Notebook: Lorenzo Booker makes most of limited opportunity
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the third running back on the Minnesota Vikings depth chart, Lorenzo Booker knows the best approach is to show patience. Especially since Adrian Peterson is No. 1 on that list.
Of course, waiting for an opportunity is nothing new for Booker.
"I've been around a lot of great players for a long time," he said Thursday. "I went to Florida State. ... I'm used to having to just take advantage of the opportunities that you get. I think it brings the best out of you."
Booker certainly took advantage of his chances last Sunday in the Vikings' 34-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome. After seeing almost no action on offense in the previous three weeks, he gained 25 yards on a reverse, had a 10-yard reception on third-and-12 and gained another 15 on a screen.
That was Booker's first rushing attempt and first two receptions of the season.
"Book is a weapon, he's definitely a weapon and we were happy to get him some touches," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "Looking back, we probably would have had more production if we had done that earlier in the year. (We're) hoping to build on that and he'll help us in certain situations like he did on Sunday."
Booker, who is in his fourth NFL season, joined the Vikings last December after playing in the United Football League. He was mainly used on kickoff returns after arriving in Minnesota, averaging 23.8 yards on 18 attempts. Booker has returned eight kickoffs for an average of 27.6 yards this season.
Musgrave likes the fact the 5-10, 201-pound Booker is a tough matchup for linebackers.
"Book had a great preseason carrying the ball, too, so he's not just a threat in the passing game," Musgrave said. "We want to get him out there because he's sharp. He knows who to block, if they would rush him, but we can also get him out and let him do his thing in space."
Although some might have wondered if he was going to get a chance on offense, the 27-year-old Booker knew there would be a role for him because he had been working on the plays the Vikings executed last Sunday all season in practice.
"I was used like that in Miami with (then offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron," Booker said of his time with the Dolphins in 2007. "My versatility is what I do best, so being able to let me run screens and get out there in man-to-man coverage and that kind of stuff, I love it."
Booker also enjoys getting the chance to be teammates with Peterson and wide receiver Percy Havin, even if their presence impacts his playing time.
"I love being around a lot of great players because it teaches you to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them and again you get to learn from all the other guys," Booker said. "I love being able to watch A.P. and Percy and all those guys because it makes me want to go out there and make a play even more."
About the main areas of focus for the Vikings as they prepare to play the Chicago Bears on Sunday night at Soldier Field, is the potential damage that Devin Hester can do in the return game.
Hester has an NFL-record 15 kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns and also holds the league mark with 11 punts returned for scores since entering the NFL in 2006.
In the Vikings' 40-14 loss to the Bears last December at TCF Bank Stadium, Hester took a Chris Kluwe punt 64 yards for a score. It was his third such return for a touchdown against the Vikings.
Mike Priefer wasn't around to see any of those, but the Vikings' first-year special teams coordinator knows all about what the veteran can do.
Priefer saw that firsthand on Sept. 16, 2007 at Soldier Field when he was in charge of special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs. Priefer said Thursday he had no interest in discussing that day.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said. "You guys can look that up. It was not a good day for me. It was 2007, I can give you that hint, but that's about all I'm talking about. That was a nightmare for about three months."
Hester's day included a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, a 31-yard return that helped to set up a Robbie Gould field goal in the third quarter and a 24-yard return late in the game.
About the only good news for Priefer was that Hester's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter was nullified by a holding call.
The Bears beat the Chiefs, 20-10.
"Obviously he's the best in the business," Priefer said. "I watched tape on him all offseason, obviously studying our divisional opponents because I didn't know this division very well. And, of course, studying this week all his kickoff returns, punt returns from this year and last year and there are so many good ones.
"The reason he's so special is, obviously, he's got great vision, which all great returners have. He's exceptionally quick, explosive and he sets up his returns so well.
"He can make the whole kickoff or punt team think he's going to go right, and all of a sudden he's going left. Or he can make them think he's going middle, and then he goes left or right. He's exceptional at that, which makes him even more dangerous than the average returner."
