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.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Joe Webb will be the No. 2 quarterback in Saturday night's third preseason game against the Cowboys. With Donovan McNabb and the rest of the starters expected to play into the third quarter, Webb most likely will finish up the third and possibly begin the fourth quarter, while rookie Christian Ponder would finish up the game.
Frazier then said, "maybe we'll do something different in the last preseason game." Later in the press conference, I asked if that means the team is thinking of resting McNabb and starting either Webb or Ponder (after about 21 years of covering preseason football, you tend to notice trends).
Frazier smiled and said, "You been in our staff meetings? Something like that."
Webb was the No. 2 QB in the preseason opener. Ponder was No. 2 in the second preseason game. A winner for the regular season probably won't be determined until after the final preseason game a week from today.
The Vikings would like Ponder to win the No. 2 job so that Webb would be freed up to use his athleticism some at receiver and in Wild Cat formations. The Vikings ran a few Wild Cat plays in practice today.
Asked if it the team can use Webb in a Wild Cat if he's the No. 2 quarterback, Frazier said, "Sure can. It's not the most ideal. If he becomes our clear-cut No. 2, then you may not want to risk it as much. But we'll see."
Frazier also was asked about Webb showing up every now and then as a receiver in practice.
"It's more experimental at this point, just seeing what he looks like and whether it's something we want to do down the road," Frazier said.
Frazier's predecessor, Brad Childress, wasn't a fan of the Wild Cat. Frazier likes it. Asked if it was a perfect attack for a guy like Webb, Frazier said, "I agree. It's perfectly made for Joe. He's such an all-around athlete and multi-dimensional guy. That's set up for him, without question."
Other highlights from today:
The dire situation at right guard got worse Monday when Vikings coach Leslie Frazier announced that veteran Scott Kooistra was placed on injured reserve because of a serious and potentially career-threatening neck injury suffered in Saturday night's 20-7 win at Seattle.
Kooistra had begun taking reps with the first team along with Anthony Herrera, who is coming off ACL surgery in his left knee. Kooistra started Saturday night and would have stayed in the wide-open race to start at right guard. If Herrera can't start Saturday against the Cowboys, either Ryan Cook or Chris DeGeare will get the start. Frazier said "more than likely it will be Cook."
DeGeare was with the first team at right guard when camp opened. He lost his tentative grip on the position after the first preseason game and has been working as a backup right tackle since then.
Meanwhile, in a development that's potentially much more serious, the Vikings are sending All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams to see a foot specialist this afternoon. They should have a better idea about the seriousness of the injury tomorrow.
Frazier said Williams' foot has been bothering him throughout training camp. He's had trouble pushing off. Letroy Guion ran with the first team at DT and has had an outstanding camp so far.
Meanwhile, in other practice news:
SEATTLE -- Cedric Griffin's return from a second ACL tear in as many years will take place tonight as the cornerback starts for the Vikings in their second preseason game against the Seahawks.
Griffin, the Vikings' left corner, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last October against the Jets. That came after Griffin tore his left ACL in the NFC Championship Game the previous season.
Griffin has had little to say about his rehab or return but, obviously, this is a pretty remarkable recovery for the veteran. The Vikings thought Griffin would need to be eased into training camp but he quickly showed he was able to do all drills and returned to the practice field.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier held Griffin out of the exhibition opener last Saturday at Tennessee just to be cautious.
The Vikings scratches include wide receivers Percy Harvin (ribs) and Greg Camarillo (groin), cornerback Asher Allen (toe), defensive back Simeon Castille (hamstring), fullback Matt Asiata (hip flexor), linebackers Kenny Onatolu (foot) and Heath Farwell (hamstring), guard Anthony Herrera (knee), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) and defensive end D'Aundre Reed (calf strain).
It does appear as if the Vikings will go with their defensive starters tonight after holding out Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield last Saturday.
Rice to start tonight
Sidney Rice, who left the Vikings to sign with Seattle as a free agent, will play tonight after sitting out the Seahawks preseason opener because of a bruised shoulder.
Scratches for Seattle include wide receivers Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu; cornerbacks Kelly Jennings, Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis; defensive ends A.J. Schable, Chris Clemons and Pierre Allen; defensive tackles Jay Alford and Colin Cole; offensive tackle Russell Okung; and tight ends Camerson Morrah and John Carlson.
Percy Harvin did not take part in today's practice at Winter Park and won't play Saturday in the Vikings' second preseason game at Seattle. The wide receiver has been bothered by sore ribs.
Harvin left practice early on Tuesday and sat out Wednesday and today after originally leaving a practice early on Aug. 8 in Mankato because his ribs were bothering him.
Harvin likely won't travel with the team to Seattle. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe also will be left behind to continue getting treatment for a hamstring injury he suffered in Mankato. Shiancoe sat out the Vikings' preseason opener as well.
Right guard Anthony Herrera (ACL) was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list this week but won't play Saturday as the Vikings bring him along slowly. Cornerback Asher Allen (toe) didn't take part in today's practice after doing very limited work Wednesday and coach Leslie Frazier said it's uncertain if Allen will be in uniform against the Seahawks.
