Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings working OT to get Sapp ready to play nickel back

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Packers Updated: November 17, 2011 - 1:05 PM

Three people stayed on the field in the Vikings' indoor practice facility long after this morning's walk-through had ended:

Defensive backs coach Joe Woods, new/old Viking Benny Sapp and rookie Brandon Burton.

All three men are trying to help a secondary that's in, well, shambles heading into Sunday's game against the Raiders. Sapp, who was with the team in 2008 and 2009, could play a significant role on Sunday. Burton probably won't, but could find himself doing so eventually if the luck of this year's secondary continues to go the way it has gone the first 10 weeks.

Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said Sapp "has good retention" as far as knowing a defensive system that hasn't changed much since 2009.

"I could see him playing some at the nickel position [on Sunday]," Pagac said. "Him and [Marcus] Sherels possibly splitting time there.We'll see how [Sapp] is moving around, what kind of shape he's in, things of that nature."

Pagac said it's too early to tell how many snaps Sapp can be counted on to play. Sapp hasn't played since being released by the Dolphins the day after this year's regular-season opener.

"We've had one day with him," Pagac said. "We have a lot of the substitute and nickel work today [in practice]. So we'll know more after today."

Other highlights from Pagac today:

  • On the team's commitment to its 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme: "It's the personnel we have, and that's what we play. We've had success at it and we have to get back to where we're having success at it."
  • The Raiders have allowed only 11 sacks this season. They're second in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. Said Pagac: "We're going to have to run some stunts and games. We may have to run a few pressures at them. That'll all be game-planned down the road."

From offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave:

  • On what the team has to do going forward in light of the success the Packers had throwing a steady dose of blitzes at rookie quarterback Christian Ponder on Monday night: "Most weeks are the same [in practice]. We've got a number of periods that we always sprinkle in. Some periods purely emphasize [picking up] the blitz. So we'll keep going with our routine and hope we have better results than we did Monday night."
  • Thoughts overall on how Ponder handled the blitz: "I thought he did well. At times, the play call didn't give him a chance to succeed. It didn't match up with what the defense was doing. Not more than a handful of plays can I think of where the execution was substandard. At the end of the first half, he probably would have liked to have had a couple plays back. The slant route to Percy [Harvin], the out route to Devin [Aromashodu], and possibly later in the game, a flat route to [Greg Camarillo]. But other than that, he stayed the course. He remained poised and competitive. Really, he just continued to be himself."

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