Notebook: 'Safety is not such a need' for Vikings, Leslie Frazier says
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Coach Leslie Frazier said he is sure the Minnesota Vikings will have discussions about the availability of Chris Harris, but added, "safety is not such a need for us at this stage where we are."
Harris, 29, was let go by the Chicago Bears on Thursday and the Vikings have an open spot on their 53-man roster with cornerback Chris Cook suspended by the team after being charged with a felony.
Frazier's statement about the Vikings' safety situation is correct when it comes to numbers, but it's not as if Husain Abdullah, Jamarca Sanford, Tyrell Johnson, Eric Frampton or Mistral Raymond are elite players. Abdullah and Sanford are the current starters, with Johnson subbing at times for Sanford.
The thing is that with the Vikings at 1-6 and in a rebuilding mode picking up an aging safety doesn't make a lot of sense.
At this point, it appears the Vikings are going to let that extra roster spot sit open.
"I'm not sure how we'll go forward with that," Frazier said. "We're talking about some different things we want to do, but right now we're going to stay status quo as we speak."
Harris had 10 interceptions and three fumble recoveries in starting 39 of 44 career games with Chicago. This ends Harris' second go-around with the Bears. He was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2008 for a fifth-round pick and then traded back to Chicago in 2010.
The Vikings are tied for first in the NFL with 21 sacks and Jared Allen leads the league with 11.5.
They will try to add to those figures on Sunday against Panthers rookie Cam Newton, who has been sacked 14 times but has the ability to take off when under pressure.
Newton, the first pick in last April's draft, has rushed for 266 yards on 57 carries and seven touchdowns. At 6-foot-5, 248 pounds, he provides quite a challenge for defenders.
"It changes how you rush. It changes your approach," Frazier said. "You really have to do things a little bit differently because you don't want to leave lanes because even if you have everything covered he takes off and that's an explosive play. It changes how you approach your pass rush because of his mobility."
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Devin Aromashodu will continue to get the snaps at split end that had gone to Bernard Berrian before he was inactive for two of the past three games. Berrian was let go on Tuesday.
Aromashodu only caught one pass for 13 yards in last Sunday's loss to Green Bay but he was on the field for 61 snaps.
"We anticipate Devin getting even more snaps and then we've got (Greg) Camarillo who can fill in at all of the spots, too," Musgrave said. "We look forward to Percy (Harvin) geting back and being more healthy so we can get him back in the rotation as well and really utilize him."
Harvin has been bothered by sore ribs and missed the second half last Sunday. He was limited in Thursday's practice.
Thanks, but no thanks
The city of Minneapolis has been attempting to get back in the running for the Vikings stadium but the team made it clear again Thursday that it's focused on Arden Hills.
"We respect Mayor (R.T.) Rybak and the City of Minneapolis for trying to find a stadium solution," the Vikings said in a statement. "However, the Minnesota Vikings have a local partner - Ramsey County - with whom we have negotiated for several months. Arden Hills is the ideal stadium site for the State, the Vikings and our fans."
The Vikings continue to hope that a special session will be called next month to give them a shot at getting a stadium in Arden Hills approved.
A second look
The officials in the Vikings-Packers game on Sunday appeared to miss a call in the third quarter when Kenny Onatolu received what looked to be a borderline illegal block in the back from Ryan Taylor as Randall Cobb returned a Chris Kluwe punt 42 yards to the Vikings 32.
That helped to set up an Aaron Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley. But that non-call didn't upset Vikings specials teams coordinator Mike Priefer as much as two other blocks that weren't called on punts.
Priefer said Thursday he sent the NFL office two calls to review. Best case, the Vikings will receive word from the league that referee Pete Morelli's crew made the wrong calls.
"What am I allowed to say without getting fined or in trouble?" Priefer said. "Unbelievable. Unbelievable, that's all I've got to say."
Priefer was not specific about which calls he wanted reviewed but it's likely it was two that came on Vikings punt returns.
In the first quarter, Husain Abdullah was flagged for an illegal block above the waist on Desmond Bishop. In the fourth quarter, rookie Mistral Raymond was called for the same thing when he wasn't even on the field and it was actually Asher Allen who was the target of the flag.
"We'll just keep plugging away," Priefer said. "You know what, I'll never ever, ever, and I learned this from my father, make excuses for penalties that were called or not called. We've just got to go out and play. They're humans, they're going to make mistakes. I'm a human, I'm going to make mistakes.
"The best thing I can tell our guys is don't be in a postion that the official is going to think about throwing that flag. If you're in that position, you're probably too close. Things happen so fast. It's hard to officiate an NFL game, obviously. So don't give them an excuse to throw that flag. That's what I like to tell the guys."
As for the Onatolu play, Priefer said: "I didn't send that one in because that's probably too close. That didn't have to be called. We didn't contain that play, that's what I was upset about.
"It was a really good punt, we had two guys right there, two young kids that made the play, and then it bounced outside because we didn't contain it. That was very disappointing to me. That shouldn't happen in what we do in coverage, ever."
Priefer's father, Chuck, spent 17 seasons in the NFL coaching with Detroit, Green Bay and San Diego.
Harvin on returns?
If Harvin can play Sunday, Priefer is hoping he will be able to return kicks.
"I think if he's feeling good we're going to use him," Priefer said. "That's up to Coach Frazier, obviously, and he'll talk to Percy about that prior to the game. That's kind of been our M.O. lately. If he's available, I'm going to use him as much as I can."
Harvin is averaging 31.1 yards on nine kick returns this season to rank eighth in the NFL. He took his first attempt of the season 103 yards for a touchdown against San Diego. Lorenzo Booker has averaged 26.2 yards on 13 returns.
Priefer, however, knows it's Harvin's preference to be used in that role.
"Percy does not want to say no," Priefer said. "I'll be honest with you. He wants to take every single one of them. When he's limited it's because it's (our head coach) being smart saying, 'OK, let's see what's happening on the next offensive series. How much he's going to be used, what the plan is and if it's a two-minute situation do we need to lay off him, let Booker take it and go from there?'"
• Booker missed Thursday's practice because of concussion-like symptoms raising a question about who would return kicks if both Booker and Harvin can't. Frazier said the Vikings' options would include punt returner Marcus Sherels, rookie wide receiver Stephen Burton or running back Toby Gerhart.