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Updated: August 13th, 2012 8:10pm
Notebook: Vikings survive scare as Matt Kalil undergoes MRI on thumb

Notebook: Vikings survive scare as Matt Kalil undergoes MRI on thumb

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Matt Kalil's walk to the locker room with an athletic trainer was the sort of visual no one on the Minnesota Vikings' staff ever wants to see.

But the Vikings' top draft pick returned to the field on Monday with his right thumb taped up and finished practice with the starting offense.

"Kalil is fine," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Bumped his thumb. They did an MRI. Everything was fine. He came back, finished practice, so that was encouraging."

The Vikings drafted Kalil with the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft, solidifying a core position that became a problem after they released Bryant McKinnie early in training camp last year.

If something happened to Kalil, the rotation after his departure from Monday's practice suggested it'd look a lot like the line last season. Charlie Johnson moved over to left tackle, where he was miscast but started all 16 games last season, and veteran Joe Berger took Johnson's place at left guard.

The top backup left tackle, DeMarcus Love, was in pads on Monday for the first time. But Frazier said he isn't expected to be cleared for contact until next week at the soonest because of the pectoral injury he suffered on July 28.

Kevin Murphy, an undrafted rookie from Harvard, struggled in the No. 2 role in Friday's exhibition opener at San Francisco. Another undrafted rookie, Tyler Holmes, took some reps there on Monday.

Get 'em next time

Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran 78 yards for a touchdown on his second play with the 49ers' offense on Friday night against the Vikings.

It's no surprise the 49ers called the read-option play they did on second down, since Kaepernick would have scored on the exact same play if he hadn't handed the ball to halfback Kendall Hunter on first.

"Go back and look at the film -- they did it the play before he kept it, and he's out the gate free then, but he gave it," safety Jamarca Sanford said. "So, then he came back, and they just did it again, but he kept it. I thought the running back had the ball."

So did left end Nick Reed, who bit on the play-fake instead of watching the backside. Sanford was looking elsewhere when the ball was snapped, then followed everyone else toward Hunter -- only for Kaepernick to run right where he'd been standing.

"I seen just the whole flow," Sanford said. "I looked back, I says, 'No way he's got that ball!' And he had the ball. I said, 'Ohhh, oh my gosh.'"

That was just the most glaring example of the fundamental mistakes the Vikings made, particularly in the early going, as the 49ers ran for 260 yards in a 17-6 victory.

Of course, stopping scheme plays such as the read-option are all the more difficult without game-planning for the opponent in a preseason opener. Frazier pointed out the 49ers kept running the play without as much success.

"We play those guys in a little bit more than a month," Frazier said, referring to the teams' meeting on Sept. 23 at the Metrodome. "We'll put together a game plan. We'll be ready to play them."

Fighting back

Perhaps smarting from that performance in San Francisco, the Vikings defense played with an edge during short-yardage and goal-line drills on Monday.

The six goal-line snaps included a fumble by halfback Toby Gerhart, two more stops of Gerhart by the linebackers and only one touchdown, by fourth-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a naked bootleg.

"There was a lot of talking going on in the meetings, with the coaches really getting after them a little bit about some things," Frazier said. "They wanted to really come out here and practice well. That was a spirited short-yardage, goal-line period, which is good. We needed that."

Right end Jared Allen -- one of three veteran starters who got Friday night off -- called the performance against the run "disappointing" but agreed with defensive coordinator Alan Williams that the issues are correctable.

"It's simple stuff," Allen said. "It's run fits and making tackles, and 99 percent of all football comes down to technique and being where you're supposed to be. You've just got to make the effort and make the play. So, that's what it is and it's all fixable stuff.

"Young guys, sometimes you get a little jittery, eyes get a little big. But it's all stuff that's fixable. It wasn't like guys were just getting thumped or getting ran out of the gaps. It's stuff that you can fix and you get back on the practice field, and now you have a measuring mark of where we've got to be at and we've got to take a big jump."

Another week for Carlson

After tight end John Carlson hurt his right knee on July 31, Frazier said he'd miss two weeks at the most.

Tuesday will mark two weeks since Carlson's injury, but Frazier said he'll sit out at least until Sunday, when the Vikings return to practice after Friday's exhibition game against Buffalo.

"We think we may have him back next week," Frazier said. "For sure, he'd be ready if we were going to play our starters against the Texans (in the preseason finale on Aug. 30). But we may get him back next week."

