By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — Head coach Leslie Frazier has spoken — the Minnesota Vikings are ready for Friday's initial preseason game against the Houston Texans.
"We're looking forward to lining up on Friday night against another opponent. You can see it somtimes where the guys are getting a little feisty amongst themselves so it's probably about time we start hitting some other jerseys."
Frazier said the preseason games have become a very important evaluation tool for coaches because of the decreasing number of live practices teams have been having in recent years. The coach wants the team to have the right 53 players when it cuts down the final roster and the games are a major part of the evaluation process.
"As much as you try to simulate games in practices, it's a different feel," he said. "To be in that situation in front of fans at Mall of America Field for some of our young guys who have never been in that situation before, we'll learn a little bit more about them."
Henderson the student
Sixth-year veteran Erin Henderson, who is making the move from outside linebacker to middle linebacker this season, says Hall of Famer Mike Singletary is teaching him a lot about how to learn his new position.
"He's taught me how to really go about your business," Henderson said. "He's showing me how to take the steps to become the backer I know that I can be. How to focus on every rep."
Singletary talks with Henderson a lot about taking control on the field and the starting MLB realizes that's important. As the quarterback of the defense, Henderson knows he has to be in charge.
Henderson admitted his relationship with Singletary wasn't the smoothest when the coach first joined the staff two years ago.
"Our relationship at the outset was a little weird, a little shaky," he said. "I didn't realize how intense he was. We bumped heads a little bit but then I saw where he's coming from and he understood where I was coming from, we ironed the wrinkles out."
Henderson said he knew Singletary was intense before he joined the Vikings because he'd seen clips of him as a head coach: "But it's different when you're face to face with him and he's looking at you with those ice-cold eyes. You say 'okay how upset is he really right now or is this just his normal way about things?' We eventually figured it out."
Linebacker Chad Greenway is among those anxious to play a game Friday against a real opponent. He also said fans should keep an eye out for Marvin Mitchell who will start at weakside linebacker.
"Everyone is having a great camp.," he said. "But Marvin Mitchell has been a leader and I think he's going to do well."
Sullivan values experience
Center John Sullivan has been a member of the Vikings offensive line for six years and has matured into the leader of the group. This summer is the first time during his tenure the Vikings have had all their starters back and healthy from the previous season.
"In the 2010 and 2011 seasons we had everyone return, but injuries set us back," he said. "This year we have all five guys back and we're healthy."
Joining Sullivan on the line are Matt Kalil and Charlie Johnson on the left side and Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt on the right side. Like Greenway and Frazier, Sullivan is looking forward to Friday's game.
"No one wants to practice all the time, we all know the plays and get tired of practicing."
Robison thinks big
Veteran defensive end Brian Robison was asked this week if he thought the Vikings could get back into the Top 10 of NFL defenses. He all but dismissed the question.
"Our goal is always to be the best," he said of his team's defense which dropped to 16th overall last season. "We don't want Top 10, we want No. 1."
The injury scares to Jared Allen (ankle) and Harrison Smith (knee) on Tuesday turned out to be minor. Both were back and taking first-team reps Wednesday afternoon. Desmond Bishop was also back at practice but both he and Allen are expected to be held out of Friday's exhibition game. Rookie defensive back Xavier Rhodes is also expected to miss Friday's game.
NOTES: Ponder was sharp in the afternoon practice during 7-on-7 drills, going 4 for 6 with touchdowns passes to John Carlson and Jerome Simpson ... Joe Webb had two excellent catches, including a TD grab from Matt Cassell ... Frazier said fans should expect to see a lot of play from rookies, younger players and free-agents on Friday, many of whom will fill out the bottom of the 53-man roster.