Chemistry still coming with Favre, receivers

Bernard Berrian admitted that the Vikings' first practice with Brett Favre was a bad one, with some dropped passes. The second one never really got started. And now a depleted receiver corps could mean it's going to take time for things to come together in the passing game.

When Brett Favre arrived at Winter Park last August after Mankato's training camp, things were different than they are now, and not just with who was escorting him.

Favre's first practices last year featured a relatively full receiving corps, with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin full healthy and Bernard Berrian limited with a tender hamstring. This year, Rice hasn't practiced since minicamp, Harvin has had less than a full week of practice since training camp opened on July 30, and Berrian is the healthy one among the top three.

There is one positive advantage to the situation Favre enters this year: He knows the nuances of the offense better and he has first-hand experience with his receivers.

"That makes things easier – knowing the offense, but how it applies to our guys. We call the same plays here that we did for 17 years (with Green Bay). But a play that may have been an Antonio Freeman staple, a slant or whatever, a play that I felt comfortable with, but as I found over the years, a play that I was comfortable with not so much because of the play as it was the player," Favre said. "Yeah, I had to call it, but I'm like, ‘OK, but Bernard's going to run it a little different than this guy. Sidney's going to run it a little different. You learn little things about guys. Sidney, he's not going to get five yards past a DB, that's not what he does. He can make you right on a lot of plays, so that trust factor had to happen. Percy, I had to learn him. The footwork on handing off to Adrian should always be precise, but if it's not he's going to run right over you."

But so far, there hasn't been a lot of chemistry-building and timing worked out with the receivers. That showed in Favre's first (and so far his only full) practice. In his first full-team series, Lito Sheppard broke up a pass intended for Harvin. One play later, Berrian ran a comeback route and the bullet pass went right off his hands. Berrian admitted he wasn't immediately used to the velocity on Favre's passes.

"The very first pass he threw to me, I turned around and I wasn't expecting it to be there that fast. I'm like, I've got to get used it being there again," Berrian said.

The lack of available starting receivers is also an issue. The Vikings are scheduled to work out free agent Brandon Jones on Friday, but behind Berrian, guys like Logan Payne and Greg Lewis have taken first-team reps without Rice, Harvin and Jaymar Johnson, who was placed on the waived/injured list this week to make room on the roster for Favre.

"The guys that are practicing now may have to play," said Favre.

With only one full practice – Thursday's practice never really got going because of Percy Harvin's collapse that forced an early end to it – Favre and company will have only two full practices to get in sync if he starts Sunday night in San Francisco.

"I would like to (play). Much like last year, don't get me wrong, I'm not real excited about getting hit anytime soon," Favre said. "But that is part of it. … I got drilled third play of the game last year in the first preseason game against Kansas City, and that may have been the hardest hit I took all year. I think there's no substitute for calling plays in the huddle in a real-game environment, and the only way I'm going to get the speed of the game down is being in games and being in some of the same situations we had (Wednesday) – blitz periods, goods against goods, the reaction times."

Ironically, if Favre does play Sunday, his heroic, come-from-nowhere substitute receiver last year against San Francisco – Greg Lewis – may have to be a staple of the receiving corps for the first time in his short Vikings career.

"Any time you get an opportunity to be on a camp/NFL team roster, it's an opportunity," Lewis said. "Whether everybody's here or not here, if you're here you have the opportunity to compete and do things and that's what I'm looking forward to doing."

Lewis said it took a couple of throws to get used to Favre's velocity on passes once again, but he also said "it's been a seamless transition" from Tarvaris Jackson to Favre as the starter.

For Berrian, the next couple of preseason games offer an opportunity to get some early cohesion going with Favre, something that took time last year because of Berrian's limited availability due to his hamstring.

"I think we meshed pretty well last year, especially toward the end of the season when I was in there a lot more," he said. "I think being here and being healthy now during the rest of the training camp is going to help tremendously, especially being out there on the field with him and having other players out it's going to give me a chance to get a lot more work in."

Despite all the early uncertainty surrounding the receiving corps, Favre sees another good opportunity with the Vikings.

"This team is a very good football team," he said. "The chances here are much greater than other places, and there's a lot of teams that can say they have a legitimate chance. This is one of those teams."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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