Notebook: Bernard Berrian expects to learn about future on Tuesday
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There might not be much intrigue left for the Minnesota Vikings when it comes to their on-the-field play in 2011, but things seem to grow more interesting by the day off the field.
Among the interesting subplots for the 1-6 Vikings is the status of wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who evidently is going to find out Tuesday whether his four-season stint with the organzation will come to an end.
Berrian, who was inactive for the second time in three games Sunday, told reporters he met with coach Leslie Frazier for 10-to-15 minutes on Monday and will meet with Frazier again on Tuesday.
Berrian, who was asked more than 40 questions in five-plus minutes, said he was instructed not to give any details about what happened to land him as a healthy inactive against the Green Bay Packers but said he wants to remain with the Vikings.
"I don't know yet," Berrian said when asked about his role going forward. "I've got to wait until (Tuesday) to find out."
Asked if he would like to get his side of the story out, Berrian said: "Obviously I would, but I can not talk about that," adding later, "It's very frustrating. Anything negative is always frustrating."
Berrian's experience with the Vikings has been less than positive.
He signed a $42 million, six-year contract as a free agent in 2008 after spending his first four years with the Chicago Bears.
The deal called for $23 million in the first three years and a $16 million signing bonus. Berrian was second on the Vikings with 48 receptions for a team-leading 964 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the team.
He caught 55 passes in 2009 but his yardage total decreased to 618. Berrian had his worst season since 2005 last year, catching only 28 passes for 247 yards with no touchdowns. Word spread that quarterback Brett Favre did not have interest in throwing the ball to Berrian.
During training camp, Frazier often spoke about what an important part of the offense Berrian would be in 2011. Berrian also agreed to redo his contract, taking $1.9 million to play on a one-year deal.
But Berrian got off to another slow start and then was inactive for the Vikings' 34-10 victory over Arizona on Oct. 9 after he reportedly missed two team meetings the night before the game. He returned to catch a season-high five passes for 54 yards in a 39-10 loss the following week at Chicago.
However, Berrian did something to cause himself to be a late scratch for the Vikings' 33-27 loss to Green Bay on Sunday at the Metrodome. Frazier did acknowledge Berrian was in the original starting lineup and that it was a late decision to sit him. Berrian said he found out Sunday.
Recently benched quarterback Donovan McNabb said the decision to not play Berrian on Sunday "was kind of shocking to me."
"I kind of came in and kind of saw it myself, but both of us kind of have the attitude of just preparing and getting ready for the game and obviously his was a little bit different than mine, but we still have the same approach," McNabb said. "It's tough. I think he's been through it. He'll bounce back for this week and be ready to go."
Frazier declined Monday to discuss the details and the only thing that is clear is that there is a chance Berrian will be jettisoned Tuesday.
"There are some things I've got to sit down and talk with Bernard about and then we'll make a decision on how we want to handle things going forward," Frazier said. "But he and I are going to sit down and talk."
Frazier would not say if a decision had been made on whether to cut Berrian and remained vague when asked about what had happened.
"There's just some things that he and I have to talk about to make sure that we can get on the same page about what direction we want to go in," he said. "We're going to have a little meeting of the minds and see where we are."
Asked if Berrian had become a distraction, Frazier said: "One of the things that you're trying to do when you are where we are is make sure that everybody's focused on who we're playing. This week, I think we're playing Carolina. Everybody's focus has to be on the Carolina Panthers. Just got to make sure we get everybody focused on what we have to be focused on."
If Berrian's time with the Vikings does end Tuesday, he will depart having caught only seven passes for 91 yards with no touchdowns in five games this season. Berrian said he feels as if he's just as good of receiver as when he arrived in Minnesota and that he's actually faster.
"It's been frustrating," Berrian said of his time in Minnesota. "It started off good and then it just kind of went downhill from there."
A reporter asked him if he felt as if he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.
"You hit it right on the nail," he said. "Thank you very much."
Herrera to get second opinion
Right guard Anthony Herrera was scheduled to get a second opinion on his injured left knee Monday.
Frazier confirmed the injury Herrera suffered in the second quarter Sunday "has something to do with his ACL."
Herrera suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season against the Packers and missed the remainder of the year.
"We'll find out more probably (Tuesday) as to where he is and to what may happen the rest of this week," Frazier said.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Herrera will miss two weeks because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament. Herrera returned for a time after being injured, then left again.
Welcome to the NFL
Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round pick by the Vikings last April out of Slippery Rock, had spent time this season practicing at both guard and center.
Fusco, however, is most comfortable at center and hadn't played guard since high school. He never even practiced at that spot in college. But when Herrera had to leave the game it was Fusco who was inserted at right guard.
"My mind was spinning being on the field," said Fusco, who was active for the first time Sunday. "But I knew what my game was, I was confident. I just had to go with it and play my game."
Fusco said the coaching staff "seemed pretty proud of me," and gave himself a passing mark.
"I thought I played pretty well for the most part," Fusco said. "The most important thing is we didn't get the win. That's always a bummer. We've just got to keep building off of that, for myself and if my name's called again, just go out there and do my job. That's my goal."