Allen's absence would open an opportunity for Chris Cook to grab a strong hold of the left corner spot in the nickel defense. Antoine Winfield would play inside in those situations.
Frazier said Herrera would be evaluated next week to see if he will play in the Vikings' third preseason game on Aug. 27 against Dallas at Mall of America Field.
"He’s had a chance now to kind of get his feet wet a little bit and maybe get his confidence a little bit more," Frazier said, "so we’ll see how he does next week in practice and maybe we’ll give him a shot in that game, depending on how he does in practice.”
Also wide receiver Greg Camarillo will not play because of a groin injury. Harvin and Camarillo's absence would create an opportunity for Jaymar Johnson, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Devin Aromashodu to get long looks as they compete for the fourth and fifth receiver spots.
Others who will be out will be fullback Matt Asiata (hip flexor) and linebackers Heath Farwell (hamstring) and Kenny Onatolu (foot).
Erin Henderson, who is the leading candidate to win the weak-side linebacker's job, sat out today after bumping his knee on Wednesday. Frazier said Henderson should be fine and ready to play Saturday.
Tyrell to get his chance
Frazier said Tyrell Johnson will get the start Saturday at strong safety as the competition for that position continues. Jamarca Sanford started the first preseason game after Johnson missed a couple of days of practice because of a hamstring injury.
"We'll get a chance to evaluate him in a starting role and just continue to evaluate that position," Frazier said.
Ponder to play after McNabb
Starter Donovan McNabb is expected to play a quarter-and-a-half, and he then will be replaced by first-round pick Christian Ponder. Joe Webb was the second quarterback in last Saturday's game and is competing with Ponder for the backup job. Webb will play third Saturday.
Asked what he would like to see from Ponder, Frazier said: "You'd like to see him continue to improve in all areas. His grasp of the offense, some of his throws, his command of the huddle. Those are some of the things you're trying to judge him on and he is making progress. Now, you want to continue to see him in game situations and see how he progresses."
Webb started two of the five games in which he played last season, giving him a bit more knowledge of an NFL offense than Ponder. Of course, the fact new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has brought a new system with him means that in some ways Webb and Ponder are about even.
"Joe has some experience at the quarterback position and obviously Christian has none and no experience under his belt whatsoever, so you're at two different spectrums," Frazier said. "But the offense is put together in such a way that Christian has a chance to succeed when he's in there and so does Joe."
By Kent Youngblood
A day after leaving practice early, wide receiver Percy Harvin was held out of Wednesday’s practice at Winter Park because of sore ribs, a problem that has bothered him in the past.
“It was a little sore a couple days ago,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after the workout ended. “We just felt it would be wise to hold him back, let him completely heal, as opposed to getting bumped or hit. We don’t want any setbacks.”
Frazier said if Harvin is unable to practice Thursday, he would probably miss Saturday’s preseason game in Seattle.
Harvin first left practice early on Aug. 8 in Mankato because he was winded and had sore ribs.
The wide receiver spot, which has been very competitive for the final roster slots, should get a little clearer after Saturday’s game. Especially if Greg Camarillo can’t play. Camarillo also missed Wednesday’s practice, sitting with a sore groin muscle. His status for Saturday should be clear Thursday. If neither Harvin nor Camarillo play, it would give the other players hustling for a spot a number of reps against the Seahawks.
Others who did not practice today included tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), linebackers Heath Farwell (hamstring) and Kenny Onatolu (foot), defensive end D'Aundre Reed (calf) and cornerback Simeon Castille (hamstring).
Frazier said starting quarterback Donovan McNabb would play as much as a quarter and a half Saturday.
Frazier said he didn’t know anything about a report that said Seattle general manager John Schneider had called to apologize for comments made regarding Tarvaris Jackson's time in Minnesota: “I’m not familiar with that part of it,” said Frazier, who referred the question to Rick Spielman.
A special guest
Frazier had former NFL great Aeneas Williams speak to the team after practice. Williams, a Pro Bowl cornerback in his day, also conducted a post-practice life skills lesson for the rookies.
“As you know he was a great player in our league, a future hall of famer,” Frazier said. “He did a great job. It was good for our veterans to hear him, and they all have great respect for him.”
Williams speaks all over the country, Frazier said. Williams is also a pastor in a Missouri church.
Frazier met Williams while serving as an intern coach with the Arizona Cardinals when Buddy Ryan was the coach and Williams was a young defensive back. “I worked with him there, then just stayed in touch,” Frazier said. “He went to Southern University, and I went to Alcorn State. So we had a side going about which was the best school.”
Getting his chance
Frazier said he’s looking forward to watching Mistral Raymond play some safety, saying Raymond has practiced well and adds length and athletic ability to the position.
Not having OTAs and minicamps has made it difficult for the coaches to evaluate the undrafted free agents, Frazier said. Those guys probably will get more time in the preseason games going forward because of that, he said. “You don’t want to turn loose a potentially good player because he hasn’t picked up the system or you haven’t see him enough,” Frazier said. “We have to see them play.”
Raymond did not play last Saturday in the preseason opener after suffering a pulled hamstring in practice.
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