Notebook: Stephen Burton reminds Vikings WRs coach of Terrell Owens
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Stephen Burton grew up idolizing Terrell Owens, but nobody needed to tell George Stewart that.
The Minnesota Vikings' receivers coach saw the similarities to one of his all-time favorite pupils the first time he watched tape of Burton racking up big numbers at Division II West Texas A&M.
"When he was in school, it's man against boys," Stewart said of Burton, a developmental seventh-round pick in April's draft who earned a surprise promotion to the 53-man roster on Tuesday.
"He's a big kid. He's a lot like Terrell at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Big athlete. Very raw, but he's getting better every day."
At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Burton isn't as tall as Owens (6-3) but has a similarly thick build and above-average speed for his size. The Vikings timed Burton running the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at the scouting combine -- his official time was 4.53 -- which isn't far off from Owens' reported 4.36 in 1996.
"T.O. was my man," Burton said. "He did it all. Great receiver, great routes, great catching. He shows passion for the game. He was my idol."
That both played at a lower level of college football bolsters the comparison made by Stewart, who was in his first year as the San Francisco 49ers' receivers coach when they drafted Owens in the third round of the 1996 draft.
Owens' numbers at what was then Division I-AA Tennessee-Chattanooga -- as a senior, he had 43 catches for 667 yards and a touchdown -- are pedestrian compared to Burton's 132 receptions for 1,909 yards and 13 scores in two seasons after transferring from Long Beach Community College.
"Small-school kid, height-weight-speed prospect," an AFC personnel director said shortly after the draft. "He's probably a guy you just take a flyer on that deserved to go as a seventh-rounder or a priority free agent type."
Burton faced a steep transition from West Texas A&M's wide-open spread offense to the detailed route-running needed in pro-style schemes, even if the NFL lockout hadn't wiped out offseason practices.
A hamstring injury hampered him more than many realized during his uninspiring training camp, too, and he estimates he wasn't fully recovered until a couple of weeks into the season, after he'd been cut and re-signed to the practice squad.
"You really don't have time for excuses," Burton said. "You've got to go out there and you've got to perform. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
So far, Burton's most memorable play with the Vikings was one he'd like to forget. He batted down a Hail Mary pass during a training-camp drill instead of trying to catch it -- something teammates still tease him about.
"You look at that kid, you say, 'Boy, there's no way he's going to make this football team,'" Stewart said. "It was just one of those deals that happens to a young guy in the heat of fire. Hopefully, he'll get the chance to be successful on Sunday."
Coach Leslie Frazier confirmed Burton will be active for Sunday's game at Carolina.
Asked if he'll say a few words to the rookie, Frazier smiled and said, "We actually talked about that as a staff. I have some trepidation about whether I should talk to him or those other coaches, because I don't want to make him nervous."
Harvin still hurting
"Without getting into too many details, it's just basically like (an injured) hamstring," Harvin said. "You can kind of feel it pulling, so it kind of makes me nervous at times. But other than that, it's just pain tolerance."
Harvin is tied with Michael Jenkins for the team lead in receptions (27) despite a limited practice workload and a reduced role in several games, including his 18-snap cameo in last weekend's loss to Green Bay.
"It's all good. I'm not going to change the way I play," Harvin said. "The coaches don't want me to change how I play. So, when I'm in there, it's a hundred miles per hour. If I get banged up, I'd hate for that to happen, but I'm going to go 100 percent regardless."
Brian Robison wasn't the only Vikings defensive lineman fined for an illegal hit in Sunday's game.
Defensive tackle Letroy Guion was docked $7,500 for a late hit on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, an NFL spokesman said.
Robison was fined $20,000 earlier in the week for kicking Packers guard T.J. Lang in the groin area after Lang threw him to the ground on a field-goal block.
One day after the birth of his first child, right end Jared Allen returned to Winter Park for morning meetings but missed practice again to be with his wife at the hospital.
"He's so excited," Frazier said. "Just smile from ear to ear. He's just pumped up as you could imagine."
The baby girl's name is Brinley Noel.
• Burton could factor on kick returns if HB Lorenzo Booker, who still was undergoing concussion tests on Friday, is unavailable and coaches want to ease Harvin's workload. "It's possible," Frazier said. "That's something we'll definitely be discussing depending where Lorenzo is (Saturday) when we talk."
• FS Husain Abdullah (concussion) didn't miss any snaps in the Green Bay game, was a full participant in practice all week and is probable. "It wasn't very serious," Frazier said. "I don't think he even had to come out of the game. Just when we came in on Monday, after he saw the trainers that day, he was feeling a little bit woozy. So, we said, you know what? We better get this checked out. That's how they determined it was concussion symptoms. Ran him through the tests. He was fine."
• The Vikings had no plans to fill the vacant spot on the 53-man roster by Sunday, Frazier said.