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Updated: November 2nd, 2012 3:05pm
Notebook: Without a role, Joe Webb trying to 'just stay in my lane'

Notebook: Without a role, Joe Webb trying to 'just stay in my lane'

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There's a part of Joe Webb that misses getting the Minnesota Vikings' game plan each Wednesday morning and finding out his latest role.

In his first two NFL seasons, Webb appeared in 16 games with three starts, playing some quarterback, some receiver and even returning a kickoff as coaches tried to find a niche for his unique athletic traits.

"It's a challenge. It's fun. It's entertainment to a lot of people," Webb said on Friday. "But it's nothing going on this year, so I just stay in my lane."

Through eight games, Webb has played three snaps, all in garbage time of the Oct. 7 blowout against Tennessee. His lone touch on offense was a kneeldown.

Temptation to revive the "Blazer" package might be rising for the NFL's 22nd-ranked offense. But Webb said his practice work continues to be limited to quarterback, splitting scout-team reps with McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

"That's the coaches' decision. I just leave it up to them," Webb said. "Whenever they do come to me with something, then I'll be all for it. But in the meantime, I'm just trying to get better."

The Vikings have been dressing only two quarterbacks on game day, with Bethel-Thompson among seven inactive players each week. Coach Leslie Frazier said that, along with a desire to avoid disrupting starting quarterback Christian Ponder's rhythm, are factors in keeping Webb on the sideline.

"He's been great," Frazier said. "We talked to him extensively about his role going into the season, and he's accepted his role.

"You're right -- Joe is an upbeat guy and he's continued to be that way through practice and meetings. He's a terrific young man, and a credit to him, accepting his role, because he's a talented player."

A sixth-round draft pick (199th overall) out of UAB in 2010, Webb signed a four-year, $1.978 million contract that included a $92,515 bonus. It expires after next season.

Not enough work

Toby Gerhart's role hasn't been exactly what he hoped either, though it's not difficult to see why he hasn't gotten much time.

Starting halfback Adrian Peterson has exceeded expectations in his return from left knee reconstruction and leads the NFL with 775 rushing yards on 151 carries (5.1 average).

The better Peterson has looked, the less work there has been for Gerhart, who has only one carry in each of the Vikings' past three games.

"Adrian's the back," Gerhart said. "He's the main guy. He's the best in the league. It's just the kind of role I've got to embrace at this point and be ready whenever I do get my name called and go from there."

For the season, Gerhart has 108 rushing yards on 31 carries (3.5 average) and 83 yards on 10 receptions while playing 137 of 531 offensive snaps (25.8%).

But he has played 14 snaps or fewer in four of the Vikings' past five games -- not ideal for a physical runner who needs to be fed to be most effective.

"I definitely feel like I'm a rhythm runner," Gerhart said. "I get better as the game goes on. I feel like I'm the type of guy that can wear down a defense. So yeah, it's difficult at times to get a snap in the first quarter and nothing until the fourth quarter, or one play here, one play there to get in a rhythm."

Gerhart dismissed any connection between his reduced workload and his three fumbles late in a win over San Francisco on Sept. 23. With Peterson continuing to nurse a sore ankle, there could be more work for Gerhart on Sunday at Seattle.

"We want (Peterson) to be our workhorse guy, but we're going to work Toby in there at some point," Frazier said. "What those numbers will be probably will be determined by how the game is going. But we're going into thinking that Adrian is going to get the workload, the majority of the workload."

No fear

Frazier said there is still no long-term concern about the health of tight end John Carlson, who hasn't practiced since suffering a concussion on an illegal blindside hit from Arizona safety Rashad Johnson on Oct. 21.

"I'm hoping not," Frazier said. "I'm hoping that we'll hear some good news when we come back next week."

Carlson, 28, reportedly had two known concussions while playing at Notre Dame and landed in the hospital in January 2011 after suffering another when his head hit the frozen Soldier Field turf during the Seattle Seahawks' divisional playoff loss to Chicago.

He signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings in March despite sitting out all of last season with a shoulder injury. A knee injury caused him to miss the preseason, though, and he has only three catches for 8 yards in seven regular-season games.

"We'd like to get him going," Frazier said. "We want to get him involved in our offense. We think he can really help us, and I'm hoping for his sake as well as ours -- concussions are a touchy, touchy matter. We're concerned about his health and hopefully, we'll have good news next week."

Secondary issues

Frazier declined to reveal who will replace Chris Cook at cornerback with the base defense, saying the announcement will come at game time for competitive reasons.

Rookie Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson both figure to play extensively regardless, with one rotating in with the heavily used nickel package.

Frazier did say Jamarca Sanford will start at safety, although Mistral Raymond could see time as well.

"He's making progress," Frazier said of Raymond, who was listed as questionable (50% chance of playing) on the injury report.

"We're still a little bit concerned about his conditioning. He did some good things, but you can tell that he needs some time in terms of being able to start or not start. I don't think he's at a point where we can start him in a game yet."

Quick hits

• Placing Cook on injured reserve with a broken arm left the Vikings with a spot on the 53-man roster. But that spot likely will remain open until next week, Frazier said. Teams suit up only 46 players on game day.

• Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns and Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne attended practice and visited with Frazier afterward.

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.
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