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Updated: November 17th, 2011 4:40pm
Notebook: Benny Sapp likely to play role in nickel defense on Sunday

Notebook: Benny Sapp likely to play role in nickel defense on Sunday

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Benny Sapp could not find a job for two months after being released by the Miami Dolphins following an extremely rocky performance in Week 1 against New England.

But Sapp's absence from game action figures to come to an end Sunday. The Vikings signed Sapp on Wednesday to replace the injured Antoine Winfield and likely will use him in their nickel defense this weekend when they play host to the Oakland Raiders.

"I feel all right," Sapp said Thursday after going through his second practice with the Vikings. "Still got a few kinks to get out before Sunday. But it's just a work in progress."

Sapp has an advantage in that he played 30 games (11 starts) in Leslie Frazier's defense in 2008 and '09 before being traded to the Dolphins for wide receiver Greg Camarillo in August 2010.

Sapp said there have been only "a few adjustments" made now that Frazier has gone from defensive coordinator to head coach and Fred Pagac is running the defense.

The expectation Sunday would be for Cedric Griffin and Asher Allen to start at right and left corner, respectively, and for Sapp and Marcus Sherels to see time playing inside as the extra defensive back in the nickel. (Sherels did not practice Thursday because he was attending a funeral after having a death in the family.)

"Coming back in he has good retention of what we had been doing," Pagac said of Sapp. "We'll evaluate him as the week goes on as far as how much he plays and where he plays and things of that nature. I could see him playing some at the nickel position."

Sapp was breathing heavily after doing some extra work following Thursday's practice, but considering how long he was away from the NFL that did not come as a surprise.

"He's not in bad shape," Frazier said. "He's worked out well for us and he's worked out well in these two practices we've had. He's not in tip-top shape, obviously, but well enough where we wouldn't be afraid to put him in the game."

The Vikings' decision to sign Sapp has brought up some questions about rookie cornerback Brandon Burton and why he isn't getting a shot. Burton was a fifth-round pick out of Utah last April.

"We needed an extra body for sure," Frazier said of the primary reason why Sapp was signed. "Brandon is coming along right at the pace we thought he would. His turn is going to come, but we needed another body not only for games but for practice as well."

Winfield's surgery

Winfield underwent surgery for a broken collarbone on Wednesday and, according to Frazier, things went well.

"It's going to be about three months of rehab and he should be able to continue on with his career from there," Frazier said.

Shiancoe "tweaks" hamstring

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was added to the injury report Thursday after Frazier said the veteran "tweaked" his hamstring in practice.

"I don't think it's anything serious, we'll see (Friday) how he does," Frazier said.

Shiancoe was on the field after practice catching extra passes, as he always does, so the injury could not have had him all that concerned. Shiancoe battled a hamstring issue early in the season after being injured in training camp.

Meanwhile, guard Anthony Herrera (knee), safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (shoulder) sat out practice.

Herrera is expected to miss his third consecutive game Sunday.

Abdullah has passed the first portion of the concussion test that players have to go through after suffering a head injury, but Frazier said, "he's still got a couple of things he has to do to confirm that he can get on the field and go with us."

Frazier expressed optimism that Abdullah is making progress, but acknowledged if the safety can't practice on Friday it's doubtful he would play Sunday.

Linebacker Erin Henderson returned to take part in a portion of practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday but his hamstring remains "a little bit tight," according to Frazier.

Wide receiver Michael Jenkins (knee) was limited for the second day in a row.

Making progress

Loeffler has made significant improvement after suffering a rotator cuff injury on Monday night in Green Bay. "We're going to try to get him some work (on Friday), which will be good for us," Frazier said.

Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who was projected to be a long snapper coming out of Idaho State in 2004, has been handling the snapping duties in practice this week.

So if Loeffler can't go Sunday is Allen a candidate to snap?

"Zero chance," Frazier said. "(Allen) brags all the time about he's the best in the league and best in college when he came out, and he is. He's very good. (Vikings punter) Chris Kluwe has commented a number of times about how good he is. But not in a game. No. We want him rushing the quarterback."

If it's determined Loeffler can't play Sunday, the Vikings will have to scan the waiver wire for a replacement.

Peterson nears mark

After being held to 51 yards on 14 carries Monday night, running back Adrian Peterson is 190 yards from Robert Smith's franchise rushing record.

Smith accumulated 6,818 yards on 1,411 attempts in 98 games during his career. Peterson is at 6,628 yards on 1,378 carries in 70 games.

"It's something that I've looked at," Peterson said when asked about the record. "But just (the) reality (is), I'm like, 'I'll get it sooner or later before this year is over,' so it's not something I'm focusing on at all."

Peterson said he is most proud of holding the NFL's single-game rushing record, a mark he set on Nov. 4, 2007 when he ran for 296 yards against San Diego at the Metrodome.

Oakland, by the way, is 25th in the NFL in rushing defense this season, giving up 132.4 yards per game.

Here's the kicker

Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is familiar with the Oakland Raiders and kicker Sebastian Janikowski, after spending the past five seasons coaching in the AFC West with Kansas City (2006-08) and Denver (2009-10).

Janikowski has been dealing with an injury to his left hamstring for much of this season, but that doesn't mean Priefer's respect for the veteran has gone down. Janikowski, who missed the Oct. 23 game against Kansas City, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but is expected to play Sunday.

"He places the ball pretty much wherever he wants it, trying to kick the ball away from your returners," Priefer said. "He's giving people problems that way, too. So we have to have two game plans. We've got to have one to get ready for his, 'bloop kicks,' I call them. Or his liner-type kicks.

"And then we have to have one for his deep kicks. So we kind of go into this game having two different types of game plans for whatever he does and how healthy he is. He's going to have 10 days off, I know he didn't practice (so far this week), so he'll be more healthy than he's been in a long while."

Janikowski is known for the strength of his leg when he's healthy. He made a career-long 63-yard field-goal attempt in the Raiders' 23-20 victory over Denver in Week 1.

"He's been special," Priefer said. "I've faced him 10 times in the last five years being in the AFC West. He just never ceases to amaze me in terms of his power and just what he can generate in just a small amount of area.

"In kickoffs, he doesn't have a long approach, even when he's healthy. In his field goals, he's got a quick, two-step approach that's very difficult to block. But he gets the ball up in the air so quickly, it just sounds like an explosion off his foot."

Quick hits

• The Raiders injury report has 14 players on it, including seven who did not practice again Thursday. That list includes quarterback Jason Campbell (collarbone), wide receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), cornerback Chris Johnson (groin, hamstring), running backs Darren McFadden (foot) and Manase Tonga (knee), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee) and Janikowski. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) was limited in Wednesday's practice and placed on injured reserve Thursday. Carson Palmer will start at quarterback for the Raiders on Sunday and McFadden also is expected to remain sidelined.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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