By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — The Minnesota Vikings are in game week, opening the preseason at 7 p.m. Friday against Houston at Metrodome.
But coach Leslie Frazier said that practice won't change much this week, with a full-pad practice each afternoon as the team focuses more on player fundamentals and evaluation than game-planning for the Texans.
"We’re really concentrating on our team and our roster," Frazier said. "This preseason game is important for different reasons; the primary reason it’s important is it gives us a chance to evaluate guys in game situations. But from a win loss stand point, there’s not a lot of credence in it."
Frazier said he saw some good things in Saturday's night practice in front of 10,000 or so fans, but he also saw a few things that need to be fixed.
"A lot of positive things," he said. "I think we are heading in the right direction. There is a lot that we have to get cleaned up, we have a few guys that are banged up right now, but that attitude and the work ethic of our players really gets you encouraged."
The Vikings will practice today and Wednesday before busing to the Twin Cities on Thursday. Following Friday's game, the players have Saturday off before returning to Mankato for two practices Sunday.
Rhodes still learning
Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes said that he's concerned about missing practices with a groin injury, but he's trying to keep learning about his position and the defensive scheme.
"I'm still getting the mental reps," he said. "It's not full speed, but it's still reps and learning my keys."
Rhodes said he's day to day with the injury and not sure if he'll play Friday.
Safety Mistral Raymond returned to practice after missing a couple of days with a groin strain, and linebacker Desmond Bishop continued to miss time with a groin injury. Cornerback Brandon Burton appeared to injure his ankle late in practice and did not return.
Locke comes through
During Saturday's night practice, kicker Blair Walsh made eight field-goal attempts in 10 tries, missing twice because of poor timing. On another, new holder Jeff Locke fumbled the snap but still got the ball down and Walsh made the kick.
"He reacted great," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "It was a good snap, so it should not have been dropped, but he stuck with it. ... It was good that he responded the way he did."
Locke also had a big afternoon punting the football. Kicking from the end zone, against a live rush, he boomed two punts that went about 70 yards in the air. The second one bounced down to the opposite 10-yard line.
Long-snapper Cullen Loeffler, as he was walking off the practice field, said to receiver Greg Jennings, "See those punts?" Jennings just nodded.
Jennings said the chemistry between he and quarterback Christian Ponder continues to develop, and Jennings is looking forward to see how that translates during Friday's preseason game. He said he's becoming more confortable with the playobook every day.
"It's one thing to to do things well in practice," Jennings said. "It's another thing to do it when you're going against guys in another uniform."
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz stopped by the morning walk-through and met briefly with Frazier. ... Backup center Joe Berger left camp to attend to a personal matter, and Frazier said he wasn't certain about when Berger would return. Seth Olsen filled in as the backup center. ... Frazier said that Marcus Sherels would handle punt returns Friday, along with Stephen Burton and Bobby Felder. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson may also get a chance at punt return. ... The play of the day came from middle linebacker Erin Henderson. Tight end Kyle Rudolph was running down the middle of the field and reached above Henderson's head to make the catch, but Henderson turned around, reached up to grab the football away from Rudolph and head back the other way with the interception. ... Frazier said some of the veteran players won't play Friday.