Notebook: 11 Talks on 7

Rookies Tarvaris Jackson (number 7) and Jason Carter (number 11) built a rapport with each other in the preseason. So, as Jackson's playing time could increase in Detroit, see what the receiving end of the 7-11 combination had to say about the throwing end. Plus, get notes and quotes on other receivers, defenders playing through pain and clarification on a special teams philosophy.

Jason Carter and Tarvaris Jackson had never played together before they ended up on the same team with the Minnesota Vikings in late April.

Following a draft in which Jackson became the Vikings' final pick in the second round and Carter became a rookie free agent signee, the two started to forge a bond at the lower ranks of the team's depth chart.

"He's a great young man. He's a leader, and you always try to surround yourself with good people," Carter, the free agent wide receiver, said of Jackson. "Everything he threw me – whether it was a bad ball or a good ball – I just tried to catch it and let him know, ‘Hey, I've got your back.' Just throw it and I'll go up and get it for you. He made some throws to me and I made some pretty good catches when they were low balls."

Both of them started about as low on the depth chart as an NFL player can get during May minicamps. While Jackson was never in danger of being let go as the team's quarterback of the future, Carter survived the trade of fellow rookie free agent Hank Baskett to Philadelphia and the eventual releases of the more experienced receivers like Koren Robinson, Dez White, Kevin Kight, Kevin Kasper, Chris Jones, Ryan Hoag, Josh Davis, Todd Pinkston, Aaron Hosack and Maurice Mann.

And, despite making the move to and from the practice squad during the season, Carter remains a part of the Vikings, currently up on the 53-man roster where he has a chance to be active each Sunday.

So why is Carter an interesting story at this point in the season? He is the receiver most familiar with Jackson, who could be seeing more playing time these last four games.

"I want the Vikings to do good – bottom line. But when (Jackson) is in there, I'm watching him and critiquing him," said Carter. "He's just laid back out there. When he went in the game Sunday, I was really excited for him. I thought he did a great job when he went in. I wished I could have been out there with him. … I want him to do good, but I want Brad to do good also because Brad's the starting quarterback. We all do good when we win."

During the preseason, Carter had four catches, which actually tied for fourth on the team with all the receivers the Vikings were going through. But his early connections with Jackson and his 38.8-yard average and two touchdowns were what really stood out.

He said it only took him and Jackson – a connection they call 7-11 (because they're open all night) after their jersey numbers – about a week and a half to form a bond.

"We clicked like that and we've been clicking ever since. Even now when we go out there, if I get open I know he's going to find me," Carter said. "In the preseason, when he moved into the second group, I was with the second group. Hopefully I'm not too far behind him. … When you build a bond with somebody, you know what he's thinking or what he wants out of you."

Likewise, Jackson was quick to name Carter as the receiver with which he has the best rapport.

"We hooked up a lot in the preseason and scout team and stuff," Jackson said. "I feel confident in all my receivers, but me and him have the most chemistry because we were together a lot in the preseason."

Carter compared Jackson's arm to that of Brett Favre's and said receivers might have to spend additional time on the JUGS machine to become accustomed to Jackson's increased velocity.

"Brad has probably the best touch ball I've ever seen. Tarvaris is a gunslinger. There's not a ball he can't throw," Carter said. "He has a great deep ball and he fits the ball in tight spots, spots you wouldn't think he could get it into. … Sometimes you watch the ball in the meeting room and you don't really see the ball in the air, you just see the wide receiver catch it. You don't see it on film, you just see like a little blur."


The issue of dropped passes came up frequently last week at Winter Park.

"Basically, it's been killing us. We can't move the chains when we're dropping balls. Dropped balls will kill you. Last week, we had dropped balls and throughout the season we had dropped. We should have made plays and it kind of put us in a bad situation," Carter said.

"I just think as a wide receiver group, we just need to focus more on the ball. … When I go out there, all I focus on is the threads of the ball and just catching it out in front. Nothing else matters.

"Sometimes in the West Coast offense you have a lot on your mind, thinking about this and that, and when the ball gets on you, you're just not focusing on snagging it out of the air. Us as a wide receiver group, we've just got to get it cleaned up."

Carter showed his sure hands during the preseason, but he hasn't had any game time since.

Instead, against the Bears last week, the Vikings for the first time deactivated 2005 first-round draft choice Troy Williamson after his numerous drops this season.

Last week, the plague seemed to "catch" hold of the previously reliable Marcus Robinson.

"Usually it is a thing that becomes contagious," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of dropped passes. "I know in the past where I've been before, sometimes you get a practice where there's not a ball on the ground, and then the next day you will get one ball on the ground and all of a sudden there will be about four or five. So it can be a contagious thing, it's something that we are working on, that we'll get corrected, that needs to stop, and we'll get better."


Going against Detroit's 31st ranked rush defense and with injury questions dotting several positions, it's possible Williamson could be deactive again this week as the Vikings may want to ensure enough depth at other positions.

That would mark the second straight week of him being deactive, which would be quite the fall from grace for a former first-round pick. Childress didn't rule out some extreme measures to help Williamson improve.

Asked if he'd given any thought to having Williamson work with a sports psychiatrist, Childress said, "I think probably he'd have to give some thought to that. But as I mentioned, he's putting himself in a position out here doing everything he can to improve. I think you visit all of that stuff down the road … There is some value to it, yeah. Yeah, there is. When you have Olympians doing it, something is right. Whether it's the soccer team or the basketball team, skiers, that's good stuff."


Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin seems to appreciate two of his starters who are playing through pain.

Linebacker Napoleon Harris has been playing with a hard cast on his dislocated wrist with a wrapping over it. He missed two games but has started each of the three games since re-entering the lineup.

"Any time you are playing football with a big club on your hand, it limits you in some ways. It didn't limit him last week in terms of catching the ball (he had an interception), so we're excited about that," Tomlin said. "Napo is a tough guy. He's a football player. He understands that part of playing this game is playing it in less than ideal conditions. When you face an injury, that's exactly what it is, but he's going to ante up and deliver for his teammates."

Defensive tackle Pat Williams has been playing with a knee injury that had him listed as doubtful for a day before the Chicago game, but he played with the discomfort and looks like he will do the same thing in Detroit.

"Pat is a tough guy. He's not going to complain about the labor pains; he's just going to deliver the baby," Tomlin said. "That's just his mentality and we respect him for that. I'm sure it's bothersome at times, but he's going to show on Sundays."


The Vikings gave up a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Arizona on Nov. 26 and a 45-yard punt return for a touchdown the next week against Chicago. Their task doesn't get much easier in Detroit with the likes of Eddie Drummond returning kicks.

Minnesota also has shown some mistakes in returning punts as well. Mewelde Moore has fielded a number of punts inside the 10-yard line this year, which is often considered poor judgment.

"Basically because the punters are so well at putting that ball and letting it stick inside the 10-yard line, for the most part, conditions can come into play, but you're going to give them an 8-yard rule," said special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro. "They're going to field anything from the 8-yard line out. Anything beyond that you're going to let go because the odds are if it hits behind the 8-yard line, it's going to bounce into the end zone. That's what we work off as a rule. Certainly wind conditions and other things can come into play."

But Ferraro stands by Moore as his first-string punt returner.

"Mewelde has done an outstanding job," Ferraro said. "He's made two poor decisions out of 34 times. If you were evaluating an offensive or a defensive player out of 34 snaps, maybe once or twice they don't do the right thing. I believe in Mewelde Moore. I think he's one of the best returners in this league. I think that will show itself on Sunday."

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