Opportunity Knocks For Backups

Willie Offord

The Vikings saw the continued holdout of two of their defensive backs and a new no-show in camp, creating opportunities for players who were expected to be backups. Plus, get other notes from the second day of developmental camp.

The Vikings have dealt with questions on developmental camp absentees Corey Chavous and Brian Williams by generally avoiding answers, and Tuesday at camp was no different.

Mike Tice did not address the media after practice for the second straight day, but the painfully obvious missing player was running back Onterrio Smith. Smith attended developmental camp on Monday but did not answer any questions surrounding his infamous Whizzinator incident, when he was detained by airport police before the NFL Draft in April and found to be carrying the product that is designed to fool drug tests.

But his absence Tuesday created more opportunities for other running backs, like rookie Ciatrick Fason.


Whether Smith will be active this season or not, his precarious position in relation to the suspended list may have contributed to the Vikings drafting Fason out of the University of Florida in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. It also might have increased their interest in trading up from the No. 7 overall pick to try to obtain either of the two heralded Auburn running backs, Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams. The Vikings were unable to reach a trade to select either of those two backs, and both were off the board by the time the Vikings' seventh overall pick was executed.

Instead, the Vikings traded up in the fourth round, giving up their original fourth-round pick as well as their fifth-rounder, to obtain Fason.

With Smith's absence from Tuesday's practice, Fason received more repetitions. If Smith is back at practice Wednesday, Fason's work may be scaled back.

Defensive players were also taking advantage of the holes left by absent veterans. In place of Williams was Ralph Brown, a cornerback obtained last season who contributed in nickel and dime defenses and was a solid special teams player. In place of Chavous was Willie Offord. Both replacement players impressed Cottrell.

"Willie (Offord) has done a great job. You know, you hear him. He's really vocalizing," Cottrell said. "Like in the first minicamp he went over and grabbed one of the guys and he said, ‘You're lined up (in the wrong place) … get over here.' Willie went over there and did a good job and he went over there and got some guys lined up. So he's a guy that really stands out as a guy who's doing a real good job for us.

"Ralph Brown has done a good job. He's had a good minicamp and he's continued on with it right now in developmental camp. He's done a fine job for us. "

When the opportunity knocks, the backups have opened the door. But what does the absence of Chavous and Williams do for the overall defense?

"It's a little worry, but it's not something that's going to totally devastate us right now," Cottrell said. "We're hoping that they'll get everything worked out and we'll just go on. That's all I can do."

NOTES

  • Safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Brian Williams were not at the voluntary workouts for the second consecutive day.

  • Guard Chris Liwienski was back at practice after missing Monday's workout following the baptism of his son.

  • T.J. Cottrell, the son of Ted Cottrell, was seriously hurt recently when he was trying to break up a fight at a bar in Europe. T.J. was trying to get a teammate out of a rough bar when the bouncers came after him and hit him with a baseball bat and struck him in the face, Ted said. T.J. might require reconstructive surgery and Ted may end up flying to Europe this week to bring T.J. back to the United States. Luckily, Ted said T.J. suffered no mental damage.

  • Wide receiver Christopher Jones came up with the catch of the day, wrestling the ball away from a defensive back in the middle of the field. Overall, Jones had a solid day of practice.

  • Linebacker Keith Newman made the defensive play of the day, laying out horizontally to knock a pass away from receiver Skyler Fulton.

  • Linebacker Raonall Smith, who appears to have moved ahead of Dontarrious Thomas for the starting spot at weakside linebacker, intercepted a pass during practice. Ted Cottrell gave credit to middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for forcing the quarterback into a last-second checkdown pass, allowing Smith to step in front of the pass. Smith and Thomas are splitting reps with the first team, but Smith appears to be the favorite at this point.

  • Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, had fun playing cornerback again, just as he did for a few plays during minicamp. Culpepper was covering Ben Nelson on one play and abandoned his coverage on Nelson to knock a pass away from Ryan Hoag.

  • Just like last year during summer camps, Michael Bennett continued to look good, juking defenders into bad tackling angles.


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