From line to linebacker and now back to the line
Everson Griffen's days experimenting as a linebacker are finished. Coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged Monday that Griffen was headed back to the defensive line.
The Vikings had arrived in Mankato with visions of converting Griffen into a linebacker, wanting to find ways to get him on the field more. Last year, Griffen's playing time as a defensive end was limited, mostly because Jared Allen and Brian Robison rarely needed to come off the field.
Griffen's combination of size -- he's 6-3, 273 pounds -- and athleticism gave Frazier and his staff an idea to test the third-year veteran in a new role. After nearly three weeks of practice, that idea has been scrapped.
"We feel like this is going to be better for him," Frazier said. "We talked to him Sunday night when we got back. And he agrees."
Frazier said he feels comfortable with the depth the Vikings have at weak-side linebacker with starter Erin Henderson and backup Marvin Mitchell. Plus, Griffen had done nothing in the early stages of the preseason to challenge that pecking order. "I think sometimes, with so many things coming at you, when you're off the ball, it can be a tough deal," Frazier said.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams faced a barrage of questions on Monday after his run defense ceded 260 yards on 43 carries in the 17-6 loss in San Francisco on Friday.
Williams' verdict? Most of the problem can be traced to gap control and alignment.
"I saw a few misfits," Williams said. "There were a few bad angles to the football. But I also saw some good things. I saw guys running to the ball with great effort. I saw guys taking care of their responsibilities -- just not consistently enough. And, of course, when you're in the NFL and you don't take care of your assignments, that's the type of game you can have against a good team."
Kalil hurts thumb but returns
Left tackle Matt Kalil had to leave the field for a bit on Monday afternoon after suffering an injury to his right thumb. Kalil was taken back to the locker room, where he had tests on the thumb. Those came back negative, and he returned to finish the afternoon.
While Kalil was away, left guard Charlie Johnson moved back to left tackle, where he started all of last season, and Joe Berger played the left guard slot.
Movin' on up
Rookie safety Harrison Smith seems to have supplanted Jamarca Sanford in the starting lineup. Smith will start on Friday in the Vikings' second preseason game, against Buffalo. And unless he flounders, it's hard to see him losing his grip on that spot. Here was Williams' assessment of Smith after his first preseason game: "The game wasn't too big for him. He looked like he belonged out there."
Not so fast
Special teams coach Mike Priefer was asked if Olympic star sprinter Usain Bolt could make it in the NFL as a kick returner.
"I'm not going to say he can't, because he's big and strong and he can run," Priefer said. "But those of you who remember Renaldo Nehemiah, I think we've already tried that experiment. And it didn't work out so well for him."
Nehemiah was a dominant hurdler who played for San Francisco for three seasons in the early 1980s.