Notebook: Percy Harvin, Harrison Smith have words as Vikings wrap week
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MANKATO, Minn. -- For the second consecutive day, Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had words with rookie safety Harrison Smith, and things got heated enough on Wednesday that Harvin had to be restrained.
Harvin caught a pass on a short route from Christian Ponder on the second play of a third-down drill and turned upfield, where he collided with Smith, the first-round draft pick from Notre Dame.
Players were in shells, not pads, but the collision was loud enough to draw a rise from the crowd. Harvin continued trying to run downfield. Smith didn't let up. Harvin recoiled and appeared to consider throwing the ball at Smith before going facemask to facemask with him instead.
Receiver Jerome Simpson ran downfield and shoved Smith away. Then, about a dozen other players descended on the scene -- some of them jokingly pulling each other away from the pile -- and Harvin had to be held back as Smith continued chirping.
Harvin walked off the field with a Vikings media relations official and didn't comment. Smith said he was "not really sure" what happened on the play and downplayed the exchange as part of the game.
"It's the game of football," Smith said. "It's not a passive sport. It's an aggressive sport played by aggressive people, so that stuff happens."
This came one day after Harvin caught a touchdown pass against Smith and briefly stood over the rookie, prompting Smith to say something that brought an unfavorable response from Harvin and teammates came to the rescue.
The Vikings have yet to have a full-fledged fight in practice, but 13 days into camp, it's not unusual for tempers to flare. Wednesday's practice was the Vikings' last before the preseason opener on Friday night at San Francisco.
"After a while, you kind of get sick of competing against each other," Smith said. "You're supposed to be teammates, so you want to hit somebody, but you don't really have a choice."
Though he remains second-string on the depth chart, Smith got some snaps with the first unit for a fourth straight practice and appears to be making his expected push for the starting job.
Asked if he was making a point by standing his ground, Smith said, "I don't really think that really applies to coming in here. I just think that applies to life, so I don't think I was, like, standing my ground. I think it's just football. That stuff happens."
Not his best
Ponder had a rocky performance from the start, when a third-down/blitz period began with a touch-sack by Jared Allen, a swing pass for Toby Gerhart intercepted by Chad Greenway, a batted ball and then a throwaway in Michael Jenkins' direction.
Later, in a red-zone drive, Ponder completed his first two passes before throwing high for Kyle Rudolph on a slant and then getting picked off by Zackary Bowman, who stepped in front of a short route by Jenkins.
Including a sequence of two-point conversion attempts, Ponder finished 7-of-14 passing in team (11-on-11) drills. Joe Webb was 7-of-11 and took two sacks. Sage Rosenfels was 3-for-6 and Bethel-Thompson 3-for-4.
Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't reveal how long he'll play his starters on Friday, but he did hint Ponder and the No. 1 offense could be done after one drive -- if that drive's a good one.
"I have talked to them about if they score on that first drive, what it would mean," Frazier said. "But we do have a number we're going to talk to them about (Wednesday night). Some of it would be dictated by how we're performing early on. But we have an idea of what's the maximum that we want to participate from an offensive and defensive standpoint."
Frazier also went out of his way to say the Vikings "still want to really center around what we can do running the football" and the performance of an offensive line that only has two starters returning in their same positions will be scrutinized heavily.
Top draft pick Matt Kalil has taken all the No. 1 reps at left tackle in camp, bumping Charlie Johnson inside to left guard. Brandon Fusco is the favorite at right guard but isn't a lock to start even after his main challenger, Geoff Schwartz, underwent sports hernia surgery that is expected to sideline him four to six weeks.
"We have a plan for what we want," Frazier said. "Now we've got to see it come to (fruition) by how we come together as an offensive line. That's going to be a big deal for us. We think we've got some capable backs, but we want to gel up front, because that will determine if we can do the things we've set out to do."
Get it right
Friday's game will be the first under new defensive coordinator Alan Williams, who has focused on getting players to be detailed in their assignments within the scheme after chronic breakdowns last season.
