RB's To Get Big Time Exposure

The Vikings were said to be concerned about replacing Robert Smith and his NFC-leading 1,500 rushing yards last year. But, Monday at the opening of training camp, Denny Green told VU not to worry.

Dennis Green has never lacked for confidence in his players, but, if the VU staff had been drinking water or a soda when speaking with Green Monday at Minnesota State University, Green could well have been the victim of a splashing spit-take.

Why? Green told VU that he thinks the running game may actually be BETTER this season than last -- a belief few outside of Green believes is possible. Instead of banking on Smith, Green is convinced the Vikings will be more diverse and, in the end, more effective.

The key to his prophecy is the continued development of fullback Jim Kleinsasser. Green said that by year's end, Kleinsasser will be the top fullback in the NFL and a more complete player. Last year, he spent most of his time blocking for Smith and protecting Daunte Culpepper. This year, Green expects him to catch about 30 passes and rush for "several hundred yards" -- a clear indication that he will be much more involved in the offense.

While Doug Chapman is convinced he's going to win the RB battle, Green had high praise for top pick Michael Bennett, saying the rookie will run for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. It's now up to fans to speculate if Green is blowing smoke or if he's convinced the offense can be even better than what fans saw with Smith as the mainstay the last three years.

* While on the prediction stump, Green also indicated that defensive end Talance Sawyer, who is being moved from right end to left end, will have double-digit sacks this year and potentially be a Pro Bowler.
* Former Viking Henry Thomas, who spent the last four years with the Patriots, announced his retirement Monday. Thomas was a free agent in the offseason, but didn't receive any offers and has decided to call it a career.
* VU caught up with Jake Reed Monday and asked him about the possibility of teaming up with half-brother Dale Carter -- still awaiting reinstatement from the NFL. While Reed didn't come right out and say he's signed and delivered, he spoke in terms like, "He'll provide a spark to the defensive side" and "We haven't played together since high school, so I'm looking forward to playing with him." Sounds like a done deal to us.

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