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Updated: September 6th, 2010 8:53pm
Pelissero: Options available, but Vikings willing to wait for corner help

Pelissero: Options available, but Vikings willing to wait for corner help

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings are one injury away from special teamer Husain Abdullah becoming their nickel cornerback.

That's the best way to elucidate the gravity of the Vikings' cornerback shortage entering Thursday's season opener at New Orleans.

Antoine Winfield, Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen are the only healthy corners on the roster. If one of them goes down, the next man in presumably would be Abdullah -- a backup safety being asked to cover the slot against Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees and the multitude of weapons the Saints can spread out simultaneously in the passing game.

"I'm sure they will," Winfield said on Monday. "I'm sure they're reading the papers, looking on the Internet, reading that we only have three corners. So, we can expect that."

The Vikings addressed depth on the offensive line on Monday by signing two players to the practice squad. They can get by entering the season with only four receivers.

The cornerback shortage is the remaining elephant in the personnel room, with only one more practice remaining before the Vikings head to New Orleans -- probably too little time to get someone off the street ready even for emergency duty.

"It would be nice," Winfield said, when asked if he's lobbying for help. "But that's not up to me. The coaches make the decisions."

The Vikings placed no waiver claims over the weekend, according to NFL sources, nor did they move quickly to sign any of the vested veterans who became available by 5 p.m. Saturday.

By all appearances, they're betting that Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin will be back sooner than expected. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier wouldn't even rule out Griffin for Thursday, although three practices seems an impossibly short window for evaluating the readiness of a player with a robust contract who is coming off knee reconstruction.

"Whoever's dressed, they're going to play hard and give us the effort that they always give us," Frazier said. "But we'll definitely need it on Thursday night."

Asked if there were any No. 4-type cornerbacks released over the weekend, an executive in personnel for an AFC team scanned the NFL's internal transactions wire and quickly rattled off 10 "legitimate" options.

"There is going to be a pool of players that they can look at here," the executive said. "None of them are frontline guys -- they're all basically fourth, fifth corners that have got a little bit of reserve, contributing experience."

By far the most intriguing is Jacques Reeves, who started 29 games with Dallas and Houston in 2007 and '08 before a broken leg derailed him last season.

The Texans released Reeves, 27, on Saturday rather than pay him $3 million in base salary this season. But as of Monday morning, NFL sources said, the Vikings weren't among the teams who had shown interest.

Others included Dre' Bly (age 33, 12th season, released by Detroit), Travis Fisher (30, ninth, Baltimore), Eric King (28, sixth, Detroit), Tye Hill (28, fifth, Tennessee), Karl Paymah (27, sixth, San Francisco), Scott Starks (27, sixth, Jacksonville), Cletis Gordon (27, fifth, Dallas), Kevin Hobbs (27, fourth, Miami) and tweener Macho Harris (24, second, Philadelphia)

All of them were due less than $1 million in base salary this season under their old deals and presumably could be had on the cheap.

The names of Hill and Paymah jump out because the former visited the Vikings in March and the latter played for them last season. However, NFL sources said the team hasn't shown interest in them either.

So, it's on to New Orleans with the guys the Vikings have. And barring a startling late development, all they can do is play the odds and hope their three healthy cornerbacks can stay that way for all 60 minutes on the same field where Griffin blew out his knee 7½ months ago.

"That's tough, to go into the season with only three, right now, healthy bodies," Winfield said. "But this is our job. This is what we do. We have to go with who's healthy."

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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