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Updated: August 2nd, 2012 1:02pm
Bill Musgrave adjusting practice reps with Vikings short on tight ends

Bill Musgrave adjusting practice reps with Vikings short on tight ends

by Tom Pelissero
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The loss of John Carlson to a knee injury has Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave tweaking his practice plans to account for a shortage of tight ends.

Carlson suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Tuesday and will miss at least a week or two of practice.

That leaves the Vikings with only four healthy tight ends -- starter Kyle Rudolph, plus Mickey Shuler, Allen Reisner and fourth-round draft pick Rhett Ellison, who all have spent most of their time in camp with the second and third units.

"All three of our tight ends have really good skills," Musgrave said after Thursday's walkthrough. "Talking about Mickey and Allen and of course Rhett, our rookie -- all three of our guys will fill in.

"We're down to four in that room instead of five, and so we've accommodated a little bit with the scripts so we don't wear those guys down in John's absence."

The Vikings signed Carlson to a five-year, $25 million contract in March and hope to pair him with Rudolph in Musgrave's offense, which features a lot of multiple tight end sets.

They could move to bring in another tight end off the street, but unless that player has been in another camp, it'd be at least three days before he'd be eligible to participate in contact drills.

Shuler, 25, opened camp on the active/non-football injury list with a heel problem but has returned to full participation. He is mostly an inline player and has a balanced skillset when healthy -- which he rarely has been in parts of two NFL seasons.

Reisner, 23, has excellent hands and probably the closest skillset to Carlson, although he lacks Carlson's quickness. He continues to work ahead of Ellison, 23, who is perhaps best-suited to an H-back role and isn't a particularly fluid athlete but works hard and has caught the ball well in camp.

Asked if those three players are roughly on equal footing, Musgrave said, "I would say they are. Yeah, it's very competitive. They're all doing a lot of good things.

"We're all making mistakes here at day five, day six of camp. But we're doing a good job of not being repeat mistake offenders and learning from them and getting better."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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