By Mark Craig and Dan Wiederer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
Reporters weren’t the only ones who couldn’t tell the players without a scorecard Friday at Vikings rookie minicamp at Winter Park.
Coach Leslie Frazier, had trouble putting names to the numbers of 70 players who were in camp. Even some of the big names.
“I was watching the guys return punts this morning,” Frazier said. “We still have the cheat sheets where we’re looking at guys’ numbers. Josh (Robinson) caught a punt and he just took off like a guy shot out of a rocket. I said, ‘Man, that guy’s got a nice little burst. See who that is.’ And I look and it’s Josh Robinson. I said, ‘That’s a good sign. That’s a good thing.’ ”
Robinson, the team’s third-round pick in last week’s draft, ran an NFL combine-best 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He will compete for the punt return job and might be given a chance to compete at kick returner. The Central Florida product needs polish at cornerback, but Frazier isn’t ruling anything out this year.
“We’ll keep throwing things at him and watch him compete for a job,” Frazier said. “Not just the nickel position. We want him to compete for a starting job.”
Robinson said he never doubted he would be able to run the best time at the combine.
“I’ve run faster hand-timed 40s before,” he said.
Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton each were on the first unit at safety in morning drills. The Vikings used the 29th overall pick on Smith and pick No. 139 on Blanton last week.
The Notre Dame teammates could be the starting safeties Sept. 9 when the 2012 season opens. Smith has an inside track on a starting spot. And Blanton could fight his way into the mix, likely needing to show he can outplay Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond, the duo that started together for the Vikings’ final five games of 2011.
Just for kicks
Rookie Blair Walsh has yet to hear from Ryan Longwell. That’s not a shock given that Walsh, for all intents and purposes, is positioning himself to steal Longwell’s job. The Vikings used a sixth-round selection to nab Walsh, confident the kicker out of Georgia can regain the form he showed in 2009 and ‘10 when he was an All-Southeastern Conference standout.
Frazier said Friday he didn’t foresee keeping two kickers around. So let the competition begin.
Said Walsh: “You do what you know how to do and do what you’ve been doing for the last six or seven years. I’m confident in my abilities. We’ll see how it all shakes out. Just being on the same field with (Longwell) and competing with him is an honor.”
Lots of guys
The Vikings brought in 70 players to the camp, which included two sessions Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday. There were 10 draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents that have been signed and seven first-year players they signed before the draft.
And there are 38 players trying out, including:
— Five former Minnesota Gophers — receiver Da’Jon McKnight, tight end Tiree Eure, tight end Nick Tow-Arnett, defensive end Anthony Jacobs and defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey.
— Dan Power, a 29-year-old punter from Brisbane, Australia. Power played professional rugby in Australia and France for eight years. He’s also been a member of the New York Athletic Club of the American Rugby Super League.
— Josh Gatlin, a 6-1, 196-pound cornerback from North Dakota State. His older brother, Justin, is a former Olympic sprinter who won the 100-meter dash at the 2004 Athens Games. Josh ran a 4.32 at the combine.
— Matt Singletary, wearing No. 50 (naturally), from Cal Poly. Matt’s father is Mike, the Hall of Famer and current Vikings linebackers coach. Frazier, a teammate of Mike’s with the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, has known Matt since he was born. Matt played defensive end at Cal Poly but has been moved to linebacker for this weekend’s camp.