Linebacker Napoleon Harris is back in a purple uniform, the same color he wore in high school, college and for the two years of his professional career he spent with the Vikings.
The Vikings officially signed Harris on Thursday and he was donning number 99 for his first practice Wednesday afternoon.
Harris left the Vikings after the 2006 season, when the team made little effort to sign him in free agency. He signed a six-year, $24 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, but after leading the team in tackles in 2007, Harris hadn’t played at all this season.
“All I know is I went there last year, played in all 16 games. Didn’t play nickel (defense). Led the team in tackles. You tell me. Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t,” Harris said when asked about what happened in Kansas City.
“I’m not the type of guy to cry over spilled milk. It’s no different than, I guess you could say, a marriage. I don’t want to say marriage because I’m married and hopefully I stay married a long time. It was a relationship that didn’t work. They went their way and they did what they had to do. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to play football here.”
Vikings coach Brad Childress talked with Kansas City coach Herm Edwards, who told him that the Chiefs just wanted to go with a younger lineup in Kansas City and had nothing but good things to say about Harris.
Harris said that E.J. Henderson was the first player he heard from once the Chiefs released him and the Vikings became a possibility.
“One of the first guys to call me or send me a message was E.J.,” Harris said. “E.J. said, ‘Hey, come here, man. You know the guys. It’s a great organization, great scheme. You’ll fit right in.’ So I took my good friend’s advice.”
In 2006, Harris played under defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin and the Vikings’ version of the Tampa-2 defense. Now it’s Leslie Frazier’s version, which is very similar, but the terminology will be the biggest challenge, Harris said.
Childress said Harris’ status for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears could run the gamut, from inactive to starting, depending on how quickly he recalls the defense and learns the new terminology.
Harris was on his way to visit Detroit when the Vikings intercepted his plans and convinced him to visit the Vikings first. According to Harris, they knew he never wanted to leave in the first place.
“The coaching staff knew and the organization knew that I wanted to stay here. At the same time, it was just a matter of their needs at the time,” he said.
With Henderson on injured reserve and his backup, David Herron, not practicing yet this week, they had a need once again.
In order to make room for Harris, the Vikings officially released fullback Thomas Tapeh.
Childress said Tapeh took the release “like a man.”
Earlier in the week, Childress admitted that the Vikings didn’t feel like Tapeh was forthcoming with an offseason surgery he had, but on Thursday Childress was just looking to put the situation behind him. He declined to say if the Vikings were able to recoup any money from Tapeh’s contract – a five-year, $6 million deal that had $1.25 million in guarantees – signed in March.
Tapeh played in the first two games, but he has been inactive the last four.
His absence could create opportunities for Jeff Dugan and even Garrett Mills to occasionally offer some lead-blocking help in the backfield behind starting fullback Naufahu Tahi.
“Anytime we go into a game with one fullback and have that third tight end up, in this case we had Mills and Dugan up this week, either one of them could have played," Childress said. "We’ll see who we have up this week, but they’ve got to be able to fill that dual role.”
SECURING THE BALL
Running back Adrian Peterson said that his fumbles – he had two of them last week and lost both of them – can be a wakeup call. He detailed some of the reasons for the fumbles.
“Being careless with the ball, especially through traffic, not getting my shoulders low going through traffic, and kind of swinging the ball. I know you can’t do that,” he said. “When you go through traffic, you have to have your shoulders low and you’ve got to have the ball high and tight because there are guys out there reaching from all different directions.”
FREROTTE’S SEEN WORSE
Quarterback Gus Frerotte was asked about the booing of head coach Brad Childress in the second half of the Vikings’ 12-10 home win on Sunday.
“I don’t want to sound mean to a team, but I did play for the Bengals one year. That was a tough year. I don’t care what you think we’re going through now, I’ve seen it probably at its lowest point,” Frerotte said. “I felt bad for Coach (Dick) LeBeau. That was probably the hardest situation I’ve ever had to go through. I didn’t even hear anything during the (Detroit) game. All I know is that we won. I was pretty excited about that.
“(In Cincinnati) we won one game all year. That was tough. I started the year out; I got benched. Then (Jon) Kitna played the rest of the year. It’s just a long, long year because you know going into the game, you could see in the guys’ eyes that they didn’t have that urgency or drive to win. (It was) not like here. People have that drive and that urgency, and that’s why I get so excited to come out and practice and play on Sunday with these guys. They all want it. You can see it in their eyes. Back in those days I didn’t see that.”
Herron (hip) did not participate in Thursday’s practice. WR Bernard Berrian (knee), TE Jim Kleinsasser (foot), WR Sidney Rice (knee), LB Erin Henderson (knee), CB Benny Sapp (hamstring) and S Madieu Williams (neck) were limited.
For the Bears, WR Marty Booker (back) went to limited participation after being out on Wednesday, and WR Devin Hester (toe) showed up on Thursday’s injury report as limited after not being part of Wednesday’s report. Punter Brad Maynard didn’t participate after being limited on Wednesday. WR Brandon Lloyd (knee), S Danieal Manning (hamstring) and CB Charles Tillman (shoulder) did not participate again Thursday. WR Rashied Davis (knee), CB Marcus Hamilton (heel), DT Tommie Harris (knee), DT Marcus Harrison (ankle), DT Israel Idonije (ankle), CB Trumaine McBride (hamstring), LB Nick Roach (shoulder) and CB Nathan Vasher (wrist) were still limited.