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Observations After A Week Removed

Posted by cjsiewert on August 20, 2010 – 4:36 pm

It’s been over a week since I’ve been able to observe Vikings training camp, so today was a great day to catch up on the progression of the Vikings players.

After the events that unfolded this week with QB Brett Favre and WR Percy Harvin, it might be easy to think that there has been too many distractions for Vikings players to take on in such a short period of time, but the truth of the matter is that this team is well prepared for any distractions that may come about.

“I think we are the best-conditioned team on distractions,” Vikings WR Bernard Berrian humorously commented to a group of reporters. “It’s just all about how well you can handle it and I think we showed that we can handle it all well last year, so as long as we continue to do things we’re doing this year we’ll be able to handle it now as well.”

Just as Mike pointed out earlier, it was great to see Harvin at practice today walking around with a big smile on his face and interacting with the rest of his teammates. The 2-year veteran’s presence on the sidelines for the beginning of practice was surely a welcomed sight for players and coaches alike.

“It was good to see him,” LB E.J. Henderson said. “The way he left the field yesterday, anytime you see anybody leave in an ambulance. It’s good to see him back in here walking around with a smile on his face.”

On the field today, a few things that stuck out in my mind were WR Logan Payne’s ability to go up and bring down any pass thrown to him that he could get his hands on and CB Asher Allen’s improvement in the secondary. Just as the case was last week at training camp in Mankato, Payne continued to make great catches with his hands rather than his body while running great routes. Allen showcased his abilities in the secondary today by hauling in 2 INTs, 1 off the pass of QB Tarvaris Jackson and the other thrown by rookie QB Joe Webb.

Payne has shown that he is capable of playing at a high level and has a great opportunity to make the final 53-man roster, which will be determined in early September. On the other side of the ball, Allen will be starting at CB this Sunday at San Francisco and will rotate with Lito Sheppard.

Before I end this piece, there is 1 thing that I would like to encourage Vikings fans to act upon. Please visit www.minnesotamomentum.com to take action in finding a stadium solution for your men in purple.

I visited the Metrodome today for a tour of the facilities in preparation for a game day internship with the Vikings public relations department. The simple and brief tour that the group of 10 interns took this afternoon solidified my thoughts on how badly the Vikings need a new stadium. The Metrodome does not provide fans with the proper game day experience as well as members of the media. Oh, and the players also. The concourses are too narrow for the fans, the press boxes are extremely tight for media members and the lockers rooms barely provide enough space for a 53-man roster, let alone a preseason roster that includes an extra 30 players.

Please talk with your state representatives and visit www.minnesotamomentum.com to help find a stadium solution right here in Minnesota for your home town Vikings.


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Who Will Step Up To Round Out WR Depth?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 19, 2010 – 8:20 am

With all of the hoopla surrounding QB Brett Favre and his decision to return for another season in 2010, it’s easy to forget there is actually a training camp and preseason going on at Winter Park. And with training camp and preseason come position battles.

There are several position battles still on-going for the Vikings, and that will continue to be the case for the next couple weeks. Of course the highest-profile position battle will be for the backup QB job, which Tarvaris Jackson is currently leading. But another one that also got a bit more interesting over the last couple of days is WR.

The Vikings have a healthy crop of young receivers battling to round out the position. That group included 3rd-year player Jaymar Johnson, who had a good training camp and then registered 2 receptions for 38 yards against the St. Louis Rams last weekend in the team’s 1st preseason game. But Johnson also suffered an injury in that game and has been waived by the club.

It’s an unfortunate development for Johnson and the Vikings, but it also opens an opportunity for those who were battling with Johnson for a roster spot. One player to keep an eye on in this regard is former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Logan Payne, who was acquired by the Vikings this past offseason and also had a nice training camp.

Payne showed up in a big way against the Rams, hauling in 7 receptions for 52 yards, including a 2-yard TD from Sage Rosenfels in the 2nd quarter.

“He is a good, smart football player,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of Payne on Monday. “He is a tough guy, did well in special teams (against St. Louis), he ran down and made a couple special team tackles. He is versed in this system, he played multiple positions and he was productive. He has been making the most of all of the reps that he has gotten.”

Payne isn’t the only WR who has a chance to step up. The Vikings have a host of others in the fold, including Marko Mitchell (72-yard TD reception against the Rams) and Ray Small (3 receptions for 31 yards against the Rams). Another factor to keep in mind in handicapping this position battle is the return game. While Payne can increase his stock by covering kicks, a guy like Small can increase his chances by standing out as a kickoff or punt returner. Johnson had 2 punt returns and 1 kickoff return against the Rams, so someone else on the WR depth chart might be able to assume those responsibilities.

