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Updated: September 6th, 2012 5:28pm
Notebook: Jared Allen won't say if he has sack total in mind for 2012

Notebook: Jared Allen won't say if he has sack total in mind for 2012

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Jared Allen came so close.

The Pro Bowl defensive end's 3.5 sacks in the Minnesota Vikings' regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears last Jan. 1 left him with an NFL-leading 22 sacks. That was a half-sack short of tying Michael Strahan's single-season record set in 2001.

Allen, 30, made no secret of the fact he wanted the record and there is little doubt he has his sights set on the mark again this season. Allen, however, refused to say Thursday if there is an over-under figure on the amount of sacks he has targeted for 2012.

"I never do (that)," Allen said. "Honestly, every year I go out and get as many as they let me have. As many as it takes to win games. I was blessed last year, the good Lord blessed me. ... I just try to prepare and do the best I can.

"I think you start setting numbers for yourself, you're setting yourself up for failure if you don't reach them. But for me the most important thing is not to leave plays on the field. So that's how I approach every year. I go back and I see how many plays did I leave on the field that I can make? My goal is always to be consistent year in and year out and just help my team win games."

A family matter

Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield missed Thursday's practice because he had to tend to a family matter, according to coach Leslie Frazier.

Frazier said the issue involving Winfield's family came up Wednesday night and added the veteran is expected to return to the team on Friday.

Linebacker Marvin Mitchell, safety Andrew Sendejo and wide receiver Jarius Wright, who are all dealing with ankle injuries, sat out a second consecutive day of practice. Frazier said, "It doesn't look good for those guys," when it comes to playing in Sunday's regular-season opener against Jacksonville.

Cornerback and return man Marcus Sherels (ankle) was limited in practice again Thursday but is expected to play Sunday.

Safety Robert Blanton (hamstring), tight end John Carlson (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (knee) and guard Geoff Schwartz (abdomen) remain on the injury report but did not miss any practice time for the second day in a row.

For the Jaguars, rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon (ankle) did not miss any practice time on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Defensive ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day. Linebacker Daryl Smith (abdomen) was added to Jacksonville's injury report after missing practice Thursday.

Rookie vs. rookie

Left tackle Matt Kalil, the fourth pick in last April's draft by the Vikings, will make his regular-season NFL debut on Sunday by facing right end Andre Branch, who also is entering his rookie season.

Branch was taken in the second round, 38th overall, by the Jaguars.

"The thing about the NFL is week in and week out you're facing a great pass rusher, a great defensive end," Kalil said when asked about the potential advantage of going against another rookie. "There are no breaks in that sense. Definitely from what I've seen on film, he's a great player."

Branch made 27 starts and had 17.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss in four seasons at Clemson. He led the ACC last season with 10.5 sacks and also had 17 tackles for a loss.

Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said that Branch will switch to left end and go against right tackle Phil Loadholt in third-down situations.

Kalil, who played at Southern Cal, said he feels he has made progress the past two weeks in his pre-snap reads and feels far more at ease than he did after the Vikings' third preseason game against San Diego.

Kalil, like many of the starters, did not play in the exhibition finale at Houston.

"I feel a lot more comfortable and it's just one of the things of being a rookie, making those slow progressions," Kalil said. "But I feel like these last two weeks have been crucial to my development and getting more comfortable with the offense."

Kalil also said it's an advantage to be planning for one game and one team this week.

"I think having a regular-season atmosphere and having an in-depth game plan has definitely made me a lot more comfortable," he said. "I'm definitely excited to get out there."

Peterson a Jones-Drew fan

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew did not get the Jaguars to renegotiate his contract by holding out of training camp, but it sounds as if the Vikings' Adrian Peterson thinks Jones-Drew should have gotten what he wanted.

Peterson called Jones-Drew, "one of the better backs in the league," and credited the NFL's leading rusher in 2011 with keeping the Jaguars from being worse than a 5-11 team. "Look at Jones-Drew," Peterson said. "He was their whole offense last year. So, without him, the Jaguars would have been terrible just to be honest."

On Wednesday, Jones-Drew told the Twin Cities media that he and Peterson were good friends and that he was rooting for Peterson to make a successful recovery from his knee surgery.

"I've always been watching (his recovery), seeing how things are going, hoping and wishing him well," said Jones-Drew, whose 1,606 rushing yards in 2011 led the NFL. "Obviously as running backs we have to stick together because everybody is trying to devalue us or say, 'We're not this or we're not that,' which is pretty funny.

"He's coming back off something tough. I think we have all in some way or another experienced this type of adversity and the type of guy he is he's going to be able to get through that and be able to make plays. Hopefully, we'll be able to see him on Sunday. I can't wait to see how he looks."

Old friends

New Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey and Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave probably won't be able to surprise each other too much when it comes to offensive play calls on Sunday.

Musgrave was the Atlanta Falcons' quarterbacks coach from 2008-10, while Mularkey was the team's offensive coordinator. The two played a role in helping Matt Ryan make a smooth transition to the NFL - he was the 2008 NFL Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year - and they remain friends.

"He thinks outside the box, a little bit like I do," Mularkey said of Musgrave. "Some people are just set (on) 'This is the way it's going to be done.' I think he takes suggestions. He wants people's input and will use it. I always listened to him, I always wanted his input. I relied on him a lot, especially with a young quarterback like Matt Ryan."

Musgrave, by the way, also served as offensive coordinator for the Jaguars in 2003-04.

Message of hope

The Vikings finished 3-13 last season and most expect them to finish in the basement of the NFC North again this year. But that didn't stop owner Zygi Wilf from sending a positive message to the team as he addressed them following practice Thursday.

"He just wanted our players to know how much he appreciated the hard work they've put in and the support that they have from ownership and that this is a big season for them," Frazier said. "He knows that, he recognizes that. ... He believes in every guy out here and that they're going to have a good season.

A little extra cash

The Vikings waived halfback Jordan Todman in their final cutdown, but he had good reason to re-sign to their practice squad.

According to an NFL source, Todman's contract includes a base salary of $170,000 -- significantly more than the practice squad minimum of $96,900.

Had Todman made the 53-man roster, his base salary would have been $465,000.

Quick hits

Mistral Raymond (back spams) has had no issues in practice this week and Frazier said he will get the start at safety opposite Harrison Smith on Sunday if he remains healthy.

• Frazier said either rookie Josh Robinson or second-year player Brandon Burton will be used at cornerback Sunday in nickel situations when Winfield moves inside.

Geoff Schwartz, who is returning from sports hernia surgery, and Joe Berger will be the backup offensive linemen Sunday. Rookie Mark Asper, who was claimed after being let go by Buffalo in its final cuts last weekend, is unlikely to be active, Frazier said. "It's not ideal," Frazier said of the lack of depth. "Geoff missed so much time and this is his first full week of practice with us. But this where we are right now. We've got to get Geoff ready, we've got to get Joe Berger ready as our backups and try to make sure that if they have to get in the game they can function and function properly."

• Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said the plan is for Percy Harvin to get all the kickoff returns Sunday, although Frazier certainly hasn't said that's the plan. Priefer added that Sherels will be the primary punt return man and will be the backup on kickoff returns.

• With Jerome Simpson suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season, Michael Jenkins will get the start opposite Harvin at wide receiver against the Jaguars.

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.
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