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Updated: September 16th, 2010 10:15pm
Notebook: Relegated to nickel duty, Sheppard still thinks he's a starter

Notebook: Relegated to nickel duty, Sheppard still thinks he's a starter

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Lito Sheppard held up well in his first regular-season action as a Minnesota Viking, playing 35 snaps and breaking up three passes.

That doesn't mean Sheppard is content with being a part-time player in the nickel package, as he was in last week's season-opening loss at New Orleans.

"I've been waiting on this moment, this opportunity to get back to this point," said Sheppard, 29, who signed a one-year deal with the Vikings in April.

"Obviously, I have a lot to prove and go out and try to prove to everybody that I am the same guy that went to those Pro Bowls (in 2004 and '06). For whatever reasons, man, I became labeled as something. I don't know. But it's good to get out there and re-prove it, so to speak."

Asher Allen got the surprise start at right cornerback against the Saints, with Sheppard bumping him to the left side and Antoine Winfield to the slot in nickel situations.

The Vikings employed zone concepts extensively and received a positive showing from Sheppard, who has lost a step of deep speed but still can read and break on the football.

"That was basically my responsibility," Sheppard said. "It does give me a chance to use some of my natural ability and instincts. So, I feel good about this defense and the scheme and the way it works."

The limited workload also could be good for Sheppard, although it's not a given Allen will remain the starter opposite Winfield -- nor that Sheppard will remain in the rotation once Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin are healthy.

Like Cook and Griffin, Sheppard isn't a good fit for the slot. So, coaches could move Allen inside or continue playing Winfield inside in nickel, depending who they want on the edges.

For now, Sheppard is earning his keep.

"I only know how to play one way," Sheppard said. "I think what you'd call consistently putting that on film when I've been out there. I think I've been OK."

Peterson's workload

Criticism was widespread -- if somewhat misguided -- about Adrian Peterson getting only six touches in the second half and 19 total in last week's season-opening loss to New Orleans.

So, how many would Peterson like to have in a game?

"Yeah, about 40 or 50 carries, that would be lovely," the All-Pro running back said. "I would love that."

That's not going to happen, of course, but several players have referenced the Vikings' plans to pound the ball on Sunday against Miami.

"I definitely know we are going to come out running the ball and establish the run," Peterson said. "As for the offense, that's something that we, in our minds, want to do. We'll see how the games playing and if they call my number I'll be ready to carry the load."

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated negative plays and unfavorable downs and distances dictated Peterson's touches in New Orleans but added, "I go back and I look at it and critique myself just like we critique these guys. We probably could have run the ball more."

Johnson's future

Defensive coordinator Frazier said the Vikings "haven't given up" on Tyrell Johnson and still expects the third-year strong safety to "make a major contribution" this season, even though Husain Abdullah started the opener.

"Husain has been so productive that it's hard to ignore that," Frazier said. "Tyrell will get back in there playing again and Jamarca Sanford will get some reps at times, so it's not like it's etched in stone that this is the way it will be. But Husain will get the start (this week)."

Quick hits

• TE Visanthe Shiancoe said he was humbled by Wednesday's remarks from QB Brett Favre, who said "as far as physical ability, Shank's in a class by himself." Said Shiancoe: "I feel that's big, coming from a guy like that, that's been with some great tight ends. I feel like that's just motivation to try to step up my game even more from what it is."

• DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee) was a limited participant for a second straight day. "He's had a good couple days of practice," Frazier said of Kennedy, who hasn't played since being injured Aug. 22 at San Francisco. "We'll see how he does (Friday) and we'll make a decision whether to try to get him up for this ballgame or not."

• Special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy confirmed WR Greg Camarillo has been fielding punts in practice. It's possible Camarillo will split or take over for WR Bernard Berrian this week. "I certainly feel comfortable with Greg back there," Murphy said.

• Peterson, who normally has short hair, shaved his head completely bald over the weekend. "I just wanted to try something different and something new," he said. "I haven't been bald in a long time, so I just wanted to switch it up a little bit."

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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