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Updated: September 28th, 2012 2:41pm
Notebook: Seeking options at safety, Vikings work out Tyrell Johnson

Notebook: Seeking options at safety, Vikings work out Tyrell Johnson

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Tyrell Johnson didn't envision returning to the Minnesota Vikings' locker room like this.

The former second-round draft pick was one of three safeties who worked out in front of the team's personnel department after Friday's practice, a little more than a month after the Miami Dolphins cut him.

"It is kind of a strange feeling," Johnson said. "But it's definitely an exciting feeling when you come back in and the team welcomes you back. Your teammates all are happy to see you and hug you -- that's a very welcoming feeling to let you know you have your teammates still behind you and still rooting for you."

Johnson, 27, started 27 games over four seasons with the Vikings but never regained the role he lost to Husain Abdullah during training camp in 2010. He also found himself in trouble last September when he was arrested on drunk-driving charges and can only be categorized as a bust.

He was still recovering from surgery to repair a hamstring tendon avulsion in April when Miami signed him to a one-year minimum salary benefit deal that included a $50,000 workout bonus and a $15,000 roster bonus tied to making the 53-man roster.

Once the Dolphins released him in the first round of cuts, Johnson said, he spent time with family, had one workout in Detroit a couple weeks ago and monitored other teams' situations at safety.

"It's unfortunate being in this position," Johnson said. "You have to wait on somebody to get hurt. But every opportunity is an opportunity to go out there and show you can perform and still play."

The Vikings lost starting strong safety Mistral Raymond for three to five weeks with a dislocated right ankle in the first quarter of Sunday's win over San Francisco. Jamarca Sanford will start in Raymond's place opposite rookie Harrison Smith on Sunday at Detroit, and backups Andrew Sendejo and Robert Blanton have no NFL starting experience.

On Friday, they also brought in Troy Nolan, 26, a seventh-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2009 who has appeared in 33 games (six starts) over two-plus seasons with Houston and Miami; and Larry Asante, a fifth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2010 who appeared in 12 games over the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.

Johnson received the most attention in the locker room after the workout, with teammates and coach Leslie Frazier stopping by to say hello. He said the hamstring is "110 percent" healed and he has been following changes to the Vikings' scheme by reading online because he can't get their games on TV at his Arkansas home.

In all likelihood, the Vikings will wait on signing anyone unless and until they have another injury at the position. Asked if they seem interested, Johnson said, "I've grown and I don't even worry about that. I just -- you know how it is, man. Just control what you can control, come out and work, work your hardest, and hopefully, you get that call."

Finding motivation

Raymond was seen in the locker room for the first time since his injury, limping slowly while wearing an aircast on his lower right leg.

He said he initially believed he was hurt much worse but laughed when receiver Devin Aromashodu showed him a photo of the team's athletic trainers carrying him onto a cart.

"Think of it for the worst, but prepare for the best," Raymond said. "I got some pretty good news and something to motivate me and just attack the recovery process now."

A sixth-round draft pick last season, Raymond beat out Sanford for the starting job in camp but has dropped out of two of the first three games, first with hydration issues on Sept. 16 at Indianapolis and then with the ankle.

Frazier indicated on Monday he could be back the Oct. 21 game against Arizona. That timeline seems optimistic, even if Raymond dodged a bullet when tests showed no fracture or ligament damage -- ancillary damage often associated with his injury.

"If that's the case, then I guess I should be eternally grateful, man," Raymond said. "But it is what it is, man. I don't try to make anything more out of it. I just accept it for what it is and I'm going to do my time right now."

It's Simpson time

The Vikings apparently don't plan to hold back split end Jerome Simpson in his first game back from a three-game suspension.

"We don't have a pitch count for him," Frazier said. "We're going to let him play. We've got some things in them for him and see how he does. Just keep talking to him throughout the game and see how he's coming along from a fatigue standpoint."

The Vikings have had four receivers active the past two weeks. Frazier didn't rule out keeping five up against the Lions but said that was still under discussion.

Another shot for Brinkley

With Erin Henderson (concussion) ruled out again, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley will stay on the field in the nickel package for a second consecutive week.

Frazier said Brinkley "was not deficient at all in the pass game" against the 49ers, but facing Detroit's high-octane passing attack will be a different challenge altogether.

"He'll be challenged -- which will be good, though," Frazier said. "But he's had a good week of practice."

Marvin Mitchell will replace Henderson at weakside linebacker in the base defense.

Quick hits

• Frazier said QB Christian Ponder (neck) was added to the injury report on Thursday after saying he was "sorer than normal" on Wednesday. Doctors checked him out and "he's been good ever since," Frazier said.

• Frazier said there are "no concerns" about TE Kyle Rudolph (quadriceps), who like Ponder returned to full participation in practice on Friday.

• Taking no chances with karma, the Vikings had the same restaurant, Brasa, cater Friday's lunch in the locker room for the second consecutive week.

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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