Notebook: Asher Allen has become a spectator in cornerback competition
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Asher Allen entered training camp hoping to compete for a job playing in the nickel defense for the Minnesota Vikings.
But with only one preseason game to go before the team opens the regular season on Sept. 11 in San Diego, there is now some question whether Allen even has a spot locked up on the 53-man roster.
The cornerback, who was taken in the third round out of Georgia in 2009, hasn't practiced since Aug. 17 because of a toe injury. He said he injured it during a practice and initially thought he could play through the pain before the decision was made to rest him.
Allen sat again Monday as the Vikings held the first of two practices this week before playing host to Houston on Thursday night at the Metrodome. He won't play in that game, meaning he will have missed three of the four exhibitions.
As things stand now, it appears Chris Cook is going to win the spot as the third corner when the Vikings go to five defensive backs. Cook sat out Monday after feeling some discomfort in his left hamstring on Saturday but he is expected to be fine. He also won't play Thursday.
"It's hard to do anything when you're injured," coach Leslie Frazier said when asked about Allen. "It's out of his control. He just has to get healthy."
While Allen tries to get back on the field, former Gopher Marcus Sherels has put together a solid camp. Sherels, like Allen, would play inside in the nickel. Rookie Brandon Burton, a fifth-round pick, also has gotten a chance to make an impression.
Allen played in 14 games last season and started 11 as the Vikings dealt with injuries to Cook and right corner Cedric Griffin (knee).
"You know what?" Allen said when asked if he was concerned about falling behind. "Competition is competition and if I can't be out there I try not to worry about that and just let everything take care of itself."
Allen, though, knows he might not have a roster spot locked up.
"You never know, you never know," Allen said. "But that's something I try not to worry about and just let everything take care of itself."
Allen was one of eight players to sit out today's practice. Also included on that list were running back Lorenzo Booker (back strain), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hip), cornerback Chris Cook (hamstring), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), cornerback Devon Torrence (quadriceps) and offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (concussion).
Right tackle Phil Loadholt was absent but Frazier said that was because of a family emergency.
As far as Booker's injury, he is expected to be ready for the opener, according to Frazier.
Kevin Williams returns
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams returned to practice after sitting out last week as he dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Williams did not play Saturday against Dallas.
"I ran pretty good," said Williams, who will sit out Thursday's game. "It wasn't real physical. It was a lot of hand work and running. So, it wasn't too bad. I needed to run."
Frazier said he's "pretty optimistic" that Williams will be ready for the San Diego game.
"He moved around fairly well, much better than I anticipated," Frazier said. "He was able to go through some of the drills. I wasn't sure if he'd be able to do that. Hopefully (Tuesday) he can do a little bit more, but we've got some time before that first game. So I'm optimistic that he'll be ready."
Also back practicing were running back Toby Gerhart (ankle, Achilles') and linebackers Kenny Onatolu (foot) and Ross Homan (concussion).
The plan for Thursday
Donovan McNabb did not practice Monday and will be held out Thursday, something that is standard for many veterans in the fourth preseason game.
Rookie Christian Ponder, who was the third quarterback to play for the Vikings against Dallas, will get the start and be followed by Joe Webb. Rhett Bomar, who did not take a snap in the preseason, was released on Monday.
Frazier said the competition continues for who will be the second quarterback. "We definitely want to see both guys, Christian along with Joe, create some separation for that No. 2 spot," Frazier said. "Maybe this game will be an indication of which guy should be No. 2."
Frazier did not say how many veterans will sit out this game but the majority probably will spend the night watching from the sideline. Frazier said Shiancoe definitely will sit again, meaning he won't have played in a preseason game.
"We feel pretty good he'll be ready for our opener," Frazier said. "But if we were playing a real game he probably could play. But we'll wait."
The Vikings will have to cut their roster from 80 to the regular-season limit of 53 players by 3 p.m. Saturday.
"We still have some competitive work to be done at certain positions," Frazier said. "I think the guys know going into this final game there are still some opportunities for them to make our team and help our team improve at a number of different spots. So we do have certain spots where we know we have our starters in place. But we do have some places up for positions as well."
It's a snap ... well it should be
Center John Sullivan struggled at times with his shot-gun snaps on Saturday, a problem he had last year at times with Brett Favre. The issue is that some of the snaps seem to hang up as they approach the quarterback instead of being delivered like fastballs.
"It is something that we do work on and he's been working on," Frazier said. "He's conscious of [it]. We just have to continue to work to where he's consistently good in that area. Hopefully that will happen. We'll just get to the point where it's not an issue over time."
Heck of a deal
The Vikings are running an interesting promotion through their website, offering a 50 percent dicount on 1,000 upper level tickets for their first two home games.
The Vikings will open their home schedule on Sept. 18 against Tampa Bay and then play host to Detroit the following Sunday.
"It's a unique opportunity for some fans that maybe wouldn't normally attend a Vikings game," said Jeff Anderson, Vikings' director of corporate communications. "They'll have a chance to do so. It's kind of embracing social media (the discount was promoted through Facebook), it's taking a look at just trying something out and seeing out how it goes over. Ultimately the goal is to make sure we have a sold out stadium and a packed house for the home opener."
The Vikings, like all NFL teams, must have a sell out of their home games 72 hours before kickoff or the game can be blacked out locally.
"I can tell you, we believe (the home opener) going to be a sell out," said Anderson, who declined to say how many tickets remain.
• Frazier will give players the weekend off after Thursday. Practice in preparation for the regular-season opener will begin next Monday.
• Running back Caleb King, a rookie free agent signed out of Georgia after he was passed over in the supplemental draft, should see some playing time Thursday. He did not appear in the Dallas game. "We're going to try to get a chance to take a look at him," Frazier said. "We're kind of feeding him some information right now so he'll have confidence before the game."
• Cornerback Antoine Winfield left Saturday's game after suffering a stinger in his right shoulder. The injury provided the Vikings with a scare. "Oh, baby," Winfield said, laughing. "(It's) stiff. I came in and hit (tight end Jason) Witten. He's a big guy. My whole right side went numb. But I'm good to go now." Winfield is listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. Witten is listed at 6-6, 263 pounds.
• Frazier said Torrence won't play Thursday, meaning the Vikings depth at cornerback will be limited.
Tom Pelissero contributed.