Davis Feeling Ready

Rod Davis

There is a good chance middle linebacker Rod Davis will get his first start as a pro since Sam Cowart missed most of the last week's practice. Coach Mike Tice thinks the Bengals would be a good team for Davis to cut his teeth against.

While left tackle Bryant McKinnie appears to be making progress in his recovery from a sprained left foot, it appears veteran middle linebacker Sam Cowart might not be ready for Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

Cowart suffered a strained left calf in the opener against Tampa Bay and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He remains listed as questionable on the injury report, while McKinnie has been upgraded to probable.

Second-year player Rod Davis replaced Cowart in the middle during both practices and appears in line to get the start.

The Vikings' other option would be to shift E.J. Henderson from the weak side back to the middle and have Dontarrious Thomas start on the outside. Henderson was the Vikings' starting middle linebacker most of last season but the coaching staff would prefer to leave him at his new position.

Coach Mike Tice is comfortable with the prospect of starting Davis against Cincinnati because of the linebacker's ability as a run stopper. "Playing against a run team, Rod is going to be in his element," Tice said. "If Rod has to start this is the perfect type of team for Rod to start against."

Davis' responsibilities would go beyond stopping the run. As the middle linebacker, he also would be responsible for calling defensive signals. Henderson struggled with some of his additional assignments last season and that's a big reason the Vikings acquired Cowart from the New York Jets in an off-season trade.

"(Without Cowart) we lose a lot of leadership and a lot of awareness," Tice said. "Hopefully we have enough guys in there in Napoleon (Harris) and E.J., who has really come into his own this year. Hopefully we have some other guys in there that can help settle Rod down. Sam helped to settle E.J. down, now it might be E.J.'s turn to help settle Rod down."

Davis, a fifth-round selection by the Vikings in 2004 out of Southern Mississippi, made the roster largely because of his abilities on special teams. He saw limited action in last Sunday's 24-13 loss to the Buccaneers and was beaten by tight end Alex Smith on a 23-yard touchdown reception.

But Davis is confident and credits Cowart with assisting him.

"Sam has been helping me since I got here," Davis said. "(The veterans) help me and E.J. out for little things as far as what you can see during film and what guys like to do. You play in this league (long enough) and everybody has tendencies. Sam just helps me out with the little things, the smaller things. As far as just knowing the calls, I've got to know that myself because that's my job."

NOTES

* How bad were last week's Vikings numbers? Daunte Culpepper led the team in rushing with 19 yards and Nate Burleson led the receivers with 45 yards.

* Somewhere Randy Moss had to feel a little satisfaction from the opening weekend. He had 130 yards receiving Thursday, while Burleson, Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson combined for 105 receiving yards.

* Bengals CB Tory James (foot) and WR T.J. Houshamndzadeh (shoulder) were both limited in practice this week.

* The Vikings last played the Bengals in 1998 — a 24-3 win at the Metrodome.

* This will be the Vikings first visit to Paul Brown Stadium. Their last visit to Cincinnati was in 1992.

* Pat and Kevin Williams combined for just six tackles last Sunday, despite Tampa Bay running between the tackles most of the afternoon.

* Three of the next four games for the Vikings are going to be on the road.


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