Minicamp Notebook: Positions for Hire

While most of the starting positions on offense and defense are spoken for, a few glory positions on special teams remain open for the taking with a few surprising candidates in the mix. Plus, get more notes from Saturday afternoon's minicamp session.

After three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) and three-quarters of the way through the team's official and mandatory minicamp, not much is certain on the Vikings' special teams return units.

The only position that even has what can be considered a frontrunner is the kickoff return man, with running back Maurice Hicks the mostly likely candidate.

"As a veteran in this league that's done it time and time again, and I've mentioned before, he did a good job against us a year ago, certainly if we were going to play tomorrow, he'd be one of the first guys there," said special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro. "But Aundrae Allison got better as the year went on, so I think both those guys are going to be fighting for that job, and it's good that we have some options."

As a member of the San Francisco 49ers last year, Hicks had 63 kickoff returns for 1,502 yards (23.8-yard average). No other 49er had more than five returns. In a Week 14 game, Hicks averaged 34 yards on five returns against the Vikings in 2007.

But one of the surprises of OTAs in the previous three weeks was occasionally seeing star running back Adrian Peterson returning a kick. Last year, Peterson ranked third on the team with 16 kickoff returns and second in average yards per return (25.8), but even with his rising star at the running back position, the Vikings aren't completely abandoning the possibility of him returning kicks, at least not at this early point in the run-up to training camp.

"Adrian Peterson's still a guy that we're going to work back there," Ferraro said. "You saw him back here today. I'm not saying he's going to be back there every time, but he's a guy that people are going to have to realize that we could put him back there at any time. Chester Taylor did it in Baltimore. We're going to rep him some at that position. We're going to keep all of our options open, but we have greater depth and more talent, so I like where we're heading."

Allison led the Vikings as a rookie last year in returns (20), yards (574) and average (28.7), including a 104-yard touchdown.

PUNT RETURN POSITIONING

While the kick-return job at least has a frontrunner, the job for punt returner is much more undecided after the departure of Mewelde Moore to Pittsburgh via free agency. Moore and Bobby Wade essentially spit the duties returning punts last year, with Wade getting 16 returns for 112 yards (7-yard average) and Moore having 13 for 130 yards (10-yard average).

This year, there are a handful of possibilities all vying for the job, with a decent amount of youth.

"There is. We have a lot of options," Ferraro said. "I think you're going to see multiple people back there in the preseason, whether it's Chuck Gordon, whether it's Aundrae Allison, a Bobby Wade, even Bernard Berrian. He could be back there. I mean, probably not in training camp, but he's a guy that's done it and done it at a high level, so we're just going to have to see how it all works out. I like the fact that Chuck is a sure-handed guy. I like certainly Aundrae's quickness and speed. He just needs more reps at it. He's been getting better at it since we've gotten out here. I like where he's going too."

Hicks doesn't sound like a consideration for returning punts.

"No, that's not something that he does," Ferraro said. "Really he's more valuable on that team as a guy that's going to hold up and block for the returner. I'm excited about where he is as a kick returner, but it is a completely a different situation trying to catch a punt versus a kickoff."

TOGETHER AGAIN?

Last year, there were four games where either Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor was inactive with injuries. It worked out nicely that one was always available when the other wasn't. But what about both of them being on the field at the same time?

"We'll do everything we can to make ourselves successful," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We have two great backs back there. It was a nice 1-2 punch last year. There are times when we'll get them on the field together, but it will all depend on game-plan situations."

NOTES

  • One of the most refreshing scenes at this weekend's minicamp took place after Saturday's afternoon practice. After watching the first three sessions, owner Zygi Wilf, his son and a cousin were all throwing the football around and even running routes. When Viking Update asked Wilf what his time was at the NFL Scouting Combine, Wilf joked, "In the 40? About 40 seconds." Still, Wilf appears to keep himself in great shape and showed soft hands.

  • The Vikings have four coaches working this spring as part of the NFL's minority internship program. They are: Martin Bayless, who was an assistant defensive backs coach with the Houston Texans from 2006-08 and played in the pros from 1984 to 1996 with the Cardinals, Bills, Chargers, Chiefs and Redskins; Michael Bryant, an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with Prairie View A&M; James Franklin, an offensive coordinator/QB coach/assistant head coach with Maryland; and Joe Panos, who played in the NFL from 1994-2000 with the Eagles and Bills.

  • Allison continued a good offseason with a diving catch on a pass from Tarvaris Jackson during seven-on-seven work.

  • Gus Frerotte showed his veteran savvy on one play by diagnosing a blitz before the snap, making an adjustment and connecting with a receiver on a quick route.

  • John David Booty had the "thread the needle" pass of the camp when he slipped a pass narrowly between two defenders and into the arms of rookie receiver Nate Jones. Jones was also the recipient of a pass slipped perfectly between zone coverage by Frerotte later in practice.

  • Tidbit of the day: Undrafted rookie Brandon Sumrall, a cornerback from Southern Mississippi, is the cousin of NFL safeties Dawan and LaRon Landry. Dawan is with the Ravens and LaRon was the first-round draft pick of the Redskins last year.

  • The "near-catch" of the day came on a bullet from Tarvaris Jackson that sailed a bit high, glancing off the hands of Robert Ferguson. Allison, running a deeper route, nearly made the circus diving catch, but the ball hit the ground first.

  • Taylor found a few nice openings in the middle of the field Saturday afternoon, one on a run play and another on a pass play.

  • Following the afternoon practice, defensive end Ray Edwards said he had a lower back injury that has kept him out of minicamp practices this weekend. After the morning practice, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier indicated he didn't think it was anything serious.