"That's very important," Frazier said. "As we're trying to evaluate our defense and the personnel on our defense and trying to really bring it together and improve, we really need some guys that can show that they can be assignment-sound. Maybe they're not physically better than someone else, but man, at least be where you're supposed to be based on the things that we've talked about in practice.
"That's half the battle in our league, just being able to be assignment-sound. Sometimes, the talent is not that much different, but when guys blow assignments, it's a problem. So, that'll definitely be a part of the evaluation."
Linebacker Chad Greenway said a change to the practice schedule, with walkthroughs in the morning and practices in the afternoon, has proven productive for ironing out some of the issues that plagued the Vikings last season.
"These walkthroughs have been really good for us because we're getting something out of them," Greenway said. "We're not just going through the motions and wasting time. We're going out there and just doing basic things, but doing them right and just knowing where we've got to be. It's just going to click for you when you come into playing the game."
Two days after missing practice for his latest court appearance on a resisting arrest charge in Houston, halfback Adrian Peterson said he feels his side is "in a good position right now."
Hearings now are scheduled for Sept. 27 and Nov. 15 before Judge Natalie Fleming. The first date is the Thursday before the Vikings' Week 4 game at Detroit, but Peterson said he won't need to be present.
"The most important thing -- no more interruptions," said Peterson, who has maintained he was the victim in a July 7 altercation with an off-duty police officer at a nightclub.
"It won't interfere with what's going on with the Minnesota Vikings and my team. So, we'll just see how things play out."
No timetable for Carlson
Tight end John Carlson said he does not know when he might return after suffering a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on July 31.
Carlson won't travel with the Vikings to Friday's preseason game in San Francisco so he can stay back to rehab.
"I don't know what the timetable is," Carlson said Wednesday. "Honestly, it's based on how my leg improves, how my knee improves, and I'm making progress every day."
Carlson, who missed all of last season with Seattle because of a shoulder injury and then signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings in March, said the knee has felt better every day yet and expressed hope that he will return soon.
Asked how scary the injury was, Carlson said, "We play football. There is always a risk that bad things can happen on the football field.
"I've had sprained MCLs before in college. You bounce back from them, they heal on their own and you don't have to have them surgically repaired. So, if you're going to have a knee injury, it's a good injury to have. Right now, I'm just focused on doing my rehab and healing up as quickly as possible so I can get back on the field."
For now, Carlson works off to the side during practice and attempts to absorb as much of the offense as possible.
"I can still do all the classroom work, watching film, doing the Xs and Os stuff, learning the offense in that form," he said. "Then on the field I try to take every rep mentally and you do benefit from that.
"It's not the same as being in there and physically taking the rep. I need work on technique, I need to get in there and run block and get footwork, hand placement, those things. I need practice at. But I can't do that right now so I have to take mental reps."
Peterson (knee) remains on the active/physically unable to perform list and won't play on Friday.
According to Frazier, neither will at least seven other players: safety Robert Blanton (hamstring), Carlson, receiver Kamar Jorden (hand), tackle DeMarcus Love (pectoral), Schwartz, halfback Jordan Todman (ankle) and cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), who has been practicing on a limited basis the past week.
Frazier said coaches "(j)ust want to be cautious" since Robinson complained on Tuesday of tightness in the hamstring he originally injured on July 27.
"When we do put (Robinson) out there, we want to be certain that he can burst, and so we want to give him a few more days," Frazier said. "He could probably get through, but that's not what we want him to do, is to get through at this point. So, give him a few more days and let him line up next week when we play our next scrimmage ballgame."
That's a home game against Buffalo on Aug. 17.
Frazier planned to address players on Wednesday night about whether any healthy veterans would be scratched.
• Frazier's ban on hazing came to an unofficial end when the defensive linemen pinned rookie DT Chase Baker to a goal post with athletic tape and then doused him with ice, water and Gatorade. Baker seemed to be enjoying himself until someone dumped a bottle of Pepto Bismol on his head. "That kind of stung," he said.
• PK Blair Walsh connected on all of his eight field-goal attempts from between 20 and 36 yards. He's now 39-for-44 (88.6%) in team settings during camp.
• The Vikings had a closed morning walkthrough scheduled for Thursday before they depart for San Francisco.