Changes in Minnesota
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- It hasn't been the best of months for Mike Tice personally, but the Vikings head coach can't really quibble with what his football team has accomplished in the past four weeks or so.
Randy Moss and all his negative karma is gone, and Minnesota's roster has been infused with a bevy of veteran talent and leadership. The Vikings needed a defensive tackle to help stuff the run, so they went out signed Pat Williams. They needed an upgrade at linebacker, and came away with both Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart. They needed more playmakers in the secondary, and wound up with both cornerback Fred Smoot and safety Darren Sharper.
The additions were fewer on offense, but Minnesota's void at backup quarterback was filled by a former Super Bowl winner in Brad Johnson, and still-young receiver Travis Taylor will try to take up some of the load that Moss once carried. All in all, Minnesota might just deserve the tag of the offseason's most improved team.
"We had some things fall our way," admitted Tice at Wednesday morning's NFC coaches media breakfast at the NFL's annual meeting. "The Fred Smoot thing fell our way. We had kind of moved in a different direction, and were working at making moves at linebacker and the safety thing. But we had a great plan, and what was important to us was (owner Red) McCombs gave us the ability to exercise the plan and work the plan.
"We brought in some guys who we had earmarked, and we had some guys who wanted to come to play for us. But did I think we'd be able to hit so many of our spots? No. No way."
On paper at least, the Vikings defense looks stronger than it has been at any point since defensive coordinator Tony Dungy led the unit to a No. 1 overall league ranking in 1992.
"Potentially, yes, because we have so many young stallions," said Tice, when asked if Minnesota defense had a chance to be better than at any point in his coaching tenure. "And now we have some guys who can teach them how to be pros. That's the key. We've got plenty of young stallions, I promise you. Look at our roster. But we needed some veterans to show them how to be good pros. We've got some of those guys now."
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