The Minnesota Vikings went up to the last hour to get it done, but signed free-agent running back/kick returner Maurice Hicks before he left town to visit the Houston Texans.
Hicks will likely fill the role vacated by Mewelde Moore when he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday. A five-year veteran of the NFL, Hicks holds the first- and second-place marks in San Francisco 49ers history for single-season kick-return yardage. Hicks is also a standout on special teams coverage units, posting 50 special teams tackles in the past three seasons.
In the last four seasons with the 49ers, Hicks has returned 185 kickoffs for a 22.9-yard average. The last two seasons, he has averaged 23.8 yards on 63 returns (in 2007) and 25.1 yards on 57 returns (in 2006). His 1,428 return yards in 2006 set the franchise record for total yards on kickoff returns and then he bested that mark with 1,502 yards in 2007. The Vikings' franchise record is 1,345 yards by Buster Rhymes in 1985.
As a running back, the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder has started five career games and posted two 100-yard games. Hicks has played in all but two games over the last three years, but his main asset to the Vikings – seemingly set in the backfield with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor – would be his kick return abilities.
As a running back, Hicks has been used sparingly, especially the last two seasons. He rushed 21 times for 117 yards in 2007 and 29 times for 82 yards in 2006. He got more action earlier in his 49ers career, carrying 59 times for 308 yards (5.2-yard average) in 2005 and a career-high 96 times for 362 yards (3.8) in 2004.
Hicks was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Bears in 2002 after becoming North Carolina A&T's all-time leading rusher with 2,812 yards (he also posted 437 yards rushing in one game against Morgan State). However, he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list in his rookie year. In 2003, he went to camp with the Bears but was waived before the season began. He joined the 49ers in 2003 and also spent 2003 and 2004 with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe.
Running back Maurice Hicks was curious to see why the Vikings were interested in him with Adrian…