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.


Winfield on McKinnie: Coaches had no choice

Posted by: under Off the field, Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFC, Brad Childress, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Bryant McKinnie, Percy Harvin, Steve Hutchinson Updated: August 3, 2011 - 2:38 PM

MANKATO -- The Vikings decision to release an out-of-shape Bryant McKinnie on Tuesday caused a candid reaction from cornerback Antoine Winfield after this morning's practice. 

"The message it sends is no one's untouchable," Winfield said. "We all understood as professionals the only thing we had to do was show up in shape. The coaches really had no choice but to do what they did. ... I'm sure he is disappointed in himself. That's kind of embarrassing. But he's going to have to deal with it."

Left guard Steve Hutchinson, who played alongside McKinnie, admitted not many people saw this coming.

"We weren’t really sure what the story was," Hutchinson said.  "We knew he was not practicing, but I think the way Leslie [Frazier] explained it was, for him to try to go out there and try to go right now it would be endangering his health, with him being out of shape and I think there were some cholesterol issues. I’m not a doctor. I can’t really speculate on all that. But I know when it comes to your health as far as stuff like that goes, that’s not a joking matter."

Wide receiver Percy Harvin was a friend of McKinnie's but said he understood the decision. “Coach Frazier made it very clear that he was focused on the guys that were here and the guys that were ready to play football," he said. "We’re focused on the guys here, the 53 that are going to make this team and we’re going to run with what we’ve got.” 

Pat Brown worked with the first team at left tackle today but that will change on Thursday when Charlie Johnson can start practicing. The Colts former left tackle was signed as a free agent on Monday by the Vikings and has to sit out until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.

Asked if he knew about McKinnie's situation when he signed, Johnson said: "I didn't. I was just going to come in and try to compete. That's what they brought me here for. They said you have a great opportunity to compete and play and so when I signed on the dotted line, my mentality was that I was going to come in and compete."

Johnson has taken McKinnie's No. 74 but said that was not his idea and he was assigned the number on Tuesday night.

As for the offense, new coordinator Bill Musgrave has lost a guy who was durable and certainly an above average left tackle.

"One of the things we do in this game and probably a lot of facets of life is adapt and adjust," he said. "So we're always ready to adapt and adjust to whatever comes our way. With Bryant moving on, we're ready to adapt with Charlie or whoever else is on the squad. We're looking forward to working with a number of guys starting tomorrow that haven't been allowed to be on the field as of yet."

Peterson still absent

Running back Adrian Peterson missed practice for a second consecutive day after leaving Mankato to be with his fiancee, who went into labor on Monday. Frazier said he was going to talk to Peterson on Tuesday about when he might return.

Peterson's absence has created plenty of reps for Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker.

Change in philosophy

The Vikings previous regime had an offensive system that encouraged players to do what they were told. Remember, that was part of the issue between Brad Childress and Brett Favre. Musgrave sounds as if he will take a very different approach with Donovan McNabb.

"I told him from the get-go that we have a system that we intend to teach to he, the quarterbacks and all the players," Musgrave said. "But it's really his system. It's Donovan's system, so if something happens here in the month of August that he would like to tweak, maybe call something differently in the huddle, at the line of scrimmage, maybe want to teach differently, [we told him] to definitely come and talk to us about it because we're open-minded.

"We like to tailor make or customize our system to fit our players. It's not a system where we're going to sit here and say, 'Donovan didn't fit or another player didn't fit.' We're going to customize our system to really play to their strengths. I think you do that not only with a veteran guy, but also with a young guy. Whether it be Donovan or Christian [Ponder], we want to identify their traits that can help us win and play to their strengths."

The Webb plan

The NFL's new rule that 46 players can dress on game day instead of 45 -- teams no longer will be allowed to have a third quarterback in uniform but technically inactive -- is good news for Vikings quarterback Joe Webb. Webb figures to be the Vikings third QB this season and previously if he had entered a game before the end of the third quarter the rest of the team's quarterbacks were rendered ineligible.

Now, Webb could enter a game at wide receiver or in the Wildcat in any quarter. Musgrave sounds as if he definitely has a plan to build a package of plays for Webb.

“I’ve heard a lot about Joe and I’m looking forward to seeing what all he’s got under the hood," Musgrave said. "He’s doing a nice job at quarterback now, we want him to focus on quarterback and not dilute his pot too much. We know he can run, we know he can throw it 80 yards, we know he can make people miss. The new rules will enable us to kind of have a Joe Webb package I can see in the future, too. We’re looking forward to finding out what Joe’s all about and if he proves to be one of our 11 best players at times then we’ll get his [butt] on the field.”

Harvin's return role

New special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said a decision on how much to use Percy Harvin on kickoff returns will be a "game-by-game type of deal." The issue is that Harvin is going to see significant time on offense.

Priefer expects that some games he will be told to use Harvin and other times his use on offense will limit what he can do on special teams. "I would obviously love to have him as our primary returner, although Lorenzo Booker is a very good returner," Priefer said. "We have some other young guys we're going to try to work in here during the preseason. I'm excited about where we're at. I've been at places where I didn't have many options at all. Here we have several options, which is very exciting for me."

Priefer said the punt return job is wide open at this point. Jaymar Johnson should have a good shot to win that spot. Johnson, by the way, has looked very good in the early days of camp and it's obvious his hard work in the offseason is paying off.

Etc.

  • Linebacker Kenny Onatolu had a walking boot on his left leg but declined to say what had happened to him. The Vikings are told by the coaches and athletic trainers not to discuss injuries.
  • Pro Football Talk reports the Vikings were $5.6 million over the $120 million salary cap as of Tuesday. McKinnie's cap number was $5.4 million for this season.
  • Safety Jamarca Sanford was shaken up breaking up a pass during practice but was able to jog off the field and returned to take reps with the first-team defense.
  • The tempo of the morning practice was the best so far as players wore shoulder pads for the first time. The veteran free agents or players who had their contracts restructured by the Vikings can start practicing Thursday morning.
  • If you want to check out our tweets from practice go to www.twitter.com/juddzulgad or www.twitter.com/markcraignfl

 

 

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