EAGAN, Minn. (AP)The Minnesota Vikings had moved on, comfortable going in a new direction at punt returner and distancing themselves from one of the biggest first-round draft misses in team history.
All it took was one injury for both Marcus Sherels and Laquon Treadwell to come back.
When Chad Beebe was put on injured reserve on Tuesday with an ankle injury suffered in the fourth quarter of their game against Oakland on Sunday, the Vikings suddenly had a need for both a punt returner and a wide receiver. So Sherels and Treadwell got the calls.
”Well, Marcus is a great kid, No. 1,” coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday. ”They both are. And we needed a punt returner, so that was pretty simple. Tread’s been working hard. I talked to him last week. I think he’s rededicated himself to the things that he needs to try to get done. Knows the system, and we anticipate him doing well.”
Treadwell was the No. 23 overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Mississippi. He had 56 catches for 517 yards and one touchdown in three seasons with the Vikings, before being cut on Aug. 31 when they set their roster for the opening week.
Sherels, who went undrafted out of Minnesota in 2010 and turned a rookie camp tryout into a nine-season run with the Vikings, holds the franchise record for punt return touchdowns (five) and average (10.6 yards). He was valued for his sure-handedness on punts and missed just nine total games over the previous eight seasons, while also filling in occasionally at cornerback.
”This is home for me,” said Sherels, a native of Rochester, Minnesota. ”It’s always been home. It always will be home. It’s good being back. The guys have embraced me with open arms, and I’m ready to help contribute in any way I can.”
Sherels signed with New Orleans in the offseason but was injured in training camp and missed the entire preseason. The Saints opted to go with undrafted rookie Deonte Harris at punt returner instead. Sherels said he’s healthy now.
”I’ve never really gone through this before so it was kind of new,” Sherels said. ”You always have to be ready and be in shape. You never know when that call is going to come.”
Treadwell was unsure, too.
He had visits to Buffalo and Detroit in the week following his release but went unsigned. He reached out to players and coaches for advice, including former Denver and Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He also called Zimmer.
”I talked to him about, really, what he needs to do to prove that this is a thing that he really loves to do, how important this is to him,” Zimmer said. ”I think it’s always been important to him, but I think maybe he might have went about it the wrong way. So I just tried to give him some insight of what he has to do moving forward. Hopeful to see that.”
Treadwell said being released ”was hard for me to cope with for a little bit.” His grandmother had just died, and he returned home to Illinois for the funeral. There was no indication from Zimmer when they spoke about how to approach a potential new team that he’d be returning to Minnesota.
”He was just like, `If you’re going to go on a team, it’s a fresh start. Walk in with confidence, and that’s the kind of guy I would want on my team,”’ Treadwell said. ”So I’m back here, and so that’s the mindset: Just walk in and have confidence. It’s a fresh start for me. I’m going to have fun and I’m going to help this team win and do everything I got to do.”
After letting Treadwell go, Minnesota ended up signing Josh Doctson, who was drafted one spot ahead of Treadwell in 2016. Doctson didn’t play a game with the Vikings, before a hamstring injury sent him to injured reserve.
Losing Beebe left the Vikings, who have thrown a league-low 21 passes per game, with only three healthy receivers in starters Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and seventh-round rookie Olabisi Johnson on the 53-man roster. Zimmer said he expects Beebe to return later this season from injured reserve.
In the meantime, Treadwell has another chance with the team that drafted him.
”I jumped for joy a little bit. I ain’t going to lie,” Treadwell said. ”I was kind of super geeked up.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL