Back at home
August 23, 2006
Author: Mike Wobschall,

Return to Winter Park

The Vikings, in Mankato at training camp since July 27, have returned to their headquarters at Winter Park. Wednesday wrapped up three days of practice in preparation for the team's game on Friday night versus the Baltimore Ravens at the Metrodome. Tomorrow, the team will hold a brief workout that will be closed to the media.

Head Coach Brad Childress maintained that despite their departure from Mankato, the team remained in a training camp mindset.

"We're still in training camp mode, and that means two-a-days, whether it's special teams in the afternoon, or whether we're out in shorts for practice," Childress said. "Just because we moved, the dog days aren't necessarily done."

"It's still time to work and get better," rookie defensive lineman Ray Edwards said. "The tempo is still fast and nothing has really changed on the field, except that now we're back here instead of in Mankato."

Despite the change in scenery, the Vikings coaches have continued to see the players working hard.

"We had a nice practice out here today," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said after Tuesday morning's practice. "There was a lot of competition. Guys were really competing hard, and it was a nice sharp day for us."

The Vikings began practice at 8:45 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning and went through what seemed to be a typical training camp regiment. Practice was open to the media for the first 30 minutes only and players and coaches were made available following each practice.

The Vikings host the Ravens on Friday night and will resume practicing on Sunday as they prepare for their final exhibition game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 31.

Taylor's (former) team

After four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, running back Chester Taylor decided it was time to step out of the shadow of Jamal Lewis and into his own place. In signing with the Vikings, Taylor now has his chance to show he is a legitimate feature back in the NFL.

The nature of pre-season football doesn't allow for the untrained eye to gauge the effectiveness of the first-string offense. Typically, starters are allowed only minimal playing time in the four exhibition games prior to the regular season. But Vikings coaches seem encouraged with what Taylor has shown them.

"I think he's done a nice job," Bevell said of Taylor. "There are a couple of runs in the last two games where he's gotten things on his own, where the defense did a nice job, but he made the tough yards on his own, so you like that about him. When it's been blocked up, we've had some nice runs. He can hit the hole and take it to the house, so he's done a nice job."

"He is an intense guy," Childress said. "And he's a tenacious competitor. I like the way he bows up and competes. That's probably the single biggest thing."

The Ravens and Vikings face each other on Friday night, but Taylor insists Friday will be just another pre-season game for him.

"It's just another game," Taylor said. "I'm going to play my hardest no matter who we're playing."

West coast Wiggins

After recording 71 and 69 receptions for the Vikings in 2005 and 2004, respectively, you may think tight end Jermaine Wiggins would be reluctant to welcome a new offensive scheme to Minnesota. Well, think again.

"If you look at what guys like Brent Jones, Mark Chmura and Chad Lewis did in the west coast offense you can see why the tight end is a vital part of it," Wiggins said after practice on Wednesday. "The offense is there and it will give you an opportunity to make plays and you just have to go out and do it."

Bevell concurs with Wiggins' assessment of the tight end's role in the west coast offense.

"It's a big part of the west coast offense," Bevell said. "They (tight ends) help open the things up outside, so the defense can't just sit on the outside receivers, so we have a nice set of tight ends that can wiggle open for us."

Bevell knew Wiggins had pass receiving skills, but what has stood out most to him is Wiggins' willingness to do the dirty work.

"I think he blocks better than I anticipated. Maybe that's just because he hadn't really been asked to do it much, but he's a willing guy. He'll stick it in there. He'll block."

Improving, but not satisfied

As the Vikings prepare for their third pre-season contest on Friday night, progress continues to be made on the defensive side of the football. And even though the implementation process of the Tampa Two scheme is running along, defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin maintains he is not satisfied.

"I'm never satisfied," Tomlin said. "That is one of my shortcomings by nature, but the guys are working extremely hard. You see progress and you are encouraged by that. We tell the guys every day to come out here with the attitude that you are going to get some new problems. We have to get rid of the old problems and find new ones. They have taken that approach and because of that, the quality of play has gone up."

The Vikings defense has had its ups and downs so far in August. Against the Raiders on August 14, the Vikings first string put on an impressive performance, holding Oakland to a field goal after a Troy Williamson fumble on the opening kickoff gave them optimum field position. But then the Pittsburgh Steelers threw a wrench in the Vikings plans last Saturday by going with a no-huddle offense and marching down on their opening drive to score a touchdown.

"We messed up, and they scored on us," defensive back Fred Smoot said. "But we went right to the sideline and got everything right."

"We just have to continue to take steps," Tomlin said. "You play the preseason for a reason and we have been methodical about how we have approached it in terms of the number of snaps and what we've asked guys to do. We have to go out take another step on Friday night, and that's what we intend to do."

Injury report

After missing practice earlier in the week, linebackers Marcus Lawrence (knee) and Rod Davis (knee) practiced on Wednesday.

Tight end Richard Owens (back) was practicing on Wednesday.

Mewelde Moore (knee) and Charles Gordon (knee) were working out on the side during practice on Wednesday. Coach Childress said that Moore was making "rapid progress" and that Gordon is "coming along, working on hard surface today. He seems to be progressing." Childress also said neither is expected to play on Friday night.

Kevin Kasper is still recovering from a high ankle sprain and is not expected to play Friday night. "[He's] still a little bit tender, he's in a walking boot," coach Childress said. "He could be on crutches, but he's pushing through that thing, still tender with that ankle."

Coach Childress also said that safety Tank Williams has returned to Winter Park to rehabilitate his knee in the training room. Williams, an off-season free-agent signing, suffered the knee injury during training camp.

Chad Greenway will undergo surgery to repair his knee tomorrow. Dr. (James) Andrews will perform the procedure in Birmingham.

Around the NFL

A three team deal earlier in the week has disgruntled receiver Ashley Lelie heading to the Atlanta Falcons and running back T.J. Duckett heading to the Washington Redskins. The Broncos will reportedly receive the Redskins third-round pick in 2007.

With Clinton Portis having suffered a partially dislocated shoulder just six plays into the pre-season, Washington had been shopping for a running back. The addition of Duckett is key because the Redskins are unsure if Portis will be ready for the start of the regular season. Even when Portis returns to the lineup, the Redskins will have two proven runners in their backfield.

The Falcons, meanwhile, were eager to land another receiver after losing Brian Finneran to a season-ending knee injury in the early days of training camp. Lelie was the NFL's leader in yards per catch the last two seasons, but he held out of Broncos training camp in hopes of forcing a trade. Lelie was reportedly unhappy last season, but the addition of former Packers receiver Javon Walker likely didn't help matters.

Another trade involving a running back occurred earlier in the week as well. The New York Jets acquired running back Kevan Barlow from the San Francisco 49ers for an undisclosed draft pick in 2007. The deal is contingent on Barlow passing a physical.