StarTribune.com

April 2007


Notes, quotes, etc.

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Just got done writing for Monday’s paper and wanted to share a few things before putting a wrap on the 2007 NFL draft. Vikings coach Brad Childress and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman held a final news conference this evening after they had finished talking with undrafted players they wanted to sign.

– Spielman said the Vikings had agreed to terms with 16 players but didn’t want to name them until they have signed. That should happen later this week. That group, along with the eight players the Vikings drafted, will be at Winter Park next weekend for three days for a rookie minicamp. The Vikings also are going to have another 15 to 20 players in attendance for the purpose of giving them a tryout. Those players will simply sign waivers.

–UPDATE: Two of the college free agents the Vikings have signed are Texas Tech P Alex Reyes and Colorado offensive lineman Brian Daniels. Reyes is considered a pretty good prospect and will challenge Chris Kluwe in training camp.

– Childress had this reaction when asked about the fact receiver Randy Moss was traded to New England and that the long-rumored deal between Oakland and Green Bay never happened. “Well, you’re always happy [a player like that is] not in your division,” Childress said. “He’s a good football player. And I talked with Bill about that a little this afternoon. He’ll do a good job with him. I know Randy is happy to be there. It’s a match made in heaven.” Only time will tell if having Bill Belichick and Moss together is a match made in heaven or …

– The Vikings certainly seemed to get the best of the Denver Broncos in the trade between the teams today. For giving up the 121st pick overall in the fourth round, Minnesota got picks in round six (176 overall) and seven (233 overall) and also got the Broncos to throw in a third-rounder next year. Seems like a pretty big price to pay for the right to grab defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. The Vikings, by the way, turned the sixth-round selection into Oklahoma linebacker Rufus Alexander and the seventh-rounder into receiver Chandler Williams.

– If it seemed like the Vikings were far more active on Day 2 of the draft this year than last year you’re right. In 2006, the Vikings had two picks on the second day. This year that number grew to five.

– Maybe it’s because it’s the offseason or perhaps it’s a result of the fact he’s simply getting more comfortable. Whatever the case, Childress seems far more relaxed now than he was a year ago. The guy is never going to cut open a vein for the media, but he also no longer seems as if dealing with the public is a pain. It’s definitely a good step.

Vikings’ seventh-round pick(s)

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The Vikings used their second selection of the seventh round — the 233rd pick overall — on receiver Chandler Williams from Florida International. It’s the third receiver the Vikings took in the draft.

Coastal Carolina quarterback Tyler Thigpen was taken by the Vikings with their first pick of the seventh round — the 217th selection of the draft.

Thigpen, who is 6-2, 221 pounds, did not go to the NFL Scouting Combine but the Vikings did bring him in for a pre-draft visit at Winter Park.

Williams, meanwhile, has the ability to return kicks and punts. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was involved in the brawl between Florida International and Miami last season. Williams was one of 31 players from the schools to be suspended. He finished last season with 67 catches for 664 yards and a touchdown.

Update on Thigpen: This guy has an interesting story, including the fact he didn’t play quarterback as a senior in high school. Asked where he sees himself fitting in with the Vikings, Thigpen said: “I’m just going to come in with the opportunity I’ve got. I’m going to learn the system. I’m a new guy. I’m coming up there Thursday and once I get up there I just have to start learning. I’ll have to be a fast learner. I look forward to the opportunity that I’ve been given.”

Thigpen said five teams showed up at his Pro Day, which was the first held at Coastal Carolina.

As for Williams, it sounds as if he expected to go as a college free agent. He said eight or nine teams had called today about signing him after the draft. “I’m so happy right now I don’t know what to say,” he said.

He also was asked about the fight with Miami. “I learned from the whole experience with the fight,” he said. “It was a blessing in disguise.” Williams was told by NFL personnel folks at the Combine that the fight had not impacted their view of him.

Vikings’ sixth-round pick

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Oklahoma linebacker Rufus Alexander. He’s 6-1, 228 pounds. A three-year starter, he had 117 tackles and three interceptions last season. He’s projected as a weak-side linebacker.

Alexander was the first Sooner to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons (2005-06) since Rocky Calmus from 1999-2001. The NFL scouting report on Alexander said he should be a good fit in the cover-2 style the Vikings play.

In 39 games at Oklahoma, Alexander started 36 times at weak-side linebacker. He posted 296 tackles (182 solo) with 10.5 sacks, 38 stops for losses and 17 quarterback pressures. He also caused 10 fumbles, recovered six others, had three interceptions and 16 pass deflections.

