, and if Burton can also display skill in kick coverage, his chances of playing will only increase.

“He’s a guy who has really grown from the time we got him to the point where we’ve been commenting about him over the last two or three weeks,” Frazier said. “He had some hamstring issues when we were in Mankato so he missed some time and we really couldn’t get a feel for where he was but once he got that injury behind him you could see the promise that he has. We’re excited to see how he performs now that he has this chance.”


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Will Camarillo’s Role Increase?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 26, 2011 – 9:28 am

The Vikings acquired Greg Camarillo from the Miami Dolphins roughly two weeks prior to the start of the 2010 regular season. Camarillo’s primary contribution last season was as the team’s punt returner, where he fielded 39 returns without a single fumble. He’s been an occasional contributor in the Vikings passing game, collecting 20 receptions in 2010 and 3 more so far this year.

Camarillo’s role diminished some early this season. He was active in Week 1 but inactive for the next 3 games, largely because Marcus Sherels has handled punt return duties this season. But here have been three developments with the Vikings recently that have caused me to wonder if Camarillo will have a more prominent role with the team going forward.

First, the Vikings are now down a receiver with the release of Bernard Berrian. With Berrian now out of the mix, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins become the primary receivers with Devin Aromashodu as the third option. That elevates Camarillo into the regular WR rotation and likely ensures that he’ll be active on a weekly basis.

Secondly, rookie Christian Ponder is now the starting QB and I believe Camarillo’s craftiness and 6 seasons of experience make him a natural safety blanket for a young QB. Case and point is last week’s game against the Packers, where Camarillo consistently wiggled open after Ponder bought time in and out of the pocket. Both of Camarillo’s receptions last week came on 3rd and long plays, where Ponder needed a bailout reception.

“There were a couple times when a route was called and things break down a little bit and Christian runs around and he (Camarillo) ends up uncovering, and part of it is due to his experience and just his wherewithal and his understanding of coverages,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s something a veteran receiver would do and he ended up making some big plays for us.”

Lastly, Camarillo could be called upon once again to contribute as a punt returner. Don’t get me wrong, Sherels has done a fine job as a returner. His 12.8-yard average per return is 6th best in the NFL right now. Where Camarillo would help the Vikings as a punt returner is when the opponent is trying to land a punt inside the 20. Sherels has made a few errors in this area of the field by either fielding a punt too close to the end zone or letting a punt hit the ground and be downed by the opposing team deep in Vikings territory. With Camarillo’s sure-handedness and experience in the punt return game, I think he’s less likely to make these errors and therefore could be implemented as a “pinch hitting” punt returner at the appropriate time.

All of this combined with something Frazier said about Camarillo (quote is below) on Monday leads me to the opinion that Camarillo should become more involved in the Vikings game play on a weekly basis. We’ll see if it happens beginning this week in Carolina and then coming out of next week’s bye. I’ll leave you with a complimentary statement from the Vikings Head Coach on Camarillo.

“When you get to know Greg, he is one of those guys that are a true professional,” Frazier said. “He comes prepared everyday to work. He is very studious when it comes to what he has to get done in the classroom and preparation before practices. He works extremely hard and he is the same way when it comes to preparing for games on Sundays. You go to bed on Saturday night thinking you may not be active and then all of a sudden you are active and he doesn’t miss a beat. He goes out and plays an excellent game for us. He is where he is supposed to be, he makes a lot of great catches. That’s who Greg Camarillo is; he’s a pro in every sense of the word.”


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Late Run Falls Short, Vikings Lose 33-27 To Packers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 23, 2011 – 6:44 pm

Starting a rookie QB and facing an undefeated defending Super Bowl champion, the Vikings weren’t expected to give their opponents much of a challenge on Sunday. But as is the case so often in the NFL, the expected didn’t happen. The Vikings had the ball and a chance to win late in the 4th quarter, but saw their comeback attempt fall painstakingly short, allowing the Green Bay Packers to leave Mall of America Field with a 33-27 victory.

It was Christian Ponder’s first career NFL start, but it didn’t take him long to get right into this heated Vikings-Packers rivalry. On the game’s first offensive play, Ponder used a play-action fake and rollout to find a wide open Michael Jenkins down the left sideline for what was originally a 73-yard TD that caused the Mall of America Field crowd to burst into a frenzy. Officials took the TD away via replay, but just two plays later Ponder found TE Visanthe Shiancoe for a 2-yard TD and an early 7-0 lead.

