It appeared the Vikings had given up on Tyrell Johnson last season.
After the safety started 17 (of 18 games, including playoffs) in 2009, he appeared in only seven games and made two starts in 2010. He finished the season on injured reserve. Johnson had entered training camp competing for what had been his starting job at strong safety, but lost that competition to Husain Abdullah.
The fact Johnson fell out of favor was of significance because he was the Vikings' second-round pick (and the team's top selection) in the 2008 draft. He stepped in that season and started the first seven games because of a neck injury to Madieu Williams.
(The Vikings sent their first-round pick, two third-rounders and swapped sixth-rounders with Kansas City that year to obtain defensive end Jared Allen. The Vikings' five picks from the 2008 draft: Johnson, second round; QB John David Booty, fifth round; DT Letroy Guion, fifth round; C John Sullivan, sixth round; WR Jaymar Johnson, sixth-round.)
So what is Johnson's status with Leslie Frazier now in place as coach?
Just as Frazier cautioned reporters at the league meetings last week not to assume free safety Madieu Williams was headed out the door, he did the same when it came to Johnson's future in Minnesota. Johnson is due to make $555,000 in the final year of his rookie contract in 2011 and Frazier feels he can contribute to the defense.
“I had a good conversation with him before we left at the end of the season," Frazier said. "He’s got to step up, we need him to step up. This is his year. We’re counting on him to have a big year for us and push to be a starter for our football team. He makes us better if he does that so he knows. I’ve challenged him in some areas and he’s got to come through for us. We’re going to give him every chance to come through. ... The opportunity is going to be there.”
Frazier made it clear that Johnson would come into training camp -- if there is one -- competing with Williams for the free safety spot.
"He has swing ability, he’s [played] both [safety spots]," Frazier said. "We need him to step up, we need him to come through. He’s got the physical tools to do it, now he’s got to do the things a safety has to do. Taking great angles, making plays and tackling in the open field. Being sure of himself, playing with confidence. This will be his fourth year. This is the time.”
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