Hicks emerges as key player

The Vikings have never seemed quite as worried about the looming suspension of left tackle Bryant McKinnie that finally came on Friday. They are confident veteran Artis Hicks can do the job.

Head coach Brad Childress was in Philadelphia when Artis Hicks was pressed into duty at left tackle one week in 2003 against the Miami Dolphins and premier pass rusher Jason Taylor. Hicks held Taylor to just one tackle in that game.

Despite the fact that Hicks was unable to hold onto the starting right guard spot last year, eventually giving way to the enthusiastic Anthony Herrera there, the Vikings are convinced he is simply a natural left-side guy.

As a starter with the Eagles at left guard, he did a solid job. Whenever he has subbed for either Steve Hutchinson (at left guard) or McKinnie at left tackle, he has done just fine. He's just much more natural on the left side.

Hicks, a seventh-year player acquired in a 2006 draft-day trade with Philadelphia, has started 18 games over the past two seasons, all at right guard (14 in 2006, 4 in 2007).

In the Vikings' first four games this season, Hicks could face Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (currently questionable with a knee injury), Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney, Carolina's Julius Peppers and Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch, who have combined for 225 career sacks.

It will be interesting to see when McKinnie returns if all the concern was much ado about nothing.

Extra Points

Not that it really changes anything, but why did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell need to wait until a week before the regular-season opener to announce the Bryant McKinnie suspension?

McKinnie's suspension, which begins Saturday and will last until Sept. 29, will cost him $764,706 of his base salary of $3.25 million.

For those concerned about the affect NOT having McKinnie blocking in the running game for Adrian Peterson, replacement Artis Hicks will do plenty fine in that regard. In fact, you might be surprised how well he holds up on pass protection, as well.

Having played at Dallas on Thursday night, at least some of the players recently released had been told they were being released as early as 2:00 a.m. Friday morning.

Not wanting to risk injury, even rookie Tyrell Johnson, who is expected to start in place of veteran Madieu Williams early this season, was held out of the preseason finale.

Redskins new coach Jim Zorn said he is very pleased with the progress being shown by former Vikings defensive end Erasmus James, who missed most of the preseason recovering from knee surgery, in a recent Washington Post story.

Another former Viking, WR Billy McMullen, has apparently made it with the Redskins, despite the addition of high draft picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, who both suffered injuries preventing them from contributing in the offense right away. McMullen, who has shined, was signed in January by the Redskins.

Don't be surprised if Dontarrious Thomas is available soon. Word out of San Francisco is that, despite being given every chance to earn a starting job, he has struggled to adapt to a new scheme with the 49ers and was in danger of being cut. Could a return to Minnesota be in the cards to help with the loss of Heath Farwell for the season?

It was curious that veteran WR Bobby Wade got so much playing time Thursday night against Dallas when most of the regulars were rested.

Troy Williamson finds out today if he's made it with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's currently No. 6 on their depth chart at wide receiver and had shown little during preseason until catching 4-84, including a 51-yard touchdown from Todd Bouman last Thursday night.

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