Notebook: Greg Childs goes airborne for best play of Vikings camp
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The best play through one week of Minnesota Vikings training camp belongs to rookie receiver Greg Childs.
On third-and-2 from the defense's 24-yard line in a no-huddle drill on Thursday afternoon, Childs ran a fade route and had a step on cornerback Brandon Burton.
Backup quarterback Joe Webb underthrew the ball, but Childs came back for it, reached his hands around Burton's helmet in midair and pinned the ball on top of Burton's shoulder pads -- then held on as they both hit the ground in the end zone and Burton's helmet came off.
A near-capacity crowd watching practice from the bleachers exploded into cheers and so did Childs' offensive teammates, who ran to the end zone to congratulate him.
How'd he hang on?
"Strong hands," Childs said, grinning. "Strong and big hands. Just the will to make the play."
This one was particularly notable because Childs has had so few opportunities to make plays the past couple of years.
He tore his right patella tendon in October 2010 at the University of Arkansas and was a shell of himself last fall. He joined the Vikings as a fourth-round pick (134th overall) in April, only to get hurt in the rookie minicamp the following weekend and get limited action the rest of the offseason.
"I had had a calf strain, so I didn't really get a chance to be with the team as much until now," Childs said. "I came here fully prepared, healthy, ready to go. So, I'm just here to make plays."
Childs has always been the in-house favorite to start at split end while Jerome Simpson serves a three-game suspension to start the season -- provided Childs shows he's over the injuries.
He has dropped several balls here, but the type of play he made on Thursday was a step in the right direction.
"I think that's going to help him, for him to make that play is going to give him a lot of confidence," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "He's a big-time receiver."
Said coach Leslie Frazier, "We saw him do that in college as well. That was a really nice play. Great concentration. That's what we need. We need a guy to make that hard catch for us even when they're covered. That was good to see."
Webb staying put
The Vikings remain committed to working Webb exclusively at quarterback behind Ponder throughout training camp and probably through the preseason, meaning any plans to get Webb on the field elsewhere will have to wait.
Webb, 25, played only 21 snaps over the first 12 games last season in the mostly punchless "Blazer" package, then made three late-season relief appearances, including impressive showings in a loss at Detroit and a Dec. 24 win over Washington.
"Joe's always going to look better in the games than he does in practice at this stage of his career," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He is not a real refined, pure passer, but he does have touch. He demonstrated that against the Redskins. He does have the ability to exhibit anticipation also -- throwing the ball early before the guy gets out of his break.
"Joe, like a lot of young players, just needs more and more turns so he can get comfortable and confident and execute more consistently."
The Vikings also have toyed with Webb at receiver in the past, but he has only one catch for 9 yards in two NFL seasons. Still, Musgrave surely will continue trying to get Webb on the field in certain packages, if only as a decoy.
Asked if any work at other positions would have to wait for the regular season, Musgrave said, "That's correct. Joe has a superior running ability and so any nuanced plays would be after we get through this training and preparation period of our season."
Webb was 11-for-16 passing in team (11-on-11) drills on Thursday -- most of the completions on the 13-play, 70-yard no-huddle drive that ended in Childs' touchdown.
Robinson still hurting
A day after testing his tender hamstring in a non-contact punt return drill, rookie cornerback Josh Robinson was in pads on Thursday but remained sidelined during all team drills.
"He tried to catch some punts (on Wednesday), and you could tell it was bothering him a little bit," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said of Robinson, who tweaked the hamstring while chasing fellow rookie Jarius Wright in a one-on-one drill in Friday's first practice of camp.
Frazier said Robinson, the speedy third-round pick from Central Florida, is "getting closer to getting back out here" but it's unclear if that'll happen before Sunday's off day.
Two backup players dropped out of Thursday's afternoon practice with injuries.
Tackle Pat Brown suffered what the team believes is a minor sprain to the medial collateral ligament in one of his knees while blocking on a screen pass to Todman in a team period.
Brown may only miss a few days, Frazier said, but the Vikings already are short-handed at tackle with DeMarcus Love (shoulder) expected to miss a couple of weeks.
Also continuing to sit out were tight end John Carlson (knee), safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and halfback Adrian Peterson, who is "making good progress" but remains on the active/physically unable to perform list while he recovers from left knee reconstruction.
