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Viking DT Brock Lesnar is going to be cut

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Brock Lesnar to be Cut by the Minnesota Vikings

By Henry Walk -

Posted on August 26, 2004

Mark Craig, Star Tribune

Vikings defensive line coach Brian Baker could shout "I told you so!" He could argue the merits of Jeff Womble, a four-year starter at Florida State, whom the Vikings had to let go. Or he could declare the whole Brock Lesnar experiment unsuccessful.

But he won't.

Not because he knows Lesnar is going to make the active roster or survive the first cuts Tuesday -- or even make the eight-man practice squad on Sept. 6. Lesnar has no chance of making the final roster and a slim chance of surviving the first 13 cuts. At this point, it's doubtful he'll even be added to the practice squad.

"I definitely was upset at first, but the thing about Brock is he flat-out earned my respect the past four weeks," Baker said. "I don't know how else to put it."

That is the consensus among assistant coaches and players who once were skeptical the Lesnar signing was anything more than a publicity stunt by the Vikings and/or World Wrestling Entertainment, Lesnar's former employer.

"I thought we would have been the last team in the world to sign him," guard Chris Liwienski said. "And then they signed him and we kind of went, 'Oh my gosh, what's this guy going to be all about? Is he going to come in here and tie me in a knot?' But Brock came to work, and guys took notice."

Or, as Pro Bowl center Matt Birk pointed out: "Brock didn't come in here thinking he was a big shot. He took it seriously and kept his mouth shut."

Unfortunately for Lesnar, his nine-year layoff from football and lack of college experience have proved impossible to overcome in one training camp. After an initial boost, his progress at defensive tackle leveled off, and he is duplicating his mistakes. He needs more repetitions at a time when his are being scaled back because the start of the season is only 18 days away.

"I know it's not feasible for them to keep me around [after the first cuts on Tuesday]," Lesnar said. "These other guys have been doing this stuff their whole lives. Me? I'm only doing the best I can."

Lesnar said he remains hopeful of making the practice squad. He said he hasn't allowed himself to think about a Plan B, even though he got only three snaps in the last preseason game at Atlanta.

Ed Hitch****, Lesnar's agent, said he doesn't expect Lesnar to walk away from football without exhausting all of his opportunities. One of those could include a stint in NFL Europe next spring. The Vikings might have an interest in re-signing Lesnar and allocating him. Or Lesnar could try to join the league on his own, probably with a recommendation from Baker or other Vikings coaches.

Lesnar's age, 27, and years of wear and tear from pro and amateur wrestling at the University of Minnesota are working against him in football. Lesnar hasn't ruled out a return to the WWE, although he might try something different, such as endorsements.

For now, he is all football all of the time.

"Initially, I didn't understand why we signed him, and I was mad that we cut a young rookie player [Womble] who at least knew how to play football," Baker said. "But Brock earned it. You could pick 1,000 guys in his situation and not one of them would have lasted this long."

Baker said Lesnar hasn't attempted one shortcut. He sits in the front of the defensive line meeting room. He works on fundamentals with defensive assistant Jim Panagos for 45 minutes before and after most practices. He takes criticism very well. And probably most important, Lesnar hasn't missed a single rep, despite the fact his groin still isn't 100 percent from a serious motorcycle accident in April.

"My body's not real good right now," Lesnar said, laughing. "But what the heck. For now, I'm living the NFL experience. Who else like me did what I did this summer?"

How long will it last?

"Hey, I don't know what's going to happen," linebacker Chris Claiborne said, "but all I know is the guy turned out to be real cool."

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No higher praise than those coming from his coach and teammates. That's always a good thing, and cliche as it may be, that's something he can take away from the experience right there. And it's a good thing.

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Lesnar has some positive physical attributes that are conducive to being a solid player in the league. The problem is that his skills are at a developmental level.

He's earned my respect for just attempting to make it in the NFL.

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