'Big Greasy' Showing Promise

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan thinks fullback James Lynch has a shot at a roster spot, and Lynch's practice time today did nothing to hurt his chances. Plus, another change in the defensive backfield, and the race for the second safety spot is getting narrowed down.

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is looking for a fullback to do the dirty work, so it only makes sense to use a player nicknamed "The Big Greasy." James Lynch, a 5-foot-11, 275-pound rookie from Maryland, has emerged as the top candidate at fullback, a tough job that requires a self-motivated player.

"It's a thankless, hammerhead job," Linehan said. "Your job is to blow a hole in the defense or pick up pass protection. It's a physically demanding job.".

On one play Monday morning, Lynch blew through the line and tangled with linebacker Chris Claiborne, who couldn't get free as Onterrio Smith slid through for a 15-yard touchdown. Later in practice, Lynch faked into the middle and slipped out to the flat, showing soft hands as he took in the pass from Gus Frerotte.

"If you're willing to do the dirty work, there's an opportunity right here," Linehan said.

Linehan said Lynch is the favorite to win the job over Jeremy Allen, who was in camp with the Vikings last summer. He said that the Vikings want to lessen the blocking and protecting duties of tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who should become more involved in the passing game.

"I've always wanted to have a fullback in our offense," Linehan said. "But we haven't had one that was better than our fourth tight end."

* Jermaine Mays, a rookie receiver from Minnesota, was moved to cornerback midway through the morning practice Monday, in part to help him make the team and to fill a void at the position because of injuries. Mays was battling for the fifth or sixth receiver spot behind randy Moss, D'Wayne Bates, Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson.

"He faced an uphill battle at receiver," coach Mike Tice said. "If he shows some versatility, he's the kind of player we'd like to have around."

Mays, who figures prominently as a special teams player, was shifted to cornerback, where the Vikings are thin. Denard Walker, Brian Williams and Horace Willis all missed time last week with hamstring injuries, and all were in pads Monday, though they didn't participate in any contact drills. Eric Kelly missed the practice with a hamstring injury.

* Tice said second-year players Willie Offord and Brian Russell have emerged as the favorites to win the second safety position opposite Corey Chavous. If Offord is the starter, Chavous will play strong safety; if Russell wins the position, he'll play at strong safety with Chavous switching to free safety. Jack Brewer, who played well on special teams last season, has slipped behind.

"It's a two-man race right now," Tice said.

* Tice said Monday is the one-year anniversary of having his car towed in downtown Mankato, when he stopped to get some takeout food for a coaches' meeting. "I'm staying in the dorm tonight," he said. "Just in case they're out to get me."

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