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Updated: August 4th, 2011 8:01pm
Notebook: Rough start for Charlie Johnson; Berrian a free agent in '12

Notebook: Rough start for Charlie Johnson; Berrian a free agent in '12

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- There were bound to be rocky moments on Thursday afternoon for some of the 17 players making their training-camp debuts with the Minnesota Vikings.

No one had a tougher day than new left tackle Charlie Johnson.

Jared Allen torched Johnson for touch-sacks on consecutive plays in one team (11-on-11) drill and added a third minutes later, when he walked back the former Indianapolis Colt into quarterback Donovan McNabb with a bull rush.

"You can do as much as you want on air, but getting out, seeing the live bullets (is different)," said Johnson, who signed a three-year contract with the Vikings on Monday. "It was rough, but that's what training camp is for, is to get better."

McNabb admitted he was disappointed by Tuesday's release of longtime left tackle Bryant McKinnie, whom McNabb referred to as "one of the best tackles in the game and a friend of mine. His mom is very close to my mom and I was looking forward to playing with him here.

"But now we're kind of bringing in guys, and the guys that are playing that position, you have to have a lot of confidence in those guys that they can fill the hole."

For now, that's Johnson, whose 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame puts him among the Vikings' smallest offensive linemen -- uncommon for a left tackle and a body some scouts believe makes him best-suited to play guard.

Coach Leslie Frazier said there are no plans to consider flipping right tackle Phil Loadholt to the other side, since the Vikings think he'll "be an outstanding right tackle in our league. We feel like we're pretty solid at that position. We don't want to weaken that position."

Johnson didn't even touch Allen on one of the sacks, as the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher raced by on a speed move before Johnson got out of his stance.

Asked if Johnson looked like a player who hadn't been on the practice field in seven months, Frazier said, "Not only him, a lot of guys. That's just the nature of it, but we've got to do it. We've got to start somewhere.

"The downside is those guys didn't get a chance to go through that period where we were just in shoulder pads ... and in helmets. You missed that from a timing standpoint. But, hey, he'll catch up to the speed of the game like they all will."

Berrian's last stand?

Receiver Bernard Berrian's restructured contract will expire after this season, an NFL source said on Thursday.

Berrian confirmed on Monday the Vikings had reworked the deal, sidelining him until the collective-bargaining agreement was ratified on Thursday afternoon. But he was unclear about just how much time was shaved off the new agreement.

The Vikings reworked Berrian's deal -- which previously ran through 2013 and contained a salary cap number of $6,258,333 this season -- to help them get under the salary cap. In exchange, Berrian gets a chance to hit the free-agent market again next March, when he'll be 31 years old and potentially in position for another payday if he rebounds this season.

"I don't let contracts motivate me," Berrian said on Monday. "I just get motivated by myself."

McKinnie's release saved the Vikings another $5.4 million against the cap and they were under in time to meet Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline for compliance.

Health watch

Cornerback Cedric Griffin took the bulk of reps at right cornerback with the first-team defense during team drills and appears to be ahead of the team's schedule in his return from a second knee reconstruction.

"He hasn't had any setbacks of yet," Frazier said. "In talking with (head athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman as we were walking off the field, everything went fine (Thursday). So far, so good."

Right guard Anthony Herrera (knee/triceps), who is on the camp/physically unable to perform list, and backup linebacker Kenny Onatolu (stress fracture in foot) remain sidelined.

Quick hits

• Rookie QB Christian Ponder took all the second-team reps ahead of Joe Webb, finishing 7-of-8 passing in team drills. But Frazier said "nothing is etched in stone" with the depth chart there.

• HB Adrian Peterson was expected to return to Mankato by Thursday evening and be on the field for Friday's morning walkthrough.

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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