USA Today


Inside Slant
Posted 8/7/2006 1:19 AM

The Vikings' depth at safety took a hit last weekend.

Tank Williams, signed as a free agent during the offseason, suffered a
broken left kneecap during the second practice Saturday. "To my
knowledge there is no ligament damage," coach Brad Childress said. "It's
just unfortunate."

Williams tore the torn anterior cruciate ligament in that same knee in
November 2004 while playing for the Tennessee Titans. He missed the
remainder of that season but returned to start all 16 games last season
for the Titans.

Williams will undergo surgery to repair the kneecap. Although there
might be no ligament damage it sounds as if the previous injury played a
role in this one. "Evidently it didn't heal," Childress said. "From what
the trainer tells me and the doctor tells me, you usually don't see that
kind of kneecap injury a year and a half out. So, something was awry or
something was amiss."

The injury means veteran Dwight Smith, who was mostly taking reps with
the second team, will move into the starting role opposite Darren
Sharper. The Tampa-2 defense the Vikings are playing essentially makes
the safeties interchangeable, meaning there is no traditional free and
strong safety.

Williams suffered the injury during seven-on-seven drills. The safety
ran into the end zone and as he went to plant his left foot he screamed
and collapsed in pain. No other player was close to Williams. A loud pop
could be heard as he fell.

"He just planted," said Willie Offord, who was the other safety in the
drill. "His knee looked like it was just out of place. Nobody touched
him or nothing, he was just trying to run to the football."

The Vikings certainly look smart for giving Smith a three-year, $6.5
million contract in late July after he had been released by New Orleans.

Smith is familiar with the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings will use because
defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin as Smith's position coach for four
seasons in Tampa Bay.

"He's added new wrinkles," Smith said. "But it's just like I do with any
defense I'm playing in. I start over from scratch. ... It's all a
learning process."

Smith said he will do whatever he can to help serve as a complement to
fellow safety Darren Sharper.

"We all know Darren is a playmaker and I want to be able, when I'm in
the game, to free him up to do his thing, to let him play and also take
care of the corners," he said. "That's just a job that I know I'm going
to have to accept. I love the fact he's a playmaker and we look forward
to him making plays. I'm there to try to keep guys from going the distance."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Vikings will break camp on Aug. 18, returning to
their Winter Park facility in Eden Prairie.

NOTES, QUOTES

—The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the Vikings have settled their
grievance case with former personnel director Fran Foley. The paper
cited two people with knowledge of the situation in the report. Terms of
the agreement were undisclosed. Foley was hired in January but fired
only a few months later amid reports of an abrasive management style and
an inaccurate resume.

—Safety Darren Sharper sleeps in a portable hyperbaric chamber in his
training camp dorm room at Minnesota State, Mankato. Mark Ellis, a
former Vikings assistant strength and conditioning coach, suggested
Sharper start sleeping in the chamber after the safety sprained his knee
last September against Cincinnati. Sharper was able to return after
missing two games and was sold on the healing powers of the chamber.
"There's no doubt in my mind it helped me get back quicker from my knee
injury," he said.

—Receiver Billy McMullen, obtained in an offseason trade with
Philadelphia, changed his jersey number from 84 to 12. McMullen would
have been the first Vikings player to wear 84 since Randy Moss was
traded to Oakland. McMullen admitted that was a distraction, "you don't
need."

—Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro is having punters Chris Kluwe
and John Torp work on directional punting during camp. "I am a believer
in directional punting," Ferraro said. "I think there is a place to just
let them kick it away and let them bang it, but I think [directional]
gives your gunners an opportunity to shorten the field and gives them a
chance to understand where they need to release and where the ball might
go."

—Fullback Tony Richardson was excused from last Friday's practice
session against Kansas City so he could travel to Canton, Ohio, to see
his friend and 2006 inductee Warren Moon go into the Pro Football Hall
of Fame.

—Receiver Marcus Robinson missed a day of practice last week because of
a death in his family.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A lot of teams come to camp and they don't probably hit
until a scrimmage or whatever. I think by us hitting now we're going to
be a very physical team." — CB Fred Smoot on the hitting that took place
in the opening days of training camp.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


—Veteran CB Tony Beckham was signed and WR Dez White was released after
the Vikings lost rookie corner Charles Gordon to a knee injury last week.

