Friendship cools competition at punt returner for Sherels and Felder
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bobby Felder has already followed in fellow cornerback Marcus Sherels' footsteps -- both undrafted rookie free agents who made the practice squad -- and logically, Felder's next step is to make the final roster as a cornerback and/or punt returner.
Felder and Sherels see enough room for both of them, and even if not, there's no animosity should one get the nod over the other, whether at cornerback or punt returner.
"I make a big return and [Sherels] is one of the first guys to say 'congratulations, how did that feel to get under your belt?'" Felder said after Monday's walkthrough. "People think we're out here competing against each other, but it's, you're going to make the plays you're supposed to make anyway. Marcus will reach out to me in anyway he possibly can. He doesn't try to hide anything."
Felder's third and final punt return on Friday was icing on the cake after he already downed two punts inside the Bills' five-yard line earlier in the game -- turning the Bills' 38-yard punt into a one-yard net gain and a nice piece of film for Felder.
The Vikings are still considering receivers Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright and potentially Cordarrelle Patterson as the punt returner, but with Burton showing flashes in the kick return game and at receiver, Wright out with a concussion and Patterson doing his thing -- it could be a two-man race sooner rather than later.
"We're all competing, but we're competing with our selves," Sherels said. "Not looking at it amongst each other. We try to root each other on and we're all happy for each others successes."
Sherels, a University of Minnesota graduate, and Felder, in his second year out of Nicholls State, both went undrafted in their respective years. Felder, like Sherels, made the practice squad after trying out with the Vikings and now Felder's only room to grow may be to take Sherels' job as punt returner.
"I don't think he looks at it in a bad way," Felder said. "One thing people don't know about Marcus is, he's a great guy. Having a similar story, I can kind of relate to him."
Felder can also sneak onto the 53-man roster as a reserve cornerback, but certainly his efforts in special teams help his cause.
As cornerback Jacob Lacey sits on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery, both Felder and Sherels have seen extended looks as a reserve nickel cornerback.
Felder's three tackles in five plays at Buffalo on Friday, including a wrap up of running back Tashard Choice, weren't lost on the Vikings coaching staff.
"That's where I think Bobby [Felder] flourished, being inside, he had a couple of tackles, had a couple of hustle plays and so that's what you're looking for," Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "Not specifically one thing in terms of coverage, we just want to see when a guy is in place, when we call the defense, when he has a play at him, can he make the play. And Bobby made the plays that were at him."
"We always say if we give you two reps and you have two good plays, give you four reps and see if you can make two more and if you did well, give you two more. We'll see if we can get Bobby some more reps to see how he does."
Behind cornerback Brandon Burton, Felder's 66 snaps in two preseason games ranks second most for any Vikings cornerback and that workload should continue with the team's cornerback depth in question.
Williams is pretty high on Sherels as well, adding that Sherels' experience of going through the NFL rigor in a regular season goes a long way when deciding who to keep and who to shed.
"They call Sherels the machine, or the mechanic. Whenever he comes in, he functions and he functions well," Williams said. "He's a dependable guy, special teams, on defense, inside, outside. We kind of know what we have there, we have a dependable guy that makes plays for us."