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Updated: August 9th, 2011 5:33pm
Notebook: Starters won't play much on Saturday; Visanthe Shiancoe out?

Notebook: Starters won't play much on Saturday; Visanthe Shiancoe out?

by Tom Pelissero
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff planned to meet on Tuesday night to discuss playing time in Saturday's exhibition at Tennessee, but one decision apparently had been made already:

Even with a new scheme and a limited window to grasp it, the offensive starters won't get a whole lot more snaps than in any other preseason opener.

"We want to get Donovan (McNabb) and some of the guys some reps," coach Leslie Frazier said. "But at the same time, we've got three games after this one and we just want to get the timing down."

That could mean anywhere from a series to a quarter for a unit that continues to appear out of sorts in its second week of practice.

On Tuesday, for instance, the starting offense went 1-for-3 in a goal-line period and gained only 3 yards in three plays of 4-minute offense. McNabb gifted one ugly interception to linebacker Chad Greenway in 7-on-7 and would have thrown another if rookie linebacker Jonathan Gilmore had held on to the ball.

"I think the guys are getting better each day," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "They're starting to absorb the concepts and the techniques we're teaching. We haven't had a lot of time -- we've acknowledged that -- but they've done a super job of getting better every day, focusing on an area of improvement every day rather than just going out there mindlessly working through practice."

Musgrave suspended installation of the offense late last week, then resumed it on Sunday night. The plan, he said, is to have all of the concepts installed before the third preseason game on Aug. 27 so players can run everything at least once in a game before the season opener on Sept. 11 at San Diego.

Health watch

Receiver Percy Harvin (ribs), left guard Steve Hutchinson (pectoral/shoulder) and end Adrian Awasom (illness) returned to practice on Tuesday morning, while tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and safety Tyrell Johnson sat out because of their respective hamstring injuries.

Shiancoe left Monday's morning practice after suffering his injury and will miss at least another day, Frazier said. Johnson hasn't practiced since Saturday night, but he's expected to practice on Wednesday and, if all goes well, be available against Tennessee.

"I would think with Visanthe we would be very cautious," Frazier said, "and we'll just see how Tyrell does (on Thursday) and then make a decision."

A third player, reserve defensive back Simeon Castille">Simeon Castille, has a hamstring injury as well.

Also sitting out were linebacker Kenny Onatolu (foot) and right guard Anthony Herrera (knee/triceps), who could be placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list -- sidelining him for six weeks -- if he isn't ready to return before the preseason finale.

"We'll just see how he progresses," Frazier said.

Leber signs with Rams

Linebacker Ben Leber signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the St. Louis Rams, ending his five-year stint with the Vikings, ESPN reported.

The departure of Leber, 32, had seemed inevitable for some time, with the Vikings cap-strapped and intent on giving younger players an opportunity.

Erin Henderson is penciled in at Leber's old weakside linebacker spot. Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Onatolu and rookie Ross Homan also have gotten work there.

The only Vikings unrestricted free agents who remain out of work are Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis, Patrick Ramsey, Lito Sheppard, Naufahu Tahi, Pat Williams and Brett Favre, who has retired.

High honor

Safety Husain Abdullah will miss Wednesday's practice to attend President Barack Obama's annual Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House.

Abdullah, a Muslim, once again is fasting this year from dawn to sunset in observance of Ramadan tradition. He wakes up at 2 a.m. for a protein shake to supplement his lost lunch and said the new one-a-day practice schedule has helped him.

"It takes some mental toughness," Abdullah said. "I'm starting to get used to it. I've been doing it since I was 7. I'm 26 now. It's not overly difficult."

His older brother, Arizona Cardinals safety Hamza Abdullah, also is invited but neither is sure how they got on the list.

Asked if it was a difficult decision to excuse Abdullah from practice, Frazier said, "For this occasion, no. A chance to meet the President, go to the White House -- I told him I hope in February or next May or whenever it is, we'll be going as a team (for winning the Super Bowl). We're excited for him. I think it's a tremendous opportunity and a great honor."

Gipson waived

The Vikings waived cornerback Marcell Gipson, the undrafted rookie out of Wyoming who left the team on Friday after the death of his grandmother.

"It was his choice to not come back," Frazier said. "He has some things going on in his personal life, losing a (grandmother), and he felt like he needed to stay home, get a job and take care of his family, and I respect that."

The Vikings could have placed Gipson on the reserve/left squad list instead. But that would have forced Gipson to sit out a full season even if he changes his mind.

Quick hits

• WR Bernard Berrian's restructured contract slashed his base salary from $3.9 million to $1.9 million. It is believed he can close the difference with incentives. He can become a free agent after the season.

• OL Ryan Cook, who re-signed last week, received a two-year contract that includes base salaries of $875,000 this season and $1.35 million in 2012.

• DE Jared Allen is going to be a father. He said his wife is due in November.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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