Notebook: Vikings looking for safeties with three players sidelined
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The Minnesota Vikings are expected to examine the waiver wire for safeties in the coming days just so they can get through Thursday's exhibition finale at Houston.
An NFL source said on Saturday that Mistral Raymond (back spasms) and Andrew Sendejo (sprained ankle) are expected to sit out the game, and Eric Frampton is questionable after straining his groin in Friday's exhibition loss to San Diego.
That leaves the Vikings with only three healthy safeties, and one of them is rookie Robert Blanton, who has missed the first three exhibition games with a hamstring strain. The others are Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford, who both started and finished Friday's game because everyone else was unavailable.
Signing a player who hasn't been in an NFL training camp wouldn't help because he'd have to wait three days before practicing. All NFL teams must cut down to 75 players by 3 p.m. Monday -- the Vikings made their cuts on Saturday -- meaning more than 450 players will hit the waiver wire.
The news could have been worse on Raymond, who has a history of hydration issues and dropped out during warm-ups on Friday. He has appeared to have the lead on Sanford for the starting job opposite Smith, and it seems unlikely his latest setback would have a significant impact on that competition.
Cornerbacks Josh Robinson (concussion) and Marcus Sherels (sprained ankle) also are expected to miss Thursday's game. The Vikings still are carrying nine players at that position, though, and Chris Cook (concussion) is expected to return to practice on Monday.
The one offensive player who dropped out of Friday's game, tight end Rhett Ellison, underwent an MRI that showed no structural damage and has been diagnosed with tendinitis in one of his knees.
Ellison could play on Friday -- which would be helpful, since John Carlson (knee) still has yet to return and Kyle Rudolph likely will get all or most of the night off along with the rest of the Vikings' starters.
No player did more with his opportunities on Friday night than Matt Asiata. If only he hadn't let the ball hit the ground.
Listed as a fullback, Asiata replaced Lex Hilliard at halfback in the second quarter, rushed for 48 yards on nine carries (5.3 average) with a long of 18 and scored a touchdown on one of his two catches for 6 yards.
But the performance was marred by Asiata's fumble at the Chargers' 3-yard line, stopping the best and final drive for the Vikings' starters midway through the third quarter.
"It sucks when you fumble, and I just felt like I let the whole line down, the whole starters down," said Asiata, the former Utah back in his second camp with the Vikings.
"Going down to the red zone and giving up the ball, I felt like I let my team down. It happens, but I've just got to get out of my head and keep playing football."
Asiata wasn't alone in his mistake. Hilliard fumbled on the latter of his two carries for 2 yards, and rookie Derrick Coleman -- one of the 15 players the Vikings waived on Saturday -- also fumbled in the red zone.
The Vikings still are unsettled at the third halfback spot behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. The other candidate, Jordan Todman, missed the first two preseason games with a sprained ankle and rushed twice for 7 yards on Friday.
"I think each of them turned that ball over (Friday). That wasn't so good," coach Leslie Frazier said. "They had some good runs between them, but it's discouraging when the ball is on the ground. We'll have to continue to evaluate that position and make a decision in which direction to go."
Has to get better
It was the most glaring rookie moment so far for Kalil, the No. 4 overall draft pick from Southern California.
"It's definitely faster, but there's a lot more responsibilities as a left tackle than in college compared to the NFL," Kalil said. "It just could be easy for me to be focused on two guys, but I could have different reads and have to focus on a different backer backside blitzing, and if he's not coming, then looking out to the defensive backs.
"It's a lot more things -- just a matter of getting comfortable with the offense and playing at a faster level. But I think that stuff handles itself the more games I get under my belt."
Ponder took part of the blame for Friday's protection issues, saying he was sitting too long at the top of his drops instead of stepping up and moving the pocket.
Asked for his comfort level with the line, Ponder said, "I feel very comfortable. They've busted their butts throughout the OTAs and this preseason and they're doing a good job. They've done well. I'm very comfortable sitting back there, and again, it's on me. I have to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and taking those pressures off of the tackles."
• TE Allen Reisner took advantage of his extended opportunity on Friday, leading the Vikings with four receptions for 47 yards. That included a catch on which he absorbed a big hit at the sticks, only to pop up and calmly signal a first down. "It was great to see Allen make those key catches that he made," Frazier said. "The hit that he took and held onto the football and then the get-up -- definitely helped himself."
• The Vikings return to practice on Sunday afternoon.