"We cross paths a couple of times a day, and he reminded me that he's making good progress," Frazier said, "but (the team is) still not quite ready to put him out there yet. But we're getting closer. He's doing some good things."
Winfield's break is Jones' chance
Antoine Winfield got the day off from team drills -- something the Vikings have done for years to keep the 35-year-old cornerback's body fresh.
"We kind of tell him early on how we want to do it and he understands why we do it," Frazier said. "It's worked in the past and we're doing it again this year as well."
Chris Carr took Winfield's place at cornerback with the first-string defense, and camp standout Reggie Jones -- a third-teamer just days ago -- was on the field in nickel with the starters when he broke up a third-down pass in the clock-killer drill.
Jones also nearly had an interception on a Rosenfels pass for Kerry Taylor in a team drill.
"Reggie's flashed," Frazier said. "He's made some plays in practice. He was doing the same thing in OTAs. He's been a kind of quiet guy, doesn't say a whole lot, but he's made some plays to make the coaches pay attention to him, so we'll see how he progresses."
Priefer was effusive in his praise of the Vikings' new training camp schedule, which includes morning walkthroughs, afternoon practices and 30-minute special teams periods at the beginning of each session.
That allows Priefer to meet with players in the morning about that day's focus -- e.g. kickoff and kick return on Thursday -- then practice it and watch the tape in the evening.
"Some guys learn better by walking through it," Priefer said. "Other guys learn better by seeing it on tape, and then walking through it, and then doing for live, for real. Every guy learns a little bit different, so I try to teach all three different parts, all three different ways of teaching so I can reach as many different people as possible."
Priefer said he has the first 10 days of practice planned "down to the minute" and then will target specific areas for improvement after the Aug. 10 exhibition opener at San Francisco.
"I think it's a great schedule," Priefer said. "Coach Frazier gives me a ton of time. It's my job to utilize every minute, every second."
We want touchbacks
If rookie Blair Walsh can consistently put the ball through the end zone on kickoffs, Priefer said he won't get greedy and start trying to pin opponents inside the 20.
"You think about that, but at the end of the day, everybody's got a good returner," Priefer said. "There are very, very few people that have returners that you're not worried about. They have some skillset that makes you nervous -- they're fast or they're quick or they're big and they're strong and they run through tackles. ...
"When we can get a touchback, I think I'm going to take a touchback. It makes me sleep a lot easier at night."
Priefer mentioned Wright and tight end Rhett Ellison as rookies who have impressed on special teams.
After practice, Ponder also went out of his way to praise Ellison, the rookie fourth-round pick out of Southern California who figures to get expanded opportunities with Carlson sidelined.
"We all love that kid, man," said Ponder, who hit Ellison for a touchdown off a bootleg in the goal-line period.
"Not only does he work his butt off, but he's got a little Jim Kleinsasser in him. He's tough. We watch him in some of run blocks and some of his one-on-one drills against linebackers -- he's tough, man. He's got a little crazy in him."
Um, a little crazy in him?
"I don't know," Ponder said, smirking. "He's kind of got a little shoving here and there. He's got a little angry side to him. Pretty cool."
• After struggling earlier this week, the offense got going in a couple of drills on Thursday -- appearing to convert seven of nine short-yardage plays and then scoring on four of five plays in the goal-line period.
• CB Chris Cook had two impressive interceptions -- one on an underthrown pass from Ponder for WR Percy Harvin in a team drill, and the other on a spinning play in one-on-ones while working against Wright. One play after the first interception, Harvin beat him for a long gain.
• Four of the replacement officials the NFL plans to use if the ongoing labor dispute isn't resolved were on hand to officiate practice and make the annual rules presentation to players in the evening.
• The Vikings' punt return job is open, Priefer said, but incumbent Marcus Sherels will get the first chance in the preseason opener.
• Erin Henderson could call the defensive signals in both base and subpackage defenses if he beats out Jasper Brinkley for the starting job at mike linebacker in the nickel, Frazier said. Henderson has worked with the starting nickel since camp began, while Brinkley has worked with the twos.
• Geoff Schwartz continues to work in with the starting offense at right guard, although Brandon Fusco has taken the first rep each day. "He's made a good first impression," Musgrave said of Schwartz, who sat out last season in Carolina after undergoing hip surgery. "He's hopped in there after being injured most of the spring with his hip rehabilitation and has done a nice job there at right guard for us."