Ponder made mistakes in the game – he threw 2 INTs and completed 40.6% of his passes – but ultimately he showed poise under pressure and got his teammates to play hard around him.

The Vikings scored 3 offensive TDs, and two of them were TD tosses from Ponder. The other TD came from Adrian Peterson, who carried the ball 24 times and gained 175 yards. With Ponder posing as a threat to move the ball through the air, Peterson found a little extra room in the running game and he took advantage, registering runs of 54, 29 and 25 yards.

Ponder spread the ball around, hitting 6 different targets for 219 total yards. Jenkins was Ponder’s most productive receiver, as he hauled in 3 receptions for 111 yards and 1 TD. Shiancoe had 4 grabs for 45 yards and the score, while both Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin had 2 receptions; Harvin missed much of the 2nd half because of a rib injury.

Green Bay retaliated immediately after the Vikings scored on their first drive, going 91 yards in 9 plays to tie the game at 7 on a 2-yard pass from QB Aaron Rodgers to FB John Kuhn. Rodgers guided a passing attack that methodically drove down the field against the Vikings on that first scoring drive, and it was a sign of things to come for Rodgers and Co. Rodgers completed 24 of 30 passes for 335 yards and 3 TDs on the afternoon.

Following the Packers first score, Ponder responded by guiding another TD drive in the 2nd quarter that culminated in Peterson’s TD, and a 14-7 lead. The Vikings and Packers exchanged FGs after that, which led to a 17-10 Vikings lead at halftime.

Green Bay came out in the 3rd quarter and scored 20 points behind more precision from Rodgers in the passing game. The Green Bay QB found a wide open Greg Jennings thanks to busted coverage for a 79-yard TD right away in the 3rd quarter, and then the Packers scored only minutes later on a 2-yard strike from Rodgers to TE Jermichael Finley. The Packers added 2 more Mason Crosby FGs to take a 33-17 lead into the 4th quarter.

From there, though, Green Bay was done scoring. The Vikings defense held Green Bay out of scoring range and Ponder rallied from a poor 3rd quarter to nearly pull off an upset. He guided the offense 93 yards in 10 plays to score a TD - Jenkins hauled in a 24-yard TD pass – and bring the Vikings to within just 6 points.

The Vikings defensed forced a Green Bay punt after just 4 plays on the ensuing drive, and Ponder took over from his own 2-yardline after a special teams miscue by the Vikings. Missing his best receiver (Harvin), Ponder willed the offense to a pair of 3rd-down conversions, but the Vikings couldn’t extend the drive on a 3rd and 10 play from their own 36. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier made the right move and punted the ball away, thinking his defense – armed with 3 timeouts and the 2-minute warning – could stop Green Bay’s attempts to drain the clock.

But the Packers executed better than the Vikings in the game’s final 2:30, and they were able to run out the clock and come away with a hard-fought 33-17 victory.

CB Asher Allen and LB Chad Greenway each finished with a team-high 11 tackles, while DE Jared Allen collected 2.0 sacks. Allen now has the Vikings franchise record for consecutive games with at least a .5 sack; he’s at 9 now, and surpassed the previous mark set by Jim Marshall and matched by Carl Eller.

The loss drops the Vikings to 1-6 on the season. And while moral victories don’t count in the standings, the Vikings and their fans came away from Mall of America Field on Sunday encouraged by what they saw from their rookie QB and a secondary that was over-matched against Rodgers and Co.


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Tough Days Of Decision-Making Ahead For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 2, 2011 – 9:35 am

The couple of days immediately following the preseason finale is always a tenuous time inside an NFL team’s facility. The Vikings are no exception this year. There were several areas of deep competition on the Vikings roster throughout training camp and the preseason, and now it’s decision-making time for Vikings coaches and scouts.

By 5:00 p.m. CT time on Saturday, NFL teams must reduce their active roster to 53 players. The Vikings currently have 80 players on the roster, which means 27 roster moves must be made in advance of the deadline for the Vikings to comply with the NFL’s roster requirements. That makes for some tough decisions, especially following Thursday night’s performance from many of the Vikings youngsters.

“Our guys really fed off the energy of the crowd and now, probably the real tough part of this job begins,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after Thursday night’s finale against the Houston Texans. “With such a great effort by so many tonight, it’s going to make it tough for our staff to finalize that 53-man roster, which is a good problem to have.”

