Sid Hartman: Turner liked what he saw from Gray with Browns

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2014 - 12:32 AM

Having spent time with MarQueis Gray in 2013, Norv Turner is happy the Vikings brought him in.

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MarQueis Gray saw action in 12 games with the Cleveland Browns last year.

Photo: Duane Burleson, Associated Press

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As offensive coordinator for the Browns last season, Norv Turner saw enough of MarQueis Gray to recommend that the Vikings pick him up after the former Gophers quarterback was waived Saturday.

Making the Cleveland roster last year as an undrafted free agent, Gray played tight end and had six carries for 43 yards and two receptions for 9 yards in 12 games. He also had two special-teams tackles.

“Well, everyone says I wanted to bring him here, but our scouts had great grades on him,” said Turner, now the Vikings offensive coordinator. “He became available, really didn’t fit what they were trying to do in Cleveland, and we saw him as a young, aspiring player who we project as a guy that can be a tight end that has a lot of strengths. He can run, catch — he can run with the football, he can throw the football. He’s a multitalented athlete.”

The Browns picked up Gray after San Francisco cut him following last year’s preseason. Turner said that it took some time, but eventually Gray worked his way into the lineup.

“He played quite a bit. We used him the last five or six games,” he said. “We had some injuries at tight end and he played quite a bit. We used him at quarterback. We had a Wildcat package with him, so we’ll be able to do that here. There’s a multitude of things we can do with him.”

Asked why Gray couldn’t make the Browns roster this year, Turner, who departed for the Vikings staff this year after Rob Chudzinski was fired as Cleveland coach following only one season, said: “They’re just kind of going in a different direction. I don’t know that it’s a surprise. He’s a young player, and he probably fits what we do a little better than what they’re doing.”

Turner described how he sees the Vikings using the 6-4, 220-pound Gray.

“We’re going to get him up to speed, get him to where he knows everything and then just mix him in as soon as he gets ready,” Turner said. “But like I said, he can run, he can catch, he got better in pass protection, so he’s a guy that should be able to contribute.”

Excited for Week 1

Turner said that while he was pleased with the Vikings’ 4-0 preseason, he knows it is all merely prelude to their season-opening matchup with the Rams in St. Louis.

“The whole thing changes when the regular season starts,” he said. “You’re playing the entire game against their 1s [first-teamers], your 1s the entire game, people game-plan a lot harder against you. But I like what our guys have done, and I still believe we have a talented young group that is going to keep getting better. I expect us to be a lot better in December than we are now. But I think we’re ready to play.”

While Adrian Peterson didn’t play a single snap in the preseason, Turner believes that shouldn’t affect his ability to perform right away.

“Adrian has had great practices,” he said of the 2012 NFL MVP. “Our guys have been trying to strip the ball from him, grabbing him, banging him a little bit, he’s fresh, excited, and I can’t wait to see him go.”

Turner, who used four starting quarterbacks last season with Cleveland, said he was happy the Vikings were able to keep Christian Ponder on the 53-man roster and liked what he saw out of the former starter in the preseason finale at Tennessee.

“He played really good,” Turner said. “I thought he played the way I expect him to and the way he is capable of playing. He was accurate, he was quick with the ball, he made good decisions. It was good for him and good for all of us. This league, it’s a long year, and all you have to do is look at Green Bay last year, they lost [Aaron] Rodgers for seven weeks and it took a toll on their season and they struggled to get done what they wanted to do when Rodgers wasn’t in there. Having three quarterbacks is a big bonus to me.”

Turner said even though Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is injured again, the Vikings will have a real test in Week 1.

“They’re good,” he said. “They were second in the league in sacks by their defensive linemen. Their front four is outstanding. They’re fast, faster down there on the turf. We have to go in and handle a hostile environment. We have to be smart. The best thing we did in preseason was we protected the ball. We only had one turnover. We’ve got to take care of the ball, protect the quarterback and we have to go play four full quarters.”

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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