Notebook: The Pinner Advantage

The Vikings might not use the advice that running back Artose Pinner had regarding his old team, the Detroit Lions, but he did say he had some insight. Plus, see what two rookie defensive backs had to say about their increasing roles, and get other various quotes from the Vikings and Lions.

Vikings running back Artose Pinner hasn't had a carry yet this season, but he could be a valuable asset for the Vikings this weekend even if he doesn't see much time on the field.

Pinner played for the Detroit Lions for three years before joining the Vikings prior to the start of the regular season, which was shortly after the Lions released him, and that familiarity with the Lions offense, defensive personnel and especially the special teams could be something that benefits Minnesota in the Metrodome Sunday.

"I have an idea of what the special teams coach thinks as far as techniques, what he likes to do, maybe give insight on that," Pinner said. "If I'm blocking on kickoff coverage, the techniques that he teaches and emphasizes to them, being aware of a bunch of different things, maybe I can give the guys on our special teams a heads-up on a lot of different things."

While the Lions have a new head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, they have the same special teams coach, Chuck Priefer, as they had during Pinner's time in Motown.

"Watching them on film, nothing has changed as far as the gimmicks or the basic techniques he emphasizes," Pinner said. "With Detroit, there weren't a lot of gimmicks. You'd have to go deep into our (playbook) to find a lot of trick plays."

Realistically, though, there isn't much about kick returner Eddie Drummond that doesn't show up on film. He is simply one of the best return men in the league right now, making the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season, when he returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. He ranked first in punt returns (13.1 yards) and second in kickoff returns (26.6 yards) in 2004.

Pinner said Drummond would have been a Pro Bowler again last year if it weren't for a knee injury he suffered in October 2005.

"He runs with reckless abandon and he trusts the wedge," Pinner said. "When you watch him on film, maybe the wedge doesn't open up like he expects it to, but he still hits it. A lot of kickoff returners, they chop their feet if it's not there. He's going to hit it, and he has great speed, great quickness. He's very shifty to make plays."

Pinner has been used on four kickoff returns for Minnesota this year, but he said his role on offense is expanding as well, at least in practice.

"Gradually each week I get a little more practice time," he said. "As you practice and not just practice well, but error-free, the coaches develop more trust in you."

He has gotten into the game on passing plays and picked up the blitzes, which doesn't surprise him since picking up the blitzes was done in a similar fashion in Detroit.

TWO ROOKS READY

Two rookie defensive backs – cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Greg Blue – will be counted on as the season progresses, and this week could be one of those times.

Griffin, who said he shared time with Michael Huff in Texas during his first year there, had been splitting time with Ronyell Whitaker in the nickel defense, but last Sunday in Buffalo, Griffin began seeing even more playing time. That increase could continue this week, as cornerback Antoine Winfield has missed practice time with a quadriceps injury.

"This is the NFL, so you're almost expecting to play if you're on the roster, so I go in there with the mentality that I'm going to play. … I'm going out there and expecting to play, and when my name is called I go and perform," Griffin said.

Whether he needs to sit and wait more before becoming a full-time starter or if he gets his first chance this weekend, Griffin is ready to roll with the punches.

"My goal is to start in the NFL, whether that be here or that be anywhere. … I'm not going to rush it and I'm not going to cry," said the second-round draft pick. "I just need to be patient and learn everything I can from Fred (Smoot), Antoine and Darren (Sharper) so I can go in there and be ready to go.

"If someone would happen to go down, I could definitely step up. That's what this league is all about. The NFL has great players, so if one man goes down, the next man has to step up."

Blue, the fifth-round draft pick at safety, said he played two or three series at the end of the Buffalo game in relief of starter Darren Sharper, who was also battling a leg injury.

Like Griffin, the increased time at the professional level doesn't seem to both Blue. He started the season opener at free safety in place of Dwight Smith, who was deactivated for what is thought to be disciplinary reasons, and then returned to a backup role.

Now, Blue has to be ready in case Sharper, the strong safety, suffers a setback.

"When I first got here, they trained me at both positions, so there really wasn't any trouble because we ran a similar defense at Georgia. It was a lot different terminology and a lot of different plays, but I understood it better," Blue said. "We're interchangeable, really. One safety is going down in the box and the other will be back in the hole somewhere. As long as you communicate, you'll make it much simpler."

That communication between Smith and Blue late in the game against Buffalo came in handy. Blue ended a critical fourth-quarter drive by Buffalo when he stuck Roscoe Parrish for a 4-yard loss on a third-down wide receiver screen with a de-cleating hit that made ESPN's top "Jacked Up" plays.

"It was just a regular play. I got help on it from Dwight. He communicated. There was something that gave it away," said Blue, who gained a reputation for big hits at Georgia and didn't seem all that impressed with that one.

NOTABLES AND QUOTABLES

  • The Vikings may or may not be on the verge of going on a winning streak, but making adjustments could be the key to getting one started, according to guard Artis Hicks.

    "Year to year, week to week, you've got to make adjustments on the run. The teams that can do that are the teams that get on that roll in the middle of the season and continue it on to the end of the season and the postseason," Hicks said. "Some teams kind of start out and kind of get their groove going and they get on a run and before you know it they've won five, six, seven games in a row. I think we're capable of doing that."

  • One of the fun battles to watch against the Lions will be Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers against Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.

    Lions coach Rod Marinelli was asked if Hutchinson was one of the few players who could handle Rogers one-on-one: "He's a good player - I like our guy," Marinelli said. "I have a lot of confidence in our guy and I believe in him and I'm looking forward to those matchups."

    Marinelli was then presented with an interesting question: Would he rather have his best against the Vikings' best or his best against the Vikings' worst. "When you have a tendency to put your best on their weakest, they have a tendency to chip or slide to you. So when you can get a best-on-best single you like to take those. If you can get a best-on-best, best-on-weak, you really like those," Marinelli said.

  • Smith on the similarities between the Lions offense and the Rams old offense under Mike Martz: "The structure, but of course they don't have the same athletes as St. Louis. They've got great athletes. They've got Roy Williams, Kevin Jones and (Jon) Kitna."

  • The Twins' divisional playoff series had Minnesota sports fans in a wait-and-see mode when it came to determining if the Twins or Vikings would be using the Metrodome on Sunday. If the Twins' series had gone five games, the Vikings' game would have been moved to Monday night. Asked last Monday about the situation, Vikings center Matt Birk didn't seem to care when he would square off against the Lions.

    "We could play tomorrow. Let's do it … It's football – just give us an hour's notice," he said.


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