A lot of Vikings players stood out last night, from DE Adrian Awasom tallying to 2.0 sacks, to Greg Camarillo playing well on special teams, to DE Stylez White flashing a couple times, to solid performances from backup RBs and offensive linemen. And what about LB Larry Dean, who has stood out all of preseason? Or FB Ryan D’Imperio, who continues to progress? Lots of players with solid potential, but not enough roster spots to keep them all.

I’m going to stop short of calling the Vikings roster situation an embarrassment of riches; that’s not the case. It’s just that there was good competition at a lot of spots on the roster and in many of those spots there wasn’t a lot of separation between the guys who should make the roster and the guys who just fell short.

“There were a number of positions coming into this game that we had questions about,” Frazier said. “We’ll sit down, and I was talking to Rick Spielman earlier about just that fact, we’re going to have some strong discussions tomorrow at certain positions and we’ve got to be able to make some good decisions and I realize that there may be some good football players that may not make our team, but there are some good football players that will.”


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Punt Return Job Looks Wide Open; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 16, 2011 – 4:11 pm

In this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, I made the case for Lorenzo Booker to take care of kickoff return duties for the Vikings this season. The punt return job, however, is not quite as simple to delegate at this point.

Before Tuesday afternoon’s practice officially began, I watched 8 Vikings take turns fielding punts. They were: CBs Asher Allen, Cord Parks, Marcus Sherels and Devon Torrence; WRs Stephen Burton, Greg Camarillo and Jaymar Johnson; and RB Lorenzo Booker.

Camarillo was the primary punt returner last season, fielding 39 of the team’s 42 punt returns. He hasn’t done anything to lose the responsibility and is in fact one of the surest-handed returners in the group, but there’s nothing wrong with opening up the job for competition. Through one preseason game, Johnson has the best results (1 return for 40 yards) and Sherels has returned a pair of punts for 4 yards.

There are higher-profile position battles on the Vikings roster this year, such as backup QB and starting safety, but the importance of the punt return position battle should not be understated. The candidates for the job come from a variety of different positions, which means the punt return job has an impact on several areas of the team when it comes time for coaches and scouts to pick the 53-man rosters.

We’ll continue to monitor this position battle for you on vikings.com throughout the rest of training camp and the preseason. Here are a few notes from Tuesday afternoon’s practice…

– The team worked in full pads for just short of 2.5 hours under partly cloudy skies. The temperature was fairly warm, but there was a persistent wind that cooled the air and made life a bit more difficult for P Chris Kluwe and K Ryan Longwell.

– Longwell, though, was solid during the special teams period and connected on a high percentage of his FG tries.

– RG Anthony Herrera practice for the second straight day and continues to ease back into the swing of things. He worked with the first-team offense. Also working with the first-team offense again on Tuesday was Scott Kooistra.

– Tyrell Johnson was a safety on the first-team defense and Chris Cook worked with the first-team nickel defense.

– The Vikings coaching staff gave the one-on-one drill between WRs and CBs/safeties a different twist. Ordinarily the drill pits just one WR against one CB, but on Tuesday the Vikings worked on route combinations. There were three DBs on the field for the drill (one safety, two CBs) and two WRs. The drill not only had the offensive players working on route combinations and the defensive players working on defensive schemes, but it also forced the defense to communicate and it forced the QB to make a decision on which receiver to target.

– There is usually a “special category” period of practice, which is commonly referred to as “special cats.” Tuesday’s “special cats” period had the offense working in the no-huddle against a 40-second play clock. A few interesting things to note about this period of practice: QB Donovan McNabb ran the no-huddle for the first-team offense flawlessly and without error; Camarillo saw a lot of extra time with the first-team as a slot WR with Harvin sitting out (more on that below); and rookie Brandon Burton grabbed an INT during the period off of Christian Ponder on an impressive play where he tipped the pass and was able to concentrate in traffic to haul in the pick.

– Guys who sat out of practice on Tuesday: S Simeon Castiille, LBs Heath Farwell and Kenny Onatolu, DE D’Aundre Reed and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. WR Percy Harvin took part in the early portions of practice but then sat out for most of the workout. It looked like a precautionary move more than anything because he stuck around outside for the entire practice and was interacting with his teammates. Harvin was bothered by a rib injury near the end of the Mankato portion of training camp. Also, LB Jonathan Gilmore left practice early; no indication on his injury.

