Ferguson seeks more active role in Vikings offense

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2007 - 11:09 PM

The receiver says he feels he has a lot to offer and says now is the time to suggest ways he can contribute.

Robert Ferguson said he isn't frustrated by the limited role he has played in the Vikings' offense this season, but the veteran receiver also doesn't want to sit back quietly with the team off to a 1-3 start.

Ferguson has decided to take a proactive approach to finding out how he can get more involved, beginning with Sunday's game at Chicago. He already has discussed the issue with receivers coach George Stewart and was planning to talk to coach Brad Childress.

"There is a certain period of time that you have to be in one spot before you start saying, 'Hey, I can do this and do that,'" said Ferguson, who signed with the Vikings on Aug. 21 after being released by Green Bay. "Just out of respect for the team and the guys that have been here and the coaches. You try to do your talking by practicing on the field and when you get your opportunity make the most of it.

"I think I've done that and now it's time for me to say, 'Hey, coach, what do you feel like I can help us do? I feel like I can help us do this and do that.' Hopefully, I do that for this game."

Ferguson, who with six-plus NFL seasons is the Vikings' most experienced receiver, did not catch a pass in the team's two games before its bye last Sunday and has seen the number of balls directed his way drop dramatically since Week 2.

After missing the regular-season opener against Atlanta because of an ankle injury, Ferguson was the target of nine Tarvaris Jackson passes in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Lions, including deep shots. Ferguson finished with three receptions for 29 yards.

Jackson suffered a strained groin late in that game and veteran Kelly Holcomb took over for losses against the Chiefs and Packers. Holcomb threw two incompletions toward Ferguson at Kansas City -- an overthrown ball on a 30-yard pass late in the second quarter cost the Vikings a sure touchdown -- and only one short incomplete pass came Ferguson's way against Green Bay.

Ferguson isn't willing to blame Jackson's absence on his lack of involvement, saying, "I think [Holcomb's] done a wonderful job, and it's just all about chemistry."

Ferguson certainly feels he has the necessary chemistry to fit into the Vikings' West Coast system. The 27-year-old played in a similar offense during his first five seasons under former Packers coach Mike Sherman, and a big reason he elected to sign with the Vikings over his hometown Houston Texans was because he felt he could step right in and contribute.

"It's not a question of me not knowing the offense, it's not a question of me not performing," Ferguson said. "It's just a matter of me getting my niche within the offense, with the coaches, to put me in a situation to make plays."

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows what Ferguson is capable of doing. Bevell was an assistant with the Packers during Ferguson's first five seasons with the team.

"When he had opportunities to make plays on the field, he scored a lot of touchdowns for us," Bevell said. "He had some true legit injuries. ... We are hoping that we can get him back to that form and that he starts making those plays for us."

Ferguson, who missed 12 games last season because of a foot injury, said he is "feeling great." He will feel even better if he gets a chance to contribute. Ideally, Ferguson would like to be used in much the same way the Packers use his buddy, Donald Driver.

That is on short passes that allow the receiver to tack on yards after the catch (YAC). The West Coast offense is all about YAC; 53.7 percent of the Vikings' passing yardage has come after the catch, ranking second to Green Bay in the NFL.

"With my past history of being successful it has been catching the ball and making something happen after the catch," Ferguson said. "That's what I thrive on; I think that's my niche in the offense. Hopefully, I can relay that message to [the coaches] and they will relay to me what they want me to do and take it from there. Even if it's playing special teams [Ferguson averaged 25.0 yards on 21 kickoff returns for the Packers in 2004] or whatever. I've done that in the past and been successful. As long as I'm involved in us winning, I'm straight."

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