Notebook: Noise, heat cranked up before Vikings hit the road at 49ers
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings broke out the chatter box, in essence a super-focused speaker that amplifies crowd sounds from the sidelines, to create a game-like atmosphere for the team during the final extended practice on Thursday.
A cart rolled up and down the sidelines of the practice field with the spotlight-esque structure sitting in the back, targeting crowd noise at the offense.
Coach Leslie Frazier also ran practice longer than 2.5 hours for the second consecutive day. The extra measures aren't necessarily a result of Friday's subpar offensive performance at the Buffalo Bills, but Frazier said it's tactic to get his players ready as if it were a regular season game.
"Thought about that for a while, thought it would be the right thing to do," Frazier said. "We're going to treat everything else like it's a true game situation and in season, why not do the same thing on the road with the crowd noise like in the regular season."
The Vikings open up the regular season on the road at Detroit and at Chicago, so it could be advantageous that the two most telling games of the preseason, being the second and third, are on the road as well.
The temperatures at Winter Park this week have been much warmer and humid compared to three weeks of training camp in Mankato. Frazier voiced his displeasure about the lack of heat in Mankato, especially with the recent collective bargaining agreement that eliminated two-a-day practices.
"Something we were hoping for, I'm glad it's here," Frazier said about the heat. "Something that should help us in the long run. This is more of a factor because of the new [CBA] we're on, more than anything."
Frazier said it's a great chance for second-year defensive tackle Chase Baker as well.
"[Baker] has had a good camp," Frazier said. "If he does things that make you take notice, yeah. You want to get good players on the field, so this is a golden opportunity for him."
Wright back, but out Sunday
Receiver Jarius Wright (concussion) returned to practice on Thursday, but Frazier said he'll likely hold him out Sunday.
"I don't know if we're going to play him in this ballgame, just from a precautionary standpoint," Frazier said. "He'll be ready to go when we need him. I think we'll be alright this weekend without him."
Frazier said Wright has one more step left in the NFL's concussion protocol before being cleared to play.
•Starting left guard Charlie Johnson missed practice Thursday. Frazier said he'll also be gone Friday with a family matter, but will play Sunday in San Francisco. Backup center Joe Berger stepped in at guard in his place with the first-team offense.
•Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on a couple of deep passes to receiver Greg Jennings, one as safety Darius Eubanks just stopped running and the other over cornerback Bobby Felder, who was in position.
However, Ponder looked less than spectacular as he underthrew a sideline route to receiver Jerome Simpson and safety Andrew Sendejo was able to deflect the pass. Ponder also overthrew tight end Kyle Rudolph during the team's two-minute drill on a seemingly easy completion to a giant target.
•Practice ended with backup quarterback Matt Cassel completing his two-minute drill with a touchdown pass to receiver LaMark Brown. Cassel floated a ball to Brown's back shoulder in the corner of the endzone and completed the pass over cornerback Brandon Burton.
In what looked a lot like safety Jamarca Sanford's interception at Buffalo, Cassel targeted receiver Adam Thielen on a short route in team drills, but was tipped by cornerback Josh Robinson and Sanford grabbed the interception.