The scrambling the Vikings have done at wide receiver this week has been a testament to the concerns the team has at the position. With Sidney Rice expected to miss at least the first half of the 2010 season and Percy Harvin on and off the practice field as he continues to battle debilitating migraine headaches, the Vikings have been forced to come up with a backup plan on the fly.
Within two days, the team signed free agent Javon Walker and traded for Miami's Greg Camarillo. If there isn't a sense of panic in the corridors of Winter Park, it certainly has all the appearances of it.
With players coming and going and the injury list growing, the one constant throughout the process has been veteran receiver Bernard Berrian. He has been the one consistent veteran presence in the receiver corps since the start of training camp and said he and the other receivers don't feel threatened by the arrival of Walker and Camarillo.
"When there are injuries, there are always going to be guys coming in and out," Berrian said. "I'm not really surprised about it at all."
In his first season with the Vikings in 2008, Berrian averaged 20 yards per reception, emerging as one of the team's top receiving threats. Last year, he didn't have nearly the success with Brett Favre that he had with Gus Frerotte. He said he hopes to return to his role as a big-play receiver this season and post numbers more comparable to 2008 than 2009.
"My forte is to be a deep threat," Berrian said. "I'll do whatever is needed, but the deep game is my thing."
With Rice sidelined and Harvin a question mark, Berrian is expected to be the team's top receiving threat this year. With everybody healthy, Favre targeted Berrian more than any receiver in the NFC Championship Game, adding fuel to the speculation that he could be in line for big things this year. But Berrian wasn't so quick to anoint himself the new top dog in Favre's collection of passing targets.
"You never know," Berrian said. "It's just based on how the offense focuses. Brett still needs to make his reads. Shank (tight end Visanthe Shiancoe) might be the leading receiver."
Berrian said he has taken on a leadership role with some of the younger receivers, but said that players like Rice and Lewis do their part as well when the time comes that someone needs to take control of the receiver corps.
"I definitely feel like a leader of the group," Berrian said. "We're all leaders. We all speak up when it's time for things to be spoken."
Reason for the Vikings to have optimism about Berrian's potential in 2010 is that he is healthy. Last year, he missed much of the preseason with hamstring problems and, in the process, was late to getting a rapport with Favre when the quarterback arrived. While players like Rice and Harvin were gaining Favre's confidence, Berrian was left catching up. How bad was it? Despite playing the entire season, Berrian was asked when he felt he was finally 100 percent or as close as he was going to get last year.
"Maybe like the third or fourth game until the end of the season," Berrian said.
Berrian's health hasn't been lost on Favre and said that he will be key to the success of the passing game this season and, considering the losses the team has sustained at the position, he will be a vital component to the success the Vikings expect Favre to have again this season.
"I think Bernard will be the first to tell you he's a lot healthier," Favre said. "That will give us an edge right there. Bernard is a very sharp guy. He wants the ball and we're going to try to get it to him."
The Vikings are hopeful Harvin's medical condition will clear up and that, at midseason, Rice returns to the form that made him a Pro Bowl player last year. But until that happens, the Vikings are going to lean on Berrian to be the main man once again.
"The Vikings brought me here to make plays," Berrian said. "That's what I intend to do. We have a very good offense and I want to contribute whatever I can to make it better."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Berrian healthy and eager
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