Notebook: Vikings 'O' improves after getting lit up by Bill Musgrave
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' offense followed up their worst practice of training camp with one of their best on Tuesday afternoon.
That didn't seem to surprise coach Leslie Frazier, who heard the tongue-lashing players took from coordinator Bill Musgrave and his assistants about Monday's sloppy session.
"The coaches really lit into them (Monday) night," coach Leslie Frazier said. "They responded, which was good to see, because you've got to push through those moments when things aren't perfect. You've got to find a way to bounce back, and it was good to see the guys bounce back (Wednesday)."
On Monday, the defensive sideline was doing all the talking as the offense stumbled in short-yardage, goal-line and no-huddle situations -- apparently prompting Musgrave to arrive at the evening team meeting with leaves, sticks and a bucket of water for a pitch about players lighting a fire under themselves.
On Tuesday, Christian Ponder and Joe Webb each led a successful 2-minute drive, the former capped by a 25-yard touchdown strike to Percy Harvin on a fourth-down post route against rookie safety Harrison Smith that had the offensive sideline fired up.
"It's always important for us to make big plays like that, especially in the 2-minute drive," Ponder said. "There's some situations we've got to get better at, and to do that (Tuesday) was great. The whole offense sees that and I think that picks everyone up."
Ponder completed only 8 of 17 passes in team (11-on-11) periods on Tuesday. But he didn't turn over the ball, didn't take a sack and made the one big throw he needed to cap an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive and set off some smack-talking in the end zone.
Webb hit Stephen Burton for a roughly 15-yard touchdown to cap the second string's 2-minute drive and finished 11-of-15 passing. Sage Rosenfels (5-of-6) and McLeod Bethel-Thompson (3-of-4) had efficient days, too, and the tempo was much improved overall.
"The defense made some plays (on Monday) and we kind of shrunk back on offense," Frazier said. "You just can't do that over the course of four quarters. You've got to push through and you've got find a way to make some plays."
The Vikings have only one more full practice remaining before Friday's exhibition opener at San Francisco -- a game in which Ponder said the offense needs to "make a statement," albeit with a limited game plan requisite of the preseason's early stages.
"We had the mindset (Tuesday) we could come out with some more enthusiasm and fix it and we did," Ponder said. "I think that proves the leadership on this team. A lot of the guys stepped up and spoke up (Monday) night and pushed each other (Tuesday) and I thought it was one of our best practices for sure."
Musgrave acknowledged the Vikings were hoping Greg Childs would be a big part of the offense before the rookie receiver tore the patellar tendon in each of his knees on Saturday night.
But Musgrave said it "remains to be seen" if the loss of Childs -- who also had a patellar tendon tear as a University of Arkansas junior in 2010 -- will have a significant impact, even in suspended starter Jerome Simpson's absence the first three games.
"We feel bad for the young man," Musgrave said of Childs, who underwent surgery on Monday that Frazier called successful.
"He worked tremendously hard to get back from his initial injury, and now he's faced with going through it again, which is a very daunting task. Our hearts are with him. We were counting on him as well from a football standpoint, but that's secondary right now."
Childs cleared injury waivers on Tuesday and was placed on injured reserve.
Schwartz back for opener?
Guard Geoff Schwartz underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia early Tuesday morning and posted on Twitter that it was "successful," too.
"Thanks for the awesome outreach," Schwartz tweeted. "Ready to be back to help the Vikings make it to the (Super) 'bowl."
Schwartz hopes to be ready for Week 1. Frazier said doctors have now pegged the timetable for his recovery at four to six weeks.
"I'll work like mad to make that sooner," Schwartz tweeted.
The Vikings held back Josh Robinson in practice after the rookie cornerback complained of tightness in his problematic hamstring, which he strained on the first day of camp.
That leaves Robinson's status in doubt for Friday's exhibition opener.
"We'll see how he is (Wednesday)," Frazier said, "and if it's bothering him at all, we'll probably hold him out and get him ready for the next ballgame."
End Christian Ballard was held out of practice with a tight hamstring, too, but Frazier said that was precautionary and the Vikings still hope to have him on Friday.
Halfback Jordan Todman, whose sprained left ankle didn't respond well to his attempt to practice on Monday, definitely won't play against the 49ers, Frazier said.
Others certain or likely to miss the game are: tight end John Carlson (knee), tackle DeMarcus Love (pectoral), receiver Kamar Jorden (broken right hand), safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and halfback Adrian Peterson (knee), who remains on the active/physically unable to perform list.
For the third consecutive practice, Smith got some snaps with the first-string defense in place of Mistral Raymond -- strongly suggesting the first-round draft pick from Notre Dame could make his expected push to join the starting lineup sooner than later.
"He hasn't blinked. He's kind of fit in," Frazier said. "We wanted to see how he would respond, being in there with (the starters), and so far, he's responded well.
"We're going to give him some opportunities on Friday night, but he hasn't shrunk back. He's stepped up and done well when he's been in with the first unit."
Coaches planned to meet on Tuesday night to determine which healthy veterans, if any, might be held out on Friday.
Likely candidates include defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield.
"We're still trying to decide on that," Frazier said. "We really need to look at some other guys."
Rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh had his shakiest day of camp, but it still ended on an impressive note.
In a team setting early in practice, Walsh missed twice from around 40 yards in seven attempts. Later, he made a 45-yard field goal in a run-on situation, came up short from 56 yards into a breeze -- and ended practice moments later by drilling a 57-yarder.
"He came back and boomed it when he had to, when the pressure was on, teammates giving him a hard time," Frazier said. "So, it was good to see. He bounced back."
Walsh's three misses on Tuesday exceeded his total for the rest of camp combined. He's now 31-for-36 (86.1%) in team settings.
• First-time defensive coordinator Alan Williams said he'll spend Friday night on the sideline, rather than in the coaches' booth, to see how the staff communicates and make adjustments. If all goes well, Williams said he'll continue to call the defense from the field going forward. "If it's working, why try to fix it?" Williams said. "So, we'll start there and see what happens and then adjust."
• Musgrave said the Vikings will "be a little more cautious" with HB Toby Gerhart's preseason workload, giving the uncertainly surrounding Peterson's availability. But the rest of the halfbacks, including Lex Hilliard and Todman, won't be limited at all if they're healthy. "Everyone else we need to get a good feel for," Musgrave said.
• Despite working in pads eight of the past nine days, the Vikings have yet to have any incidents escalate into fights. "We've had some competitive times, but we've talked at length about penalties and fights," Frazier said. "Maybe that has something to do with it. There's nothing wrong with a fight every now and then. You've got to control it, though."
• CB Nick Taylor (shoulder) cleared waivers last week and is now on IR along with Childs.