Vikings Notebook: Of Rookies and Scouts

In this wide-ranging notebook, we check in on rookies Greg Blue and Ray Edwards, getting comments from Blue and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. We also see which potential draftee the Vikings are scouting down south, get quotes from Carolina Panthers coach John Fox and receiver Keyshawn Johnson and find out about a number of former Vikings down south.

Rookie safety Greg Blue isn't expecting the unexpected Sunday when he enters the Metrodome locker room Sunday morning, but he wasn't expecting to start last Monday night at Washington in the Vikings' season opener either.

The Vikings deactivated safety Dwight Smith Monday night, apparently as a disciplinary measure for his citation for indecent conduct in the stairwell of a Minneapolis establishment during the preseason, and that meant Blue would be starting in his first professional game.

He didn't find out about his newfound role until he was in the pregame locker room Monday night – the timing planned out to limit Blue's ability to overthink his role.

"Absolutely," replied defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin when asked if the late notice was intentional. "Sometimes you play better when you've got less time to think about it. That was by design. But again, I say that tongue in cheek. Greg has shown us since day one, since he has been here, that he is a capable player. He's gotten better day by day and he's going to continue to do that."

Blue made a good accounting of himself, registering three tackles – as many as veteran safety Darren Sharper – and not getting burned deep.

"That felt really good that they did have confidence in me, but during the preseason I put a lot of good work on tape. That gave them confidence right there," Blue said.

Blue said playing in his first NFL game on the road in front of 91,000 fans didn't weigh too heavily on him.

"In college, I've played in front of 108,000 before. I know it's the NFL, but I was confident and I knew my assignment," said Blue, who gave himself a ‘B' grade.

"Under the circumstances, I think he did rather well," Tomlin said. "I think the ceiling for his game is much higher than he showed on Monday night, but he is a young guy. He, too, is not mesmerized by the bright lights. He is a very flat-line guy emotionally when it comes to playing football. I think that gives him the opportunity to potentially be a good player over the long haul. … He's always ready to answer the call, and I know that others are willing to do the same when their opportunity presents itself."

This week, Blue figures to return to backup duty on defense and contribute on special teams as Smith is expected to return to the starting role.

"I'm just out here to get reps with special teams this week, but in the NFL you never know what's going to happen," Blue said.


Blue was the Vikings' fifth-round draft choice in April. Defensive end Ray Edwards was the fourth-round choice, and another rookie that had a decent showing in his initial exposure to regular-season NFL football.

"I thought his play was solid. Of course, he has some areas in which he can improve. Mainly, it needs to take place on the practice field," Tomlin said of Edwards. "We've challenged him this week to step up in a big way in the special teams game. If we're going to be good, we have to play a complete game. It is more than just playing defensive end. He's got to be a quality special teams player for us, so that's what we're looking for from him this week.

Edwards had one tackle and batted one pass in the air that had a chance to be intercepted in his first action backing up starters Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James.

Despite the Vikings defense not getting a sack against Washington, Tomlin seemed relatively satisfied with the pressure applied to Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell.

"It was adequate, and that's what we control, to be honest with you. We control the kind of pressure that we apply to the quarterback," Tomlin said. "Whether or not we sack the quarterback, that depends on a lot of variables. Whether or not he is willing to stand in there and challenge us downfield or things of that nature. I thought we were successful at pressuring the quarterback. It showed up on our ability to get off on third downs. We're pleased with that. Sacks will come."


The man partially responsible for the Vikings' drafting of Blue and Edwards, director of college scouting Scott Studwell, is traveling on the job this week.

Studwell has been scouting practices all week in the deep South, taking in Alabama and Mississippi State. Saturday, he will be at the Jackson State-Tennessee State game (the game is on Direct TV Channel 630 at 6 p.m. CST). He will be targeting the only draftable player on the field, Tennessee State WR Mike Mason, according to a league source. Mason is 5-foot-11, 190 pounds and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.

According to TFY Draft Preview, Mason currently holds a late sixth- or seventh-round grade.


The Vikings worked out former Maryland offensive lineman C.J. Brooks earlier this week but did not make any immediate moves to sign him to the active roster, or, more likely, their practice squad.


Panthers head coach John Fox on his team being a preseason favorite for the Super Bowl: "Well, I think young minds are all fragile. Let's face it, there's only been one team in the league to go through undefeated, and at least my expectations weren't that we'd go through the season undefeated. We played one game, and we're 0-1. We're playing against a team that won their first game, and they're 1-0. There's still a lot of football left, and I think those things get answered between the lines and not in the newspapers."

Panther WR Keyshawn Johnson on being viewed as a player that could put Carolina over the top: "I don't know. I just do my job. I just come in here and catch balls and block and just do my job. I don't get caught up in what predictions there are. One week you're no good and the next week you're the player that's going to put a team over the top, so you tell me. One week you're the third best receiver on your team or you shouldn't be on the team, and the next week you're going to put the team over the top, so what the (heck) are you going to listen to that stuff for? People don't know what they're talking about."


While Koren Robinson gets set for his first game as a Green Bay Packer, another former Vikings receiver is getting used to life without probation again.

Anthony Carter pled guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in October 2003 based on allegations from his wife. He applied for his release from probation, and the probation department didn't oppose his request, shaving nearly two years off his expected term.


The team's second Vikings Locker Room retail store in the Twin Cities opened Friday at Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka. The original Vikings Locker Room store at Mall of America opened in August of 2003. The 1,800-square foot Vikings Locker Room, located on the lower level near JCPenney on the south side of Ridgedale Center, will continue to offer the latest Vikings merchandise, publications and fan collectible items.


The Arizona Cardinals made two moves with former Vikings earlier this week. They released center Shawn Lynch from their practice squad and signed linebacker Isaac Keys in his place. Both were with the Vikings in past off-season camps.

Right tackle Chris Liwienski, an eight-year veteran formerly with Minnesota, who was signed for veteran depth two weeks ago, started the opener and is expected to remain in the lineup at Seattle while Oliver Ross (knee) recovers from surgery. Ross likely is another week or two from returning. Liwienski did a decent job on short notice with his new team. He initially played for Cardinals coach Dennis Green in Minnesota and started nine games for the Vikings at LG last season.

Syndicated content contributed to this notebook.

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