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Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - If you happen to find yourself playing on the field during the fourth preseason game of an NFL season, odds are pretty good that you are out there playing for your career. Whether you're performance to date has been sub-par or a stellar youngster is pushing you from behind, fourth preseason games are usually used as a final opportunity to audition for your role on a football team.
Such has been the case in each of the past three seasons for Vikings punt returner and cornerback Marcus Sherels. In each and every one of those seasons, Marcus has found a way to rise to the occasion and prove to the Vikings coaching staff that he is an asset to this team.
But this year hasn't been like the rest. This year has been particularly difficult for Sherels who lost his father to liver cancer earlier this month. Last weekend, Sherels missed the Vikings third preseason game in San Francisco to attend his father's funeral and spend much needed time with his mourning family. While he was out, another youngster by the name of Bobby Felder jumped up and made a name for himself in the return game. Given the circumstances, no matter how emotional they may have been, the soft-spoken Sherels once again found himself in the midst of a battle to hang on to his professional career.
"I always feel like [I'm playing for my job]," Sherels told me after the Vikings 24-23 win Thursday night. "Competition makes us all better and I embrace it."
Thursday night against the Titans, Sherels did more than embrace the competition, he straight up took it by the neck and showed it who's boss!
Having watched the first two kickoffs of the game sail high over his head and out the back of the endzone, Sherels stood five yards deep in his own endzone to start the second-half, waiting for an opportunity to take one out for a return.
As the ball came booming off of Rob Bironis' right leg, Sherels sized it up. Retreating four yards deeper into his own endzone to safely receive the kick. Once he had it, Marcus bolted off to the right side of the field setting up the defense only to reverse fields on the Titans coverage team around the five yard line and burst through a gaping hole towards the left side of the field. 109-yards later, Sherels found himself in the opponents endzone being mobbed by teammates and listening as the crowd inside Mall of America Field erupted at the sight of Marcus' kickoff return touchdown.
"It was just like practice," Marcus said after the game. "It was wide open and our blockers did a great job!"
"To see [Marcus] make those plays tonight," Coach Frazier said in his postgame speech. "Our whole sideline was just jubilant. To see him come out and play the way he did knowing what's on his mind and what this week's been like for him, I'm just really happy for him."
Sherels also tacked on a third quarter interception, a deflected pass and a tackle to serve as the icing on the cake of Thursday night's performance.
Acknowledging Marcus' standing on the team, Frazier commended Sherels on the way the he finds a way to rise to the occasion each and every year, no matter the circumstances.
"It just seems like every year you come in and he's just one of those guys that you're wondering if he's going to make it this time," Frazier explained. "He finds a way to make plays and his effort, his preparation, he does a great job in so many areas. He's a multi-dimensional guy. He can help is in a lot of areas on defense and obviously he's a very good returner. He always just comes back every year, in great shape, well prepared and then he finds ways to make plays in the preseason."
The final decision on whether or not Marcus makes the team will be deliberated Friday and then decided Saturday as the Vikings submit their final 53-man roster to the league. It's no surprise that these decisions to trim down the roster are never easy.
"It is without question one of the toughest parts," Frazier said. "When you sit down with them on that Saturday and then come by the office and you explain to them that their career, in Minnesota for sure, is going to be over, it can get emotional."
Seth Olsen: After lying on the turf of Mall of America Field for ten minutes during the second quarter of Thursday's game, it was a good sign to see Seth Olsen offer a thumbs up as he was being carted off the field on a stretcher. It was an even better sign when we saw Olsen walking the halls of the Metrodome after the game under his own power and with a smile on his face. The official injury on Olsen will go down as a concussion. No laughing matter, but seemingly good news given how grave the situation once looked while he was down on the field.
Bobby Felder: Felder was taken out of the game in the third quarter to have his right ankle x-rayed. According to Frazier, the x-rays came back negative leaving Felder with a painful, but less severe sprained ankle.
D'Aundre Reed: Reed also hobbled off the field early Thursday night and did not return to the game. Official word on Reed is also a sprained ankle with no room for concern.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN