- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For most of the time they were at Minnesota State in Mankato for training camp, the Vikings practiced under unusually mild temperatures. It might have been his Mississippi upbringing, or the time he spent playing for Mike Ditka with the Bears in the 1980s, but coach Leslie Frazier didn't like it.
"This new CBA (which limits practice time) and then you get weather like this? This is a player's dream," Frazier said on Aug. 12. "I like a little heat. I think it's good for our linemen to sweat a little bit."
With Minnesota temperatures finally in the 90s this week, Frazier has taken advantage.
He put the Vikings through their second straight padded practice of more than 2 1/2 hours on Thursday, continuing a regimented camp that new receiver Greg Jennings said was more rigorous than what he'd been used to in Green Bay in a radio interview this month. Frazier heard half-joking pleas from veterans like Jared Allen and Brian Robison this month to take a break from padded practices, too. He's kept pushing the Vikings, though, and this week, he has the weather to back him up.
"The guys know it's something we were hoping for, and I'm glad it's here," Frazier said of the heat. "It should help us in the long run. (The long practices) are more of a factor for the new schedule that we're on as much as anything. But it is good to have some sun and sweat."
Some other notes and observations from the Vikings' practice:
Linebacker Erin Henderson went through a brief scare when a teammate stepped on his left heel, causing Henderson to kick a cooler in frustration before going to the ground for a trainer to examine him. But Henderson only had a cut on his heel, and returned to practice after trainers applied a bandage.
Offensive guard Charlie Johnson missed practice with a personal issue, and he'll likely be gone tomorrow, as well, but should play on Sunday in San Francisco.
Wide receiver Jarius Wright returned to practice after sitting out with a concussion suffered on Friday night in Buffalo, but was still limited to individual drills and needs to clear the final step in the NFL's concussion protocol before he can return to full-contact work. Frazier said he would likely keep Wright out of Sunday night's game in San Francisco.
With Sharrif Floyd out until the start of the season because of knee surgery and Christian Ballard still gone because of a personal issue, the Vikings' defensive line depth could be stretched on Sunday night. But the team won't overwork veteran Kevin Williams, which could open up opportunities for reserves like Chase Baker, and rookies like Everett Dawkins to see a little more playing time.
Quarterback Christian Ponder looked sharp in individual drills and some of the Vikings' 7-on-7 work, hitting deep balls to Wright and Jerome Simpson. But he underthrew a deep pass to Simpson that was tipped and intercepted, and Ponder fired short on a few throws over the middle once he faced pressure. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the Vikings' starting offense could play into the third quarter on Sunday, and in what will likely be his last game action before the start of the regular season, Ponder will get a chance to work with a full range of receivers. "We’re looking for more turns at it this third preseason week," Musgrave said. "I think they’ve had a quarter and a half out there together, and we’ll get a couple more quarters and a half to see if we can get some more turns with everyone so we can be ready to go at Ford Field in September."
The Vikings pumped in crowd noise for most of their 11-on-11 work, trying to simulate a little of what they'll get in San Francisco. But realistically, the noise was probably geared more at what they'll face in Weeks 1 and 2 in Detroit and Chicago, respectively. "We're treating (the 49ers game) more like a game in the regular season," Frazier said. "I thought about that for a while. I thought it'd be the right thing to do. If we're going to treat everything else like a true game situation, in-season, why not do the same thing on the road with the crowd noise like we would in the regular season?"
5hEric D. Williams