Carlson aiming for well-rounded role

John Carlson said he'll never be the blocker that Jim Kleinsasser was, but Carlson is getting a fresh start and looking to learn more about his role with the Vikings. He talked about playing with Kyle Rudolph, watching Kleinsasser on film and the expectations of returning home to Minnesota.

New Vikings tight end John Carlson isn't exactly sure what his role will be now that he joins his home-state team, but he's excited about the possibilities.

The Litchfield, Minn., native was the Vikings' biggest offseason free-agent acquisition, signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the team in March. He joins a position group that will see 50 percent turnover from 2011 to 2012 after the retirement of blocking tight end Jim Kleinsasser and the team's decision not to re-sign pass-catching tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

But one of the Vikings' emerging young offensive talents remains, fellow Notre Dame alumnus Kyle Rudolph.

"I think any time you join a team, there is no way to tell exactly what your role will be. I'm excited because Kyle is here. And to be able to play with another tight end like that, you've seen it around the league, it's possible to use two guys at the tight end position on the field at the same time and to have success," Carlson said after a workout at Winter Park earlier this month. "So I'm excited about that. I'm excited about how young the offense is and what they're building here. I'm excited about the running game."

The Vikings were top-six in the NFL for employing two- and three-tight end sets last year, but Shiancoe was used most often, garnering 76 percent of the offensive snaps. Rudolph was next with 47 percent and Kleinsasser was on the field for only 38 percent of the snaps.

Although Kleinsasser, a 13-year veteran of the league, retired and Carlson, drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Seahawks, joins the Vikings as their most experienced tight end, there isn't much comparison in their blocking prowess, Carlson acknowledged.

"I've also watched a lot of Jim Kleinsasser on film. I will never be the blocker that Jim Kleinsasser was. I can say that with 100 percent assurance," Carlson said. "Like I said, my goal is to be a well-rounded player. I won't be a Jim Kleinsasser, I know that much."

Carlson's forte is his receiving ability. In 2008, he caught 55 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns. However, over the next two seasons, he saw decreasing returns on each of those numbers except for touchdowns. In 2009, he had 51 catches for 574 yards and seven touchdowns, and in 2010 he produced 31 receptions for 318 yards and one touchdown.

Last year, Carlson's season was done before it began. A torn labrum in the preseason required surgery and he never played a down for the Seahawks.

Despite a return to his native Minnesota, Carlson, the son of a high school coach, said nobody's expectations of him will exceed his own.

"I think that the expectations that I have of myself, they don't change. I'd like to think that I expect more of myself than anyone on the outside could expect of me," Carlson said. "So in that sense, it doesn't matter where I'm playing. Yes, there will be more people here that knew me as I was growing up and there will be outside expectations, but I try to tune that stuff out.

"Believe it or not, I don't listen to local radio. I don't watch local news. I don't read the stuff in print while I'm in season because I don't want to hear what's being said. If it's good stuff, it's probably not completely true. If it's bad stuff, I want to forget that and move forward. That's kind of the approach I take."

For Carlson, the "good stuff" would likely be the start to his professional career. The "bad stuff" would be the injury that took him out of competition last year and a dip in his statistics in 2010, despite playing in 15 games.

The Vikings offer Carlson a fresh start. But what exactly his new team will expect out of him remains a bit unclear, at least until the organized practices start at the end of the month.

"What my role will be, I'm not sure, but my goal is always to be a well-rounded tight end and contribute in the running game and contribute in the pass game catching the ball. Then to pass block when I'm asked to," he said. "So if I continue to improve in those areas, my role will kind of be revealed as the season goes, as our offense develops an identity."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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And to be able to play with another tight end like that, you've seen it around the league, it's possible to use two guys at the tight end position on the field at the same time and to have success,\" Carlson said after a workout at Winter Park earlier this month. \"So I'm excited about that. I'm excited about how young the offense is and what they're building here. I'm excited about the running game.\" The Vikings were top-six in the NFL for employing two- and three-tight end sets last year, but Shiancoe was used most often, garnering 76 percent of the offensive snaps. Rudolph was next with 47 percent and Kleinsasser was on the field for only 38 percent of the snaps. Although Kleinsasser, a 13-year veteran of the league, retired and Carlson, drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Seahawks, joins the Vikings as their most experienced tight end, there isn't much comparison in their blocking prowess, Carlson acknowledged. \"I've also watched a lot of Jim Kleinsasser on film. 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