Felton not sweating status
MANKATO, Minn. — Two years ago, Vikings fullback Jerome Felton made the Pro Bowl. Now, there are rumblings he might not even make the team.
Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner doesn’t appear to favor a two-running back set as much as previous offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave did. Felton didn’t start last Friday’s 10-6 victory over Oakland in the preseason opener as the Vikings opened in a two-tight-end set. And that formation ended up being used far more in the game than one with a fullback.
Felton has heard speculation it could be difficult to make a team that might be emphasizing the fullback less. He shrugs it off.
“Oh, yeah, you always hear that,” he said. “But if you really look at Norv’s past, you look at teams he has had success with, he’s used the fullback and used them a lot. I’m confident in it a lot. I’ve enjoyed the offense so far, so I think I will continue to enjoy it.”
Still, there is evidence of the Vikings becoming less enamored with Felton. Team officials came to him in March, advising that he agree to restructure his contract.
Felton did, taking a $500,000 pay cut to $1.45 million for 2014. In return, he got $200,000 of his salary guaranteed and the right to void the 2015 season on his deal, when he is on the books to be paid $2.45 million.
Despite the fact they would have to pay Felton $200,000 if he is cut, the Vikings actually would save money if they decided instead to keep lower-priced fullback Zach Line. He is due to make $495,000 this season.
ProFootballFocus.com listed Felton as playing 10 snaps for the Vikings to Line’s 16 for a total of 26 fullback snaps in last week’s preseason opener. Among tight ends, the website had Kyle Rudolph playing 22 snaps, Rhett Ellison 21, Mike Higgins 35 and Allen Reisner 33 for a total of 111.
Felton, though, has been ranked by ProFootballFocus.com as the NFL’s sixth-best fullback in each of the past two seasons. And Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has spoken well of him this week.
“Jerome’s having a good camp,” Zimmer said. “He’s got a physical presence. ... He’s a thumper. … Other fullbacks around the league may not have the physicality he has, so they’re not used the same way. I don’t know exactly how they used him last year, but I know that his blocking ability, catching the ball out of the flat, making sure we can spread guys out with him in there some, too, will help us.”
Zimmer said not much should be read into the Vikings starting Friday with no fullback and two tight ends. Felton isn’t.
“I don’t get too caught up in it if I’m in the first play of the game,” he said. “I feel confident about our offense when it comes to using two backs.”
After all, when Felton made the Pro Bowl in 2012, Minnesota’s other back, Adrian Peterson, was busy rushing for 2,097 yards, second-most in NFL history.