Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made it clear at the NFL owners meetings in late March that his intention was for Bernard Berrian to play a big role in 2011 and that the team had no intention of cutting the wide receiver.
But that was before it was reported the Vikings would be $5.1 million over the $120.4 million salary cap that will be part of the NFL's soon-to-be-approved (we think) Collective Bargaining Agreement. Berrian, coming off a season in which he caught only 28 passes and had no touchdowns, has a cap hit of $6.258 million for this season.
Berrian, who attended the annual Starkey Hearing Foundation gala Sunday night in St. Paul, was fatalistic when asked about his confidence level in remaining with the Vikings. "Until I hear otherwise, I'm just really ready to get back to work," he said. "If we have to cut ties, then we have to cut ties."
Berrian did leave the door open for being willing to restructure his contract, which has two seasons left on it after this year. "I'd have to go back and talk to my agent [Drew Rosenhaus] and have all the talks and discussions that we need to go through for that," Berrian said. "But whatever happens, it's going to happen. One way or the other."
Berrian described his offseason as having "been great," and said he took advantage of the lockout to get more rest than usual after returning home to California. In fact, he took off the first three months of the offseason. All indications are the lockout will end this week, perhaps as early as Monday, and Berrian said he will come to training camp with fresh legs.
"Usually after the season it's a week, week-and-a-half and I'm back working out again and working out hard," he said. "This one I wanted to take some time off while we had the opportunity to really just rest up and heal. Then hit it hard, get back into it."
Although there was some thought that he might join rookie quarterback Christian Ponder this spring for a few days of workouts at the IMG Madden Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Berrian did not make it. As a result, Berrian has not yet seen the playbook (or at least portion of the playbook) that Ponder was given during the brief time the lockout was lifted in late April.
"That's one of the things I need to get back to," he said. "I need to get a copy of that someway, somehow,"
That should happen in the coming days. Berrian also will get a chance to meet with Ponder, who could be the Vikings' starting quarterback on Sept. 11 at San Diego for the regular-season opener. Berrian is among those who agree that would be a lot to ask of a rookie who missed the entire offseason program.
“I think with the time frame it would probably be good to get a veteran [quarterback] just because it’s so hard," Berrian said. "It’s already hard enough with a full offseason being a rookie quarterback and the way things have been condensed down now he’s four weeks from [being] thrown in the fire, if he’s supposedly supposed to be the starter. A lot of careers go down the drain at quarterback starting out that fast. He’s a pretty head strong and pretty head smart guy so I think he’d be able to accept the challenge and run with it.”
As for having to learn new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense in short order, Berrian sounded excited.
“We’re getting thrown in the fire, we’re back to being rookies again," he said. "I’m pretty sure they are going to make it as easy as possible. We’ve been in the NFL, especially veterans, so picking up a new playbook is not really all that hard. Most of the offenses, they’re all concepts anyways. It’s just different terminology.”