Special Teams in Flux
Rusty Tillman
Rusty Tillman

Posted Aug 6, 2003

Rusty Tillman has promised changes on the Vikings lackluster special teams, but how many changes will there end up being?

When fans think of special teams, kicker and punter come immediately to mind. However, there is a lot more than that to make a special teams unit productive. That was the focus of Mike Tice convincing veteran ST coach Rusty Tillman to return to the NFL. The question now is how many changes will be there be?

The first change will obviously be at kicker. The Vikings had a revolving door last year, starting with Doug Brien and finishing with Gary Anderson after Hayden Epstein was lost for the year with a knee injury. If punter Eddie Johnson can prove he can handle kickoffs, there's a chance Anderson might be brought back again. Until then, kicking chores are completely up in the air.

The punting duties are going to change with Kyle Richardson out of the picture and Johnson ready to take over those duties. But that is just the beginning.

The Vikes will also need a new holder for field goals and will likely have new return men on both sides -- Onterrio Smith, Larry Ned and John Avery are competing for kickoff duties, while Kelly Campbell and Keenan Howry compete for punt return duties.

The team's special teams unit was far from special last year, but it is hoped that with all the planned changes, that will be a thing of the past this year. The only real question now is how many changes will there be and when will the Vikings coaches even know who the new guys will be?

* VU has been told that Fred Taylor definitely will not play in Saturday's preseason opener because of a knee bruise.
* The Vikings scrimmaged Tuesday night, but it wasn't a full-blown intrasquad game since the team had four cornerbacks -- Denard Walker, Brian Williams, Eric Kelly and Horace Willis -- sidelined.
* Rain forced the team inside for the morning practice Tuesday.
* Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was at the morning practice and continued his backstage support of getting a new stadium built.
* From the "What The...?" Department comes this: FOX Sports is at it again. In its "Hee Haw" style pregame show, FOX has routinely walked the line of bad taste. It apparently follows to their website as well. The Fox Sports website included a preview of the Vikings this week by a writer referred to as "a veteran NFL correspondent. Well, it wasn't with the Vikings, where he rehashed Randy Moss' metermaid incident and implicated the entire team in the Arctic Blast debacle.

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