Notebook: Leslie Frazier defends Vikings' plan to limit Percy Harvin
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Coach Leslie Frazier defended the Minnesota Vikings' use of Percy Harvin on Wednesday, saying the team is taking "the right approach" by using the dynamic receiver on a limited basis in specific packages, rather than as an every-down player.
"There's nothing he has to prove," Frazier said. "We know what Percy's capable of doing. He's a big-time playmaker, whether it's on kickoff return or playing wide receiver. It's just a matter of our using his strengths to our greatest advantage, to our team's advantage and picking out spots when we do that."
Harvin played 27 of 43 offensive snaps in a season-opening loss to San Diego, then played only 30 of 68 snaps in a Week 2 defeat against Tampa Bay.
Despite being on the field only 51.4% of the time, Harvin leads the Vikings with nine catches for 83 yards and also has rushed six times for 33 yards.
"A lot of people talked about the percentage and the plays," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "I felt like he was on the field all the time with us, because every time I look up, he's either getting the ball or whatever it may have been."
Thickly built at 5-11 and 184 pounds, Harvin isn't a polished route runner and lacks the size of 6-foot-4 Michael Jenkins, who replaced him in the starting lineup last week and caught three passes for 29 yards off bootlegs that left Jenkins open against zone coverage.
Even when Harvin doesn't get the ball, though, his ability to create explosive plays in space can impact the game by making defenses identify him and adjust before the snap, particularly when the Vikings put him in motion.
"You definitely are putting a lot of pressure on defenses, and now they have to show their hand, what they want to do versus him," McNabb said. "If they want to somehow bring the safety or corner in the box when they see him in the backfield. Do they just want to stay base defense and sit back in the zone? Now you have a better idea of what they like to do versus some of the packages that we have. "
That's part of the reason it's even more perplexing coaches kept him on the sideline more than half the plays last week. Despite missing two games last season with migraines and battling several other injuries, Harvin played 60.9% of the total offensive snaps.
Preserving Harvin is one potential reason the Vikings are limiting on offense as well as kick returns. He missed a little time in the preseason with sore ribs, but Frazier said there are no health concerns at his time, nor do coaches have preoccupation about his blocking.
"We just want to make sure that we use him the right way and get him his touches," Frazier said. "We have an idea how many touches we want to get him per game, and that'll help our team."
Although he has made clear he wants to play a larger role in the return game, Harvin repeatedly has deferred questions about his role to coaches.
Asked on Wednesday if he's satisfied with his workload, Harvin said, "That's not my call at all. That's Coach's decision. All I can do is come out here and get better, this team get better, and hopefully, turn this thing around and head in the right direction."
Despite consecutive second-half collapses in each of the Vikings' first two games, Frazier said he hasn't gotten more involved this week in game-planning.
"What I've tried to do is just encourage our coaches," Frazier said. "I think we're doing some good things. We've got to address some things in the second half of ballgames, which I think we are doing. We are heading in the right track on that. But I've just tried to encourage our coordinators ... and point out some things that I think might be able to help our football team and, in turn, help them as well."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Vikings are the first team to lose consecutive games to start the season after holding a double-digit lead at halftime. Three veterans -- McNabb, left guard Steve Hutchinson and end Jared Allen -- addressed the team in the locker room on Monday to make sure everyone was on the same page.
"We know we let two slip away," nose tackle Remi Ayodele said. "Pretty much, that's what we was talking about. We've just got to play 60 minutes. We've been dominating the first two halves. Once we put it all together, we'll be fine."
Three days after leaving the Vikings' loss to Tampa with a groin strain, No. 3 cornerback Chris Cook returned to the practice field and said his "little nag" on Sunday "was just a case of not enough hydration. I've just got to drink a lot more water."
Cook said he did everything asked of him in practice, but the Vikings listed him as a limited participant on the injury report.
"I didn't really feel it," Cook said. "I really just ignored it and just tried to go out there and just play full speed."
Also listed as limited were right end Jared Allen (shoulder), linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee) and cornerback/punt returner Marcus Sherels (chest). Allen and Sherels didn't have previously known injuries, but both appeared to be in good spirits as they walked off the practice field.
Full participants were cornerback Asher Allen (toe), Jenkins (groin) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has been battling plantar fasciitis in one of his feet since the start of training camp and finished serving a two-game suspension on Monday.
"He feels like he's pretty close to 100 percent," Frazier said.
• Nine Lions -- DE Cliff Avril (knee), WR Rashied Davis (hamstring), S Louis Delmas (hip), DT Nick Fairley (foot), T Jason Fox (foot), WR Calvin Johnson (ankle), LB DeAndre Levy (knee), TE Brandon Pettigrew (shoulder) and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (not injury related) -- didn't practice. WR Maurice Stovall (hand) was limited.
• Coaches believe QB Christian Ponder is making progress, Frazier said, but they aren't considering giving the rookie some reps in McNabb's place on game day. "We haven't talked about doing that," Frazier said. "We've got a lot of things that we're trying to work on and correct as a team, and that hasn't been part of the conversation."
• Frazier also said coaches aren't talking about making any chances along the offensive line. "We're doing a lot of good things on our offensive line," Frazier said. "But we're trying to grow as the season goes and nothing at this point that makes you say, 'OK, we need to make some changes.'"
• Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer's father, longtime NFL special teams coach Chuck Priefer, attended practice.
• Less than 1,500 tickets remained for Sunday's game as of Tuesday morning, the team said. That means it will be televised locally on Fox.
• Former Vikings WR Jaymar Johnson signed with Arizona's practice squad. He's a close friend of Cardinals star WR Larry Fitzgerald.