– I’m not sure how much it’s worth tracking which players are playing with the first-team, second-team and third-team, mostly because coaches are still experimenting with different combinations as they try to shape their position groups. So at the risk of jumping to conclusions, or causing you to jump to conclusions, here’s how a few positions appear to be shaking out: Adrian Awasom (LDE) and Everson Griffen (RDE) are consistently with the second-team; Letroy Guion and Fred Evans are second-team DTs; rookie LB Ross Homan and veteran LB Mark Washington have been primarily with the second-team defense the past two days; Asher Allen and Chris Cook are the second-team CBs, but Sherels is rotated into the mix on occasion; Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford are the second-team safeties and both have taken turns with the first-team; the second-team nickel features Burton and Devon Torrence at outside CB, Marcus Sherels in the slot, Jasper Brinkley and Ross Homan at LB and a rotation at safety among Chris Adingupu, Raymond and Sanford.

– Rookie DeMarcus Love, a 4-year starter at the University of Arkansas in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference (SEC), seems to have established himself as the second-team LT.


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Vikings Offense Progressing; Morning Pracitce Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2011 – 12:04 pm

It’s natural for offenses to come along slower than defenses in training camp and the preseason, largely because offenses rely on rhythm and timing. Add in the fact that the lockout took away minicamps and OTAs, and offenses are at an even greater disadvantage.

The Vikings are certainly no exception to that rule, especially with two new QBs and a bunch of new WRs added to the mix since the end of the 2010 season. Individual players have performed well quite often at 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, but as a group there is still plenty of progress to be made.

The good news is that progress is being made and Vikings coaches are pleased with the way the team is working. Things are going in the right direction.

“I think the guys are getting better each day,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Tuesday. “They’re starting to absorb the concepts and the techniques that we’re teaching. We haven’t had a lot of time and we’ve acknowledged that, but they’ve done a superb job of getting better every day, focusing on an area of improvement every day rather just going out there and mindlessly working through practice.”

Musgrave credited head coach Leslie Frazier for the way he’s organized this training camp, especially in light of the unusual CBA-related circumstances that surrounded the beginning of camp.

“The practices are structured where we are covering each and every situation,” Musgrave explained. “The players feel prepared, we feel prepared as coaches, we’re just scratching the surface of in terms of having enough turns at our plays where we’re real precise and good at them.”

The next big step in the offense’s progression will come on Saturday night when the Vikings play at the Tennessee Titans for the preseason opener. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a crisp, mistake-free performance by the offense. But it’s certainly fair to expect the offense to continue its progression and the bottom line is the offense must be “all systems go” by the time the regular season rolls around.

Musgrave certainly understands that.

“We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of the precision of the passing game,” Musgrave said. “I think guys know what they’re doing, but in terms of having the number of turns it takes to be good at it, we’re not there. But fortunately we’ll have until September 11 to get good at those things.”

The current status of the Vikings offense is nothing about which to be alarmed. In fact, Vikings fans should take solace in the fact that they’ll have a 13-year veteran QB in Donovan McNabb at the helm and there will be plenty of talent around McNabb to get the offense firing on all cylinders.

Here are a few notes from Wednesday morning’s practice…

– The Vikings worked for over two hours in ideal weather conditions. The heat has been dialed back several notches, the sun is shining and the blustery winds from Tuesday have vanished. Frazier had his team in shorts, shoulder pads/jerseys and helmets for the workout.

– Another outstanding crowd packed the bleachers and standing-room only sections of 2011 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. I know I’ve mentioned this countless times during camp, but I can’t say enough about how great Vikings fans have been to the team over the last 10 days. All the practices are well-attended, the Northland Ford Dealers Autograph Zone is constantly buzzing, Vikings Village is rocking and the support from the local Mankato community has been terrific.

– The Vikings have practiced “the little things” a lot during this camp. It might sound like a foregone conclusion that this is the case, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how important some facets of the game can be, even though we only see them on occasion. For example, I saw special teams coordinator Mike Priefer working with his group on Tuesday in the back of the endzone. They were practicing punting while backed up and they also worked on situations where the team would intentionally take a safety (winning by six points, backed up on your own 1-yardline with less than a minute to go). Other “little things” I’ve seen the Vikings working on recently: Hail Mary, rushing onto the field to kick a FG with time running out, onside kick, punt after safety and diving to save a touchback on a punt.

