Dev Camp One Ends With Mixed News

Ken Irvin

A few holdouts and a suspension dominated the Vikings' first week of development camp, but other players took advantage of increased opportunities and new roles and made the most of them.

The Vikings ended their first week of development camp about 40 minutes early on Thursday with good news and bad news. The bad news is that Onterrio Smith was "excused" for the offseason and out "indefinitely," which has since translated into him being suspended for the 2005 season pending a potential appeal.

The other bad news is that safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Brian Williams didn't participate in any practices because of varying degrees of frustration with their situations.

"He's battling through some things, but he'll be in. I don't know if he's going to be in June or July, but when he comes in he'll be ready to go," Vikings coach Mike Tice said of Chavous. "This is a business, I think we all lose sight of that, and he's going through some things that he has to get squared away. But when he comes back, he's a smart guy, he's not really going to miss anything mentally because he'll be on top of it. He's a workaholic, I think we all know that. He's got to get himself mentally ready to be here and be happy, and when he gets to that point then we'll be happy."

Regarding Williams, Tice said: "I had a great talk with Brian the other night. We spoke for about an hour. Brian is the same thing, I mean just think about it, you're here, you're part of a family and all of the sudden someone comes in from outside the family and moves you down a rung. It's a tough thing. You know guys are prideful. It's the same thing – he's going through some mental adjustments. I had a great talk with him. I don't know when he'll be back. It could be June, it could be July, but when he comes back he'll have his head on right and he'll be ready to add to the group.

"Both of those guys are kind of in the same situation, but not exactly the same situation."

The good news is that for every Smith, Chavous or Williams missing from developmental camp, the depth behind them improves with more practice repetitions.

Willie Offord spent the week working with the first-team offense at strong safety, and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell was pleased with Offord's progress. Cottrell said Offord is become more confident, and therefore more vocal. Ralph Brown, Williams' replacement in camp, also performed well this week.

Safety Dustin Fox, the Vikings' third-round draft pick, wasn't able to attend developmental camp per NFL rules because he still has some school work to complete at Ohio State, and with Darren Sharper doing broadcasting work in NFL Europe, cornerback turned safety Ken Irvin has been the first-team free safety this week.

"We plugged Ken Irvin into safety and it looks like he's been there for 10 years. He's had an excellent week of football for us," Tice said.

With three of the Vikings' top safeties not participating this week, Will Hunter and Rushen Jones were the second-team safeties, receiving more on-the-field learning than they otherwise might have.

Since Smith's absence on Tuesday, the Vikings have also given more work to Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason, the Vikings' last two fourth-round picks. Each of those players has been progressing nicely, too.

K-SASS BACK ON LIMITED BASIS

Tight end Jim Kleinsasser practiced on a limited basis this week as he continues to recover from last year's season-ending knee injury.

"I was meeting with the running backs (Thursday) morning and everybody is just tickled pink that we're able to have an outside running game," Tice said. "Last year we had to manufacture some things – losing Jimmy you lose that outside run threat. We're an outside run team, the center pulling, the guard pulling. You guys didn't see a lot of that last year and that's a part of our offense that really was missing. It sets up some play-action things, so having Jimmy back gives us that ability again so I'm excited about it. But I think the running backs are more excited about it."

NOTES

  • Tice ended Thursday's practice almost an hour early because he said the team had a good week of work and, with the rainy weather in Minnesota most of the week, the Vikings were forced to spend three of the four practices indoors on FieldTurf, a harder surface than natural grass.

  • Wide receiver Troy Williamson and Fason were missing from practice Thursday to attend an NFL event for rookies.

  • Rookies will start their offseason conditioning program on Monday. Veterans will have next week off. The Vikings' next development camp starts on June 1. Viking Update will be there, and continue with interviews between now and then.

  • Last year's third-round pick, Darrion Scott, is emerging as the team's inside nickel pass rusher next to Kevin Williams. Scott is also playing defensive end.

  • Two rookie sleepers who had good weeks of practice are free-agent signee Laroni Gallishaw and seventh-round draft pick Adrian Ward. Both are cornerbacks, and with Brian Williams missing they were getting more reps.

  • Tice said that receiver Travis Taylor could be the free-agent sleeper signing. The Vikings were originally planning on using him as mostly a "flat guy," but they've found he can play all three receiver positions, Tice said.

  • Mike Rosenthal's return to the practice field after spending most of 2004 on injured reserve with a foot injury has been impressive. "It looks like Mike is certainly the guy that is a head above the rest of the guys at that position, at right tackle," Tice said.

  • Tice continued to sing the praises of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and how he accepted the demotion from the starting ranks to playing behind veteran Sam Cowart.

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