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Updated: June 12th, 2012 2:31pm
Notebook: Harrison Smith gets into mix with Vikings' starting defense

Notebook: Harrison Smith gets into mix with Vikings' starting defense

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It was only a matter of time before first-round draft pick Harrison Smith began working with the Minnesota Vikings' starting defense.

He took the majority of reps at one safety spot with the starters during Tuesday's open organized team activity practice, while Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond rotated in alongside him.

"It's just more reps, more experience, playing with some of the other guys," said Smith, who primarily had worked with the second string over the first two weeks of OTAs.

"It's still the same plays. It's just trying to get comfortable in the defense and running hard."

The Vikings intend to start Smith, the No. 29 overall pick out of Notre Dame who signed a four-year, $7.1 million contract last month.

So, it only makes sense they'd take a long look at him as part of multiple combinations on the back end before training camp begins in late July.

"That's exactly what we're trying to do," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We started it (Monday), began to rotate guys and mix and match a little bit and see how they gel together. We'll continue to do it.

"We've got quite a bit of time now before we get to that first game. But we want to get a mix and see how guys work together to develop some chemistry in that secondary."

Raymond, a sixth-round pick last year out of South Florida, appears to have the inside track on the other starting job.

But Sanford started 15 games last season, and Frazier said he hasn't ruled out rookie fifth-round pick Robert Blanton, another Notre Dame product who is making the transition from cornerback.

Smith said he mostly was working at strong safety before moving recently to free safety -- positions that are largely interchangeable in the Vikings' two-deep cover scheme.

"Overall, big picture, I feel pretty good," Smith said of learning the scheme. "There's details that I've got to keep polishing up and getting better."

The Vikings have been impressed with Smith's range in OTAs. His attitude apparently has caught Frazier's attention, too.

"I saw a play (Tuesday) where he really got angry," Frazier said. "He got pretty fired up, and you kind of need that out of your defensive backs. You need them to have a little something about them, and it was good to see."

Another rookie, third-round pick Josh Robinson, took the first rep at right cornerback with the starting defense.

Greenway still gone

Chad Greenway remained absent from practice while dealing with a family situation that forced him to leave town last week, and Frazier said he's not sure the veteran linebacker will be back for the mandatory minicamp next week.

"His family situation is something he's dealing with," Frazier said. "We may or may not have him back for that. But it's understandable, with what he's dealing with."

Under the collective-bargaining agreement finalized last summer, teams can fine players as much as $60,000 for skipping minicamp -- up from $10,000 under the old CBA. But Greenway's absence would be excused, Frazier said.

Roll call

Everyone else on the 90-man roster is expected to attend the minicamp, which begins next Tuesday.

That includes Percy Harvin, whose absence from the voluntary OTA practices the past week isn't related to the shoulder surgery he underwent in April, Frazier said.

"From everything I know from our trainer, Eric Sugarman, his shoulder is doing well," Frazier said. "He's still on course to be back when we get back for mandatory minicamp and participate."

Also absent on Tuesday were cornerback Antoine Winfield, end Jared Allen and halfback Adrian Peterson, who is recovering from knee reconstruction.

Halfback Derrick Coleman has rejoined the team after missing a couple of weeks because of a school conflict.

Health watch

Linebacker Jasper Brinkley tweaked his groin last week, Frazier said, and the Vikings decided to give him some time off as a precaution in hopes of having him healthy for minicamp.

"Just one of those crazy little trip-and-fall things," Brinkley said. "But other than that, everything's fine."

Another linebacker, Solomon Elimimian, sat out with a hamstring injury. Coupled with Greenway's absence, the Vikings had to use Larry Dean and Tyrone McKenzie with the starting defense, along with weakside linebacker Erin Henderson.

Meanwhile, rookie receiver Greg Childs participated on a limited basis, as he has since late last week. He said he hopes the calf he strained in rookie camp will be fully healed "real, real soon. Coming out every day, doing a little bit more than the day before -- that's my goal right now."

Kerry Taylor continued to sit out team drills because of a finger injury and another receiver, A.J. Love, dropped out of practice with an unknown injury.

Quick hits

• Rookie PK Blair Walsh made 4-of-6 field goals during an 11-on-11 period, missing wide left from 42 yards and wide right from 44, then ended practice by drilling a 41-yarder down the middle. "We put a lot of stock in it," Frazier said. "Every practice that we have is important, and it's an important part of his development." Walsh also drew some laughs when he inadvertently knocked down CB Nick Taylor at the end of a kick return.

• There's a "good chance" the Vikings will work out free-agent LB Brian Banks on Friday, Frazier said. Banks, 26, was exonerated last month of a rape conviction for which he served five years in prison and another five years on monitored parole. He is participating in the Seattle Seahawks' minicamp on a tryout basis this week.

Brandon Fusco continued to work at right guard with the first-string offense. Geoff Schwartz worked with the twos. Stephen Burton again received the lion's share of first-team reps at flanker in Harvin's absence.

• Among the areas of emphasis throughout OTAs are passing the ball more efficiently on first and second down, ball security, creating turnovers on defense and reducing penalties on special teams. "You see the officials out here at all our practices," Frazier said. "That's a part of trying to improve in that area. So, we've got some ways to quantify it from a numbers standpoint. But we're also doing some things and just seeing how the guys are engaged in what we're doing in the meetings."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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