– S Husain Abdullah was absent from practice on Wednesday as he attends the annual Iftar Dinner at the White House on Wednesday night, celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Rookie S Mistral Raymond got most of the work with the first-team, which is an interesting development. 

– LB Jasper Brinkley has been working mostly with the second-team defense, but he’s a candidate to earn a job with the first-team if he can outperform Erin Henderson during camp and the preseason. Right now Henderson is the favorite to fill the role vacated by Ben Leber’s departure, but Brinkley has been good in camp and he helped himself today by intercepting a pass during 7-on-7 drills.

– The offense bounced back immediately after Brinkley’s INT, though. Ponder zipped a pass in to WR Greg Camarillo on the next play for what would’ve been a large gain down the left seam. On the last play of 7-on-7, Ponder and Camarillo connected again, this time on the right side of the field.

– There were three great catches that I noticed during the team’s two-minute drill part of practice. The first one was an all-hands catch by TE Kyle Rudolph. He had a defender draped all over him and the pass was thrown perfectly by Joe Webb to his outside shoulder. Rudolph lunged for the ball, got his hands underneath it and hauled in the catch while maintaining possession all the way through the play. The second great catch was by WR Devin Aromashodu down the sideline. He was led perfectly by Ponder and also got two feet in bounds before crossing the boundary. The third catch was on a pass from Webb to WR Manny Arceneaux down the right side that put the offense in FG range with less than a minute to play.

– Passing the eye test today: WR Devin Aromashodu, QB Christian Ponder, S Mistral Raymond and TE Kyle Rudolph.

– A group of political leaders from Ramsey County was at practice and both Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and VP of Public Affairs/Stadium Development Lester Bagley spoke with reporters after practice.

– The defensive line signed autographs in the Northland Ford Dealers Autograph Zone.

– The Vikings have a one-hour walk-through Wednesday afternoon beginning at 3:00 p.m.


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Notes From Training Camp Practice #1

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2011 – 4:36 pm

The first training camp practice of the Leslie Frazier era is in the books. Vikings players and coaches hit the outdoor practice fields for about 95 minutes under partly cloudy skies and windy conditions. The wind didn’t provide a great teaching environment but it probably helped everyone tolerate the humidity.

Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder met with reporters after practice and one of his first comments was about how great the weather was for the workout; Ponder is of course used to the suffocating heat and humidity in Tallahassee, Florida for training camp practices. Speaking of Ponder, we caught up with him before he met with reporters, so be sure to check back to vikings.com for that video interview tonight.

There was a larger-than-normal contingent of players who sat out of practice on Monday, due mostly to rules in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that prohibit players operating under a new contract from participating in practice until the League year stars, which is on Thursday, August 4. Notable players not practicing because of this rule included S Husain Abdullah, WRs Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins, DT Remi Ayodele, LB Erin Henderson and QB Donovan McNabb.

Beyond unavailable personnel, another limitation for the Vikings in practice today was because of another new CBA rule which prohibits teams from contact practices for the first three days of camp, including report day. This means that tomorrow (Tuesday) will be another day of no contact.

So because of the limited personnel available and because of the no contact rule, we’ll take it easy before we start listing off which players are running with the first team and which players are running with the second team. For now, suffice it to say that there were no major surprises in terms of the unofficial depth chart.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier held a press conference following practice and vikings.com streamed it live. We’ll have that available for you in on-demand format at some point tonight, so be sure to come back for that. Also, RB Adrian Peterson left practice early, but it’s for a good reason. Frazier disclosed after practice that Peterson’s fiancé went into labor; don’t be surprised if Peterson misses a couple days.

Here are a few more quick notes from Monday’s practice…

– CB Marcus Sherels and WRs Stephen Burton, Greg Camarillo and Jaymar Johnson took turns returning punts. It was a tough task because of the wind. We’ll continue to monitor the punt returner – as well as the kick returner – rotations throughout camp to try and give you an idea of who to expect back there for preseason game #1.

– There was a #4 jersey out on the field. No, it wasn’t Brett Favre. With new QB Donovan McNabb having negotiated #5 away from Kluwe, the Vikings punter has switched to jersey #4 for the season.

