Notebook: Secondary, roster still in flux as Vikings wrap practice
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Little more than 48 hours before the season kicks off in New Orleans, the Minnesota Vikings continued to parse through their options in a secondary charged with stopping the Saints' high-powered passing game on Thursday night.
Among the notable developments:
• Coach Brad Childress met with Cedric Griffin on Tuesday morning to review practice tape and admitted he's "toying" with the long-shot idea of suiting up the veteran cornerback only three practices and 7½ months after knee reconstruction. "All I can do is pack my bag and, if my number's called, be ready," Griffin said.
• Failing that, Childress twice mentioned the possibility of signing rookie cornerback Marcus Sherels off the practice squad to serve as the fourth cornerback and all but ruled out the possibility of a last-minute signing off the street. "Probably fill that from within," Childress said.
• Most interesting, Husain Abdullah -- not incumbent Tyrell Johnson or Jamarca Sanford, who competed with Johnson during training camp -- has emerged as the possible starter at strong safety. Abdullah has some experience playing the slot, which would give the Vikings added flexibility to defend four-receiver sets with their nickel defense. "Wherever they ask me to play, I just prepare myself and try to be ready," Abdullah said.
There remains a chance the Vikings still may tweak their 53-man roster at other spots, too -- something they haven't done since Saturday's cutdown.
They're still carrying four tight ends, 10 defensive linemen and five safeties. Cornerback Chris Cook (knee) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (knee) are the only players on the 53 who haven't practiced all week. And starting center John Sullivan appears headed for a game-time decision because of his ongoing battle with a calf injury that's limited him all week.
Both teams filed injury reports on Monday and Tuesday, but probability designations weren't due until after Wednesday's walkthroughs.
"I've got to put eight guys down and we'll just see what eight those guys are," Childress said. "(Griffin)'s up to speed on the game plan, as are Marcus Sherels and some of those other guys -- our backup tight ends, our fullbacks. We're bringing numbers of practice-squad guys with us down there."
Tuesday's injury report again listed Sullivan as a limited participant in practice, keeping Jon Cooper as the best bet to start on Thursday.
However, Childress indicated Sullivan -- who missed the entire preseason and has practiced on and off since getting hurt the second day of camp -- is getting closer to returning.
"He seems like hasn't missed a beat," Childress said. "Probably, he's going through some of the soreness that you get -- maybe not to the same extent as camp, but just when you come out here and practice and get pushed around and your muscles talk to you. I think he's going through some of that, and he's just working hard to get some of that stamina back. Over the course of 60 snaps, we'll find out a lot of things about both teams."
Berrian's role expands
Bernard Berrian will get the first shot on punt returns Thursday, Childress said.
The veteran receiver has returned 21 punts in his career for a 10.1 average and has one touchdown -- on an 82-yard return for the Vikings in 2008.
"I think what I like most about him is he's undervalued as a guy that usually catches the ball pretty well," Childress said. "He did a good job early in his career at Chicago, and then he's got the ability to make a guy miss and the speed to be able to take it all the way."
The Vikings' backfield plan on third down remains unclear.
Starter Adrian Peterson got plenty of work on third downs in the preseason. Toby Gerhart sat out the exhibition finale and still is getting over the knee injury he suffered Aug. 28 against Seattle. Albert Young may be the best blocker, making him a decent bet to play in third-and-long situations.
That is, when they use a back at all.
"There are no articles of war that says you have to have a back on third down, so keep that in mind," Childress said.
Gerhart, Griffin, Sullivan and Sanford (ankle) were listed as limited participants in practice, while quarterback Brett Favre (ankle) was a full participant again.
The Saints again listed two starters -- middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (groin) and cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) -- as limited participants. Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (knee) was added to the injury report and did not participate, nor did running back Chris Ivory (knee), linebacker Stanley Arnoux (ankle) and tackle Zach Strief (knee).
• Asked if he's confident Griffin could keep up in a game situation, Childress said, "Possibly. He'd be a front-zone corner right now -- not to say that you couldn't press him up, let him put his hands on people. The great thing about what he's doing is he's playing against Percy Harvin and Bernard (Berrian) and those guys. So, he's getting real-time work against our best, and that kind of gives you a feeling for where he's at."
• Childress said players and coaches combated the condensed schedule before the Thursday game by beginning game planning and film work on New Orleans last week. They skipped offensive game planning for the preseason finale against Denver, simply using the same plan they had two weeks earlier for another 3-4 defense, San Francisco. "We knew about it early, so it's almost like you're on automatic pilot," Childress said.