Mind In The Middle

Linebacker Greg Biekert is enjoying the mentoring of rookie E.J. Henderson. Find out what Biekert thinks of Henderson, why Mike Tice wasn't pleased with the morning practice, and Tice's timeline for naming a starting safety.

Vikings linebacker Greg Biekert knows he would like to coach, but he's not sure if, when he ends his playing career, he'll want to devote that much time to an occupation.

But he's enjoying this training camp because of his opportunity to mentor to rookie E.J. Henderson, who seems to be a quick study.

"I think it's up to the older guys to help the younger guys," Biekert said. "Part of my job is to make the whole defense better, not just to get my own assignments down. If need be, I want (Henderson) to play well."

Biekert came to the Vikings after training camp last season and ended up leading the team with 147 tackles. This summer, he's expanding his role from middle linebacker to psuedo-coach of the young linebackers.

"It's always good to play behind someone who knows what he's doing," Henderson said.

Biekert said his role as mentor is being somewhat overblown, much like the ballyhooed relationship between receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss during Moss' rookie season. But Biekert, an 11-year veteran, is ready to answer any questions that Henderson may have.

"He's getting coached just like I'm getting coached," Biekert said. "But sometimes it's helpful to get a player's perspective. He's more than welcome to ask me anything he wants to because I want him to be a good football player and help this team."

Henderson has stood out during both of the team's scrimmages, grabbing tipped passes for interceptions. He's the backup middle linebacker, but he's also being used on short-yardage units and the nickel package.

* Tight end Jim Kleinsasser aggravated his plantar fasciiitis during Tuesday's scrimmage and will have an X-ray Wednesday night. The results of that X-ray will determine if Kleinsasser plays in Saturday's preseason opener against Jacksonville.

* Linebacker Raonall Smith returned to practice after missing a week with a hamstring injury, and he was the recipient of the day's biggest hit. On one of the final plays of the morning practice, guard Lewis Kelly and tight end Steve Farmer double-teamed Smith with a hard hit, sending Smith's helmet flying as he landed on his back.

* Tice was disappointed with the mental focus of the morning workout, as the team committed a couple of illegal motion and offside penalties.

"For the first time this camp, I put a challenge in front of this team and we didn't meet the challenge. The mental focus of a bunch of players was not acceptable. The idea (of today's practice) was top build some mental toughness."

* Tice said that second-year safety Willie Offord had an excellent scrimmage Tuesday. "He made a big, big step," said Tice, who added that he will decide on his second safety ˜ most likely Offord or Brian Russell ˜ before the last preseason game.

* Doug Chapman will be the starting running back against Jacksonville, but Tice said that Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith and Larry Ned will all get work with the first offensive unit.

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