The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 30, 2013

As pads go on, Allen feels as good as ever

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

---- — MANKATO — Vikings defensive end Jared Allen had offseason surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum. On Monday, the first day of full-pad practice at Minnesota State, the 10-year veteran said he feels better than he’s felt in two years.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel young. I feel in shape. I feel good about continuing the process.”

Allen said he wanted to come to training camp without “any excuses or limitations.” He said he worked out the shoulder by swimming and lifting weights in the offseason.

As a veteran player, Allen said he’s not crazy about putting on the full gear for live hitting, but understands that it has to happen.

“It will be good to see where we’re at,” he said after Monday morning’s walk-through. “Pads are a necessary evil. You’ve got to get your body used to that kind of contact. And it will be good for the young guys to see where their technique’s at. It’s a very good evaluation tool.”

Most of the contact in Monday afternoon’s practice took place between Allen’s defensive line and the offensive line. Backs and receivers were not tackled to the ground. Head coach Leslie Frazier said today’s practice likely will feature more “live” action.

“It wasn’t that tough,” Williams said. “Tomorrow there will be a little more banging for us. ... You can’t fake those things.”

The only impressive hit of the afternoon was delivered by an offensive player. Undrafted rookie running back Bradley Randle popped cornerback Greg McCoy along the far sideline, drawing a collective “ooooh” from the crowd.

Fewer snaps for Williams

Frazier said he expects Williams’ game time to be reduced to 30 to 35 plays per game in his 10th season, as first-round draft pick Sharrif Floyd gets integrated into the lineup. Frazier said Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, is capable of playing 50 or 60 plays a game but should get “higher-quality” snaps in all situations.

“(Williams) is one of the smartest players you’ll ever be around,” the coach said. “And he’s able to use that to be effective on the football field. So if we can get what we expect out of Sharrif, that’s going to take some of those snaps off him, and we should get more quality over time.”

The reduction was news to Williams, however.

“Thirty plays might be a low,” he said. “I haven’t talked to (Frazier) about it. We’ll work something out. I’m sure we’ll have some type of rotation.”

This could be Williams’ last season with the Vikings, as his contract was restructured in the offseason, with the 2014 season voided. Frazier said Williams has handled that well.

“He has been great, his attitude,” Frazier said. “He is a pro’s pro. He doesn’t let things like this faze him. He understands the business of professional football. He has been great, great for the young guys throughout the OTAs, and as we started training his leadership has been terrific. If there is anybody who can handle moments like these when you draft a guy as early as we did with Sharrif, Kevin is the guy. He understands.”

Slot starter

Second-year cornerback Josh Robinson has been getting action as the Vikings’ nickle or slot corner, a position that Frazier considers as crucial as any starter.

“In our game today, we’re finding ourselves lining up against three wides (receivers), four wides and sometimes five wides much more often than you did five, six, seven years ago,” Frazier said. “So that position, the three corners you have on the field, they’re starters whoever those three corners are.”

Robinson started six games as a rookie last season, intercepting two passes, although he didn’t play much in the slot.

“We’ve got to find out about what (Robinson) does well, and we may have to cater to what he does well,” Frazier said. “Same with Xavier (Rhodes, first-round draft pick) on the outside.”

The new Patriots?

Newly acquired backup quarterback Matt Cassel spent the first four years of his NFL career with the New England Patriots — considered the gold standard of the league. He was asked after Monday’s practice to compare the Vikings organization to New England’s and gave a diplomatic response.

“I really haven’t been with Minnesota long enough to make that kind of comparison.” he said. “I like the coaching staff and they’ve had some success so they’re obviously doing some good things here. Overall I’d say the cultures are similar.”

It never gets old

Veteran defensive tackle Fred Evans, an eighth-year lineman who has played in every game the last two seasons, says motivation is not a problem, even when you start to get older.

“I remember when Brett Favre was here he said he still gets the jitters before that first snap,” Evans said. “That’s the way I feel, too. You’re always looking forward to that next game, that next series, that next play.”

Notes

Frazier said he expects DT Letroy Guion to be fine after injuring his elbow last week. ... During a full-team session in the afternoon, the highlight play was a 70-yard touchdown pass from QB Matt Cassel to WR Stephen Burton. Burton sprinted past safety Andrew Sendejo on the play. ... During red-zone work, QB Christian Ponder squeezed a TD pass in tight coverage to WR Jarius Wright. Rookie CB Xavier Rhodes was the defender. ... Former Vikings S Darren Sharper visited training camp Monday as an analyst for the NFL Network.