Notebook: After 3 weeks on inactive list, Tyrell Johnson gets another shot
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Only 2½ months ago, Minnesota Vikings safety Tyrell Johnson was speaking optimistically about making the Pro Bowl in his third NFL season.
On Friday, Johnson was speaking as a player who had hit a low point in his career -- demoted, disheartened and ultimately deactivated the past three weeks after losing his starting job in the preseason to Husain Abdullah.
"It's real tough, because they didn't say you were just on special teams," Johnson said. "I was on special teams, and then I was off, so I wasn't doing anything."
It appears that'll change on Sunday night at Green Bay, where it'll be Abdullah who's deactivated because of a concussion.
Johnson and Jamarca Sanford split reps in practice this week, and though coach Brad Childress said the Vikings will "probably utilize both of those guys back there," Johnson's superior coverage skills make him the logical choice to start against the Packers' pass-first offense.
"T's an athlete," cornerback Antoine Winfield said of Johnson, a second-round pick (43rd overall) in the 2008 NFL draft.
"He has a really good feet. They put him out there on the scout team, he's playing a little cornerback -- he's working good. But we don't know the game plan that the Packers are going to use. I'm sure they might come out there, try to spread us out. They have really good wide receivers. We'll just have to wait and see."
For Johnson, it could be his best opportunity to get back on the 45-man game-day roster going forward. He had missed only one game in his first two seasons, and that was because of his own concussion last season.
Johnson said he never got an explanation why he lost his job but figures coaches just didn't see the progress they'd hoped to in the preseason.
"I did go through a point to where it's like, 'OK, what's my purpose right now?'" Johnson said. "Well, whatever my role is, I'ma be that. If I've got to be the hype guy, get everybody ready. Do I need to run down on kickoff and bust a head? It's really a 'whatever I can do to help the team' attitude. I had to take a different approach, and it's like, whatever I can do to help the team."
Back in action
Center John Sullivan (calf) and cornerback Chris Cook (knee) appear set to return to action on Sunday, too. Both players were full participants in practice on Friday and listed as probable on the injury report.
Childress said Sullivan "most probably" will start, although Jon Cooper -- who fared OK in his first NFL start last week -- may take a series or two.
"Things like stamina and that type of thing are issues that we're worried about," Childress said. "Just like we wouldn't take Chris Cook back in there and have him play the duration."
It marks the second time each player has missed time with a similar injury this season.
"I think I'm in better shape now than I was coming back for the opener," said Sullivan, who missed the entire preseason with an injury to his other calf.
"So, it shouldn't be as bad as that. Obviously, I'm not in as good a shape as I want to be in, but that's just circumstances."
The most likely scenario for Cook -- who has undergone surgery for a torn meniscus in each of his knees -- is to replace Lito Sheppard as the left cornerback in the nickel defense. In the only game Cook's played this season, Sept. 26 against Detroit, the Vikings played more press coverage than they have at any other time this season.
"That's what he specializes at," Winfield said. "He's a big body, plays well at the line of scrimmage. But with him just adds another body to our cornerback position."
• For the second time this season, WR Percy Harvin (hamstring) laughed at being listed on the injury report. "I'll be fine," Harvin said. "You gotta tune in and we'll see." Childress said Harvin "had some soreness (on Thursday) and he wasn't able to do everything he needed to do." He's listed as probable.
• With Cook still headed for limited duty, CB Asher Allen is set to make his second straight start and fourth this season. "He's doing a good job," Childress said. "They go after him a little bit. He's a scrappy, competitive guy. As I've mentioned to you before, he can play right and left and he can play at the slot in the nickel position. He's doing OK."