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n","mobileBody":"After three weeks of organized team activities (OTAs) and three-quarters of the way through the team's official and mandatory minicamp, not much is certain on the Vikings' special teams return units.

    The only position that even has what can be considered a frontrunner is the kickoff return man, with running back Maurice Hicks the mostly likely candidate.

    \"As a veteran in this league that's done it time and time again, and I've mentioned before, he did a good job against us a year ago, certainly if we were going to play tomorrow, he'd be one of the first guys there,\" said special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro. \"But Aundrae Allison got better as the year went on, so I think both those guys are going to be fighting for that job, and it's good that we have some options.\"

    As a member of the San Francisco 49ers last year, Hicks had 63 kickoff returns for 1,502 yards (23.8-yard average). No other 49er had more than five returns. In a Week 14 game, Hicks averaged 34 yards on five returns against the Vikings in 2007.

    But one of the surprises of OTAs in the previous three weeks was occasionally seeing star running back Adrian Peterson returning a kick. Last year, Peterson ranked third on the team with 16 kickoff returns and second in average yards per return (25.8), but even with his rising star at the running back position, the Vikings aren't completely abandoning the possibility of him returning kicks, at least not at this early point in the run-up to training camp.

    \"Adrian Peterson's still a guy that we're going to work back there,\" Ferraro said. \"You saw him back here today. I'm not saying he's going to be back there every time, but he's a guy that people are going to have to realize that we could put him back there at any time. Chester Taylor did it in Baltimore. We're going to rep him some at that position. We're going to keep all of our options open, but we have greater depth and more talent, so I like where we're heading.\"

    Allison led the Vikings as a rookie last year in returns (20), yards (574) and average (28.7), including a 104-yard touchdown.



    While the kick-return job at least has a frontrunner, the job for punt returner is much more undecided after the departure of Mewelde Moore to Pittsburgh via free agency. Moore and Bobby Wade essentially spit the duties returning punts last year, with Wade getting 16 returns for 112 yards (7-yard average) and Moore having 13 for 130 yards (10-yard average).

    This year, there are a handful of possibilities all vying for the job, with a decent amount of youth.

    \"There is. We have a lot of options,\" Ferraro said. \"I think you're going to see multiple people back there in the preseason, whether it's Chuck Gordon, whether it's Aundrae Allison, a Bobby Wade, even Bernard Berrian. He could be back there. I mean, probably not in training camp, but he's a guy that's done it and done it at a high level, so we're just going to have to see how it all works out. I like the fact that Chuck is a sure-handed guy. I like certainly Aundrae's quickness and speed. He just needs more reps at it. He's been getting better at it since we've gotten out here. I like where he's going too.\"

    Hicks doesn't sound like a consideration for returning punts.

    \"No, that's not something that he does,\" Ferraro said. \"Really he's more valuable on that team as a guy that's going to hold up and block for the returner. I'm excited about where he is as a kick returner, but it is a completely a different situation trying to catch a punt versus a kickoff.\"



    Last year, there were four games where either Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor was inactive with injuries. It worked out nicely that one was always available when the other wasn't. But what about both of them being on the field at the same time?

    \"We'll do everything we can to make ourselves successful,\" offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. \"We have two great backs back there. It was a nice 1-2 punch last year. There are times when we'll get them on the field together, but it will all depend on game-plan situations.\"



  • One of the most refreshing scenes at this weekend's minicamp took place after Saturday's afternoon practice. After watching the first three sessions, owner Zygi Wilf, his son and a cousin were all throwing the football around and even running routes. When asked Wilf what his time was at the NFL Scouting Combine, Wilf joked, \"In the 40? About 40 seconds.\" Still, Wilf appears to keep himself in great shape and showed soft hands.

  • The Vikings have four coaches working this spring as part of the NFL's minority internship program. They are: Martin Bayless, who was an assistant defensive backs coach with the Houston Texans from 2006-08 and played in the pros from 1984 to 1996 with the Cardinals, Bills, Chargers, Chiefs and Redskins; Michael Bryant, an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with Prairie View A&M; James Franklin, an offensive coordinator/QB coach/assistant head coach with Maryland; and Joe Panos, who played in the NFL from 1994-2000 with the Eagles and Bills.

  • Allison continued a good offseason with a diving catch on a pass from Tarvaris Jackson during seven-on-seven work.

  • Gus Frerotte showed his veteran savvy on one play by diagnosing a blitz before the snap, making an adjustment and connecting with a receiver on a quick route.

  • John David Booty had the \"thread the needle\" pass of the camp when he slipped a pass narrowly between two defenders and into the arms of rookie receiver Nate Jones. Jones was also the recipient of a pass slipped perfectly between zone coverage by Frerotte later in practice.

  • Tidbit of the day: Undrafted rookie Brandon Sumrall, a cornerback from Southern Mississippi, is the cousin of NFL safeties Dawan and LaRon Landry. Dawan is with the Ravens and LaRon was the first-round draft pick of the Redskins last year.

  • The \"near-catch\" of the day came on a bullet from Tarvaris Jackson that sailed a bit high, glancing off the hands of Robert Ferguson. Allison, running a deeper route, nearly made the circus diving catch, but the ball hit the ground first.

  • Taylor found a few nice openings in the middle of the field Saturday afternoon, one on a run play and another on a pass play.

  • Following the afternoon practice, defensive end Ray Edwards said he had a lower back injury that has kept him out of minicamp practices this weekend. After the morning practice, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier indicated he didn't think it was anything serious.

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