The timeline isn't a surprise, since Carlson's injury -- a Grade 2 tear of the medial collateral ligament -- generally sidelines a player two to four weeks.

Asked if Carlson has had a setback, Frazier said, "No, no setbacks. It's just a two- to three-week injury in his case. So, we may have him back next week. We'll see."

Peterson ramping up

The next big step in Adrian Peterson's return from left knee reconstruction comes on Tuesday, when the star halfback becomes eligible to practice in pads for the first time.

Peterson went through individual drills on Monday in shells and football pants -- the most he was allowed to do under terms of the collective-bargaining agreement because he was just activated from the active/physically unable to perform list.

"We talked clearly about that, over-communicated clarity when it came to that," Frazier said. "But he's done everything we've asked him to do, and I know he's champing at the bit to put the pads on (Tuesday)."

Health watch

Cornerback Josh Robinson, the Vikings' third-round pick, practiced on Monday and figures to make his preseason debut this week after sitting out Friday's game after his problematic hamstring gave him trouble in practice.

"We look forward to him coming back," Williams said. "He was doing some very good things before he went out, and I'm excited about him being back and on the field and seeing him take that next step."

Safety Robert Blanton, a fifth-round pick, also practiced in pads on Monday, for the first time since he suffered a hamstring injury on July 30.

Halfback Jordan Todman (ankle) tried to practice again but "looked very ginger," Frazier said. "He didn't look like he's going to be ready. So, as we speak, he'd have to make a tremendous jump to be ready for Friday night."

End Jeff Charleston continued sit out because of what Frazier said were headaches, not the ankle that required an MRI last week.

Also continuing to sit out were guard Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery), nose tackle Letroy Guion (knee) and receiver Kamar Jorden (hand). They're all out for Friday's game.

Walsh on target

Special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he didn't say a word to rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh before Friday's game. He just wanted to sit back and enjoy the show.

Testing the strong crosswinds at Candlestick Park, Walsh kicked field goal and field goal, at one point hitting the left upright from 63 yards while 49ers kicker David Akers tried in vein to get a 55-yarder to the back of the end zone nearby.

"I was very proud of the way he reacted, because I've been around young kickers before and their eyes get real big," Priefer said. "They want to make a good impression like any young player. He did not. He came out and did a great job for us."

Walsh hit a 39-yard field goal to cap the Vikings' opening drive and a 26-yarder to cap the second. His kickoffs also were solid -- one 5 yards deep, one 8 yards deep and another through the end zone, all with good hang time.

"The lowest was right at 4.0 seconds," Priefer said. "When you get that with the distance, you get your kickoff team time to run down there and it makes people think twice about bringing it out after a while."

Walsh didn't have his best day in practice on Monday, missing wide left three times in eight attempts from between 30 and 44 yards. He later jogged on for a situational attempt in front of the whole team and converted from 42.

Staying downstairs

Williams said communication among the defensive coaches was "fantastic" at San Francisco and he intends to work from the field again on Friday.

Assistant position coaches Jeff Imamura, Diron Reynolds and Mike Singletary were the liaisons in the press box.

"They're a big help with the eyes in the sky to tell me kind of what's happening, who's doing what," Williams said. "I got great feedback from them, so that part was good. I didn't necessarily have to be upstairs to see it for myself, because the pictures as well as the experience upstairs was good and the guys on the sideline were outstanding.

"So, we'll try it again this week and see if, from the coaching staff, that we can keep some consistency in the communication and the way we operated on the sideline."

Quick hits

• Priefer wasn't pleased with the kick-return work of WR Stephen Burton, whose first return went for only 10 yards after a penalty and his second for 14. "Hopefully he'll just hit it and run, because he is a big body, so he's got to hit the seam right now," Priefer said of Burton, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds. "We don't want to dance. We never want to dance, especially on kickoff return because that seam closes so quickly."

• A brief scrum ensued after DE D'Aundre Reed punctuated an offsides penalty by shoving G Austin Pasztor after he crossed the line of scrimmage. T Pat Brown responded by shoving Reed before things cooled down.

• QB Christian Ponder was 8-for-12 passing in team (11-on-11) drills. Joe Webb was 11-for-12, Sage Rosenfels 7-for-11 and Bethel-Thompson 0-for-2.

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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