Filling The Roles

It was a week capped with personnel moves among the starters, but the first week of training camp also featured some lesser-known reserves getting noticed. From stars to roster hopefuls, here is scoop on the first full week of camp.

The team's first intrasquad scrimmage was held Saturday, and among the highlights were:

* Rookie defensive lineman Kevin Williams. Moved to base defensive left end, he celebrated by having a strong performance that included two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a quarterback sack.

* Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who completed 8 of 9 passes for 165 yards and four TD passes, including 50-yarders to Randy Moss and D'Wayne Bates.

* Running back Larry Ned, who continues to raise eyebrows while pushing himself into the competitive mix at tailback. He ran for a team-high 73 yards on 10 carries, including a 50-yard TD run.

* Kicker Hayden Epstein, who made five of six field goals, including a 56-yarder.

Dick Vermeil has calmed down.

On Thursday, Vermeil, coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, went into a fit of rage. The two teams were scrimmaging, and Chiefs receiver Dameane Douglas was injured going against Rushen Jones in a play. Vermeil believed the injury was the result of a dirty play, and suggested that Jones be taken out and shot in the head.

By Friday, though, Vermeil had calmed down. Douglas' injury isn't as bad as first expected.

"These things happen, but you get so damn mad when they do, because it didn't have to happen," Vermeil said. "It could have happened with one of our guys hitting one of their guys when he wasn't expecting it and the guy goes down with some goofy thing. It's all part of the game."

With tight end Jim Kleinsasser sidelined with a sore foot early in the week, James Lynch -- nicknamed the "Big Greasy" -- stood out.

Lynch is trying to force the Vikings to keep him as a blocking fullback. The 5-10, 266-pounder played some tight end in short-yardage situations during scrimmages with the Chiefs and did well. Jeremy Allen is the only other true fullback on the roster. The Vikings will have to decide whether to keep one of the two or carry an extra tight end. Lynch is doing his best to force the team's hand.

He might not take a snap all season. Indeed, the Vikings are hoping he doesn't have to.

But veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte could have a big impact just the same. Frerotte was signed during the offseason by the Vikings, who were looking for a veteran presence who could act as a mentor to Daunte Culpepper. Head coach Mike Tice was not convinced Culpepper was getting enough of that from Todd Bouman, who was traded to the Saints.

The team wants a veteran who can talk to Culpepper, particularly on the sidelines during games.

"I'm not a really hyper guy," Frerotte said. "I think I'll be able to help Daunte and calm him down, because I know he has a tendency to get fired up. He's real excitable, and that's great. Hopefully I can be there to help him out through the good times and the bad times."

Culpepper has flourished with such a mentor before. In 2000 Culpepper made it to the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter. Now, a lot of that had to do with the talent he had around him. But the fact that he had a veteran backup quarterback in Bubby Brister was important, too.

"Having Gus is everything I thought it would be and a little more," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "You can't replace experience. Gus has had some good in his career, and he's had some bad. But he can dig deep into his experience and say, 'I've done that.' He's going to add something to the position for us."

Indeed, the Vikings have decided to change their play-calling routine during the preseason. Linehan will radio the play to Frerotte, who will then transmit the play to Culpepper. Last season Linehan radioed Tice, who transmitted to Culpepper.

"We are very pleased with Kevin Williams. We think he's the real deal, and obviously we showed that by moving him to base end so we can get him on the field more. Hopefully it's a sign of great things to come."
-- Mike Tice on rookie Kevin Williams.

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