Wide receiver Sidney Rice, who didn't play on Saturday after fighting a stomach virus for much of the previous week, is back at practice this week and was hoping to get back in sync with the offense.
"I feel good, just a little winded," Rice said after running gassers after Monday's practice with a number of other players to "get his wind back up."
Conditioning is one thing, but Rice is hoping to re-establish a rhythm with his starting quarterback after both of them missed last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I always look to establish rhythm with the quarterback. (Tarvaris Jackson is) our number one guy right now and now he went down and set us back a little bit," Rice said. "Now he's back out here on the practice field, getting his reps in with the receivers. He's just doing a tremendous job back there."
However, on Tuesday, Childress announced that the starters will not play in the preseason finale.
"They will condition before the game and pull for those guys that are trying to make the team at those last spots. I just want to make sure those guys are given a chance to put their best foot forward," Childress said.
Rice said his virus is behind him, but even before Childress' announcement the wide receiver didn't anticipate playing more extensively after missing the most in-depth action for starters in the third preseason game.
"It's not going to affect me none," he said of the missed time.
The other starting receiver, Bernard Berrian, also returned to practice this week after a bout with turf toe, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said it was good seeing both of his starting receivers back on the field. Berrian hasn't played since the first preseason game.
"They looked good," Bevell said. "We were able to have the full crew out there. It's nice to have them working together. Ideally you would like them to be there together all of the time."
Without Jackson taking part in team drills for the last week-plus after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament and the starters not playing Thursday, getting the passing offense in sync could be a focus following the Cowboys game.
Backup center John Sullivan returned to practice this week as well after suffering a concussion in the second preseason game against Baltimore.
"I'm over everything I was feeling and I'm back out here practicing and I'm ready to go against Dallas this week," Sullivan said.
The rookie sixth-round pick said he didn't believe the time off will affect his play this week.
"I think it's a non-issue. I felt good out here (on the practice field). Obviously, we're not in pads, but I felt like my footwork was sharp and my assignments were good. I was mentally pretty crisp, so I feel like I'm on the right track for this week," he said.
THE ALLEN IMPACT
A few days after it happened, DE Jared Allen could laugh about a collision he had with defensive tackle Kevin Williams during Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen and Williams were both closing in on QB Ben Roethlisberger, who eluded both of them, leaving Allen to duck before his helmet when into the chest of Williams.
"It wasn't too bad. You just have to brace yourself for impact. It hurt, man. I just had to lay there for a minute, gather my thoughts, but it was all right," Allen said this week. "You're sore every time you play, just the pounding you take. My neck and head were a little (sore) after that, but if that's the hardest I get hit this year I'll be alright."
Allen came to the Vikings with a reputation as a pass-rushing machine, as he led the league with 15½ sacks last year, but head coach Brad Childress has insisted that Allen is stout against the run as well.
"I love playing the run. I think if you come to a place where you have a dominant run defense, once you shut that down then you go after the pass defense. I'm excited," Allen said. "We've got a lot of talent across the board. Obviously they're not going to able to double-team all of us and we've got guys running free behind us."
Coming into the game against the Steelers, there were some questions about the Vikings run defense after it finished first in the league against the run last year but had given up 62 yards on six carries to Seattle's Maurice Morris in the preseason opener and 77 yards on eight carries to Baltimore's Ray Rice in the second game.
"We had one run given up in the Baltimore game and after that we shut them down and the only other long run was a quarterback scramble that I missed the sack on," Allen said. "I don't think there was any concern. We just had to calm down and we'll be alright."
They were just fine in the "dress rehearsal" preseason game on Saturday, limiting Pittsburgh's Willie Parker to 18 yards on 10 carries.
"Our coaches had really challenged them during the week to be stout against Pittsburgh's run game, them being a playoff team and coming off of a real good season," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We really wanted come out in that third preseason game and just solidify some things in our own minds. And for our guys to respond the way they did, both against the run, and in our four-man rush, really was something that we think we can build on."
At the start of Tarvaris Jackson talking with the media after Monday's practice, offensive linemen Artis Hicks and Anthony Herrera mugged for the cameras with each player over a shoulder of Jackson. The two of them joked about Jackson's new nickname, Gizmo Gremlin, with the cameras rolling.
"Everybody keep water and Gatorade off of this guy," Hicks joked.
"I just want everyone out there to know that this is the ugliest person our team," Herrera added.
Jackson tried to take the public ribbing in stride before talking about his recovery from a sprained knee.