Johnson Likely To Stay, Sit Bench

Eddie Johnson

When the Vikings face Kansas City, they will likely have Leo Araguz punting, but that doesn't mean Eddie Johnson will be cut.

Vikings coach Mike Tice is fed up with punter Eddie Johnson, but not enough to cut the rookie sixth-round draft pick.

So the Vikings are expected to sign journeyman punter Leo Araguz off the street, shelve Johnson probably for the season and release one of their underused defensive linemen, probably Cedric Killings, who has been inactive all season.

"I still like Eddie Johnson, and he's still our future at punter," Tice said Monday after Johnson mishandled a snap for the third consecutive week and had a net average of 29.3 yards in a 13-10 loss at Chicago.

"He's a very good young talent, but it goes back to making plays and eliminating mistakes. Eddie's problem is all mental. He has all the ability in the world, but for whatever reason, like a lot of young players, he doesn't relax and let it go."

Johnson has cost the Vikings 10 points in the past three games. He bobbled a snap three weeks ago, allowing the Rams to block his punt and score a touchdown on the next play. Against Chicago, he dropped a snap and was tackled at the Vikings 20. The Bears turned it into a field goal and a 13-3 lead.

In the 34-7 victory over Seattle two weeks ago, he also dropped a snap, but picked it up and ran for a first down.

Johnson is averaging only 39.1 yards per punt with a net of 32.6.

The signing of Araguz signals just how desperate the Vikings are for a punter. Araguz has punted in three regular season NFL games since 1999. He played with Oakland from 1996-99 and Detroit briefly in 2001.

Vikings special teams coach Rusty Tillman coached Araguz in Oakland and also with the New York/New Jersey Hit Men of the XFL in 2000. Tillman was the head coach of the Hit Men.

Tillman also got an extended look at Araguz this past summer when the Vikings and Chiefs had combined practices. Araguz was in the Chiefs' training camp.


TUESDAY NOTES
  • LB Chris Claiborne, who has been slowed by an inflamed Achilles' heel, was inactive against the Bears because he sprained an ankle in practice Wednesday. Claiborne will be listed as questionable on Wednesday and probably won't practice that day.

  • CB Eric Kelly's sprained right MCL is minor.

  • RB Moe Williams has been playing despite torn cartilage in his left knee, coach Mike Tice revealed Monday.

  • RB Michael Bennett, who was inactive against the Bears because of a sprained right ankle, will play against the Chiefs, coach Mike Tice said Monday. Tice said the same thing last Monday.

  • OT Mike Rosenthal, who suffered a concussion against the Bears, will be listed as probable.

  • RB Onterrio Smith, who strained his left hamstring and missed the final four minutes of the Bears game, will be listed as probable.
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