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PI: Vikings' reason for drafting running back is clearer right about now(Skin's note)


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Vikings' reason for drafting running back is clearer right about now



PHILADELPHIA - Last March - well before anyone had heard of the Whizzinator - (KRT) - Vikings coach Mike Tice was hinting that Minnesota might take yet another running back in the draft. Many wondered why.

After all, Minnesota already had to figure out how to divvy up carries among Michael Bennett, Moe Williams, Mewelde Moore and Onterrio Smith, who led the team in rushing last season.

"I would hope that somebody emerges as the guy," Tice said at the league meetings. "When a guy emerges as the guy, he's the guy. The second guy will be the (backup). The third guy won't be happy."

Smith will not be any of those guys.

Famously detained earlier this month in an airport after security personnel found him with a device that would allow someone to pass a drug test, using, um, someone else's sample, Smith is reportedly facing a yearlong league ban for - unrelated to the device incident - a third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

Tice's remarks now make sense. Bennett has had trouble staying healthy the last two seasons, and Smith, as we know now, was teetering on the edge. That may explain why Minnesota took Florida's Ciatrick Fason in the fourth round of the draft.

Smith was well-liked in the Minnesota locker room and probably would have been the starter next season. But the Vikings may be better off. They've made a concerted effort to eliminate problem children (see: Moss, Randy) from the program, had a terrific run in free agency, and may have hit a home run by taking South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson with the seventh pick of the draft.

"We've had a lot of distractions," the Vikings' vice president of football operations, Rob Brzezinski, said last week. "You try to tune it out. We're trying to clean it up some. One thing we're trying to do is change the culture in our locker room in a more positive way. When you have so many new guys it's critical to focus on chemistry."

The Vikings also were more likely to run more next season, with bruising tight end Jim Kleinsasser expected back from a knee injury. Kleinsasser, who has taken part in all of Minnesota's optional team activities, got back on the practice field last week.

"We're being careful with him," Brzezinski said. "He's looking great. He's on track and he's going to be fine. He's critical to what we do, and man, did we miss him last year."

Pats' loss is Skins' gain

There is at least one person who can resist the lure of the Patriots. And that could help one of the Eagles' division opponents next season.

The Redskins quietly signed free-agent linebacker Warrick Holdman last week, and will give him every chance to step in at middle linebacker next season to replace Antonio Pierce, perhaps the most important player on Washington's second-ranked defense last season. The Redskins said Pierce was a "core guy" on their team but couldn't reach agreement with him on a new deal before the Giants swooped in with a six-year deal worth a reported $26 million.

Enter Holdman, who was released by Cleveland in February as part of its roster purge. If he can make up for the loss of Pierce, the Redskins' defense shouldn't miss much of a beat next season.

After the Browns cut Holdman, he visited Kansas City and New England - where he was recruited by Rosevelt Colvin, his former Bears teammate who signed with the Patriots in 2003. These days, it seems that New England always gets its man - and the man is frequently willing to take less to play there.

Colvin pushed his good friend hard.

"He wanted me," Holdman said. "But he also understands it's a business."

Holdman kept walking to get a better deal. The Patriots ended up signing free-agent linebacker Chad Brown to help them in case Tedy Bruschi can't return from his stroke, and Holdman went to Washington.

After totaling 145 tackles for the Bears in 2001, Holdman suffered a knee injury and has struggled to regain his old form. He's hoping a reunion with Chicago defensive coaches Dale Lindsey and Greg Blauche in Washington will reignite his career. (Having Pro Bowlers Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington on either side of him shouldn't hurt, either.)

Holdman is aware that Pierce also made the switch from outside linebacker to middle linebacker - and reaped the rewards of playing well in assistant head coach Gregg Williams' system.

"I know he's a good player," Holdman said of Pierce. "But as far as people knowing him, people didn't really know who he was. And now, a lot of people know him. So when you look at that, it is encouraging."

Williams' return doubtful

Dolphins coach Nick Saban, by all accounts, is a smart man. He clearly knows the machinations that went on behind the scenes to come up with the deal that would have allowed Ricky Williams back into the NFL late last season. And he clearly knows that once Williams thumbed his nose at all those man-hours of discussion and negotiation and decided to move to Australia for a while, it would be next to impossible for Williams to just waltz back into the league whenever the spirit moved him.

You never say never, but Williams' return to Paul Tagliabue's NFL any time soon is a long shot at best.

Owners' agenda

The rule change prohibiting so-called "horse collar" tackling - such as the one by Cowboys safety Roy Williams that injured Terrell Owens late last season - will likely be adopted by NFL owners at their meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. The proposal had support from most teams at the March owners' meetings, but some coaches were concerned that the wording of the rule would unfairly penalize defensive linemen who reached for running backs while the linemen were being blocked.

Owners are expected to approve the rule change.

There also will be a showdown among Houston, Miami, Tampa and Atlanta to see which city will be awarded Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.

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Originally posted by goaldeje

Not to be too jaded here, but if NE had signed him, I think the press would be drooling over themselves to say what a great signing by the Pats. I think this is an incredibly solid, underrated pickup for us.

If I am not mistaken, I think even Pastabelly said it was a good pickup for the Skins. I could be wrong but I'll try to find it.


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Originally posted by TODD

Hopefully he'll look as good in camp as Barrow did last year. I just hope the Holdman can grasp the scheme quickly enough to avert having Lemar Marshall start.

Out of curiosity, why? I thought Marshall looked pretty good last year. I know he is considered a bit undersized for MLB, but so was AP.

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Originally posted by goaldeje

Out of curiosity, why? I thought Marshall looked pretty good last year. I know he is considered a bit undersized for MLB, but so was AP.

Marshall signed an extension with the team. Him and Holdman are the front-runners for the MLB spot I believe, with Smith/McCune fighting out for depth across the position. Also remember, we are not the coaches, so they must have seen seomthing they liked in Holdman. He also adds experience that Marshall only really has one major season of.

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Mike Tice gives the worst quotes to the media:

"When a guy emerges as the guy, he's the guy. The second guy will be the (backup). The third guy won't be happy."


This reminds me of last month's draft; here's what he said about Williamson: 'He's a faster Nate Burleson.' Man, if I were Nate B, I would feel like sh*t about that statement.

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Marshall at 227 is an outside linebacker. He doesn't have the strength to play inside. He is the perfect insurance policy in case Arrington has continuing injury problems.

Barrow to me is already done. The team's move for Holdman indicates that either Holdman will play inside or the Redskins will move Washington inside and start Holdman on the outside :)

And that leaves Marshall as the top backup off the bench, a perfect spot for the team to be in depth wise at OLB.

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