When a football team makes a decision to demote a player from his starting position, there is always a ripple effect that takes place. Whether it's the "next man up" mentality that follows an injury, the decision to bench Donovan McNabb in favor of Christian Ponder or an off-the-field type of incident that led to Chris Cook's suspension, the impact of those decisions go much farther than simply the player involved. It impacts a lot more players and, in some cases like the Ponder decision, the entire locker room.
However, the decision to outright release Bernard Berrian after he became an internal distraction has a significant impact on the Vikings receiver corps. The result of Berrian being removed from the roster has resulted in a major shakeup among the receivers. For three of them – Michael Jenkins, Greg Camarillo and rookie Stephen Burton – the elimination of Berrian will directly impact their roles in the Vikings offense. While each of them were friendly with Berrian, they understand the business of the NFL doesn't stop for any single player and they need to pick up the slack – if there is slack that needs picking up considering Berrian's minimal contribution to the offense. While he caught just seven passes in the first seven games and was inactive twice, Berrian was on the field for the majority of snaps and those will have to be divided up – even more so if Percy Harvin is sidelined with nagging injuries. Each of the three is expected to see his role expand and is looking forward to the challenges.
Michael Jenkins: New Go-To Guy?
With Berrian inactive last Sunday against Green Bay and Harvin sidelined in the second half, Jenkins became the primary downfield receiver for Ponder. He responded with the first 100-yard receiving game of the season for the Vikings. He said he doesn't know how the division of targets will shake out, but said he's ready to become a bigger part of the offense and lead by example.
"I just look forward to making plays and taking advantage of the opportunities that come my way," Jenkins said. "Hopefully, I can continue to keep having big games like that."
He said he can see improvement in the offense on a daily basis as Ponder gets more chances to work individually with his receivers and get a better rapport with them. The best thing Ponder has in his favor, Jenkins said, is that he is supremely confident and has been since he first arrived at training camp in late July.
"As he gets more and more comfortable and gets more snaps, it will build confidence and chemistry and we're looking forward to it," Jenkins said. "He's already confident. I wasn't surprised how confident he was. He showed it every time he stepped in. He played well in the preseason. That's what you expect from your leader – from your quarterback. He has it."
Will Jenkins continue to be the main man in the passing offense? Even he doesn't know, but he said he will be ready, willing and able to continue to build on his big game vs. Green Bay as the offense moves forward.
"That's up to the coaches," Jenkins said. "I'm just going to try to make plays when the ball comes my way and let them make the play calls."
Greg Camarillo: Back From the Dead
Earlier this season, Camarillo was the odd-man out in the Vikings passing game. For the first time in his career, he was a healthy inactive and typically wouldn't find out for sure until Sundays, when he would find a T-shirt in his locker rather than a uniform and a helmet. He said he got an inkling early in those weeks when he would look at the team depth chart, but didn't let it get him down. If anything, it motivated him to work harder.
"Every week that you look at the depth chart and don't see your name there, you could take it one of two ways," Camarillo said. "One, you could shut it down, or, two, you could look at it and say you have to work harder. I've been trying to work hard and hopefully that will turn into more opportunities on the field."
Camarillo said being separated from the team on game day was difficult to handle, but, as a professional, he understood that it comes with the territory. As the Vikings struggled, Camarillo said it only heightened his frustration, but said when times were good it was even more difficult than when times were tough and the offense was sputtering.
"The rest of the team is warming up, getting excited, doing to the team introduction and the fans are cheering, that's when you really miss it," Camarillo said. "You would think it's harder when the team is not doing well because you think you could be out there making a difference, but the hardest is when the team is really doing well and you want to be a part of it."
Camarillo got a lot more playing time when he replaced Berrian on the active roster the last couple of weeks, but said he isn't sure if his opportunities will be greatly expanded now that Berrian is out of the picture. He said he hasn't changed his approach now from what he did when he was inactive and feeling he had to prove himself to get back into the game plan. He said each game is different and he isn't sure how many snaps he will take with the offense, but, whatever role he has, he will be ready to give what he can to the team.
"You never know until game day exactly what your role is going to be, but there's a chance now to get more playing time," Camarillo said. "Hopefully I can prove myself on the practice field and it will translate on the field."
Stephen Burton: Welcome To "The Show"
The most immediate beneficiary of the decision to cut Berrian was Burton. The rookie had spent the first seven weeks on the practice squad and, as a seventh-round draft pick, didn't know if he was ever going to get his chance to be on the active roster. He was taking care of some business Tuesday at Winter Park when he received a text message telling him he might want to head upstairs. When he did, he was informed that Berrian had been released and that he was being elevated to the 53-man roster.
"This is a dream come true," Burton said. "Hard work pays off. I'm just happy to finally get the opportunity to show people what I can do."
He said he hopes to be game-day active (Leslie Frazier said that's likely) and help in whatever role the team wants for him – as a receiver or a special teams player. He said he can't wait to come through the tunnel and be part of an NFL game that counts in the standings and fulfills his dream of being an NFL player.
"It's going be a magical moment for me, something special," Burton said. "Preseason was one thing, but now finally regular season is another thing."
Burton said that, while he hasn't been on the active roster, he and Ponder have formed a friendship since they were both drafted by the Vikings and have been building on their own on-field familiarity behind the scenes.
"Christian and I are really good friends," Burton said. "Once upon a time we sat there at the rookie symposium and got to know each other a little better. Now that we're here on the same team, we have to get some chemistry."
The release of Berrian is creating opportunities for all three players. For Jenkins, it has pushed him into the starting lineup opposite Harvin. For Camarillo, it has elevated him as a third-down receiver. For Burton, it has helped fulfill a dream of being on a 53-man roster. What they do with their opportunities is up to them, but all three have waited for this chance and, while not the perfect circumstances under which to see their roles expanded, the NFL is a game of opportunity and they all have their chance now to be difference-makers. Each of them embrace that opportunity and expect to make the most of it.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Berrian's release an opportunity for others
Viking Update Top Stories
3-for-1 NFL draft-week specialBuy one month of VikingUpdate.com and get the next two months free.
Viking Update4:59 AM
Report: Peterson finalizes two-year dealAdrian Peterson has a new home after agreeing to a two-year deal that will bring him back to Minnesota for Week 1 … playing against the Vikings.
Viking Update4:51 AM
Mayock on Vikings’ ‘splash’ decisionWithout a first-round pick, what does NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock expect from the Minnesota Vikings’ second-round pick?
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:36 PM
Former Vikings tackle calls it a careerThe Minnesota Vikings didn’t have Jake Long for long last year, but the Vikings will go down as the offensive tackle’s last NFL team.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 9:54 AM