—RB Mewelde Moore is being used as the No. 1 punt and kickoff return
man. Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro would only say that Moore is
the top man on punts at this point. Although Koren Robinson made the Pro
Bowl last season for his work on kick returns it's almost certain he'll
give up that role now that he's the No. 1 receiver. Several players are
being auditioned for both jobs.

—P Chris Kluwe is working as the holder for new kicker Ryan Longwell. QB
Brad Johnson, who held that job last season, will be used in emergencies.

—Kluwe appears fully recovered from surgery he had on his right knee to
repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. In last Friday's practice with
the Kansas City Chiefs, Kluwe boomed six consecutive punts at least 45
yards, including one that traveled nearly 60 yards.

—NT Ross Kolodziej worked with the first team in the early portion of
training camp after Pat Williams was placed on the active/physically
unable to perform list.

—LB Chad Greenway was one of four linebackers with the first team in
goal-line drills.

—QB Tarvaris Jackson continues to impress with his arm strength but
often holds the ball longer than he should working in the West Coast
offense.

—S Dwight Smith will take over for Tank Williams as the starter opposite
Darren Sharper. Williams injured his left knee in practice last Saturday.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Chris Kluwe vs. John Torp for the punting job *Both
Kluwe and Torp say they are comfortable with the directional style the
Vikings will use this season under new special teams coordinator Paul
Ferraro. Kluwe certainly looked like he was having no problems in a
practice against Kansas City last Friday, sending six consecutive punts
at least 45 yards. Last season, Kluwe finished with a 44.1-yard gross
average (second in the NFC and sixth in the NFL) by booming the ball.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Napoleon Harris opened training camp working with
the first team as the middle linebacker; Dontarrious Thomas, expected to
compete for the job, was with the second team.

—The kick-return job could be wide open. Mewelde Moore, Troy Williamson,
Kevin Kasper and Koren Robinson all have been used in practice. Robinson
was a Pro Bowl return man last season but now that he's the No. 1
receiver it's unlikely the Vikings want to risk having him as a regular
on special teams.

—Dez White, one of 12 receivers on the Vikings roster, will have to
battle to get back into the mix. Signed just before camp, White missed
four practices because of a knee injury.

—Marcus Johnson is working with the first team at right tackle but
veteran Mike Rosenthal is trying to win back the job.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
WR Troy Williamson — The second-year player appears
much more comfortable this time around. Williamson is running much more
precise routes and seems to be picking up the rhythm of the West Coast
offense. He made a catch during seven-on-seven drills in practice and
then held onto the ball despite taking a big hit from safety Will
Hunter. Williamson also wasn't afraid to go into traffic during a
practice against the Chiefs.

ROOKIE REPORT: First-round linebacker Chad Greenway has been with the
second team as the weak-side linebacker. The coaching staff is impressed
by his work ethic and study habits.

—Second-round cornerback Cedric Griffin is competing for a role in the
nickel package and showed why the Vikings liked him as soon as players
put on pads. Griffin isn't afraid to give, or receive, a big hit.

—Second-round offensive lineman Ryan Cook is an obvious project and is
seeing most of his time at center. He also is getting some reps at
tackle. Cook spends most of his time with the third team.

—Second-round quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has a strong arm but he still
has a ways to go in learning the West Coast offense. That's to be
expected. Right now, Jackson should be feeling no pressure.

—Fourth-round defensive end Ray Edwards has skills but defensive
coordinator Mike Tomlin obviously is waiting to pass judgment. "He's an
interesting guy," Tomlin said. "It's still very early. We're waiting to
see how the mental grind of training camp and this process wears on him.
But right now he's pretty impressive.

—Fifth-round safety Greg Blue has thrown some big hits working mostly
with the third team in practice.

INJURY REPORT:
CB Charles Gordon suffered damaged cartilage in his left
knee during practice last Thursday and will have surgery Monday. Gordon
will be out at least for the entire preseason.

—RB Chester Taylor missed practice time after straining his left thigh
last Friday.

—LB Chad Greenway suffered a concussion during practice last Saturday.
He sat out the first practice Sunday but was scheduled to return for a
special teams workout in the afternoon.

—DT Kevin Williams was held out last Sunday because of swelling in his
right knee. Coach Brad Childress said Williams would be day-to-day.