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.
SEATTLE -- Just arrived at CenturyLink Field where the Vikings will face the Seahawks tonight in their second preseason game.
The Vikings are still looking to score their first offensive touchdown of the preseason after losing 14-3 at Tennessee last Saturday. Only a few players are on the field warming up in shorts and T-shirts at this point with kickoff not until 7 p.m. here (9 p.m. in the Twin Cities).
A few things to keep an eye on tonight:
McNabb and the offense: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said this week that he has a set number of players he would like see quarterback Donovan McNabb get in this game and indicated he could play a quarter to a quarter-and-a-half. It sounds as if Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks starters will play the entire first half. Ordinarily that type of playing time is reserved for the third preseason game but with the lockout having wiped out the offseason time is now of the essence.
Getting their chance: Wide receivers Percy Harvin (ribs) and Greg Camarillo (groin) aren't expected to play. That would give a golden opportunity for Jaymar Johnson, Devin Aromashodu and Emmanuel Arceneaux (among others) to show what they can do. Keep an eye on how the receivers perform on special teams, too, because whomever wins that No. 5 spot is going to have to contribute on special teams in a big way. Frazier said a few of the wide receiver spots remain an open competition but I'm convinced that Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins and Camarillo are in very good shape when it comes to making this roster.
Left tackle situation: I know, I know. This is getting tiring. But every opportunity we get to see Charlie Johnson play left tackle is important for the Vikings. Johnson again did not look all that impressive in practice last week. He actually looked OK against the Titans last week and as long as he continues to perform in game situations the Vikings should be pleased.
Johnson vs. Sanford: Tyrell Johnson will start at strong safety after Jamarca Sanford got the nod last Saturday at Tennessee. I think Sanford has the upper hand at this point, but Johnson is going to get his chance to impress tonight. He needs to take advantage of it. Also, safety Mistral Raymond is expected to return after missing last weekend's game because of a hamstring injury.
Griffin's return: While right guard Anthony Herrera is expected to be held out, the Vikings are planning to use Cedric Griffin at right cornerback tonight for at least a series. That will be a major accomplishment. Griffin won't say it -- for some reason he enjoys giving terrible quotes these days -- but the reality is this guy returned from a torn ACL last season, blew out his other ACL and now will return again. Impressive.
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.
MANKATO -- Free-agent linebacker Ben Leber visited the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, according to multiple reports.
The Seahawks already have signed former Vikings Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice.
It appears the Vikings are going to give Erin Henderson every shot to win the weak-side linebacker job that Leber had held in Minnesota. Nose tackle Pat Williams also remains on the market and isn't expected back in Minnesota.
MANKATO -- There are many Vikings fans who considered Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Childress to be joined at the hip.
But Jackson doesn't see it that way and told Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports that the fact Childress talked Brett Favre out of retirement two years in a row should have proven that.
“Obviously not,” Jackson told Silver. “Because he kept bringing Brett in. In some ways, we were joined at the hip, but I wouldn’t say I was Chilly’s pet. Think about 2008 – after Game 2, I got pulled. How many quarterbacks lose their jobs after two games?”
Jackson isn't the only one who doesn't think he was in a healthy situation in Minnesota. The Seahawks agree and that's why they signed Jackson to a two-year, $8 million contract with the feeling he can develop into a quality starter.
“He has not been in a good situation,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll told Silver. “He’s been jerked around. We wanted to put him in a stable situation.”
And how does Jackson like playing for Carroll?
"Oh yeah, it’s a lot different,” he said. “Here it’s all about positive feedback. You can appreciate it as a quarterback: All the dog-cussing and yelling really isn’t good when you play this position. You know when you mess up, when you did something wrong. Here, it’s a focus on what you did right and how you can get better. I’m comfortable with that.”
Sidney Rice said it was "a tough decision" for him to leave the Vikings in free agency during his introductory news conference with the Seattle media on Saturday. (A big thank you to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times for passing along these quotes.)
"It was a lot of things," the wide receiver said when asked why he was changing teams at such a young age (24). "It was a tough decision. I love those guys over in Minnesota - my teammates and everything like that. But unfortunately I had to move on. I'm here, I'm a Seahawk and I'm looking forward from here on out, no looking back."
Rice, who had a Pro Bowl season in 2009 but missed much of last season after having hip surgery, said nothing from what happened last season contributed to his decision to leave.
"No sir," he said. "[I] came in around the 10th or 11th game off of my injury, was able to get in and make a couple plays. There's no bad blood between Minnesota. I just want to put that out there right now. It's a great organization. I'm still good friends with a lot of people around there. Like I said, it was just time for me to move on."
It was no secret that Rice wanted a contract extension after his outstanding 2009 season and was not happy when he did not get it. Rice reportedly signed a five-year deal with Seattle that could be worth $44 million and includes $18.5 million guaranteed.
Rice's news conference came on the same day that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said former Viking Tarvaris Jackson was his starting quarterback. Jackson also joined Seattle this week, agreeing to an $8 million, two-year contract. Rice and Jackson are good friends and Rice said the situation in Seattle will be better for the quarterback.
"It's going to be great for Tarvaris," Rice said. "I felt like in Minnesota, he was never let loose. He was never allowed to play comfortably like I know he can play, and I feel like he'll get that opportunity out here to prove all those guys that think he's not an NFL quarterback wrong."
Asked why Jackson wasn't comfortable, Rice said: "Just certain things. He was never relaxed. He was always uptight, afraid to make mistakes and things like that. But as I said, I'm looking forward to him getting out here and letting it loose."
Rice also said the fact that former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell now holds the same job in Seattle will help.
"It's great," Rice said. "It's always good to be around familiar people that you know well. Tarvaris is one of my closest friends ever since I came into the league. I used to hang out at his place all the time and vice versa, he used to come over to my place and it was like that. So I feel comfortable around him. Also, Bevell. I know the offense and didn't have to learn anything new. Made a couple of tweaks in the playbook but nothing I can't pick up right away so when I'm able to get out here, I'm ready to step right on the field and be effective."
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