Frazier talks opener; Allen, Smith ‘fine'

Jared Allen and Harrison Smith are ‘fine' after injuries Tuesday afternoon, but they could be among several starters that don't play Friday night.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that defensive end Jared Allen and safety Harrison Smith were "fine" after injuries sidelined them during Tuesday afternoon's practice.

Allen (ankle) and Smith (knee) were working with the first-team defense during Wednesday morning's walk-through practice. Even without Allen's injury, he wasn't going to play in Friday's game either way, Frazier admitted.

The playing time for the rest of the team's best players has yet to be announced.

The Vikings have spent almost two weeks getting to know what they have in terms of personnel on their 2013 roster down at training camp. But the team is preparing to take the next step as they complete their final preparation for their preseason opener against Houston at the Metrodome.

Head coach Leslie Frazier believes it about time the Vikings start hitting players in different-colored jerseys. While Frazier is pleased with the progress the team has made so far, it's time for the players to move on to the next step.

"I think to this point, we've had a very good training camp," Frazier said. "We've covered a lot of ground moving toward our first preseason game Friday night. It seems like our guys are really buying into how we want to get things done. That's always encouraging. Although we've been together throughout this offseason working as a team and trying to create a culture where our guys understand what it takes for us to be successful."

The importance of the preseason games, especially the first one, is much more to get player evaluations of those who are trying to earn a role on offense or defense and those on the roster bubble rather than vested veterans who have already solidified their spot on the 2013 roster.

In last year's preseason opener at San Francisco, the Vikings sat 14 players, including starters Adrian Peterson, Antoine Williams, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Percy Harvin. Don't be surprised if several frontline veterans sit out the opener this time around as well. A couple of them are actually injured, including Allen and Smith, who were limited in practice this week, but Frazier insisted their injuries are minor. Because it's not a regular season game, there may be among a dozen or so players that get the night off.

"Both are going to be fine," Frazier said of Allen and Smith. "There are no ill-effects from what occurred yesterday. They should both be fine."

Rookie CB Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) and LB Desmond Bishop (groin) aren't expected to play Friday night, either, Frazier indicated.

The standard plan is to let the starters (the ones that play) to get a series or two before turning the game over to the backups to make an impression on the coaching staff in a game situation. Thanks to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that limited the number of padded practices teams can have during training camp, the preseason games have taken on greater importance in the evaluation process.

"Whatever you determine as typical from our standpoint is a chance to get our players out there and evaluate a lot of players," Frazier said. "In today's NFL, the preseason has become a premium in that regard because of the limited amount of exposure you get in actual practices. Those preseason games have more importance because you're trying to identify the right 53."

Frazier is looking forward to the young players getting their chance to make an impression in live action because, for the most part, they haven't had the opportunity to go full strength during practices.

"As much as you try to simulate games in practice, it's different," Frazier said. "Being in that atmosphere at Mall of America Field for some of our young guys that may have never been in that situation before, we're learning a little bit more about them."

For the casual fan, Friday's game will include a lot of names they aren't familiar with as opposed to guys like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. For those whose jobs may be hanging in the balance, playing under the Friday night lights will be critical. For the coaches, it will be a chance to evaluate those players and see where the Vikings stand at this point of the preseason.

"We have some things we need to work on and I think this game will help us with that – from a timing standpoint, a chemistry standpoint," Frazier said. "There's a difference in lining up and playing against other competition and different defenses. Our personnel have been seeing some of the same looks since May. It will be good to line up against another opponent and get some different looks and situations. Then we'll a little bit better idea with some of those guys."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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