Shiancoe is fit for play, fit for offense

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2011 - 11:28 PM

The Vikings tight end declares himself healthy and ready for a big role.

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Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The tight end position is a major piece of Leslie Frazier's offense.

The Vikings relied on sets with three tight ends multiple times in the preseason. They were sled dogs who cleared space for Adrian Peterson. Rookie Kyle Rudolph, a Notre Dame product, finished with six catches in the preseason, tied for a team high.

Yet, Visanthe Shiancoe, the presumed starter at the position even though he missed the entire preseason, questioned the number of tight ends in Frazier's schemes.

"It's five skill guys, right? And then, it's a quarterback, so probably five. ... five tight ends," Shiancoe joked about the number of tight ends he'd like the Vikings to put on the field at one time. "We'll somehow make that work."

The wisecracks come with the talent, one that the Vikings expect to see live Sunday when they open the season at San Diego. The nine-year veteran tweaked a hamstring near the start of training camp and didn't register any snaps in the team's preseason matchups. And he's only practiced a handful of times leading up to Sunday's opener.

But Frazier said he's confident that Shiancoe's experience will equip him for a fluid return to the field.

"Watching him moving around today and knowing he's a veteran, he's a pro, he's been paying attention in all of our meetings. To see him move around today, I don't think there's a problem with his hamstring," Frazier said Monday.

"As I mentioned earlier, we've got to get through these days that we have coming. But based on today, he looked good."

Shiancoe said he's healthy now. And although he couldn't play during the preseason, he said his time away from the field didn't detract from his cerebral connection to the game.

"I took a lot of mental reps and stayed in the classroom a lot," he said. "I've been in the league for eight years, nine years. ... I think it'll be all right."

In 2009, Shiancoe was a top target for Brett Favre. He collected 11 touchdowns and emerged as a clutch option in the red zone. But last season, he played a sporadic role in a fractured offense, after suffering a hamstring injury in the third week of the season. He scored two touchdowns.

The addition of Donovan McNabb, a tight end's quarterback, could help Shiancoe get back to competing at 2009 levels.

Brent Celek was a popular option during McNabb's tenure with the Eagles, and Redskins tight end Chris Cooley was one of McNabb's most reliable targets last season. Cooley was second on that team with 849 receiving yards.

Three Redskins players, however, accounted for 72 percent of the team's total receiving yards in 2010.

But Shiancoe's presence will expand McNabb's palette, one that already features Rudolph, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins.

"Today was the first day that we had an opportunity to see him in there, but his presence and his speed and the things that he brings to the table from a passing standpoint are going to work tremendous for us," said Jimmie Johnson, tight ends coach, on Monday.

Still, without any preseason film to prove that McNabb and Shiancoe will jell better than Shiancoe and last season's quarterbacks, it's hard to predict his impact. But Shiancoe said he believes he'll excel and that the time off won't affect his 2011 season.

Said Shiancoe: "I'm at 100 right now."

That's either a reference to his health or the number of tight ends he wants to see on Frazier's roster in the future.

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