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.


Benny's back: Sapp gets the call to aid shaken Vikings secondary

Posted by: under Vikings, Leslie Frazier, Antoine Winfield, Leslie Frazier, Tyrell Johnson Updated: November 16, 2011 - 1:21 PM

We'll have more extensive coverage of Benny Sapp’s excited return to the Twin Cities later this evening and into tomorrow morning. For now, suffice it to say Sapp is more than a little thrilled to be back playing football again. He was last seen in NFL in Week 1 as a Miami Dolphin, torched by Tom Brady and the Patriots in a 38-24 loss that saw Brady pass for 517 yards and four TDs.

 
Sapp’s explanation: “My personal opinion, I just tried to get a little too cute. Probably one of my baddest games I’ve had in my career. I don’t know. Just tried to get a little too cute.”
 
Now? With Antoine Winfield placed on injured reserve Wednesday following surgery to repair a broken clavicle and Chris Cook still exiled from the team with his personal and legal issues, Sapp has been pulled off the scrap heap, asked to bolster a shaken Vikings secondary. The Vikings rank 30th in the NFL in pass defense (272.8 ypg) and have given up 1,180 passing yards and 12 TDs since recording their last interception.
 
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And so Sapp reemerged in the locker room Wednesday morning, greeted warmly by several teammates. Sapp played for the Vikings in 2008 and 2009.
 
“Words can’t describe how happy I am to have him here and have him back,” safety Jamarca Sanford said. “He was one of my best friends before he left. It hurt me when he left. To have him back, it’s perfect. He’s a guy who brings excitement and just brings energy and fun to the team.
 
Added linebacker Erin Henderson: “He’s generally a good guy and a joy to have around the locker room.”
 
As for Sapp’s whereabouts since getting cut from Miami in mid-September, he’s been staying in shape, he said, simply by coaching and working out with his 11-year-old son, Benny Sapp III.
 
Asked the biggest challenge of trying to get up to speed this week before the Vikings’ Sunday home game with Oakland, Sapp shrugged and laughed.
 
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s been two months and I really haven’t covered a receiver yet. So I really couldn’t tell you. The only receiver I have been covering is an 11-year-old.”
 
The follow-up question was obvious: could he at least keep Benny III locked up?
 
“Most definitely,” he said. “That’s one thing I’m going to do until the end. I’m never going to let my son beat me in anything.”
 
It remains to be seen how quickly or how extensively the Vikings will work Sapp back into their secondary rotation. That's something the coaching staff won't decide until they get a chance to have Sapp practice for a few days.
 
In other news from Leslie Frazier's regular Wednesday press conference:
  • If free safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) isn't able to play, Frazier said Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson would likely  play alongside each other like they did after Abdullah was injured Monday night. Sanford and Johnson split time at strong safety when Abdullah is healthy. Rookie Mistral Raymond would also rotate in, but only at the free safety position. "We'd leave him at free for now," Frazier said. "That's where he's had most of his reps."
  • Frazier expects Antoine Winfield to be around the team after he has recovered from today's season-ending surgery. "Once he’s back and able to come around, we’d love to have him be around and encourage the guys who are going to be playing," Frazier said. "In the past, when he’s had injuries, that’s exactly what he’s done, he’s tried to encourage his teammates. I would expect him to do the same when his surgery is over and he’s able to come back in the building."
  • The Vikings will wait until Friday or Saturday before deciding whether it's necessary to sign a long-snapper. Cullen Loeffler, who has handled every special teams snap since winning the job in 2004, injured a rotator cuff and isn't expected to practice until Thursday or Friday.

 

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