0

Vikings shrug off Favre, Harvin distractions

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have had an eventful week.

Brett Favre finally showed up, prompting the second annual helicopter pursuit and gawker gathering outside team headquarters upon his arrival. Then two days later, in a much more somber scene, Percy Harvin had a severe migraine headache attack at practice that sent him to the hospital.

But the Vikings are accustomed to the attention. It's what happens around here.

"I don't see why it would be any more distractions than it was last year," wide receiver Bernard Berrian said. "I think we're the best-conditioned team on distractions, beside Cincinnati."

The Bengals, of course, employ two of the NFL's most famous flamboyant players in Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. With Favre and the other Pro Bowl picks, the Vikings don't lack for star power, either. The franchise's history of off-the-field problems might even put them in the lead when it comes to the league's top media circuses.

"It's just how well you handle it, and I think we showed we can handle it all well last year," Berrian said.

Said coach Brad Childress: "We've got great guys with great resolve. They can stay focused. They're good guys, and they're all in."

Harvin has been unable to practice more than a handful of times, and fellow wide receiver Sidney Rice is out with a hip injury that he acknowledged Friday has his availability "still up in the air" for the season opener on Sept. 9.

Berrian, however, shrugged off the impact of their absences.

"You're always concerned, because a rep missed is a valuable rep that you weren't in, that you weren't able to learn or catch and get," said Berrian, who missed several weeks of practice himself last season while struggling with a hamstring injury. "But ... they're all veteran guys so they're all up to speed and they'll be fine as soon as they get back."

The attention sure helps the marketing and sales department. According to the team, in the first 48 hours following Favre's arrival, the Vikings sold 800 season tickets. Their 94 percent renewal rate was the team's highest since 2001, and there are less than 1,000 single-game tickets available for each game except for Green Bay on Nov. 21, which is completely sold out.

Favre will play a series or two in Sunday's game at San Francisco, ideally about 10 snaps.

"That's about all he needs right now and all he's ready for right now," Childress said.

By all accounts, Favre has looked fine moving around on his surgically repaired left ankle.

"I think he's doing a good job of rounding into it," Childress said. "We haven't chased him around yet. We're saving that for later."

Starting center John Sullivan, who has been out most of the last two weeks with a strained right calf muscle, should be back at practice Tuesday, Childress said.

Asher Allen and Lito Sheppard, fighting for a starting spot at right cornerback while Cedric Griffin works his way back from a left knee injury, will rotate series against the 49ers. Allen will start.

Rookie Chris Cook will replace Antoine Winfield after one series at left cornerback.

And most importantly, linebacker E.J. Henderson will play the first quarter with the starting defense, his first game action since badly breaking his leg in December.

His comeback, lost a little in the shuffle of another Favre-a-palooza, has surpassed even the most optimistic prognosis for his return -- other than his own.

"First time back out there in the real action, back in the uniform, back out there with the guys, I'm sure there will be some chills," Henderson said. "But after the first couple snaps I think I'll be back into the swing of things."