Practice ended Wednesday with an 11-on-11 goal-line segment. But it wasn’t your typical goal-line drill. With the ball at the 3-yard line, the offense came out with a four-wide, empty-backfield formation. Each of the top three units had one crack at scoring. The No. 1 offense scored when quarterback Christian Ponder rolled right and delivered a crisp, accurate ball past cornerback Josh Robinson to receiver Greg Jennings, who caught it just in bounds in the right side of the end zone. The No. 2 defense won when Everson Griffen forced quarterback Matt Cassel to hurry his throw to Stephen Burton. Rookie free agent James Vandenberg, normally the fourth-string quarterback, got the third and final crack, connecting with receiver Jarius Wright, who had slipped away from cornerback Bobby Felder in the end zone.
With Adrian Peterson likely to be held out of Friday’s preseason game, Toby Gerhart will get the nod as the No. 1 running back. And while coach Leslie Frazier asserts he will be cautious not to overexpose Gerhart, the fourth-year back is lobbying for as much work as he can get, understanding he’s in a contract year and has limited opportunity to showcase his skills. “Every time you put something on film, that’s your résumé,” Gerhart said. “Everybody looks back at it. Whether it be next year, in a couple years, whatever it is, what you put out there is what you are. … The amount of reps I can get? The more, the merrier.”
From the podium
Friday’s game won’t be fan friendly. Stars such as Peterson and Jared Allen won’t play and almost certainly will be joined by a handful of prominent starters. But Frazier stressed the value of the game for his staff in evaluating lesser-known players. “In today’s NFL, the preseason [games] have become a premium because of the limited amount of exposure you get in actual practices,” he said.
“He looks great. Especially watching him on his ‘go’ balls. He’s getting downfield, and he’s open on a lot of plays. It’s funny. You watch him run and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying to run fast, but he’s getting down the field.”
— Ponder, when asked if second-year receiver Jarius Wright can be more than just a shifty slot receiver.
• CB A.J. Jefferson (ankle) missed practice.
• CB Jacob Lacey (ankle) missed practice.
• DE Jared Allen (ankle) returned to practice.
• S Harrison Smith (knee) returned to practice.
• DT Christian Ballard (groin) returned to practice.
• CB Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) was limited in practice.
• LB Desmond Bishop (groin) was limited in practice.
• WR Greg Childs (knees) remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Three days out
Thursday: 10:30-11:30 a.m. walk-through (closed to public)
Friday: preseason opener vs. Houston, 7 p.m. at Mall of America Field
Saturday: Off day