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VIKINGS RELY ON EX-MORGAN STAR

Minnesota tight end Visanthe Shiancoe wears Vikings purple, but his heart is still close to Morgan State's orange and blue.

"I take a lot of pride when it comes to representing Morgan State in the NFL," said Shiancoe, whose Vikings will face the Ravens on Sunday. "Whenever someone asks me, 'What school did you go to?' I tell them, 'Morgan State.' My experience at Morgan State was extremely good when it comes to academics and football and friendships and relationships."

One of the best players produced by the Bears program, Shiancoe, 29, is beginning to mark out his own path in the NFL.

Shiancoe, 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, has caught 13 passes for 116 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns this season. Since the beginning of 2008, only Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons has caught more touchdown passes (12) than Shiancoe (10) among tight ends.

"I no longer see myself as a backup," said Shiancoe, who was selected in the third round of the 2002 draft by the New York Giants and played behind Jeremy Shockey. "I see myself as an elite tight end in the NFL, and I feel like your frame of mind is where it begins because I want to be one of the best. I know it's one step at a time and one brick at a time to build this. But I feel like especially in this offense and the way they use me and all this work I put into this, I'm definitely in the running."

Shiancoe, who has a touchdown reception in three of his past four contests, has developed chemistry with quarterback Brett Favre. Vikings coach Brad Childress has witnessed Shiancoe's progress.

"It took him awhile, it's a completely different system, but I don't see any of the wheels grinding or smoke coming out of his ears," Childress said. "He's allowing his God-given athletic abilities to get into play, so that he doesn't have to think as much. He's taken it to another level. He trains great in the offseason, he's productive, he's a good teammate, and he's learned what it's like to be a starter, game in and game out."

Injury update

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck) did not practice for the second straight day and is edging closer to missing his second consecutive game.

Linebacker Jarret Johnson (left shoulder) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (back) were upgraded to limited participation after sitting out Wednesday's practice. Tight end Edgar Jones (hamstring) was limited for the second straight day. Wide receiver David Tyree (hamstring) was added to the injury report, but he put in a full practice.

For the Vikings, rookie wide receiver-kick returner Percy Harvin (shoulder) was upgraded to limited participation after sitting out Wednesday. Joining him on a limited basis were four starters: guard Steve Hutchinson (back), rookie offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle), fullback Naufahu Tahi (ankle) and defensive end Ray Edwards (hamstring).

Cameron takes blame

After Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, wide receiver Derrick Mason questioned why he wasn't more involved in the offensive game plan and how he finished without a catch for just the second time in five years with the Ravens.

On Wednesday, Mason blamed himself for his underwhelming performance. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron acknowledged Thursday that some of the criticism should be shifted his way, too.

"It falls squarely right here," Cameron said during his weekly media briefing this morning at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "It's unacceptable for that to happen. It's my responsibility - period. And we'll do everything we can - and I guarantee that it's not going to happen again. We've got to get that guy involved. He's one of our best players."

I remember you

It's been a decade since Childress and Kelly Gregg were employed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Childress hasn't forgotten what the Ravens' defensive tackle can do.

"Kelly Gregg is a guy that we had and mistakenly waived at Philadelphia," Childress said Wednesday. "That was the Ravens' fortune. He's been a good player for a long time."

Gregg chuckled when told of Childress' comment.

"I played four games with them [in 1999]; I came back and they tried to put me on the practice squad, and then I came here," Gregg said. "I was young at the time. I was 270 pounds, and now I'm 315. That had a lot to do with it. My first year in the league was sort of like a redshirt year."

End zone

Minnesota leads the NFL in sacks with 18 and is tied for second with the Eagles in takeaways with 12. So the Ravens understand that ball security will be a must. "They get pressure on the quarterback, and they allow their guys back there to play aggressively," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "They're a very aggressive defense, and it shows up on film. So we're going to have to make sure we go in there and we're going to have to deal with those guys, deal with the crowd, and that's what we do." ... Considered one of their top deep threats before training camp, Demetrius Williams has dropped to being the No. 4 wide receiver on the team. He has yet to make a catch this season, and he has not gotten onto the field in two games. Asked about Williams' lack of involvement, Cameron said, "Our receivers are playing well and they practice well. There's not always opportunities to get the fourth guy in the game, especially when you have a Todd Heap, a Ray Rice, a Willis McGahee and a Le'Ron McClain. And Kelley Washington is playing lights out." ... Cameron said he has no qualms about being second-guessed. "I love it," he said. "I love it because if you live in my world or the NFL quarterback world, it's 365 days a year. If I go to Five Guys, I'm telling you, somebody is either telling me what a great call or why didn't you make this call. I'm getting one of the two. And I go there usually every Friday afternoon or Saturday. And now they know I'm coming. So that's what makes it great, the love and how everybody's excited about it and football. I think the minute you can't handle that criticism at this position, it's time to move on. I love it personally."

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