With all of that said, the Vikings could also look to add another young receiver or veteran receiver to the mix as well. There are several more chapters left to unfold before the Vikings make any decisions on this position battle, and the next one will happen on Sunday night when the Purple takes the field against the San Francisco 49ers.

Let us know in the comments section below which of the Vikings receivers you’d like to see step up and earn a roster spot.


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“Vanilla” Will Be The Preseason Buzz Word

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2010 – 4:13 pm

We hear it every year about this time; it’s the word “vanilla” and it’s used to describe the types of schemes NFL teams use in the preseason. Rather than spending several days preparing a detailed game plan filled with complex ideas and adjustments, teams typically strip the playbook down to basics in the preseason.

One reason for this is teams don’t want to give away any tendencies or secrets in exhibition games; they want to save that for the season. But another side-effect of the vanilla strategy is that it allows coaches and scouts to evaluate their players more effectively.

“We are going to intentionally make it as vanilla as it can be because you can say what you want, but guys that may be playing for the first time in the NFL, [they] are going to be excitable,” Childress explained to reporters after Wednesday afternoon’s practice. “So, hopefully there’s not a ton of thinking involved.

“Now, do they have to make checks? Do they have to convert routes? Yeah, they have to do that in our offense. Vanilla, and then with a premium on guys playing fast, so you don’t see a lot of thinking and gears grinding. They can just play football and if they’re making a mistake they’re making a full speed mistake but you can see their football prowess.”

The Vikings will practice 2 more times in Mankato and they’ll likely have a walk-through on Friday morning as they prepare for the 1st preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, which will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. CT on Saturday evening in St. Louis. Wednesday afternoon’s practice was held inside Blakeslee Stadium and it was steamy, with temperatures and humidity at high levels.

Here are a few other notes from Childress’ meeting with reporters…

Childress on WR Logan Payne: “He’s getting more than maybe he expected, for a guy that we signed late in the process. He made a roster, then got knocked off that roster because they had another need. But yeah he’s benefited by his turns and he’s shown that he can make plays when called to.”

Childress said QB Tarvaris Jackson will play with the 1st-team offense on Saturday evening and that he and the 1st team offense will leave the game “pretty quick.”

Childress was asked about WR Percy Harvin, who has yet to return to the team after his Grandmother passed away and after Childress said his migraines have resurfaced. Asked if he’s communicated with the 2009 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Childress said that he did on Wednesday morning and that there is no timetable for his return.

“I will say this,” Childress said, “just as you guys saw him in our very first minicamp (in 2009), he has an A football IQ, he did a bunch of those things at Florida, so it wasn’t completely foreign to him and every game plan that we have we have plays that may be his where he’s touching the football. So it’s not as if they’re not going to be re-installed. I’m happy he’s been around the block one time so he knows some of the types of things that we’re trying to do.”


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Reinforcements At WR For Vikings In 2010?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 11, 2010 – 11:32 am

Another day of training camp practices, and another day of no Percy Harvin or Sidney Rice on the practice field. We’ve written about this a couple of times here on the vikings.com Blog during 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the prevailing positive spin on this situation is that the absence of 2 of the club’s top 3 WRs is giving others on the WR depth chart a chance to showcase their abilities.

That’s true. But now I want to take it a step further.

Who is making the most of that opportunity? I’ll qualify my opinion by reminding you that we’re far from being able to make a final judgment on the matter because we haven’t even played 1 preseason game yet. This decision won’t ultimately be made until after the 4th preseason game, which is in early September.

For now, though, I’d point to Jaymar Johnson and Logan Payne as 2 players who might be able to carve out a roster spot for themselves in light of the unavailability of Harvin and Rice during camp. Both Harvin and Rice should be ready to go once the regular season comes around, and both Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis have had good camps and will be on the roster. But I wonder if the absence of Harvin and Rice for such an extended time during training camp might cause Vikings brass to consider keeping 1 more WR than originally planned.

If so, a solid camp from Payne and 2+ years of experience in this system from Johnson make them the top candidates to land the job, in my eyes. Johnson is slight in frame, but he’s continually improved since the Vikings grabbed him with a 7th round draft pick in 2008. Johnson was at Winter Park on a daily basis this offseason and he possesses the straight-line speed and shifty feet necessary to compete for a roster spot. Payne has slowly worked his way into a good training camp, plodding along in the early days but picking up steam along the way. He carries himself well on the football field and doesn’t seem to miss any assignments. I’ve also noticed him on kick coverage units, which is going to increase his chances.

