MANKATO -- Bill Musgrave expressed little concern about his work-in-progress offense today even after another practice in which the unit appeared anything but sharp.
"I think the guys are getting better each day," said Musgrave, the Vikings' new offensive coordinator. "They're starting to absorb the concepts and the techniques we're teaching. We haven't had a lot of time – we've acknowledged that – but they've done a super job of getting better every day, focusing on an area of improvement every day rather than just going out there mindlessly working through practice."
Nonetheless, there are almost certainly more mistakes being made than Musgrave wants to see and there isn't much time to fix things. The Vikings open the regular season on Sept. 11 at San Diego, or a month and two days from now. The first preseason game is Saturday night at Tennessee.
"We're not anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of precision in the passing game," Musgrave said. "I think guys know what they're doing. But in terms of having enough turns that it takes to be good at it ... fortunately we have the rest of August and up to Sept. 11 to get good at those things. They stayed out after practice today, did extra work just to get that rapport that requires us to be precise against NFL secondaries."
The issue is that with no offseason camps, installation that would have been done long ago is going on now. In fact, Musgrave decided to halt installation late last week and then resume it on Sunday so he wasn't overloading players. Then there is the matter of getting quarterback Donovan McNabb, also new to the system, prepared.
"I think we'll continue through the month of August, probably up until between the second and third preseason games," with installation, Musgrave said. "But you're right, we suspended it over the weekend, we kicked it back in Sunday night, we installed some more last night, and then we'll start to really talk about somewhat of a honed-down ready list for the preseason game Saturday in Nashville."
That game will be interesting because while it's sure to be sloppy on both sides, it also will be real football. The Vikings, for instance, have done little hitting in this camp and while players must think fast, they aren't in trouble if they don't. That will change Saturday.
"Well, this is definitely not normal," Musgrave said of holding camp fresh off the lockout. "It's uncharted territory. But I think Leslie [Frazier] is doing an outstanding job in orchestrating this camp with his meetings, with the way we've gone through walk-throughs. The practices are structured where we're covering each and every situation, so the players feel prepared and we feel prepared as coaches.
"We're just scratching the surface in terms of having enough turns at our plays, so that we're real precise and good at it. That's what preseason is for – we want to get more and more turns at our plays so that by the time Sept. 11 gets here in San Diego, we have some skill at those techniques."
Herrera's return date
Musgrave said the Vikings do have a plan for when right guard Anthon Herrera (ACL) will come off the physically-unable-to-perform list but he left that for Frazier to address at a later time.
"I know he's making progress, he's doing some more football-related functional drills rather than just rehab drills," Musgrave said. "We're looking forward to the return of Anthony at some point in August or September, whenever that date comes up."
Chris DeGeare has been playing right guard in Herrera's place and Musgrave said Herrera will not be handed the starting job when he returns."Those two guys will compete for the right guard spot when we get up to that point," Musgrave said. "We've got competition across the board, so we're looking forward to getting Anthony into the mix. That will be the first step."
Ryan Cook also could be in the mix for that job.
- Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and safety Tyrell Johnson (hamstring) sat out practice. Shiancoe was injured on Monday; Johnson sat out Monday after tweaking his hamstring on Saturday night. Linebacker Kenny Onatolu (foot) continues to be sidelined. Defensive back Simeon Castille also did work off to the side after appearing to injure his leg Saturday.
- Jamarca Sanford is getting the reps with the first-team defense at free safety with Johnson sidelined. The two had been competing for the job. Onatolu, meanwhile, is unable to compete with Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley for the weak-sideline linebacker spot. “When your evaluating, that’s a hard deal, you know what I mean?" defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said. "When you’re nicked up and you have a little nick, you have to make sure you’re getting your mental reps when you’re out there so when you come back there’s no fall-off. That’s the important thing there. Obviously, the guys that are getting reps are getting better and hopefully that will be the case as we go along. The thing we want to do is get everybody healthy.”
- The Vikings waived cornerback Marcell Gipson, who left the team last week after his grandmother passed away.
- Bob LaMonte, the agent for Frazier, was at this morning's practice at Minnesota State.