– I thought I’d make a simple note each day of players who just looked good…players who pass what is called “the eye test.” We’ll track this throughout camp and then see if it translates onto the field during games. Passing the eye test today was: FB Matt Asiata, RB Toby Gerhart, LB Chad Greenway, CB Cedric Griffin, WR Percy Harvin, DE D’Aundre Reed, RB Alexander Robinson and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.


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Gerhart Set To Watch Former Teammates In Bowl Game Tonight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 3, 2011 – 9:18 am

The Vikings season is over but rookie RB Toby Gerhart has one game left on his schedule of significance. His former team, the University of Stanford Cardinal, plays in the Orange Bowl tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT against the Virginia Tech Hokies and Gerhart has plans to hop on a flight to Miami to catch the game.

There is a team meeting schedule this morning for the Vikings and after that Gerhart told me he’s heading straight to the airport to catch his flight. Because of the tight time constraints, Gerhart said he’s going straight from the airport to the stadium, meaning he’s going to have a lot of luggage to tote with him to the game. But something tells me the Stanford operations and equipment staff will take good care of him.

Gerhart will see a lot of familiar faces tonight, including a current teammate. Vikings WR Greg Camarillo also played at Stanford and he’ll be at the game as well.


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Loss Hides The Shine On Special Teams’ Stars

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 17, 2010 – 9:22 am

Lost in the negativity of last week’s 21-3 loss to the NY Giants at Ford  Field in Detroit and the whirlwind of developments involved in the collapse of the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome roof was an outstanding performance by the Vikings special teams unit. Let’s take a quick look back at what happened…

Punt/Punt Coverage
One of the Vikings top performers all season has been P Chris Kluwe, and he was in great form once again last week. A sputtering Vikings offense wasn’t able to sustain drives, meaning Kluwe was called on often to boot the ball away while also trying to maintain some kind of field position advantage. Kluwe had 10 punts on the night, with a net average of 42.4. More importantly, though, is that 4 of Kluwe’s punts stopped inside the Giants 20, only 3 of the 10 were returned and just 1 of them went into the endzone for a touchback.

For the season now, Kluwe ranks 3rd in the NFL in net punting (40.9), 1st in the NFC with 29 punts inside the 20 and tied for 1st in the NFL in fair catches. We also shouldn’t forget about the coverage team, as they’ve combined with Kluwe to allow just 5.5 yards per return, which ranks 1st in the NFL.

Punt Return
Kluwe wasn’t the only busy punt on Monday night. New York’s Matt Dodge had 7 punts on the night, but Vikings punt returner Greg Camarillo made sure Dodge and the Giants punt team didn’t have the same kind of success Kluwe and his group had. Camarillo returned 5 of the 7 punts and averaged 18.0 yards per try, an outstanding number. On top of that, he had a 52-yard return in which he ran across the field twice, dodging would-be tacklers and setting the offense up with good field position. Camarillo has been excellent in terms of securing the ball this season on punt returns, but on Monday he displayed some burst and playmaking ability.

Kickoff Return
Last season Percy Harvin was a Pro Bowl kickoff return selection, but the Vikings were without him on Monday night. So the newly-acquired Lorenzo Booker stepped in and looked like a natural running behind some solid blocking from special teams coordinator Brian Murphy’s group. Booker had 4 returns for 123 yards – a 30.8-yard average – and he had a sensational return that went for a TD but was called back because of a blocking in the back penalty. Add in the extra yards lost from that penalty, plus the TD, and the kickoff returns numbers would’ve looked even better.

Kickoff
The Vikings didn’t do much scoring, so Ryan Longwell and Co. only had 2 kickoffs on the night. In the limited reps, though, they were solid. Kickoff teams love touchbacks, and Longwell delivered one against the Giants. On the only other kickoff, the Vikings yielded just a 19-yard return.

Placekicking
Again, not much to report on here, but Longwell was a perfect 1-for-1 on the night, hitting a 21-yard try in the 1st quarter to stake the Vikings to a 3-0 lead. For the season, Longwell has been steady, converting 14 of 15 FG tries with his only miss coming at blustery Soldier Field when he banged one off the uprights.

Longwell is one of the most consistent performers I’ve ever seen with the Vikings. He’s converted 85-of-89 (95.5%) FGs from inside 45 yards since joining the Vikings in 2006 and he is currently ranked 8th all-time in NFL history with a career FG percentage of 83.3%. Longwell owns the team record for the most consecutive FGs made under 40 yards with 35.


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