Reaction To The Action

Patrick Chukwurah is only a rookie, but already he is following the lead of the Vikings' defense so far this preseason — aggressive play pays off.

The Minnesota Vikings are 2-0 in the preseason — with the defense leading the way. It seems like I can say that with substance now. The players know that an offense as potent as the Vikings' tends to substantially help the confidence level of the defense. There are so many variables and little quirks that can make for a complete team — or a consistently winning team — that it might confound the casual fan.

Well, here's what it comes down to for the Vikings defense. Hitting! That's right, the players want more rock-em sock-em down-to-earth full-pad hitting during practice. Players know that training camp is a time to get their bodies into hitting shape, and their bodies do toughen up as the season approaches. Their hands get beat up and turn leathery, and the skin toughens more with each passing day in training camp. But hitting also gets the players' timing and technique back.

This year, the Vikings have hit the least of any training camp I have been around, due, of course, to the tragic death of Korey Stringer, and linemen and linebackers usually complain about hitting too much during a normal camp. But now they've seen the end result of a camp with less hitting. The preseason games have been great so far and the defense has been aggressive, reckless and eager to hit someone. What a great attitude, and we all know the cliché, "If you make a mistake, make it an aggressive one."

Now, on the other side of the ball, the offensive linemen have to be a little more under control, and usually the first few weeks of hitting during training camp the defense is ahead of the offense as far as technique. But with current offensive line coach Mike Tice, who will someday be a head coach in the NFL, that offensive group will catch up — and quickly. As the regular season goes on, it is smart on the coaches' side to back off on the hitting and make the players get that hungry itch for the contact that is involved each and every Sunday. There are a few exceptions to this simple little facet of the game — like when the players stink on Sunday, then contact just might intensify the following week in practice, more or less to get their attention. Anyway, that's another story that hopefully won't have to be told this season.

But the team is 2-0 and the players keep telling me they want more hitting. I like that. And I also like the play of rookie linebacker Patrick Chukwurah, number 50, and veteran Lemanski Hall, as they both not only love to hit, but their attitude and approach to the game is so refreshing. Hall, on the first kickoff, had such a great pancake move I knew that this seven-year veteran wanted to hit someone and set the tone for the game. Great hits during the Pittsburgh game, players loving every minute of it and wanting more — who says preseason isn't fun to watch? VU

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