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The return game: Who does what

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  • September 7, 2010 - 9:22 AM

The Vikings decision to include Darius Reynaud in last Friday's trade with the Giants left many wondering who would return punts on Thursday night in New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said Tuesday that wide receivers Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and Asher Allen would be in the mix for that job. Given how uncomfortable Allen looked in the preseason in this role, one has to think Berrian and Camarillo are the true candidates to return punts.

This isn't ideal given the Vikings at this point stand to have only four wide receivers up for the game but Murphy and coach Brad Childress need to make sure whoever settles under punts can be relied upon to catch them. Berrian returned only two punts last season, but two years ago he returned seven and averaged 16.3 yards. He also had an 82-yard touchdown return at Arizona.

The issue is that Berrian had problems with both hamstrings last year and there has to be some concern about that when it comes to adding to his duties. With Sidney Rice out, the Vikings can't afford to lose Berrian. Camarillo worked on catching punts before last Thursday's preseason game against Denver but told Chip he has never returned a punt in the NFL. He did do it in college.

Camarillo has good hands, however, and the Vikings might put him back there just as they did with Bobby Wade a few years ago. That might not lead to anything dynamic but odds are he wouldn't drop the ball.

Meanwhile, Percy Harvin is going to resume his role as the Vikings kickoff returner. Harvin is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands and averaged 27.5 yards with two touchdowns on 42 returns. He missed most of training camp because of issues with migraine headaches and the potential he could take a big hit certainly exists but that could happen with Harvin playing receiver, too.

The interesting thing is that the Vikings also are considering using Harvin on punt returns at some point. When that would happen is unknown. Harvin is a fantastic football talent and looks comfortable doing almost everything. But when he worked on punt returns during training camp last season it didn't look as if it came naturally to him. 

“I’m pretty good," Harvin said. "We are working on that right now. You could see me back there, you might not. But we’re definitely working on it and we have some things to accomplish.”

Asked what was most difficult about catching punts, Harvin said: “For me it’s just getting back used to it. I hadn’t done it in a while so just locating the ball and it does get pretty high. Just locating it and being comfortable with it is the main thing.”

Harvin last returned punts in his final season at Florida but that lasted only a brief time. As for potentially adding another assignment, Harvin said he wouldn't object: “I was drafted to do whatever I can to help this team win so if me needing to do punt returns gives us a better chance to win than I’m all for it."

 

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