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Updated: August 11th, 2012 3:03am
Notebook: Stephen Burton seizes chance; Adrian Peterson back Sunday?

Notebook: Stephen Burton seizes chance; Adrian Peterson back Sunday?

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Stephen Burton has been getting most of his work in training camp at flanker, but the Minnesota Vikings may be looking at him as a stopgap option at split end as well.

Coach Leslie Frazier said Burton started in place of Percy Harvin in Friday's exhibition opener because coaches "need to learn more about Stephen in game situations" as they evaluate a receiver group that won't have Jerome Simpson for the season's first three games and lost rookie Greg Childs to injury last weekend.

"He had limited exposure a year ago," Frazier said, "and then with the injury to Greg, we really felt like we needed to find out more about (Burton), and we need to get more work from him in these remaining preseason games."

Burton took advantage on the second play of a 17-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, running a post pattern against veteran cornerback Carlos Rogers and catching Christian Ponder's pass for a 52-yard gain that set up one of the Vikings' two field goals.

"The first thought after I caught the ball was pretty much 'keep running,'" Burton said. "I wanted to score. I wanted to score. But then the defender got on my back and I couldn't shake him."

He dropped another ball and didn't have another catch. Frazier praised the way Burton kept the big play alive, though, saying it should "be good for his confidence" as the Vikings try to sort out how they'll fill the void during Simpson's looming suspension.

A seventh-round pick in 2011, Burton appeared in only three games as a rookie, catching two passes for 38 yards on Dec. 4 against Denver. He emerged in Harvin's place this offseason until he caught pneumonia, then opened training camp on the non-football injury list with a toe problem.

Healthy again, Burton might find himself getting more reps behind Simpson, especially if the other split ends -- Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Emmanuel Arceneaux -- don't produce in the preseason. Only Jenkins caught a pass on Friday. It gained 6 yards.

"You've always got to step up when someone's not playing or when the coach decides to sit someone or whatever the case may be," Burton said.

Peterson back on Sunday?

The Vikings will meet to discuss the roster on Saturday, and Frazier said depth chart changes could be made.

Another possibility under consideration: taking star halfback Adrian Peterson off the active/physically unable to perform list, where he has been since the start of training camp as he recovers from knee reconstruction.

"We're going to discuss it," Frazier said. "We'll discuss where he is and what's the next step for him this week, whether we continue to work through rehab or how we want to approach it."

Gerhart does job

Peterson's backup did his part on Friday to get the starting offense moving. Toby Gerhart carried the ball five times for 31 yards, including a power toss play on third-and-6 that went for 16 yards as he broke through two tackles.

Frazier said he was impressed by "(h)ow forceful" Gerhart was.

"We've avoided contact with him in training camp," Frazier said. "Now we wanted to take him down and just to see how forceful he ran the football and his presence.

"He's a guy that's hard to tackle, and he showed that again (Friday) on that one toss that we ran in that third-and-short situation. That was a heck of a job on his part. There were a couple of guys that had angles on him and he did the things that were necessary to get us a key first down. He's that kind of a back."

Put it on the board

Linebacker Solomon Elimimian still hasn't delivered a big hit, but he took advantage of a big opportunity on Friday.

Voted the Canadian Football League's hardest hitter last year, Elimimian snared an interception in the fourth quarter on a pass that fluttered after end Nick Reed hit third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien's arm.

"It was a good defensive call," Elimimian said. "Just pretty much got in my zone and just broke on the ball and tried to do something with the football when I got it. It was definitely a blessing to get that ball in my hands, and thank God for it."

The interception was a rare defensive highlight on the night the Vikings gave up 412 net offensive yards and 23 first downs and probably would have allowed more points, too, if the 49ers hadn't chosen to take a knee from the 1-yard line in the final 2 minutes.

"For guys like us who are trying to make this team," Elimimian said, "those plays that we made are going to help us individually, but also should open some of the coaches' eyes."

Another test passed

On a night the wind was whipping at Candlestick Park, rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh passed his latest test, connecting on field goals of 39 and 26 yards to cap the starting offense's two drives.

Walsh also held up well on kickoffs, booting two at least 5 yards deep in the end zone and the other one through it with the wind at his back.

"It was good to see him come in and kick that field goal early," Frazier said. "The conditions were not great conditions, and he showed some poise and he had a touchback as well."

Health watch

Nose tackle Letroy Guion left on the 49ers' opening drive with an injury to the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but Frazier said he should only miss a week or two.

The Vikings suffered no other injuries in the game, according to Frazier.

As expected, safety Robert Blanton (hamstring), tight end John Carlson (knee), receiver Kamar Jorden (hand), tackle DeMarcus Love (pectoral), Peterson (knee), cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), guard Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery) and Jordan Todman (ankle) were scratched for injuries.

Night off

Along with Harvin, the Vikings scratched three healty starters: end Jared Allen, undertackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield.

In their places, the Vikings started D'Aundre Reed, Christian Ballard and Chris Carr, respectively. Brandon Burton replaced Carr as the third cornerback in the nickel defense.

The only players in uniform who didn't see action were QB Sage Rosenfels, CB Chris Stroud and WR A.J. Love.

Quick hits

• If Randy Moss is plotting revenge against his old team, it'll have to wait until Sept. 23. Moss made his 49ers debut on the third play from scrimmage but played sparingly and wasn't targeted with a single pass. The 49ers visit the Metrodome in Week 3 of the regular season.

Marcus Sherels got the first chance for the Vikings on kickoff returns and averaged 18 yards on two chances. Burton got the other two and gained 14 and 10 yards, respectively. Four punts yielded two touchbacks and two downed, with Bryan Walters deep on a couple of them.

• Scouts were slated to attend the game from Oakland, Baltimore, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Green Bay, Jacksonville, San Diego, Detroit, Miami, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

• The first roster reduction to 75 players is set for Aug. 27. The 53-man roster reduction is four days later.

• The Vikings' captains were Chris Kluwe, Chad Greenway and Phil Loadholt.

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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