Notebook: Vikings don't plan to rest their top players despite record
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will have to play some new faces on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Injuries have forced their hand.
But coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday he has no intention of lightening the load on top players such as end Jared Allen and halfback Adrian Peterson, provided they're healthy over the next five weeks.
"When those guys are out there, they want to play," Frazier said. "So, if Adrian is healthy enough to play, then he'll play. It wouldn't be any different if we were in Week 5 or Week 6. If Jared is out there, he'd play. It wouldn't be any different if we were in Week 3 or Week 2.
"We're going to play to win the games every week that we're out there. They want to play. If they're healthy, they want to play."
The Vikings have lost three consecutive games to fall to 2-9 and on Tuesday placed four players -- receiver Michael Jenkins (knee), safeties Husain Abdullah (concussion) and Tyrell Johnson (hamstring) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (back) -- on injured reserve.
According to Frazier, rookie Mistral Raymond is expected to start at safety, receiver Stephen Burton could get more time at receiver and the Vikings will look to find roles for offensive linemen Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love, too.
But Frazier made clear he won't change the roles of healthy players and coaches will remain cautious about putting players on the field too soon.
"We have to determine that not only by his snaps in a game, but based on what he's done in practice," Frazier said. "How is he practicing? How well is he picking up what we're doing? Does he look like he's ready to get in a game?
"And if you don't feel like he's quite ready and you put him out there just for the sake of saying I want to look at him in a game, and now the kid fails or he jeopardizes someone else's health because he wasn't ready, then that's not the wisest thing to do for the sake of saying, 'I want to see him in a game' when you knew based on the way he practiced, the way he was in meetings, that he wasn't ready."
Webb is Tebowing
Joe Webb is spending this week playing the role of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow for the Vikings scout team in practice.
"I'm going to try to give them a great look," said Webb, the Vikings No. 3 quarterback. "We'll see what happens throughout the whole practice deal. I'm sure they've got some type of gadgets that they want me to perform for the Denver offense."
Tebow is 5-1 as the Broncos' starting quarterback and the problems his unorthodox style have caused for opposing defenses have been well documented.
Last Sunday, he had 22 rushing attempts for 67 yards in the Broncos' 16-13 overtime victory at San Diego. The 22 rushes were the most by an NFL quarterback since at least 1950.
Webb said he once carried the ball 22 times while playing quarterback at Alabama-Birmingham. "As long as you keep your body healthy throughout the year, then it'll be pretty good," Webb said of getting so many carries.
Frazier, meanwhile, indicated that Webb could see action Sunday at wide receiver. The Vikings are shorthanded at that position with Jenkins lost for the season because of a knee injury.
"I'm a team player," Webb said. "Whatever I can do to bring a contribution to the team, then I'm all for it. I'm not (the) type of guy that has to do this or has to do that. If I'm on the field able to make plays, then I'm with it."
Veteran safety Jarrad Page said the fact he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 16 had nothing to do with his presence at a New York night club where a shooting occurred.
Page was among several athletes who reportedly were at the Juliet Supper Club in Manhattan in Manhattan celebrating the 25th birthday of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz when the shooting took place. A 44-year-old man was killed and two were injured.
The players just happened to be at the club and had nothing to do with the incident, according to the police.
"That was supposed to be an upscale thing," said Page, whose release came hours after the incident. "I don't know what that was all about. But I talked to coach (Andy) Reid and that has nothing to do with (his release)."
Page, 27, has started 45 games over parts of six NFL seasons with Kansas City, New England and the Eagles.
A seventh-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2006, Page made the Chiefs roster out of training camp and moved into the lineup full-time in his second season, starting all 16 games in 2007 and '08.
He was traded to New England on Sept. 4, 2010, played in 10 games (one start) for the Patriots and then signed with the Eagles in August, appearing in six games (five starts) before getting cut.
So what did happen with the Eagles?
"I had an injury against Buffalo (on Oct. 9) and I was inactive the next game," Page said. "They gave Kurt Coleman a chance to start again, and he came out and made three interceptions (at Washington). You've got to take advantage of opportunities and that's what he did. I was kind of fighting from behind the eight-ball at that point, trying to get back out on the field."
Page said he isn't worrying about expectations in what will be a five-game audition with the Vikings.
"I'm just going to go out and try to show the coaches that I'm picking stuff up and get them to trust me and go from there," he said. "The scheme here, it's something that's pretty easy to come and pick up, because it deals so much with guys just having good instincts.
"That's what they're teaching. That's easier to pick up than a lot of stuff where they've got you watching everything on the field. That's harder. It takes you a little longer to get that right."
Frazier said he plans to start Mistral Raymond at free safety on Sunday because the rookie has far more familiarity with the Vikings system.
Whether Page gets in the game will depend on how quickly he absorbs the defense this week.
Facing the challenge
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, asked if he was concerned about his receivers, said he looked at the situation, "as a challenge."
"I think opportunities open doors for a lot of guys to come in and step in, and you really don't know how well a guy will play until he gets out there," Ponder said. "Between guys that have played all year that are going to get more time and then guys like Stephen Burton, who has been active and been on the practice squad, kind of been up and down. ..."
Frazier made the point that Ponder is familiar with this group of receivers.
"They still have the ability to make plays for him, and we're going to try to utilize our tight ends as well to take some of the pressure off our wide receivers," Frazier said. "We still expect Toby (Gehrart) to be a factor or Adrian in the run game to take some of the pressure off our passing game.
"We'll come up with different ways to try to take some pressure off our pass game and help Christian at the same time. He's a smart guy. He'll do a good job of distributing the football, and the guys that are going to be playing wide receiver -- they're going to do the best they can to make plays for him."
Linebacker E.J. Henderson did not practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury he suffered Sunday in Atlanta. Henderson also has missed practice time this season because of swelling in his left knee.
Peterson also did not practice because of a high ankle sprain and ligament damage suffered on Nov. 20 against Oakland.
Cornerback Asher Allen (shoulder), guard Anthony Herrera (knee) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (quadriceps) were limited Wednesday. Linebacker Erin Henderson (hamstring), safety Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring) were on the injury report but did not miss any time.
Rudolph did not miss last Sunday in Atlanta but said he definitely plans on playing Sunday.
Put me in coach
Harvin said he went to Frazier "three or four times" to lobby before he was allowed to return the kickoff he took back 104 yards late in the loss to the Falcons.
"I knew we needed a spark somewhere," Harvin said. "Coach is always trying to look where we need spark (when) judging whether I'll be back there. I just told him, 'I was pretty much just going to run out on the field, and they were going to have to take me off.'"
Frazier said he wasn't surprised he got caught from behind by the Falcons' Chris Owens at the Atlanta 3-yard line. "It was 105 yard (run), I was a little fatigued, end of the game, I wasn't surprised at all," Harvin said. "He's a fast guy, he made a good play."
Harvin now holds the NFL record for the longest play in league history without scoring. "It's a bad record to have, but it is what it is," Harvin said.
• Stephen Burton, a seventh-round pick who was re-signed by the Vikings after being placed on waivers last week, received a three-year deal to return. Burton has been playing under a three-year contract before he was let go.
• Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller reportedly underwent a surgical procedure to repair a strained ligament in his left thumb and did not practice Wednesday. However, Miller is expected to play against the Vikings. The second-overall pick in the NFL draft, Miller has 10.5 sacks this season. Running back Willis McGahee (illness) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) also did not practice Wednesday for the Broncos. Safety David Burton (Achilles') and tight end Daniel Fells (hand) were limited. Tackle Ryan Clady (knee) was listed on the injury report but did not miss any practice time.