Frazier was questioned by many for his decision to punt on fourth-and-10 with 2:37 left in Sunday's game and the ball on the Vikings 36-yard line. The Vikings trailed 33-27 and there were plenty who felt like Frazier should go for it.
Instead, he had Chris Kluwe punt and because the Vikings run defense struggled on the Packers' next series, Green Bay was able to run out the clock.
Frazier did not second-guess himself Monday.
"Not when I knew what the situation was with the clock, and the belief that I had with our run defense and the timeouts we had (the Vikings had all three left) and the two-minute (warning)," Frazier said. "I thought it was a perfect storm for us to get the ball back with plenty of time. I thought we could get the ball back in better field position than where we punted. I fully believe it was the right thing to do."
So did Frazier go with his gut on the decision or look at a chart?
"We do have some charts that tell you a little bit about what to expect in a two-minute or four-minute situation, but at the same time you have to have a feel for your football team," he said. "I felt very confident that we could go out in that situation and get the ball back to our offense."
But that confidence was not rewarded as Packers running back James Starks carried the ball six times during Green Bay's final possession and had runs of 15, 20 and 13 yards.
Those are the types of runs the Vikings don't often give up.
"I took a look at it," Frazier said. "One of the things we talked about prior to the game was every guy just doing his job on every single play and taking care of your responsibility. On that last drive, we had a couple guys that tried to make some plays that weren't theirs.
"You really have to stay in your gap if you are trying to play good run defense. We had some guys that were playing a little over-anxious and got out of their gap. The Packers ended up creasing some runs that they had tried earlier in the game and had no success with, but we didn't handle that moment very well."
About those interceptions
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder received plenty of praise for his play Sunday in his first NFL start, but he was picked off twice in the third quarter by Packers veteran cornerback Charles Woodson.
"He's trying to make a play against a pretty good defensive back, one of the best in the National Football League," Frazier said when asked about the picks. "I'm sure when he watches the tape, he'll see there are some plays to be made. It's just the elevation of the football has to be a little bit different which is something he'll grow from and he'll learn.
"But those were plays he'll be able to make once he takes a look at this tape and he makes the adjustment he has to make. Give a lot of credit to (Woodson). He's done that against a lot of good quarterbacks over the course of his career."
Ponder did not quit going after Woodson following the two picks and it was Woodson who was covering Michael Jenkins when the Vikings wide receiver caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point game.
"The fact that (Ponder's) not afraid, which in our league is the way you have to be, you have to be smart about what you're doing, but you can't play scared ... when he came back to Michael for that touchdown, that just showed you they have a lot of confidence in his ability and he wasn't afraid of who was covering Michael. You have to play that way."
Cook still in jail
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook, who was arrested early Saturday in Eden Prairie on suspicion of domestic assault, was supposed to appear in court Monday but that appearance was canceled, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
A spokeswoman for the city of Eden Prairie told the newspaper that police are continuing their investigation and have not yet forwarded the case to the county attorney's office. Cook must be charged by Tuesday or he has to be released unless an extension is granted.
Cook was booked on probable cause for domestic assault/strangulation and fifth-degree domestic assault. The first charge is a felony-level offense, the second a misdemeanor.
"As we get more clarity on what's going on with Chris, then we'll act accordingly," Frazier said when asked for his response to the fact a player is in jail. "But we'll try to get clarity hopefully in the next few days and go from there."
Asked if the situation bothers him, Frazier said: "I don't think any of us in the organization are pleased when one of our players is arrested for anything and the fact that one of our players is in jail, it's a disappointment. It's something that we'll have to deal with as we find out more information."
• Frazier said WR Percy Harvin was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to check a rib injury that continues to bother him. Harvin played 18 snaps in the first half on Sunday but sat out the second half because of the pain and has dealt with the injury since training camp. "We're going to do an MRI just to make sure everything is fine (and) there's nothing different than what we saw last week," Frazier said. "We definitely need Percy on the field, but we have to be careful with his ribs."
• Frazier expects SS Jamarca Sanford and C John Sullivan, who both missed Sunday's game because of concussions, to be available at Carolina. CB Antoine Winfield, who has missed the past three games because of a neck strain, isn't certain to return. "We'll learn more about Antoine as the week goes on," Frazier said. "We have to take him through some practices with the amount of time he's missed and then make a determination whether he can play or not."
• Nose tackle Remi Ayodele's ankle was bothering him Sunday, according to Frazier. Ayodele signed as a free agent after the lockout was not credited with any tackles Sunday and has eight on the season. "We need to continue to push to get more, because he is a guy that we think can be a major factor in games, but he is doing some good things, we just need to get more consistent play from him," Frazier said.
Harris set to sign?
Ryan Harris went through a physical with the Vikings on Monday after working out for the team this month.
That could mean the Vikings are planning to sign the tackle to add depth to their offensive line.
Harris, who attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, has played for the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. He was taken by the Broncos in the third round of the 2007 draft.
He signed with the Eagles in August but was waived/injured after undergoing back surgery.
Darren Wolfson contributed.