Hester's first two returns against the Vikings for touchdowns came at Soldier Field. In 2006, he took a punt 45 yards and the following season he went 89 yards.
So what will the Vikings do to avoid a repeat?
"I don't want to sit here and let Chicago know what we're going to do," Priefer said. "I will let you know that we are going to change our game plan a little bit from what we've been doing. We're going to have to do that, he's that good. So I just can't sit up here and tell you guys that we're going to go status-quo against Devin Hester, that's not going to happen."
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams has six tackles and seven quarterback hits in the three games since returning from a two-game NFL ban for violating the league's policy on banned substances.
Those numbers aren't bad, but Williams is a six-time Pro Bowl selection and big things are expected of him whenever he takes the field.
Frazier, for one, thinks Williams' play will take a step forward starting Sunday night.
"From what I saw this past Sunday, he is just about the Kevin that we all expect to see," Frazier said."I really feel like he's going to have a really good game on Sunday. He's about there now, from what I saw this past Sunday, which is good for our football team. He's got his legs under him now."
Williams, 31, was slowed in training camp as he dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"(He was) playing a little catch up. Trying to get back in the groove of football," Frazier said. "He missed a lot of time. Even when he was in camp with us, he couldn't really work because of his foot. But now I get the sense that he's about there."
Williams has the potential to have a big enough impact that Frazier said opponents are still putting double-teams on him. As for the foot, Frazier said Williams hasn't brought up the subject of late, leading him to believe the problem is past.
Musgrave confirmed there was some quick juggling that had to be done last Saturday when the decision was made to deactivate wide receiver Bernard Berrian for the Cardinals game.
Berrian reportedly missed two meetings that evening at the team hotel.
"Normally it might have been (a problem), but it was OK with us," Musgrave said. "We've got a fantastic group of wide receivers and Greg Camarillo stepped right in and Devin (Aromashodu) stepped right in. We started (Michael) Jenkins at the X spot and those guys are sharp.
"Percy (Harvin) is sharp. Percy has to know a number of different positions, whether he's the running back in certain personnel groups. Sometimes he's the slot, sometimes he's the flanker. So those guys have done a fantastic job of knowing, not just their role, but knowing the whole concept."
Camarillo had been inactive for the previous three games before Sunday and clearly would have been down again.
Meanwhile, Musgrave echoed Frazier's optimistic view of what Berrian can contribute to the offense this season.
"(It) seem like offensively we're definitely on the same page with him," Musgrave said.
Berrian has two receptions for 37 yards this season.
Erin Henderson has spent time as one of the Vikings' two linebackers in the nickel package the past two weeks with his brother, E.J., limited because of swelling in his left knee.
"I thought he's been doing well," defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said of Erin Henderson. "Playing the middle read very well, doing a good job for us. Hopefully, E.J. will be able to come back and be able to help us and rotate him in there a little bit. But we have two players that can play that position and help our football team."
E.J. Henderson has been able to play in the base defense, despite his knee issue.
Changes at safety
Bears strong safety Chris Harris says he does not expect to start Sunday and free safety Brandon Meriweather likely won't, either.
Coach Lovie Smith says the Bears are "looking at a lot of different options," though he would not say he was benching the safeties in favor of Chris Conte and Major Wright.
Harris says "whoever's taking the first-team reps" in practice usually gets the nod, and he did not work with the starters on Thursday. The veteran started Monday at Detroit after missing three games because of a hamstring problem and was beaten by Calvin Johnson on a 73-yard touchdown reception. He says the injury is no longer an issue.
Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowl safety with New England, has been a disappointment.
• The Vikings practiced outside Thursday after being forced indoors Wednesday because of rain.
• Frazier said left tackle Charlie Johnson "seems to be much more comfortable in what we're doing," in recent games. Johnson had been dealing with a triceps injury but has recovered from that. "He's playing well," Frazier said. "He's doing a good job for us."
The Associated Press contributed.