The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 31, 2013

Joe Webb still a fan favorite

By Shane Frederick sfrederick@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — Even if he’s not the second-string quarterback anymore, Joe Webb continues to be a popular player among Vikings fans.

Now a wide receiver, the fourth-year player drew one of the loudest cheers of Wednesday afternoon’s Training Camp practice session at Minnesota State, turning back to make a tough catch from quarterback James Vandenberg.

Earlier, with a rare chance to play with No. 1 quarterback Christian Ponder, Webb tried to turn back to grab an underthrown ball, but couldn’t hang on as cornerback Chris Cook had good coverage. The crowd groaned at the missed opportunity.

After practice, Webb was one of the last players off the field, as he took time to sign autographs.

While he’s been on the field primarily with backup QBs — his old job — Webb has received high praise for his efforts at learning the new position.

“He makes plays,” Ponder said Wednesday. “The guy deserves to be on the field.

“He knows what to do with the ball in his hands. He works his butt off; he’s always been a hard worker. He’s always been a competitive guy who wants to be on the field.”

Head coach Leslie Frazier said Webb’s knowledge of the Vikings’ offense has helped in the transition.

“He has great athletic ability, that’s always been a given with Joe,” Frazier said. “But ... his work ethic is the one thing that’s going to help him get caught up to speed with some of the other receivers that have been doing that for quite awhile.”

Frazier said Webb has made progress since switching positions during OTAs.

“We’re seeking growth with Joe at the wide receiver position,” Frazier said. “We just need to keep putting him in situations and let him continue to develop, and the preseason games, along with training camp, will help with that.”

Indoor games

Wednesday morning’s walk-through was moved into MSU’s Myers Field House because of rain, not exactly an ideal practice facility for a football team.

“We’ve had a good start to training camp; we like direction that our team is going,” Frazier said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to be outside if we can be. We have a lot of things we need to get covered.”

The players didn’t like it much, either.

“It’s not as much fun as outdoors, that’s for sure,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “There’s a lot less room.”

Second-year receiver Jarius Wright was one of the few Vikings who welcomed the move inside, especially considering the conditions.

“I like it, man,” he said. “It beats standing outside in the rain slipping and sliding around.”

Cassel lends experience

The Vikings added depth at quarterback by signing veteran quarterback Matt Cassel. He spent the past four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and was with New England before that.

Ponder said having Cassel around to share his experience has been a plus in training camp.

“It’s great having Matt, we have a good relationship, he’s a great guy on and off the field,” Ponder said. “He knows a lot, he obviously did well with the Patriots and played a few seasons in Kansas City.”

New security policy

Vikings officials explained the NFL’s new security policy regarding bags at stadiums on Wednesday. Starting with the first preseason games (for the Vikings, Aug. 9 at the Metrodome), severe restrictions will be placed upon the kinds of bags that fans bring into stadiums.

“There have been no isolated incidents,” said Jeff Anderson, Vikings director of corporate communications. “Ultimately, this is about fan safety and to expedite fan entry into stadiums.”

The league and the teams will strongly encourage fans to not bring in any bags, however, the following will be allowed:

• Clear bags made from plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.

• One-gallon clear, plastic freezer bags (Ziploc or similar).

• Non-clear, small, hand-sized clutch bags.

Exceptions will be made for medical items, as well as for media and other working personnel, but prohibited items include coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage, computer bags, camera bags seat cushions and large purses.

The Vikings will be sending clear plastic totes with the team logo to all season-ticket holders in time for the regular-season home opener (Sept. 22). The bag also will be available for purchase. Security officials and “fan ambassadors” will also comb the Metrodome plaza and other outside areas on game days to remind fans of the policy before they get to the entry points.

Notes

Fullback Jerome Felton returned to practice Wednesday after missing two days for a “personal issue,” according to Frazier. ... There wasn’t a ton of hitting on Wednesday afternoon, but linebacker Desmond Bishop delivered a big one running back Toby Gerhart during a full-team session late. ... Former MSU receiver Adam Thielen had a tough drop during a full-team session out of the end zone. He made up for it later by stretching out horizontally to grab a pass from Cassel. ... Second-year fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison said it’s “an honor” to play special teams and doesn’t believe it’s a task only reserved for young players like himself. “(Special teams) could be the difference between a win or a loss,” he said. “We take them very seriously.”