As we stated, there’s a long way to go before this decision is made. But for the time being, don’t sleep on Johnson or Payne just yet.


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Young WRs Catching A Good Opportunity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 10, 2010 – 12:55 pm

The Vikings entered 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with WR being one of their strong points. As it turns out, 2 of the top 3 WRs have missed all or most of training camp and several younger or more inexperienced players have been given more opportunities as a result.

Sidney Rice, who had a breakout season in 2009 and earned his 1st Pro Bowl, was placed on the PUP list to begin camp because of a hip injury that has hindered him since the NFC title game. Rice still isn’t practicing and his return doesn’t seem imminent. Then on Tuesday morning, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress disclosed to reporters that WR Percy Harvin, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, is dealing with migraines. The migraine issue is one that bothered Harvin last season and it comes at a time when Harvin is also grieving the death of his Grandmother.

So with 2 of the top 3 Vikings WRs off the field, things have gone a bit differently than expected for WRs coach George Stewart’s group. A trio of veterans have done what’s expected of them. Bernard Berrian has stepped up and had a great camp, both in on-field production and in leadership ability. And then 2 other veterans – Jaymar Johnson and Greg Lewis – have also been there to take on an extra load with Harvin and Rice out of action.

But what’s been just as pleasing to see is the progression of the Vikings young WRs, such as 2nd-year pro Taye Biddle and former Golden Gopher Logan Payne.

“They’re getting opportunities,” Stewart said of his young and inexperienced receivers. “And that’s what you want to see. To practice and show the coaching staff what you can do. These young guys trying to make the football team, it’s important for them to get work and they’re making the most of their opportunities.”

Berrian, who’s had the best camp of any Vikings WR, agrees with Stewart’s assessment.

“They’re doing a great job coming in, especially the new guys, and adjusting to the playbook and learning plays,” Berrian explained. “They’re being thrown in there, still being young and having to learn things, they’re doing a good job of making plays.”

It’s an encouraging sign that individuals such as Berrian and Stewart have been pleased with what they’ve seen from the young WRs, but the proof will be in the pudding when the Viking suit up for preseason action. The team’s 1st preseason game will be this Saturday in St. Louis.

That’s when we’ll see if the Vikings WRs are catching on.


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Former Gopher Standout Doing More Of The Same In Training Camp

Posted by cjsiewert on August 9, 2010 – 5:54 pm

Having been through 3 different training camps prior to Minnesota, Vikings WR Logan Payne has continually scratched and clawed his way through each practice in hopes of making the regular season roster. The 3-year veteran has yet to see significant time on game days during his career but this season may have a little more action in store for the Land O’ Lakes, Florida native.

In all honesty, Payne has surprised me the most throughout training camp. I have seen him drop 1 pass in the 10 practices I have covered so far and that 1 pass just came off the fingertips on a rocket thrown by QB Tarvaris Jackson.

As I mentioned after Saturday night’s practice, Payne has the ability to catch balls out in front of his body while using his hands rather than trapping the ball against his chest. His ability to make “hands” catches and then quickly making a move after the catch speaks volumes to Payne’s progression, but having a good set of hands is something that Payne prides himself on.

“As a receiver, the ball comes to you and the quarterback is believing in you,” Payne acknowledged. “You gotta come down with the ball. If you’re an NFL receiver you gotta catch everything.”

Payne got the attention of NFL scouts during his senior season as a Golden Gopher, hauling in 59 catches for 804 yards and 9 TDs. The impression he left landed him a job with the Seattle Seahawks as a rookie free agent in 2007. After spending time on the practice squad throughout the ’07 season, Payne earned a role as a starter in 2008. He stepped in with the Seahawks 1st unit for the first 2 games of the regular season before suffering a knee injury during his 2nd game that left him on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

With the injury well behind #84 coupled with star WRs such as Percy Havin and Sidney Rice missing practice time due to personal matters and injury, respectively, Payne has garnered a significant amount of time getting reps in with the 1st and 2nd offensive units throughout training camp.

“Obviously those guys are superstars and you need those guys back as soon as possible,” Payne mentioned of Harvin and Rice. “When someone’s out and the way the NFL is, the next guy has got to step in and produce. I’ve been getting some more reps and that’s what I’m trying to do.”


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Vikings Complete Practice #4; Rookie CB Cook Shines

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2010 – 4:47 pm

On what was the hottest day of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp to this point, the Vikings completed an afternoon workout that lasted just short of 2 hours and starred rookie CB Chris Cook. The 2nd-round CB was able to nab 3 INTs during practice and impress spectators and coaches alike.

