On the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings have Everett Lindsay, a longtime Viking who has started at every position up and down the offensive line. Now it appears the Vikings have that same sort of versatile player on the defensive line in Billy Lyon.
Lyon, who like Randy Moss and Doug Chapman hales from Marshall, has the work ethic that has become a signature of a Mike Tice signing -- a guy who finds a way to get the job done and is willing to help wherever and whenever he is called upon.
Lyon signed with Kansas City as an undrafted rookie free agent in 1997 and was cut in training camp. Three months later the Packers signed him to the practice squad and he enjoyed the ride to Super Bowl XXXII. From there, he progressed as a player each year. In 1998, he made the 53-man roster. In 1999, he played in all 16 games. In 2000, he showed his ability to play all across the line while filling in for Vonnie Holliday, Steve Warren and Santana Dotson. In the two years since, he hasn't been been a full-time starter but has continued to plug the gap wherever he is needed.
That role will continue with the Vikings.
"They're asking me to do all four positions, which is pretty much what I did in Green Bay," Lyon told VU. "I came in as a nose and moved to three technique, then moved out to end and back to three technique last year. I've started games at all positions, so there's nothing new to me. I think that's what they (the Vikings) want to do, with two guys being able to play up and down the line and they can dress extra defensive backs or they can dress more offensive lineman or receivers or whatever they want to do."
It's a team-first, veteran attitude that makes Lyon so easy to like and cheer for, but despite only six years of NFL experience he fits right in with the general age group of the rebuilt Vikings defensive line. Kenny Mixon has five years experience, Chris Hovan three, Fred Robbins three, Lance Johnstone seven and Lorenzo Bromell five.
Lyon sees the defensive line -- and the defense in general -- as an up and coming group, which is one of the reasons he wanted to join the Vikings.
"What I like about it is I'm one of the oldest guys on defense, and this is my seventh year coming up, which means we're young, we're fast, we're athletic," he said. "I think one of the places it needed to improve was they were a little thin on the defensive line. Hovan took a lot of snaps last year. I think they kind of want to limit that this year -- they brought me in and they drafted Kevin Williams, who can play up and down the line. With Chuck (Wiley) coming back to add to the pass rush … I think we're going to have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. I've been around one of the best defensive lines the last couple years (in Green Bay). We've been up there in sacks, with 65 sacks the last two years, and I think we can duplicate that here."
He didn't have to choose the Vikings. There were other options available. He had a few other teams interested in him, with Seattle being the most aggressive, but the Vikings were an easy decision for him. "Minnesota called on Friday when free agency started and had me in on Monday, so it was a no-brainer. I just hit it off with Coach O'Leary right away and didn't even give it a second thought," he said.
It was an easy decision despite going across the state line to a divisional rival. What might have made it worse was the tense ending to the Vikings' last visit to Lambeau Field on Dec. 8, 2002, when a fight broke out between the two clubs after a 26-22 Green Bay win. Jim Kleinsasser, Hunter Goodwin and Chris Walsh were assessed $25,000 in fines, and three Packers were fined $5,000 each.
So where was Lyon, the former Packer, now a Viking, during the post-game melee? Making nice, saving his money and thinking ahead.
"It's funny because I've always been considered a smart player in the league, so I'm standing back, I'm watching it go down, and I'm not about to get into because I'm not about to give up my check because I've got a wife and three kids," Lyon said. "If I came home without a check, I'd be sleeping on the couch. I think I was talking to one of the offensive linemen (after the fight), maybe it is was (Chris) Liwienski, and I said, ‘I don't want to get into it because I could be playing for you all next year.' And here I am."
Here Lyon is, with his six years of NFL experience, his 59 games and seven starts, his 86 tackles and eight sacks, ready to do whatever O'Leary asks of him -- just the type of hard-nosed, hard-working player Tice loves.
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