The Minnesota Vikings open the 2012 season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. As preparations begin for that game, several things stand out about the week of practice.
There has been plenty of buzz about the Vikings’ decision to keep McLeod Bethel-Thompson and release 34-year-old Sage Rosenfels. Rosenfels was expected to be a mentor to Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. With an offensive coordinator that was an NFL quarterback and a quarterback coach on the staff, it was unnecessary to use a roster spot on another coach. Rosenfels would make a fine backup for a team thinking playoffs that may need a consistent, competent game manager quarterback. The Vikings are not a team thinking about this season, but toward the future.
The 24-year-old Bethel-Thompson has more long-term upside than Rosenfels. Also, if Rosenfels or Bethel-Thompson is playing, it means that either both Ponder and Webb are hurt or ineffective. If that happens, the Vikings will not be playing for the playoffs and may as well play the rookie and see what he can do in a regular season game.
Bethel-Thompson went undrafted out of Sacramento State and has professional experience with the Arena Football League’s San Jose SaberCats and United Football League’s Dennis Green-coached Sacramento Mountain Lions.
Peterson appears to be a game-time decision
Adrian Peterson, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered late last season, has been cleared for contact and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will wait to make a decision on his availability for Sunday’s opener. Frazier reportedly said Thursday that he would “probably” wait until 90 minutes before kickoff of the game (which is when the inactive list is due) to determine Peterson’s status.
Peterson has undergone an incredible recovery just to be that close to returning. He injured the knee during a win over the Washington Redskins on December 24, just eight and a half months ago.
There are still four days until the game and things can change very quickly. Check back for injury updates.
Whether Peterson is active or not, Toby Gerhart will get nearly all the carries. Frazier confirmed Monday that if Peterson plays, it won’t be much.
The Vikings added two players after the final roster cuts Friday. First, it acquired cornerback A.J. Jefferson in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals. Then it was awarded offensive lineman Mark Asper from the Buffalo Bills on waivers.
Jefferson is a big (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) physical corner that will fit into the Tampa-2 scheme well. In addition to good size, he has the speed and athleticism to play on the outside.
Asper, also a big player at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, is a little older than most rookies at 26 years old. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Bills in April’s draft. The completion of his collegiate eligibility was delayed by two years, because he went on a Latter Day Saints mission. He has experience at all three offensive line positions (tackle, guard and center). Like Jefferson, he fits schematically into the Vikings plans. He should be able to succeed in the zone-based blocking scheme.
Running back Matt Asiata, Asper, Bethel-Thompson, defensive back Robert Blanton, linebacker Audie Cole, tight end Rhett Ellison, offensive tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end D’Aundre Reed, cornerback Josh Robinson, safety Harrison Smith, kicker Blair Walsh and wide receiver Jarius Wright will all be making their NFL debuts, if active.
First round draft picks Kalil and Smith along with second-year guard Brandon Fusco are expected to make their first career start, according to the depth chart on the team’s official website.
The Vikings have 40 players that are 27-years-old or younger.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.