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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Like an incomplete pass bouncing untouched on the turf, Bernard Berrian’s time in Minnesota fell well short of the hopes and expectations he raised following a strong first season with the Vikings.
Berrian was waived Tuesday, halfway into his fourth year with the team.
He met with coach Leslie Frazier on Monday about his status and had another talk scheduled for Tuesday, following his second healthy scratch in three games. Frazier declined to specify on Sunday after losing to Green Bay why he left Berrian on the inactive list again, but the coach hinted this move was coming.
Berrian watched the Oct. 9 game against Arizona on the sideline in street clothes, too, and Frazier said that was for a disciplinary reason, reportedly because he missed two team meetings. The coach said afterward he didn’t “foresee any future problems” and that Berrian remained a significant part of the team’s offensive plans, but the vote of confidence was conspicuously missing the last two days when Frazier gave vague answers to questions from reporters about Berrian’s status.
Between those benchings, Berrian had his most productive game of the season, with five receptions for 54 yards. But even that night at Chicago, he dropped a crucial third-down pass while running wide open on a slant route, failing to give quarterback Donovan McNabb and the struggling offense an important early spark.
Berrian is a vested veteran, so the Vikings must pay him all of his $1.9 million salary unless another team claims him. He took a pay cut to stay this year, down from $3.9 million, and had the last two seasons of his original contract lopped off.
Berrian signed for $16 million guaranteed and made several million more than that after leaving the Bears to join the NFC North rival Vikings in 2008. Missing the deep threat they could rely on for many years with Randy Moss, the Vikings counted on Berrian to stretch the field with his elite speed and diversify their game plans to keep defenses from piling up to stop running back Adrian Peterson.
But after collecting eight touchdowns, including one punt return for a score, and 964 yards receiving that first season, Berrian went downhill quickly.
He was hampered by quadriceps, groin and hamstring injuries. He didn’t connect with Brett Favre in 2009 or 2010, and this year was more of the same with McNabb. During interviews with the media, Berrian was often defensive, uncomfortable and terse.
He claimed on Monday he believes he’s the same player he was in 2008 and that he’s faster now than he was then. But the 30-year-old Berrian hasn’t scored a touchdown in a regular season or playoff game since Nov. 22, 2009, and only twice in the last two years has he surpassed 30 yards in a game.
Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins have assumed Berrian’s role, running deep routes. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Burton was elevated from the practice squad to take Berrian’s place on the active roster. Also, defensive end Cedric McKinley was released from the practice squad, leaving two open spots there.
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