Updated quotes: Alexander, a college teammate of Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma, had a 4.80 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine but lowered that to a 4.62 at his pro day. “It probably was kind of jitters, being in front of all those coaches,” Alexander said of his poor time. “Just being there in Indianapolis with a lot of people. At the Pro Day it was more a calm setting, it was more your home turf. You had a feel of everything and everything wasn’t so big and made such a big thing of with the doctors and all that.”

Alexander admitted he doesn’t know much about the Vikings’ personnel but does know plenty about their style. “It was pretty much the same thing we ran at Oklahoma,” he said. “I think it suits me very well. It lets me use my speed and stuff.”

Vikings’ fifth-round pick

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The Vikings took receiver and punt returner Aundrae Allison from East Carolina. Allison, who is 6 feet, 197 pounds, had 62 receptions for 708 yards with four touchdowns in 11 games last season. He was slowed last season by an ankle injury. In 2005, he caught 83 passes for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games.

Here’s what Pro Football Weekly had to say: “Natural talent who is still very green coming from the junior-college ranks and has a high ceiling. Intelligence and toughness deficiencies could hinder development.

Updated quotes: We just got off the phone with Allison. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I also ate a few pieces of pizza first.) Anyway, Allison said he expected to go to Tampa Bay. Asked why he thought he lasted so long, Allison said: “I feel like the people that picked over me just the history of them making good picks is not good at all. It’s not a coincidence on how the people they pick they don’t ever really make the playoffs. I feel Minnesota is good at evaluating talent and the organization is on the come up. … The teams that passed on me, I felt like they weren’t doing research good enough.”

Allison did not make a pre-draft visit to Minnesota but did talk to the team at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Allison agreed that he will get a good opportunity with the Vikings.

“They don’t really have a permanent receiving corps and I feel like I can go in there and just compete. I’m confident in my skill level. I feel like I just know that when I get there and the opportunity is give to me that I’m going to make the best out of it. I pretty much look forward to getting a lot of PT this year.”

Trader Rick strikes again

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The Vikings dealt a fourth-round pick (No. 121) to Denver for the Broncos’ sixth-round pick (No. 176), seventh-round pick (No. 233) and Denver’s third-round pick in 2008. If you’re Denver that seems like a lot to give up.

The Broncos used the fourth-rounder to take Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, who was suspended for five games early in the 2006 season for a substance abuse violation. He returned to the team but was eventually dismissed from the squad. Safe to say, Thomas was one of the 90 players the Vikings took off their draft board because of character or injury issues.

That trade is the third the Vikings have made so far in this draft. They also have dealt with Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

In fact, the Vikings day began earlier than expected this morning because of that deal with the Bucs. The trade enabled the Vikings to take Texas defensive end Brian Robison (6-3, 259 pounds). He was a three-year starter in college. The deal was the Vikings and Bucs swapped fourth rounders — Tampa Bay now gets No. 106 overall — and Tampa also gets the Vikings’ sixth rounder (No. 182 overall).

Robison had injury problems last season but still started 10 of 12 games at right end. He finished with a career-low 37 tackles and 5.5 sacks Robison had a much better 2005, recording a career-high 58 tackles. He led the team with seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Also had 10 quarterback pressures.

Considering the Vikings need for pass-rushing help it’s clear the team thinks he can regain his 2005 form.

Robison said he started off last season with pneumonia, then had a bone bruise in the fourth game and finally sprained his ankle later in the year. “Literally, I just had to fight through it the whole year,” he said. He said those problems caused him to fall in the draft. “I had high, high expectatons coming into this year, coming off a good junior year,” Robison said. “I had actually lost some weight and gotten quicker and faster, so I was looking forward to the year. I just didn’t come up with the production that I wanted, but I feel like definitely I’m still a great football player. I’m going to be willing to prove that when I get up to Minnesota.”

Robison said he flipped sides in college so he can play left or right end. He also is a valuable special teams player. Robison also was a track and field standout at Texas, earning All-Big 12 honors and qualifying for the NCAA Finals in the discus and shot put. He won the conference shot put title in 2005 and 2006.

By the way, at the Adrian Peterson news conference this morning the running back had a No. 28 jersey. The guess here is the Vikings will be able to sell a few of those.

NFL draft: Day 2

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The Vikings are scheduled to have five selections on the second day of the NFL draft today. Here is the breakdown: Fourth round (seventh choice, 106th pick overall); fourth round (22, 121, pick was obtained in trade with Atlanta); fifth round (ninth, 146); sixth round (eighth choice, 182); seventh round (seventh, 217).

Before the fourth-round begins at 10 a.m., the Vikings will introduce first-round pick Adrian Peterson to the media at Winter Park. Peterson came into town Saturday evening and had dinner with members of the front office. We’ll have an update after Peterson speaks.

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