Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 8/2/12
MANKATO, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings have practiced several situational offenses during the early portion of training camp, meaning the tight ends have been heavily involved at times.The repetitions for the tight ends took on added significance on Tuesday when John Carlson, No. 2 behind Kyle Rudolph in many of the situations, was injured during practice when a teammate rolled up on the back of Carlson's leg. For now, the tight ends left on the roster rookie Rhett Ellison and second-year players Allen Reisner and Mickey Shuler get the opportunity for an extended look."It will have some affect," coach Leslie Frazier said about Carlson's injury. "For Rhett, but for all of the other tight ends as well, it will probably increase their snaps, which is not a bad thing. We'd like to see Mickey Shuler, see how he does. We'd like to see Allen Reisner, see how he does. Kyle, we still want to make sure that he continues to progress this training camp. It's not a bad thing that those guys are going to get increased reps."It could prove useful for the coaches as well, with three players all with different skill sets. Carlson's injury has caused offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to alter some of the workouts and formations to keep Ellison, Reisner and Shuler involved equally without wearing them down with the extra reps.Each has taken reps with the second team in the first week of training camp. And Thursday, Ellison and Reisner each worked with the first team in two tight-end drills. Shuler, who opened training camp on the non-football injury list with a heel injury, has returned to practice on a full-time basis."We have to pick up the slack while John's out," Shuler said. "He'll be back soon and we'll go from there. It's kind of tight end by committee right now, trying to stay as fresh as we can in camp. We can get good looks and good reps."And none of the three seems to have established much separation from the others as they try to solidify themselves as quality backups once the regular season begins."I would say they are, yeah, it's very competitive," Musgrave said of the three being on equal footing. "They are all doing a lot of good things. We're all making mistakes here in day six of camp, but we're doing a good job of not being repeat mistake offenders and learning from them and getting better."Ellison is a near-lock to make the roster after being drafted in the fourth round in April. Ellison has shown the blocking ability the team expected when they drafted him out of Southern California, but also good hands. Musgrave said he has displayed better catching ability than the team believed when watching his college tape, where he only caught 53 passing in his four years at USC.And his blocking was a big reason for the draft pick, with the Vikings needing a player to fill the void left by Jim Kleinsasser's retirement. Quarterback Christian Ponder believes he has the nastiness to become a good blocker."He's got a little crazy in him," Ponder said of Ellison. "He does a little shoving here and there. He's got a little angry side to him. It's pretty cool."Carlson, signed to a five-year, 25 million contract in the offseason from Seattle, was diagnosed to have a Grade-2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament and expected to miss at least a week. Likely, Carlson's going to be out a bit longer than a week and he loses valuable development time with a new team for the first time in his NFL career. "You lose that veteran presence on the field without him there," Frazier said. "But he'll still be in meetings. The fact that it's a new offense for him; the terminology, being not able just to hear it in meetings, but to actually go out there and actually practice his movements. You miss that part of it. But he's a pro. He'll pay attention and when he comes back he'll be ready to go. But you'd like to have his presence in the huddle and in the drills with the young tight ends." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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