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Updated: August 30th, 2011 4:56pm
Notebook: With jobs to sort out, Vikings likely to rest most starters

Notebook: With jobs to sort out, Vikings likely to rest most starters

by Tom Pelissero and Judd Zulgad
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It appears Donovan McNabb won't be the only Minnesota Vikings starter sitting out Thursday's preseason finale against Houston.

Right guard Anthony Herrera was the only probable starter taking first-team reps in practice on Tuesday, strongly indicating the Vikings will use all 60 minutes to evaluate second- and third-stringers.

That includes quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Joe Webb, who each are expected to play a half against the Texans.

"It is (a big night), but it's just another step in the process," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, referring to the quarterbacks. "It's not a make-or-break for anybody. It's just another chance for those guys to grow and develop and show some improvement, we hope."

The game could be make or break for players on the bubble, of course, and at least a couple of positional decisions still must sort themselves out.

Herrera could start because the Vikings need to get a better gauge on his stamina following knee reconstruction. Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford both figure to work at strong safety. And defensive end Everson Griffen is expected to take about half his snaps at weakside linebacker so coaches can evaluate him there.

"Some of the teams I've been in the past, the 53 is pretty set by the fourth preseason game, and I don't think it is here," special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "The competition for those spots is really going to come down to mainly the play on special teams for a lot of guys on Thursday night, so it should be fun."

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), halfback Lorenzo Booker (back), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hip), offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (concussion) and cornerbacks Asher Allen (toe), Chris Cook (hamstring) and Devon Torrence (quadriceps) missed both days of practice this week and won't play against the Texans.

Halfback Toby Gerhart (ankle/Achilles) practiced both days, but Musgrave indicated the rotation there likely will feature Tristan Davis, Alexander Robinson and perhaps Caleb King "on a limited basis."

Safety competition continues

For the second straight week, defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said neither Sanford nor Johnson has pulled clear in the safety race.

This could be seen two ways: either the competition has been very spirited, or Sanford and Johnson both have failed to wow the coaches.

"That's a tough question," Pagac said, when asked if he would have hoped one of the safeties would have grabbed the job by now. "Both kids have worked their butts off this year. They're doing a good job right now. I'm happy with both of them right now, and we'll continue to see what happens."

If anything, Sanford seems to have a slight edge. He has started two of the first three preseason games, made an impressive third-down tackle of Dallas tight end Jason Witten on Saturday night and intercepted two passes in practice on Tuesday.

Pagac said a decision on whether Sanford or Johnson will start will be made on Wednesday.

Griffen experiment continues

A day after the switch was announced, Pagac said he's intrigued by the thought of using Griffen in a standup role.

"He's a very good athlete, a great athlete, has good knowledge," Pagac said. "Before it's all said and done, he's going to be a good defensive end (and) he might end up being a heck of a linebacker, too. We just want to check his movement from behind the ball."

Linebackers coach Mike Singletary didn't hold back on Griffen in the early portion of Tuesday's practice, sending him back through a drill several times.

Like Frazier, Pagac said moving Griffen has "nothing to do with Erin (Henderson)'s performance" at the position.

"We're hunting for a final 53," Pagac said. "We're counting numbers right now. We're trying to find out what the numbers will be at a later on point and find out who can help us at certain positions."

Not his fault

Priefer acquitted DeGeare of blame for the blocked field goal in Saturday's exhibition, even though the player who blocked it, Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh, jumped over DeGeare's shoulders.

"He was doing what he was asked to do, and we just made the sideline adjustment and we're going to make adjustments from there on," Priefer said. "I'm glad it was the preseason."

According to Priefer, coaches teach guards to be extremely low in their stance to stop teams that try to rush the kick by double-teaming inside. Priefer said officials' decision not to flag Sensabaugh for leverage was correct even though he boosted himself on other players.

"You're allowed to do that, as long as you're on your feet and you go back up in the air," Priefer said. "It was a great play by that young man. I haven't seen many athletic plays like that before. That was a heck of a play by (number) 43. He did a great job."

Quick hits

• RT Phil Loadholt returned to practice after missing Monday's session because of what coach Leslie Frazier called a family emergency.

• With WR Percy Harvin likely getting the day off and Booker sidelined, CB Cord Parks, WR Stephen Burton and perhaps CB Marcus Sherels will get a look on kick returns, Priefer said.

• Sherels and WR Jaymar Johnson remain the front-runners on punt returns, but veteran WR Greg Camarillo remains an option if the team would need a sure-handed fair catch or someone to play a punt close to his own goal line.

Judd Zulgad contributed.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 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
Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd