Door is open for Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton to be safety starters
- Blog Post by: Dan Wiederer
- May 4, 2012 - 2:32 PM
The Vikings' rookie mini-camp began today at Winter Park. Here's a trio of notes following the morning session.
During the team session Friday morning, Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton each were on the first-unit at safety. That’s hardly a surprise at rookie mini-camp given the Vikings used the 29th overall pick on Smith and pick No. 139 on Blanton. But it also won’t be entirely shocking if the Notre Dame teammates are the starting safeties Sept. 9 when the 2012 season opens. Smith has an inside track on a starting spot. And Blanton could fight his way into the mix, likely needing to show he can outplay Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond, the duo that started together for the final five games of 2011.
“If you take a look at where we ended the season at the safety position, it’s open competition,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “Those guys returning are good players. But we want to really have an open competition.”
JUST FOR KICKS
Rookie Blair Walsh has yet to hear from Ryan Longwell. That’s not a shock given the 22-year-old kicker, for all intents and purposes, is positioning himself to steal Longwell’s job. The Vikings used a sixth-round selection last weekend to nab Walsh, confident the kicker out of Georgia can regain the form he showed in 2009 and 2010 when he was an All-SEC standout who made 88.9 percent of his field goal attempts. Yet even after missing 14 of 35 fields goals last season, Walsh has been brought in to challenge Longwell, a veteran of 15 seasons who struggled some last season (22-for-28 on field goal attempts).
Frazier said Friday he didn’t foresee keeping two kickers around. So let the competition begin.
Said Walsh: “You do what you know how to do and do what you’ve been doing for the last six or seven years. I’m confident in my abilities. We’ll see how it all shakes out. Just being on the same field with [Longwell] and competing with him is an honor.”
Frazier readily acknowledges the unique in-tandem rise of rookie receivers Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, who have known each other since third grade and have been teammates on the middle school, high school and college levels. And when visiting with Childs and Wright on Thursday night, the Vikings head coach took particular note of one detail in the Childs-Wright story.
“They reminded me, ‘Coach, we’ve always been winners. Everywhere we went,’” Frazier said. “I said ‘Hallelujah! We’ll take that. Bring some of that with you.’”
Wright’s first day on the practice field, however, had a bump. He banged his head after a catch in the morning session, began vomiting and was shut down.
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