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Updated: September 14th, 2011 8:00pm
Notebook: Latest OL shakeup not about Herrera's health, Frazier says

Notebook: Latest OL shakeup not about Herrera's health, Frazier says

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings plan to work newly acquired offensive lineman Joe Berger at guard as well as center.

But coach Leslie Frazier strongly indicated the acquisition of Berger was about depth and not about finding another new insurance policy for right guard Anthony Herrera.

"He actually held up pretty well," Frazier said of Herrera, who played all 43 snaps on Sunday in his first game back from knee reconstruction and triceps surgery.

"He didn't look like a guy who was struggling physically in that ball game. We were very pleased with the way he performed and the fact that he was able to take every snap which is a good sign for us."

Herrera, 31, appeared slow and at one point appeared to be limping after whiffing on a cut block in the Vikings' loss at San Diego. But Herrera said the knee is "doing great" and his stamina "wasn't a problem at all. But our training staff did a really great job of getting me in shape, getting me ready to play. I surprised myself. I wasn't tired at all."

The signing of Berger and release of backup center Jon Cooper was the latest in a string of shakeups for the backup offensive line.

Scott Kooistra was lost to a significant neck injury in the second preseason game. Ryan Cook and Chris DeGeare were let go on cutdown day -- DeGeare re-signed with the practice squad -- and Seth Olsen was waived on Saturday.

Berger, 29, has played in 38 games over parts of six seasons with Miami and Dallas, starting 20 over the past two seasons with the Dolphins after beating out former second-round pick Jake Grove at center in 2010 training camp. Like Cooper, Berger could allow the Vikings to activate only seven offensive linemen on game day because he could step in the three interior spots.

"We're going to start (Berger) off at center," Frazier said, " but we want him to play guard as well, which is what he did in Miami -- he played both and we'd like him to play both here."

Love for Sapp

Antoine Winfield has yet to talk with former teammate Benny Sapp but said he would welcome his fellow cornerback back to the Vikings.

"We were hoping coach would run out and go grab him," Winfield said on Wednesday. "But that's the business side of it. He's still a good player, he'll catch on."

The Miami Dolphins released Sapp on Tuesday after he gave up at least six completions -- including Tom Brady's 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker -- in the Dolphins' 38-24 loss to the New England Patriots on Monday night.

The Vikings traded Sapp to the Dolphins last year for wide receiver Greg Camarillo. Both Sapp and Camarillo took reduced deals during training camp this year, thinking it would help them stick with their respective teams.

Sapp spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Vikings starting 11 games in that time. He played a regular role in the nickel defense and Winfield said Sapp could still help.

"I think this is the perfect scheme for him," Winfield said. "He played in it. ... He had success. When I went down he started for us, we went to the NFC Championship Game. He's very smart, been around a long time, he's a tackler, he's a playmaker. I would welcome him back."

Frazier downplayed the possibility of reacquiring Sapp, saying the Vikings have "a good situation" at cornerback. But he called the veteran "one of my all-time favorites. He did a lot of good things for us when he was here. You just never know in our league, we'll see what happens, but I'm a big fan of Benny Sapp's."

Tackling the issue

The Vikings unofficially missed 13 tackles against the Chargers, but Frazier said live tackling in practice this week isn't an option to address the issue.

"In training camp we would, but not during the season," Frazier said. "You just form up on the ball carrier. Now, we're doing the same thing, but you can't take him to the ground."

On Sunday, the Vikings face a Tampa Bay team featuring halfback LaGarrette Blount, who broke 50 tackles last season on 206 touches (24.3%).

"It's just one of those things I think we'll get better as the season progresses," said linebacker Erin Henderson, who had one missed tackle at San Diego.

"But when you look at that tape from last week, what you do see is a lot of guys flying around and running to the ball and arriving with bad intentions. I think as long as we continue to do that, then we can cover up from those missed tackles that we make."

Health watch

Two names appeared on the Vikings' injury report on Wednesday, while a prominent one disappeared.

Backup end Adrian Awasom was a nonparticipant in practice because of a knee injury, and receiver Michael Jenkins (groin) joined cornerback Asher Allen (toe) as full participants.

It was the first full practice for Allen since the injury began bothering him more than a month ago.

"We have to see how he does in practice," Frazier said, "but from everything I was told leading up to (Wednesday)'s practice, we should have him for this game on Sunday."

Meanwhile, quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't listed at all and told reporters his right wrist "wasn't a factor at all and it won't be a factor. Not an issue."

The Bucs ruled out receiver Sammie Stroughter (foot). Tight end Kellen Winslow (not injury related) and cornerback Myron Lewis (ankle) did not participate.

Inside info?

Rookie linebacker Ross Homan, a sixth-round draft pick by the Vikings in April who didn't make the team, signed with Tampa Bay's practice squad on Wednesday.

It's not uncommon for teams to sign players familiar with their next opponent, but there's also a lot of crossover between the Tampa-2 schemes both teams run.

Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who played in three games for the Bucs last season, is on the Vikings' practice squad.

Quick hits

• WR Percy Harvin expects to play a larger part in the return game after his 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at San Diego. "I don't think it's lobbying at this point," Harvin said. "Coach knows what I can do on special teams. It's just what we've got in the next possession as far as whether he's going to put me back there or not."

• SS Jamarca Sanford will continue to cede some reps to SS Tyrell Johnson this week, Frazier said, and rookie QB Christian Ponder will remain McNabb's top backup ahead of QB Joe Webb.

• Frazier acknowledged UT Letroy Guion may have been trying a little too hard in his starting debut in place of suspending UT Kevin Williams. Guion played 70 snaps, was in on four tackles (three solo) and took two offsides penalties on the final series. "I know he wanted to perform well," Frazier said. "He talked about it all throughout the week and he was getting asked about replacing Kevin throughout the week but for the most part, he did a good job throughout the game. It was unfortunate, those penalties towards the end of the game, but he played with a lot of energy, made a lot of plays for us."

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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