Notebook: Bethel Johnson Catching On

Wide receiver Bethel Johnson is proving to be a solid – dare we say explosive – addition on offense as well as special teams.

Wide receiver Bethel Johnson only had five weeks of training in the Vikings' system going into last Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, but Johnson is becoming more a part of the offense each week.

Granted, Johnson only caught two passes against Green Bay, but they were among the most explosive plays the Vikings have had this season.

"You've got to go out every day and give your coach the confidence to put you out there. I don't think they brought me in just to sit around. That's the good thing," said Johnson, who admitted he got a lot more playing time Sunday than he had in the last three years.

After being signed on Oct. 10, Johnson has been returning kicks for the Vikings ever since and got involved offensively three weeks ago. To date, he has only five catches this season, but after catching passes of 40 and 35 yards on Sunday he is easily the team leader in receiving average at 20.8 yards per catch. (The next closest is Marcus Robinson at 15.4 yards.)

While Johnson says he is comfortable in the offense, head coach Brad Childress says Johnson is still in learning mode.

"I think it takes a little bit of time … but he has enough of an aptitude where he can factor in. Can he go out there and go up and down the field in a no-huddle or a two-minute? We know we're not in danger of that. He can do some things," Childress said.

Johnson said he feels comfortable with the Vikings offense after only five weeks of learning it because one of his former teams, the New England Patriots, also ran a complicated offense.

"I come from New England, which is a really complicated system and I was in New Orleans for like a month and they had the West Coast offense, so when I got here it was pretty much a similar system. It didn't take me that long to figure it out," said Johnson, who was never really an integral part of the Patriots offense. "New England, their system is different. They had their guys and I can't argue with how things were done there. They were successful. I'm here now and I've got a fair opportunity to take advantage of the opportunities they give me, so I'm grateful for that."

Johnson dropped a long pass from quarterback Brad Johnson against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 5 that would have been called back anyway because of penalty, but with Troy Williamson struggling to make catches on a consistent basis, Bethel Johnson could be the new deep threat in town.

STILL RETURNING

Of course, Johnson has contributed much more than just his five receptions for 104 yards. He has also been an explosive kick returner, averaging 24.8 yards, which would be higher if his 102-yard return Sunday wouldn't have been called back because of a penalty that didn't appear to aide Johnson's path the open field.

Johnson said it wouldn't do any good to argue the call because it won't be changed, but he is happy to be back in the league making explosive plays after a sprained MCL in the preseason led to his departure with the New Orleans Saints, who acquired him in a June trade with the Patriots.

"Whatever God gives you, you've just got to take advantage of it. He gave me this great opportunity. He was in control of the situation when I got here, and all I can do is walk with the situation he put in front of me," Johnson said.

EXPERIENCE WANTED

While the Vikings look for a replacement for fullback Tony Richardson, who has a broken thumb and broken forearm, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows Richardson's veteran presence will be hard to replace.

"Tony Richardson is a great leader on our team. He's a great leader in the locker room. He does a great job for us in the huddle. He's a calming influence. He has great experiences. I don't think that you can replace the experience that he has," Bevell said.

The Vikings were deciding between Jeff Dugan, Richard Owens, Jim Kleinsasser and Artose Pinner as options at fullback this week, according to Bevell.

GETTING EXPERIENCE

Bevell confirmed what Childress said Monday – that the offensive coordinator called a few plays on Sunday against Green Bay. Previously, Childress had called all the plays, but Bevell took one series in the second half.

He could get more opportunities to do that.

"I think it's just determined on a week-to-week basis, game by game, and maybe even series by series," Bevell said. "Like I said last Thursday, it hadn't happened up to that point. I had an opportunity last week and just go from there."

NOTES

  • The Vikings worked out defensive tackle Howard Green (Louisiana State) and defensive end Eric Taylor (Memphis), who was on the Vikings practice squad last year.

    Surprisingly, the Vikings hadn't worked out any other fullback candidates as of Wednesday evening.

  • The Houston Texans signed former Vikings practice squad player Earl Cochran to their practice squad.

  • The Detroit Lions released wide receiver Kevin Kasper, who spent the off-season with the Vikings, and signed wide receiver Corey Bradford.


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