Harrison Smith (John Emms/Viking Update)
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier almost seemed to be waiting for the first fight of training camp. On the last practice before the first preseason game, and without pads on, he at least saw a chippy attitude from some players even if no punches were thrown.
During a “special categories” portion of Wednesday’s afternoon practice, Christian Ponder connected with Percy Harvin down the middle of the field. With players practicing without pads, Brandon Burton and Eric Frampton each pulled on Harvin before rookie safety Harrison Smith gave Harvin a little extra contact.
“It’s the game of football. It’s not a passive sport,” Smith said. “It’s an aggressive sport played by aggressive people so that stuff happens.”
Several players entered the scrum as it continued, with Jerome Simpson getting in a shove and Brian Robinson picking up Michael Jenkins and carrying him a few yards away from the action.
“It’s football, so it gets competitive sometimes,” Smith said.
“… After a while you kind of get sick of competing against each other and you’re supposed to be teammates. You want to hit somebody but you don’t really have a chance.”
After 11 days of practice, that opportunity will finally come for the Vikings when they face the San Francisco 49ers Friday night.
Frazier didn’t attempt to break up the shoving match, but receivers coach George Stewart and several officials on hand eventually got the players separated.
“We've had some competitive times, but we've talked at length about penalties and fights so maybe that has something to do with (the lack of fights),” Frazier said one day before Wednesday’s scrum. “There's nothing wrong with a fight every now and then. We've got to control it, though.”
Frazier didn’t talk to reporters after Wednesday’s practice, but he was asked about Smith’s aggressive attitude on Tuesday.
“I saw it in our OTAs (organized team activities) and it's beginning to show up a little bit more with the pads on. We need that. We need that from him,” Frazier said. “We need a physical, tough safety of his size and his range. He seems like a guy who can provide that.”
While Frazier didn’t seem to mind the in-practice scuffle, he didn’t appear pleased to see his veteran defensive linemen, including Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, taping rookie defensive tackle Chase Baker to the goalpost after practice.
Baker was taped from neck to toe and players poured ice, Gatorade and even Pepto-Bismol over him, telling him to sing the fight song. Baker said he didn’t know it.
As a few reporters and photographers took pictures, Baker joked, “It’s because I’m white.”
Chase Baker gets taped up.
Tim Yotter/Viking Update
As the veterans walked away, they were asked what Baker’s crime was. “He didn’t do what we said,” Williams said.
Frazier had a talk with Allen after Baker was released and Allen could be heard explaining that there were no punches thrown.
“I really don’t want them to haze those rookies,” Frazier said last week. “I remember when I was a rookie myself and I didn’t like it a whole lot and I said, ‘If I ever get into a position where I can control it, I’ll try to control it.’ They can get them to sing their college fight songs and some certain things that we’ll allow them to do, but there’s a point where you don’t want them to go, where it becomes a little more combative than it becomes fun and games and we don’t want that.”
Frazier said the worst that was asked of him was to sing his fight song.
Frazier said the coaching staff would talk Wednesday night about which, if any, veterans would get to take the preseason opener off.
Several players will not play Friday night because of injuries. In addition to Adrian Peterson, who remains on the physically unable to perform list, the list includes TE John Carlson, S Robert Blanton, RB Jordan Todman, OL Geoff Schwartz, CB Josh Robinson and WR Kamar Jorden.
Robinson is being held back from full-team defensive work with a sore hamstring, but he dropped two punts during special teams drills.
Frazier on the focus of TE Rhett Ellison: “He is not smiling, he’s not joking around. When it’s time to line up and play, he is thinking about one thing, and that is football and annihilating the guy across from them. There is no three-quarter speed for him; everything is full speed. It’s good, it’s going to help our team and help that position as well. He has created some competition for us at that position.”
Rookie Blair Walsh was good on all eight of his kicks, ranging from 25 to 35 yards, during the special teams portion of practice.
CB Chris Carr didn’t participate in full-team work for unspecified reasons, and second-year cornerback Brandon Burton got some reps with the first-team defense in nickel situations, joining Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook.
LB Chad Greenway nearly intercepted two consecutive Christian Ponder passes early in practice. Greenway hauled in the first one and nearly had the second one after it was deflected at the line of scrimmage.
LB Everson Griffen got some work with the first-team defensive line during nickel situations, playing both end and tackle, joining Allen, Robinson and Williams.
S Jamarca Sanford continued to be heard, even if he wasn’t on the field. After the shoving match between Harvin and Smith, Sanford shouted across the field, “Calm down, 1-2!” Harvin, who is friends with Sanford, wears No. 12.
Later in practice, when DE Nick Reed was called for encroachment, several defenders questioned the call, but no one protests louder than Sanford. “Ref, what are you looking at? Are you serious,” Sanford barked.
It wasn’t exactly a crisp practice for the offense, but it did better during red zone and short-yardage work, creating several touchdowns in those situations during seven-on-seven. However, when it went to full team, CB Zack Bowman ended Ponder’s first drive when the quarterback double-clutched on a throw to Michael Jenkins and Bowman came away with an interception for a touchdown.
WR Jarius Wright caught a touchdown pass from Joe Webb during red zone drills in a seven-on-seven session and again from McLeod Bethel-Thompson during full-team red zone work.
WR Kerry Taylor caught a 2-yard touchdown from Webb in close quarters during goal-line situations.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.