The Vikings will have 2 practices tomorrow – a morning session from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. and then an afternoon workout from 3:00 to 4:55. On Tuesday they’ll hold 2 more practices and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said there will be a live period in the morning session.

CJ will have more on Cook’s impressive day as well as how Lito Sheppard’s transition is coming along in his 1st year as a Viking. In the meantime, here are a few quick thoughts from today’s practice.

– Going into training camp, I thought CB Lito Sheppard would be the defensive player who would impress me the most. He’s been solid while working with the 1st- and 2nd-team defense, but LB Chad Greenway has been the most impressive to me so far.

– WR Percy Harvin was not practicing Sunday afternoon. He tweaked his ankle on Saturday morning but was then able to practice on Saturday night, so early speculation regarding his absence from Sunday afternoon’s workout was that it was related to the ankle injury. But Childress disclosed that Harvin had a death in the family and that’s the reason for his absence.

– Logan Payne made the highlight play of the day on offense, stretching out in the right corner of the endzone to haul in a TD pass.

– I listened to DE Ray Edwards meet with a few reporters following practice and when asked about his contract situation the 5-year pro explained the issue was behind him and he’s instead focused on football and helping his team achieve the ultimate goal.

– I’ve noticed the Vikings are using a rotation of Toby Gerhart and Albert Young in place of Adrian Peterson when he doesn’t take 1st-team reps. I have not counted every snap, but my guess is Young has more reps so far with the 1st team. A long way to go yet before this position battle is decided.


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Vikings Wrap Up OTA #10, Host Special Olympics Minnesota Athletes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 2, 2010 – 12:40 pm

The rainy conditions subsided in time for the Vikings to work outside during OTA #10 and then host a group of Special Olympic Minnesota athletes at Winter Park on Wednesday. The Vikings went through a typical OTA practice and then several members of the team, including Head Coach Brad Childress, stayed after practice to visit with the SOM participants and take part in a Punt, Pass and Kick clinic.

Prior to the clinic and meet and greet, the SOM group watched OTA #10 from the sidelines, often times cheering after highlight-caliber play.

After the SOM event, Childress met with reporters and addressed a number of topics, and you can view his presser by clicking here.  Also, check out these images from earlier at today’s practice.

For now, here are a few highlights from Wednesday’s action at Winter Park…

– Rookie 4th round DE Everson Griffen was one of the most engaged players during the SOM event following practice. He signed autographs immediately after practice concluded, assisted the participants in the Kick portion of the clinic and then stayed after the SOM event to visit and pose in photos. We talked to Griffen after the SOM event and we’ll include his comments in the video recap of the event that will be posted later this afternoon.

– I spoke with Dave Dorn, President of Special Olympics Minnesota, during practice and he was once again thrilled to have the event at Winter Park after a practice. Dorn said commented that the Vikings have been a great partner throughout the years and that the Punt, Pass and Kick Clinic was an event that began with former Vikings FB Tony Richardson and has continued with the support of both Childress and superstar RB Adrian Peterson.

– Two highlight-caliber plays stuck out to me during practice. One was registered by LB Erin Henderson in the 2nd-to-last play of the inside skeleton drill. He jumped a pass in the middle of the field that was intended for TE Jeff Dugan and thrown by Sage Rosenfels. Henderson caught the pass smoothly and would’ve glided into the endzone for a TD. On the very next play, though, Rosenfels went back to Dugan at the very same spot and the duo completed the pass. The other highlight-caliber play came from QB Tarvaris Jackson and rookie 7th round TE Mickey Shuler. Jackson took a 5-step drop and rifled a pass to Shuler down the right seam. Shuler, who’s made some impressive catches during OTAs, hauled in the pass and continued down the field.

– Players were made available to the media following practice and one of the most popular interviews was WR Logan Payne, a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher. Payne was signed this offseason after spending time with a few different NFL teams. A few interesting comments from Payne: 1) He said even as a guy whose made an NFL roster in the past, there isn’t much room for error for him and he’s making the most of this opportunity, 2) He had a few other teams interested in bringing him in this offseason but he took a look at the Vikings team and coaching staff and felt comfortable being with the Vikings, and 3) As he comes back from an injury, he feels as fast as he’s ever been during his career.

– While we’re on the topic of former Golden Gophers, I spent a few minutes after Tuesday’s practice with DL Cedric McKinley. He joined the Vikings this offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent and he told me that after playing mostly DE in college he’s been playing a lot of 3-technique here with the Vikings. He also went on to explain that he’s been watching a lot of Kevin Williams’ film and he’s also been impressed with the work ethic Williams has. “I’m having a great experience so far,” McKinley said, “and it’s really a blessing to be a part of this team right now.”


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