Brian Murphy (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
Special teams were the Achilles Heel of the Vikings last year, and the team is spending a good deal of time and focus on that part of the game in this year’s camp. Plus, notes and quotes on Tarvaris Jackson making his way back, Aundrae Allison’s career in purple ending, more Twitter antics and Childress in rare form.
With special teams that stuck out like a compound fracture last year, the Vikings knew they had to improve that component of their football team, and they are dedicating legitimate time to fielding and covering kickoffs and punts before the start of their regular practice sessions at training camp this year.
On Tuesday, they had their first full special teams practice of camp, a one-hour walk-through of instruction during which new special teams coordinator Brian Murphy and his staff wasn’t putting up with mistakes.
After a miscue on a punt coverage, Murphy said he was “looking for people we can trust” and wanted players to “pay attention to detail.” But, even though young players are in the learning stages, Murphy is pleased with the group he has.
“I think it always helps to work with a group of great guys, and the players we have have bought into the kicking game. They know that it’s important and they know if we want to be a good team we need to excel there, so my job becomes a lot easier with the players that we have and their willingness to work and learn how to do things that right way,” Murphy said.
The Vikings spent about an hour working on special teams in the afternoon, with first-round draft pick Percy Harvin looking more comfortable fielding punts and kicks. He was the only player to field punts from Chris Kluwe at the start of practice and didn’t mishandle those like he had in previous practices.
“Leaving OTAs (organized team activities), he was getting more comfortable with the punt return and we knew it was going to be something he has to work on, so we just need to get him up to speed. As for kickoff returns, they were looking pretty natural yesterday,” Murphy said on Monday.
“… He caught the one kickoff off his forehead, but outside of that he’s a very talented guy. He has the ability to catch both punts and kicks and I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses as the camp goes.”
So far, it looks like he is progressing already.
On the coverage aspect of it, getting special teams captain Heath Farwell back on the field should help. Farwell tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the preseason opener last year and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
“He looks good to me, just your common guy,” Murphy said. “He looks like he’s moving around pretty well. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with where he’s at.”
JACKSON WORKING BACK
Vikings coach Brad Childress spent much of the afternoon special teams practice working with QB Tarvaris Jackson on an unused practice field.
Jackson suffered a Grade I sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left (non-planting) knee on Saturday morning and hasn’t practiced since.
“He did fine, footwork-wise,” Childress said of the afternoon session. “We’ll see how he feels in the morning. We’ll see how he feels later on, getting out there moving around a little bit. But he looks fine.”
Jackson worked in front of head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman while Childress worked with Jackson on his drop-back. Jackson also spent time throwing to ball boys and cornerback Benny Sapp and didn’t seem to have any issues with the knee.
“I know he’s enthusiastic about being able to get out there,” Childress said. “Like I said, it’s just a matter of being able to protect himself.”
The Vikings officially announced the release of WR Aundrae Allison Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, Allison's agent, Drew Rosenhaus wrote on his Twitter page that Allison would be traded or released by the end of the day.
“The Vikings have informed me that they will be waiving receiver Aundrae Allison by 5pm today if he isn't traded first,” Rosenhaus tweeted.
The Vikings obviously didn’t find a trade market for him, and Childress wasn’t interested in commenting on Rosenhaus’ tweet before the close of league business on Tuesday while they were trying to gauge Allison’s trade value.
“I’m not commenting on tweets. That’s my tweet policy,” he said.
Allison did not attend Tuesday’s morning practice.
The Allison situation was another sidebar story created by power of the social networking site Twitter. A few Vikings players have created accounts, and Bernard Berrian caused a short-lived stir when he tweeted the night after the first practices that rookie Percy Harvin was sighted in Mankato before confessing to the joke. At the time, Harvin had yet to sign a contract with the Vikings.
“Ok sorry guys just a lil camp humor. Percy isn't here. Lol!! Gotta admit I got a chuckle out of it!!” Berrian later tweeted.
The next day, Berrian tweeted that Jackson was out for the season because of his injury, later saying that tweet was a lesson for people to not believe everything they see in the media and calling Twitter media.
The league is also working on a policy to eliminate players and staff from tweeting during games, and Childress said he has addressed his players about tweeting during meetings.
“That’s not in the conduct-detrimental policy. If somebody tells me about one and it’s actually during a time that meetings happen, then we’ve got issues, but we have breaks in between meetings,” he said. “… Typically those guys don’t have their cell phones or they had better have it silenced.”
Childress said some players have cells phones on them during meetings, but added, “We don’t have a magnetometer or anything like that” to alert staff that a player has a cell phone on him.
Childress had a number of good one-liners Tuesday.
When asked if he noticed any signs of distraction from Kevin Williams or Pat Williams with their ongoing appeal of a four-game suspension, Childress said he didn’t see them “in the fetal position by their lockers.”
When asked about the enthusiasm of the fans at training camp, Childress referred to his Philadelphia coaching days. “They’re a little bit more user-friendly than the Philadelphia fans who used to show up and would tomahawk beer bottles onto the field. Nobody is doing that and we’re grateful for that. I don’t know if they are serving any libations over there or not, but it’s great to have them out there and our guys feel their presence.”
Childress’ best story of the day may have come when talking about North Dakota native Jim Kleinsasser.
“The first time I saw Jim Kleinsasser I was trying to clean up our locker room. You know there was everybody in our locker room, from the suit guy to the jewelry guy to the car-detail guy, and I came out of the coaches’ locker room and there was a guy on a stair master with a pair of coveralls on,” Childress said. “It was the middle of winter and he had a full beard with what I call a pork hat, kind of a toboggan. He had some paint on the coveralls and we were doing construction, painting the media rooms. I said, ‘Son of a gun, the workers have to stay away from the players. We’re down here working and guys can’t be in here bothering people. Who is this guy and where did he come in at?’ I walked by him and had no idea who he was, but it was Jim Kleinsasser. He looked like he was out sawing logs. He was probably ice fishing or something.”
TUESDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES
In addition to Harvin, Nick Moore, Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud were among the players returning punts.
The team worked several players at the “gunner” positions covering punts. Glenn Holt, Johnson, Reynaud, Marcus McCauley, Vinny Perretta, Asher Allen, Sidney Rice, Bobby Williams and Karl Paymah were among them.