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Updated: November 4th, 2010 4:14pm
Notebook: Injury issues at cornerback clouding options against Arizona

Notebook: Injury issues at cornerback clouding options against Arizona

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Asher Allen's hold on the starting right cornerback job appears tenuous.

In fact, if all the other options weren't nicked up, the Minnesota Vikings might be moving even more boldly toward making a move, considering how Allen struggled in Sunday's loss at New England.

Chris Cook (quadriceps), Frank Walker (hamstring) and Lito Sheppard (hand) have been limited in practice the past two days as the Vikings prepare for Sunday's game against the pass-first Arizona Cardinals.

"It's a concern," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said on Thursday of the group's health.

"When you are playing a team that throws the ball as much as Arizona and some of the teams we'll be facing, you want to have healthy bodies, and you want to have guys on the field. In our league, everybody spreads you out and throws the football. But with the guys that are going to be able to play, you got to do what you do and try to do the best that you can -- but you hate injuries."

Of the five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster, the only one not on the injury report this week is starter Antoine Winfield.

Allen -- who is listed with a back injury but hasn't missed any time -- has flashed potential while starting two games before Cedric Griffin returned from a major knee injury and three since Griffin suffered another one. However, he had a miserable day against the Patriots, getting beat for a 65-yard touchdown and blowing tackles on two key running plays.

Meanwhile, Cook took the bulk of reps as the third cornerback in the nickel defense last week and was the front-runner for the job in the preseason. But he's yet to return to the form he showed before two knee surgeries and now the quad injury cut his reps.

"He's going to have to keep playing," Frazier said of Cook, "and playing through some things and the more he plays he'll eventually make some plays and his confidence will grow. But he's missed a lot of time."

Asked on Wednesday whether he's 100% healthy, Cook said, "I'm good enough to go in the game."

The rookie second-round draft pick did hold up well on Sept. 26 against Detroit's star receiver, Calvin Johnson (6-foot-5, 236 pounds), and he's a logical choice for expanded action this week against Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 218) -- if the latest injury doesn't hold him back.

"Coach Frazier told me earlier that was one of the reasons why I was brought in, to match up with guys like (Fitzgerald), the bigger receivers," said Cook, who has 5 inches on Allen at 6-2, 212. "Definitely looking forward to that challenge."

Ball security

All the madness surrounding the Vikings' 2-5 start has tended to obscure some of the areas in which they've made drastic improvement. For instance, this one: Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 776 rushing yards on 165 carries -- and hasn't fumbled once.

"It's not an issue," said Peterson, who did cause one turnover via a botched handoff with quarterback Brett Favre.

"How many fumbles did I have last year, like (eight)? I take pride in it. I feel like any player takes pride in protecting the ball and keeping it high and tight. I have to do my job."

Peterson also has 22 receptions for 194 yards, bringing his total touches to 187. He said in the offseason he had determined the issue was mental, and so far, the results suggest he was right.

"Just being more aware and more conscious of, 'Hey, make sure you keep this ball high and tight,'" Peterson said. "It is something that I just remind myself before the game. It's not something I focus on throughout the game and continue to tell myself, but it's something that I make myself aware of, to keep it high and tight. You know guys are going to rake at it and try to pull it out. Don't put yourself into any vulnerable positions."

Division of labor

Rookie halfback Toby Gerhart played seven of 13 third-down snaps in Sunday's loss to New England, suggesting the Vikings may be going to a more traditional division of labor in the backfield.

And though Peterson says he understands the need to limit his workload -- he still played 52 snaps to Gerhart's 19 overall -- Peterson said he's made clear to coaches he'd prefer to get more of those chances.

"They know," Peterson said. "They know. I also know that there's different schemes and different looks that call for Toby to be out there, too.

"As long as they know that I want to be out there every play to help this team win and that's the mentality I'm carrying, they know where my eyes are. That's the same goal as their eyes are focused on too."

Health watch

Receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) was the only Vikings player who didn't participate in practice, leaving his status for Sunday in doubt.

Quarterback Brett Favre (foot/ankle/chin) returned to practice and was limited, as were Cook, offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (ankle), linebacker Ben Leber (knee), Sheppard, Walker and defensive tackle Pat Williams (elbow). Allen and center John Sullivan (calf) fully participated.

Arizona linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) missed practice for a second straight day, while receivers Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet (groin) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) remained limited.

Quick hits

• LB J Leman, whom the Vikings released with an injury settlement last month, has signed with the UFL's Florida Tuskers.

• Special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy said rookie Everson Griffen has impressed in his first two NFL games. "He runs over everybody," Murphy said. "He is somebody that you need to account for."

• The Vikings still haven't filled the spot on the 53-man roster left by WR Randy Moss' surprise departure. Childress said it's possible they'll elevate someone from the practice squad "just to get him a week's pay."

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