Five for five.
This is John Carlson's fifth NFL season. Bill Musgrave is his fifth offensive coordinator. Just when Carlson starts to understand his O.C.'s philosophy, he vaporizes and is replaced by another coach with a new and markedly different philosophy. He hasn't experienced dramatic or wildly divergent offenses, but five offensive coordinators in five years can raise up a little professional angst, even with a happy face put on the situation.
"I would like to have continuity," Carlson said. "I hope that we can have the same system here for a while, but that hasn't been the case in my experience and I think it's helped me to learn new offenses, to deal with different coaches. A lot of the offenses have similarities, run similar concepts, but there are different nuances to those particular offenses so you learn the game more from different angles, a different perspective. If anything, I'm a more well-rounded player because of it. The glass (is) half full."
Carlson's acclimation to his new offense with the Vikings has been based on more film study and applied geometry of where his route is assigned on a specific play than actual on-field application. His mind is right. His body may be another story after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in training camp.
"It's hard to sit out for three weeks, come back and be in tip-top shape," Carlson said. "I'm not there yet. I feel better today than yesterday and I'm going to continue to work up until game day."
He plans to play Sunday in the regular-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that would be his first game as a Viking after missing the entire preseason.
Carlson heads into Sunday's game with a recipe for success, but his time working the pots and pans to put the recipe together has been extremely limited. That will be the true test as to how quickly he has grasped his fifth different offense in five years.
"I'm pretty comfortable with the Xs and Os on paper, but it's different being out there – communicating with the tackle, reading coverages, developing that rapport with the quarterback," Carlson said. "That's different than knowing a playbook on paper. It wasn't ideal to miss training camp, but we're going to do the best we can to – between Christian (Ponder) and me – develop that rapport this week."
While he is convinced he will be on the field Sunday against Jacksonville, one thing that remains a question is whether Carlson will wear the cumbersome knee brace that has been adhered to his body since returning to practice last week. Getting rid of that will be a step in the right direction, but one Carlson isn't sure is coming just yet.
"It's kind of a day by day thing," Carlson said. "I'm going to continue to push it and see how far I can take things. Right now the brace helps so I'm going to keep wearing it until I don't need it."
There are more questions than answers when it comes to Carlson's role in the offense. When asked what he expects from the offense, if nothing else, he was honest. After all, he's only had a handful more practices with the Vikings than the fans watching them in Mankato – the only place fans have actually seen Carlson in purple.
"I don't know," Carlson said. "I've only gotten five practices in this year so far. It's not my place to make that statement. I'm just trying to get better every day."
Like everyone else, Carlson will find out on Sunday.
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.
New offenses old hat for Carlson
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