Changes Abound

The Vikings are switching two starters to take advantage of their more natural skills, and they both feel good about the changes. Head coach Mike Tice is also changing around their plans for Saturday's scrimmage to de-emphasize a position struggling with multiple injuries. At the one-week point in training camp, it looks like it is review and re-evaluate time.

Back at May's minicamp, Minnesota Vikings linebackers Henri Crockett and Chris Claiborne joked about how similar their roles were.

Crockett was listed at weakside linebacker but played a lot on the line of scrimmage over the tight end. Claiborne, signed as a free agent in the offseason, was listed at strongside linebacker, though he would find himself off of the line, able to roam more free and focus on making plays.

"We always joked that I was going to end up playing SAM (strongside)," Crockett said.

On Friday, Crockett was switched to strongside, flip-flopping with Claiborne. Coach Mike Tice said he, defensive coordinator George O'Leary and linebackers coach Brian Baker had been discussing the move since the beginning of training camp, and they finally agreed on it at a meeting late Thursday.

"Crockett was making more plays on the ball, and Chris was making more plays off the ball," Tice said. "We'd be pretty dumb, as a coaching staff, if we hadn't made the switch. I think it's what (Crockett and Claiborne) wanted, and it's best for our football team."

Crockett, who shares a room with Claiborne, was signed before last season as a middle linebacker, and he was switched to the weak side after the Vikings signed Greg Biekert. Crockett responded with a career-high 94 tackles, second on the team. Crocket had played most of his five seasons with Atlanta on the strong side.

"Coach Tice promised he ain't going to move me anymore," Crockett said.

"It's cool."

Claiborne was signed this season to play at strongside, though he had played mostly at middle and weakside in his four seasons with Detroit.

Claiborne was also being asked to play other linebacker positions in specialty units, primarily the middle in the nickel package, and Friday's move was meant to simplify things so that Claiborne could concentrate on two positions.

"I think this will make it a little easier for me," Claiborne said.

"It'll be great."

* The Vikings finished the morning practice with a half-hour swim, designed to alleviate some aches and pains from the first week of camp.
* Safety Brian Russell won a diving contest, and the players didn't get a chance to throw Tice in the water because he was first in.
"He was more excited about the pool than we were," Crockett said.
* The Vikings will hold their first training camp scrimmage Saturday at Minnesota State's Blakeslee Field, beginning at 11 a.m. Tice said that cornerbacks Denard Walker, Brian Williams and Horace Willis wouldn't play because of minor hamstring injuries, but cornerback Eric Kelly, who also strained a hamstring, might play. Because of the injuries, Tice said the scrimmage has been altered to put less emphasis on the defensive backfield. Linebacker Raonall Smith may also miss the scrimmage.
* Tice was excited about being back at Mankato after two days of practicing against the Kansas City Chiefs at River Falls, Wis. "We appreciate our home," he said.

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