Notebook: Brett's biggest beneficiary?

Which of the Vikings' playmakers will benefit the most from Brett Favre slinging passes? One coach believes it could be Bernard Berrian, but that could be slow to develop. Plus, one of the preseason competitions has been decided, and Sunday's game will feature the top two single-game rushers in NFL history. Get all the speculation, information and reaction inside.

On Labor Day, Vikings coach Brad Childress said wide receiver Bernard Berrian was "laboring" when asked about the speedy receiver's progress coming back from a hamstring injury. Since then, Berrian has been limited in practices and his injury status – doubtful, questionable or probable – will be declared today.

If there was no hamstring injury for Berrian, Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini speculates that Berrian could be the biggest benefactor of Brett Favre being under center. Magnini, having been Favre's head coach last year with the New York Jets, should know.

"I know that with Bernard Berrian – he is already an explosive, big-play guy – Brett Favre's arm strength and the things that he can do is only going to help someone like him," Mangini said. "I think that there are a lot of other players that are really going to benefit from having him around, not just from his physical ability, but how he is as a teammate, how he approaches the game. He definitely has fun, but he does it in the right context. I was impressed with how humble he was and how he approached things coming into a new environment. I can't say enough good things about him in my experience with him."

One common element when asking coaches and players who will benefit most by the Favre signing is that every offensive option has to be aware at all times. Favre has the knack for sidestepping pressure and getting to his third or fourth alternatives on a play.

"I think everybody is going to be a beneficiary. Whoever is open is going to get the ball," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. "If it's the first read to the fourth read, he's going to read it down. If you're the fourth read, you still have to run your route like you're going to get the ball because the ball sure enough might come. Definitely Bernard is going to be a big factor. Whoever is out there is going to be a big factor. The ball gets spread around a lot."

If it's going to be Berrian, that process hasn't started quickly. The long-range receiver hasn't played in a game since Favre's arrival. Berrian injured his hamstring while blocking in the preseason opener and Favre arrived on the scene days later.

"It would be foolish to sit here and say we are on the same page," Favre said. "In some ways it is similar to what happened last year when I got to New York with Laveranues (Coles). He had a torn quad. I really didn't work with him until the first week. I can remember playing at Miami and missing him on a couple of throws. I just wasn't real sure where he was going to be, but as the season progressed I got more confident in (knowing) what he was doing.

"Bernard is going to run the routes and play the way he has always played. Now I just haven't played with him. It would have been nice to get some work done in the last few weeks, but that is part of this game, not only for me and this team but for every team. Guys get hurt and you have to plug them in. Sometimes you have to adapt on the fly. You can't make excuses; you've got to get it done. So we are way behind. He's not. I would say I am way behind on where I need to be with him."

Mangini gave a different perspective on Favre's start last season.

"I thought that he was able to develop a rhythm very quickly. The great thing about Brett is he is equal opportunity – if you are open he is going to throw you the ball," Mangini said. "The other thing is you're always alive on any play. He can go to the front side. He can go to the backside. He can keep plays alive. I think that is always exciting for receivers."

Mangini isn't quite as excited about coaching against Favre.

"With the passing game – knowing Brett and I really enjoyed coaching him – that was a lot of fun, in terms of that experience. It's not as much fun getting ready for him," he said.

The Brett-Bernard combination may turn out to be something special as the season progresses, but at the outset it's looking like it won't develop immediately.

"He's still limited," Childress said of Berrian on Thursday. "I don't' think you miss three weeks and get it all back right away. I think he's building. I'm sure he's not all the way back from quickness, speed, snap, stamina standpoint. I think it will take a little bit to get over."

WINNING THE NICKEL

One of the few battles for playing time during the offseason seems to have gone to the favorite all along. Benny Sapp has won the job as the Vikings' nickel back, for now.

"I think the fact that he finished the season at that position a year ago gave him a slight edge on some of the other guys that were vying for that position," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Also, the fact that he is a lot more poised and composed in what he is doing and much more aware of what we are asking of that position. Probably his experience is the one thing that overtook some of the other guys that wanted to play that position. He's had a great training camp and did a good job in the preseason games. We are looking forward to him playing well this weekend."

Sapp took over the duties in the nickel defense – which the Vikings employ on about half of the defensive downs – last year when Charles Gordon was lost for the season due to a severe ankle injury. Sapp entered the offseason as the favorite to keep the position, but he could be challenged more by rookie third-round pick Asher Allen as he becomes more comfortable in the scheme.

"No question. Asher did a great job throughout training camp and preseason as well. He's going to keep coming. He is only going to get better as he gains experience," Frazier said. "That is the advantage that Benny has right now, game-time experience."

RECORD RUSHERS

Sunday's game between the Vikings and Browns will feature the top two single-game rushing leaders in the NFL.

Jamal Lewis set the mark with 295 yards rushing when he was a member of the Baltimore Ravens and playing against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 14, 2003. Now Lewis is with the Browns.

Of course, the Vikings' Adrian Peterson broke Lewis' record by one yard on Nov. 4, 2007, when he rushed for 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers.

"Watching him run and seeing how he ran, I just kind of felt he had a shot of doing that," Lewis said of Peterson this week. "But when I found out he had broke it, it was really no big deal. He is a great back and I look for big things out of him in the future. It's good when a back like that can break your record because you know he is a great back."

Lewis is hanging onto the starting job in Cleveland despite being 30 years old and having carried the ball 2,399 times in his career.


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