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Updated: August 18th, 2010 6:18pm
Notebook: Johnson's injury puts Payne in driver's seat for roster spot

Notebook: Johnson's injury puts Payne in driver's seat for roster spot

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The competition for the Minnesota Vikings' fifth receiver job suddenly appears to be Logan Payne's to lose.

The Vikings waived/injured speedy Jaymar Johnson on Wednesday, four days after the third-year pro broke his left thumb in the preseason opener at St. Louis.

Johnson, 26, had only one catch in six NFL games over his first two seasons and got off to a rocky start in camp. But he had come on strong the past week and made a pair of 19-yard catches against the Rams.

"He played for us some last year," receivers coach George Stewart said earlier this month, "but this is his third year in the NFL, and this is the year for make it-break it for a lot of receivers. Jaymar understands that, he knows that, and I think J will be very productive as we go forward."

Instead, Johnson's bad break means he's headed for surgery and there's an opening for several other young receivers trying to make the roster.

A 25-year-old former Gopher who played in two games with Seattle in 2008, Payne (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) has been highly productive since signing a one-year deal off the street in May. He led the Vikings with seven receptions -- for 52 yards and a touchdown -- in St. Louis and made two more impressive catches in Wednesday's practice.

"He's a good, smart football player," coach Brad Childress said earlier this week. "He's a tough guy. He did a great job on special teams (on Saturday), ran down and made a couple special-teams tackles. He's versed in this system, so he can play multiple positions, and he is productive."

Journeyman Taye Biddle, a holdover from last year's practice squad, has been ahead of Payne on the depth chart throughout training camp but has questionable hands. He didn't have a catch against the Rams and had two bad drops on Wednesday.

Marko Mitchell helped himself with a 71-yard touchdown in St. Louis and intrigues coaches with his size (6-4, 218). But he's seemed somewhat slow to pick up coach Brad Childress' West Coast offense and has been inconsistent.

Rookies Ray Small and Marquis Hamilton and first-year pro Freddie Brown are long shots.

Placing Johnson on injury does not necessarily end his season, but there is an established moratorium for re-signing him if he's released with an injury settlement.

Apologies in order

Childress on Wednesday offered a public apology to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy, who were instructed on Tuesday to lie during their respective press conferences about the whereabouts of the three players who were visiting Brett Favre in Mississippi.

Both coaches told reporters the players either were or had been inside the team's Winter Park headquarters on Tuesday, even though the group left town on Monday night. They returned on Tuesday afternoon with Favre, who practiced for the first time on Wednesday.

"I should haven't put Murph and Bev in front of (the media) and have them cross their fingers behind their backs and talk to you guys," Childress said. "I apologize for that, again, and I apologize to them for doing that."

Health watch

Jon Cooper appears set to make his second straight preseason start because John Sullivan (calf) remains sidelined.

Sullivan has practiced sparingly since getting kicked or stepped on during the night practice on July 31. Recently, he hasn't even participated in rehabilitation work during practice, instead just walking slowly and watching teammates go through drills.

Rookie cornerback DeAndre Wright limped off the field with an apparent lower leg injury after landing awkwardly during a 7-on-7 passing drill.

Receiver Bernard Berrian stayed down after a collision with linebacker Ben Leber during 7-on-7 but later returned.

Receiver Sidney Rice (hip) and cornerback Cedric Griffin (knee) remain on the active/physically unable to perform list.

Quick hits

• Leber broke up three passes during 7-on-7 -- including a flying, soccer goalie-like play on a quick out for TE Jimmy Kleinsasser.

• RB Ian Johnson hit the ground on a shot from LB Kenny Onatolu during a team period.

• S Eric Frampton and CB Lito Sheppard each had an interception, the latter ending practice on Mitchell should have caught.

• Final passing stats in team periods: Favre 3-for-7; Tarvaris Jackson 6-for-9; Sage Rosenfels 5-for-5; Joe Webb 1-for-3, INT.

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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