Vikings searching for offensive continuity

Without several key starters for the Mankato portion of training camp, the Vikings' first-team offense might take longer to find a rhythm. The missing stars didn't seem to have too many concerns that things would come together soon.

How important is training camp for an offense to re-establish its continuity and build upon previous success?

The Vikings better hope the answer is "not very" based on the first two weeks of practices in Mankato, Minn. Minnesota spent that portion of camp — the team has since returned to its headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn. — without several key components.

Quarterback Brett Favre is continuing to try to decide whether to play a 20th NFL season. Wide receiver Sidney Rice was on the physically unable to perform list because of a hip injury. Fellow receiver Percy Harvin left Mankato after only three practices following the death of his grandmother and didn't return until Monday, in part because the team said he was dealing with migraine headaches.

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe missed a few practices because of a shoulder injury, center John Sullivan was in and out and because of an issue with his calf and right guard Anthony Herrera missed a few days because of back spasms.

For good measure, Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson spent the first week of camp dealing with tightness in his left hamstring.

The Vikings' first-team wide receivers throughout their time in Mankato were Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis and Jaymar Johnson. The latter two were considered to be battling for roster spots when the Vikings reported to Mankato.

This certainly wasn't how coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell envisioned things when camp started. Sure, they knew Favre wasn't going to go to the Mankato portion of the workouts — meaning that Tarvaris Jackson would serve as the top quarterback — but that didn't mean they expected so many starters to either miss all or some of the time.

"As a coach you want every guy to take every turn," Childress said. "That's the way we're wired. Reps are the best thing. No substitute for ‘em."

The lack of practice time for key offensive starters early is far from a certain death knell for the Vikings' offense. Favre proved that singlehandedly last year when he arrived in the middle of August and ended up playing as if he had spent his past five seasons in Minnesota.

The Vikings finished fifth in the NFL in total offense — eighth in passing and 13th in rushing — and scored 470 points, finishing second to the New Orleans Saints in that category.

Favre threw for 4,202 yards with 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions and his 107.2 passer rating was the best of his career. Those numbers did not serve as a ringing endorsement for getting to training camp on time.

Peterson, for one, expressed few concerns about the situation.

"I wouldn't say that at all," he said. "Percy has been out for a little bit. Sidney, that's my roommate (at training camp), so I know he's in that (play) book every night going over things. But of course there's nothing like having reps out there. Of course, Favre coming in, just like he did last year, he's going to flow right through. So I don't see any problem with that. There are a lot of guys out here working to get better and that's what we're doing each day."

The issue, however, is many of those guys aren't the ones the Vikings envision playing a key role when they open the season on Sept. 9 in New Orleans.

NOTES

  • The Vikings conducted 24 training-camp practices in Mankato and three of them were held in full pads with tackling to the ground. This was not inconsistent for coach Brad Childress, who has a veteran team and wants to keep them fresh.

  • MLB E.J. Henderson has been getting more and more work as he returns after suffering a broken femur last December at Arizona.

  • SS Tyrell Johnson, who is battling Jamarca Sanford for the starting job, made a nice play in the final full practice of camp in Mankato when he intercepted Tarvaris Jackson's deep pass for Bernard Berrian down the sideline. Johnson did an excellent job of getting position on Berrian.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like my attitude ... being around the track once, you get a chance to appreciate a lot of things. You get a chance to learn and then add it to yourself. This year, my offseason, I wanted to make sure I got as healthy as I could. I watched a lot of film and worked on things I needed to work on. It seems like it's been working out, but I've got a lot of football to play." — Second-year cornerback Asher Allen, who is battling for a job as the Vikings' top nickel back.


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