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Updated: August 11th, 2010 2:19pm
Notebook: Joe Webb says he's confident despite struggles under center

Notebook: Joe Webb says he's confident despite struggles under center

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Rookie quarterback Joe Webb will make his preseason NFL debut on Saturday, and he'll have a sliver of the playbook to work with.

Whether Webb can execute it is anyone's guess, no matter how much confidence he projects off the field.

"As a rookie quarterback in the NFL, you've got to be able to show leadership and show that you can take leadership on the field," Webb said on Wednesday afternoon. "That's what I'm trying to show the coaches -- also, to go along with that, to show them that I know what I'm doing, I know the playbook and I'm not going to be out there screwing around."

The Minnesota Vikings' sixth-round draft pick got extra work and plenty of coaching in Wednesday's morning practice. And he did lead a successful -- if extremely lucky -- 2-minute drill, driving the offense 55 yards for a touchdown with 1 minute, 5 seconds to work with.

But that same series also put on display Webb's continued struggles to catch up to the speed of the NFL game and transition from UAB's spread offense to the Vikings' West Coast scheme.

Coaches gave Webb at least two breaks by not blowing plays dead on touch sacks, including one on the final play by Michael Montgomery, who whipped right tackle Patrick Brown off the line of scrimmage.

Safety Colt Anderson dropped an interception, and Webb at one point completed consecutive short passes in the middle of the field -- leaving the offense at the 27-yard line with only 8 seconds left before a desperation heave to the end zone found rookie Ray Small between six defenders.

"I'm used to being in the 'gun all the time in college," Webb said. "I'm used to doing different types of stuff, like read-runs with my running back. But right now, I've got to be able to drop back in my drops and read downfield from up under center. It's different, but I'm getting the hang of it."

With starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson likely to play only a series or two in Saturday's preseason opener at St. Louis, Sage Rosenfels and Webb stand to play three-plus quarters combined.

No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford likely will see action for the home team, meaning crowd noise could still be a factor when Webb takes his first NFL snap.

"I love that," Webb said. "It's a rush for me. That's what I live for. I'm good working up under pressure. I'm looking forward to it."

Sage stopped

The second-team offense also got a 2-minute drill in the same scenario on Wednesday, and Rosenfels completed his first four passes -- including a tough cross to receiver Logan Payne that cornerback Chris Cook nearly intercepted -- before killing the clock at the defense's 17 with 19 seconds to go.

The defense stood tall from there. Rosenfels was flushed into a throwaway on second down, Payne couldn't reel in a pass down the middle in heavy traffic and safety Husain Abdullah broke up a fade to Marko Mitchell in the end zone to halt the drive.

Health watch

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe dressed for practice for the first time since Saturday morning, but he only participated in individual drills and didn't come out for the afternoon session.

Right guard Anthony Herrera, tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser and long snapper Cullen Loeffler all were back on the practice field and appeared to be full participants in practice. Loeffler had missed two days after the birth of his son.

Running back Adrian Peterson (hamstring) got a lot of work in the morning but didn't go through the afternoon jogthrough.

Receiver Sidney Rice (hip), who remains on the physically unable to perform list, once again ran sprints on an adjacent field but appeared to be doing only straight-line work.

Center John Sullivan (calf), linebacker J Leman (turf toe) and cornerback Cedric Griffin (knee, PUP) remained sidelined.

Still no Percy

Receiver Percy Harvin was absent for a 11th consecutive day as he continues to grieve the death of his grandmother and battle migraine headaches.

"It's a contact sport and getting hit in the head -- I'm sure it's tough for him," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "Hopefully, everything goes right and he comes back soon."

Coach Brad Childress continued to express support for Harvin -- "The path he's taking right now is what he needs to be taking," Childress said -- and though he talked to Harvin on Wednesday morning, there still is no timetable for the receiver's return.

Childress said Harvin's absence didn't affect the installation of the offense.

"Every game plan that we have, we have kind of boutique plays that may be his, where he's touching the football," Childress said. "It's not as if they're not going to be reinstalled. I am happy that he's been around the block one time so he knows some of the types of things that we're trying to do.

"I'd love to have him take all the reps. I'd love to have him be taking all the reps for our base offense and then the ones that we're going to try to put the ball in his hands. But hopefully, we still have time to do that."

Quick hits

• Special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy said he wants to take a look at five or six players in the punt and kick return games on Saturday, depending how many chances the Vikings get. CBs Lito Sheppard, Asher Allen and Marcus Sherels; WRs Ray Small and Jaymar Johnson; and RB Darius Reynaud all have gotten regular work. Allen got the first rep on punt returns Wednesday afternoon.

• The Vikings had only three fully padded practices in camp, but DE Jared Allen said players have been "hitting quite a bit this year, which is a little different." Told of the comment, LB Ben Leber said, "I don't know about that. I still have the taste in my mouth from Coach Childress' first training camp (in 2006). That still haunts me. So, this pales in comparison to what that first season was like." Allen didn't join the Vikings until 2008.

• PK Ryan Longwell hit 6 of 6 field-goal attempts from 20 to 45 yards against a semi-live rush.

• MLB E.J. Henderson (leg) participated in both practices -- the first time he's done that in camp. Coaches have yet to rule him out for Saturday.

• Payne made a good catch in the morning practice, adjusting to an overthrown ball by Rosenfels and making a sliding grab around Sherels. But the best grab went to WR Taye Biddle, who ended practice by fighting for a second-chance tip against CB DeAndre Wright and pulling him it in down the sideline.

• Final passing stats in morning team drills: Jackson 3-for-5, Rosenfels 8-for-14, Webb 5-for-9. There were no competitive drills in the afternoon.

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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