The Vikings have had only a limited number of practices, but coach Leslie Frazier said he has been very impressed with everything new quarterback Donovan McNabb has done on the practice field in Mankato.
In fact, Frazier said he is reminded a lot of Brett Favre when McNabb goes about his work.
"The fact that [McNabb and Favre] are veteran quarterbacks who have accomplished a great deal in our league, they both really have a presence about them where the other players just feel like they have a chance when they're both in the huddle," Frazier said.
"I've really been impressed with the way that [McNabb] has grasped our offense in the short time he's been here, the way he has developed some camaraderie with the rest of our players and our team, just the credibility he kind of brings to our team. It's been very, very impressive."
Regarding first-round draft pick Christian Ponder, Frazier said: "He's doing a good job, he's coming along. He's going through some of the bumps in the road that most rookies go through as you're trying to learn an offense and catch up with the speed of the game at the NFL level. But he's showing great poise and he's making some of the throws that we knew he could."
And Frazier has not lost his respect for the great athletic ability that Joe Webb possesses. Webb certainly showed he can succeed as an NFL quarterback when he won his first career start as a rookie last season, beating the playoff-bound Eagles last December in Philadelphia.
"Joe is as athletic as ever, playing with a lot of confidence, seems very sure of himself," Frazier said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how those guys [Ponder and Webb] progress over the preseason, along with Donovan."
I believe the biggest weakness the Vikings have is the offensive line, where they have only one real veteran with a lot of experience here in left guard Steve Hutchinson. Newcomer Charlie Johnson is experienced but is also playing for a new team, Anthony Herrera hasn't yet returned from a knee injury suffered last November and the rest of the candidates are mostly still learning the game.
"We got some work to do there," Frazier said about the offensive line. "We're trying to find a good seven or eight guys that we can count on. That's going to be a work in progress throughout this preseason. We're trying to improve both our lines, our offensive line and our defensive line. If we can do that, we should have a chance of achieving our goal of winning that NFC North."
One plus in the offensive line will be center John Sullivan. In the summer of 2010, his father died of a heart attack. Then he had an operation for appendicitis just before training camp opened, and then he suffered a calf injury that cost him two games and bothered him throughout the season.
"Sullivan's going to be a much improved player," Frazier said. "Just the fact that his mind will be so much more clear than it was in last year's training camp leading into the season. ... He'll be a much improved player, which should make our offensive line better. We're excited for him to really step up and play better than last season."McKinnie decision
Looking back on the decision to release overweight left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Frazier said: "You have certain things that you're looking for, that you're trying to develop a championship team. If you're going to stay true to what you think you have to have, then it's not such a hard decision. We'd like to have every player make our team, but you can only keep 53 and you have to get the right 53 and that's what we were trying to do. But I really loved Bryant McKinnie; he really did a great job for us over the course of his career here in Minnesota. I know he's going to be successful wherever he goes, but I'm trying to get the right 53 on this team.
"There are some things that he'll have to take care of, and I know he's going to do the right things. I mean, he's a sharp guy and things are going to work out for Bryant."Jottings
• The owners of Shapco Printing Inc., located across the street from Target Field, have confirmed that the Pohlad family has an option to buy their building and then build a huge commercial and apartment building on the site. The hot rumor downtown is that the Pohlads are also considering building a skyscraper on a site of their own at 10th Street and Nicollet Mall.
• Twins General Manager Bill Smith was asked about the progress of righthander Kevin Slowey, who was demoted to Class AAA Rochester after completing a rehabilitation assignment there. "He's had a number of starts down in Rochester. Last Saturday he threw eight innings and threw the ball very well," Smith said. "A couple of days ago, Friday night, he did not throw as well, I think he threw 100 pitches in five innings and just didn't have the command that he's going to need to be successful at this level. But he's healthy, and we just need to keep running him out there down there."
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said he knew the father of top-recruited quarterback Max Shortell of Bishop Miege High in Mission, Kan. Tom Shortell played at Pittsburg (Kan.) State in the 1970s. "Even though I didn't know him well, there was a little bit of a connection there," Kills said. "But [Max] is a 6-6, 225-pound young man that I'm anxious to see, I really am. I know he has some athleticism and I know he comes with good accolades." ... The Gophers squad that opens practice this week numbers 115, but only 105 are able to practice until school starts, according to NCAA rules.
• Junior defensive end D.L Wilhite is not only a good player for the Gophers but an outstanding student as well. He spent his off time this summer working on a research project at the TRIO Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. Wilhite told the Daily Gopher website that his dream is to receive a Ph.D. in history and to become a professor and bring new perspectives on African and Middle Eastern societies. ... Eric Kaler, the new university president, has made a reservation on the Gophers plane for the season-opening trip to play Southern California.
• Illinois Central College recently named its baseball stadium after one of its most famous graduates, the Twins' Jim Thome.
• Frazier praised Gophers product Marcus Sherels, who was on the Vikings practice squad most of last year. "One young guy you may remember from the University of Minnesota is Marcus Sherels," Frazier said. "He's doing a good job at the cornerback position."
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org