Notebook: Bill Musgrave says he didn't get Donovan McNabb in a rhythm
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Bill Musgrave attempted to defend quarterback Donovan McNabb on Thursday in part by placing blame on himself for the struggles of the Minnesota Vikings' offense in a 24-17 loss Sunday in San Diego.
"He's done a fantastic job since he's been here from day one," said Musgrave, the Vikings' new offensive coordinator. "On Sunday, especially in the second half, we just didn't get him in a rhythm. When I say we, I mean really it starts with me. So we'll look forward to getting him in a rhythm from here on out."
Musgrave hopes to start that process on Sunday when the Vikings play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home opener.
McNabb completed only seven of 15 passes for 39 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Chargers. He had one completion and 2 yards passing in the second half.
The Vikings ran only 43 plays in the game, including 17 in the second half, and picked up only 26 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.
Running back Adrian Peterson, who gained 98 yards but was held to 24 in the second half, said he has all the confidence in the world in Musgrave.
"He's a great guy, smart," Peterson said. "I feel like he's always going to put us in position to win."
Of McNabb's 15 pass attempts only one went deep, and that fourth-quarter shot for wide receiver Bernard Berrian was underthrown and broken up by Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason.
"It is important," Musgrave said of taking down-the-field shots. "That's what we're based on is running the ball, featuring Adrian and at the same time getting our quarterback in a rhythm. Both down the field and also possession and control type passes. So that's what we want to be and that's what we will be."
Although McNabb came under frequent pressure against the Chargers, Musgrave said he thought the offensive line did a good job against a team that finished tied for second in the NFL in sacks last season with 47.
"I think our pass protection is quite good," Musgrave said. "The guys have done a good job of bonding together. We're happy with Charlie (Johnson) at left tackle.
"We've got our older guys, I should say our experienced guys at the guard positions. (John Sullivan's) had a super offseason. We know we feel good about Phil (Loadholt) at the right tackle. So our protection is doing well and we're looking forward to showing that in production from here on out."
Chris Cook, who is used at left cornerback in the nickel package, was called for pass interference and illegal contact in the second quarter on Sunday.
But defensive coordinator Fred Pagac was pleased with how the second-year player performed, saying Cook has gained confidence and grown up.
"The one penalty, he read it too quick was the problem," Pagac said, referring to the pass interference call against Vincent Jackson. "He was in perfect position. He was going for the interception. He took a bad angle on it. ... I think he's really grown up, though. He's maturing and he has to continue to build (on that)."
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 335 yards and two touchdowns but Pagac was pleased with the man coverage by the secondary.
With San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding suffering a season-ending knee injury on Sunday and being replaced by punter Mike Scifres, Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was asked if punter Chris Kluwe ever works on his kicking in case something were to happen to Ryan Longwell.
"I would hate for (Kluwe) to practice that during the week because it's totally different than a punting motion," Priefer said. "It's like having Ryan be a backup punter, it's totally different than the kicking motion. To me, it's not that essential. I don't think that you practice that. If it happens, he's got to be a pro and Chris would do that as Ryan would do that as a punter. If they are asked and called upon, I believe they'd go out and do a good job for us."
Priefer does have different players practice holding the ball for field-goal and point-after attempts in case Kluwe has to leave a game.
The Vikings did have to employ kicker Paul Edinger as their punter in a 2005 game at Detroit after Kluwe suffered a knee injury.
Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the season 103 yards for a touchdown but never touched the ball again on a kickoff.
Harvin wants to return kicks, and Priefer wants him in that role, but Frazier is trying to be cautious with how much he uses the wide receiver on special teams.
"It's never been an argument really," Priefer said of his discussions with Frazier about Harvin. "Obviously, I'm always going to do what our head coach wants and he and I are on the same page on many, many things. That's a great thing for me. It makes my job a lot easier, but when you have a guy with his talent and his caliber out there as a kickoff returner, it changes the game."
Interestingly, Priefer said he would have rather had Kaeding not leave Sunday's game because he felt the kicker would have booted the ball deeper than Scifres ended up doing.
Peterson's 2011 base salary dropped to $8.25 million under his new contract to facilitate added cap space from his bonus.
Peterson, who signed the seven-year deal that could be worth $100 million last weekend, will receive a base salary of $8 million in 2012. It jumps to $11.25 million in 2013 and $11.75 million in 2014.
Peterson had been scheduled to make a base salary of $10.72 million this season before signing the extension.
• Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow returned to practice Thursday after sitting out the previous day because of a non-injury related matter. Meanwhile, cornerback Myron Lewis (ankle) practiced on a limited basis after not taking part on Wednesday. Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (shoulder) was added to the injury report and was limited.
• The Vikings announced the Buccaneers have returned 400 tickets. Fans can go to the Ticketmaster website to purchase seats.
Tom Pelissero contributed.