Three Deep Becoming Four Deep?

While Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed generally handle the sidelines, Byron Chamberlain will be looking for his down the middle of the field.

Jake Reed's return to the Minnesota Vikings this year after one season with the New Orleans Saints was hailed as the second coming of the "Magnificent Trio."

Reed, Cris Carter and Randy Moss were back together and coach Dennis Green said that the Vikings would once again emphasize the three-wide offense that was used during the team's 15-1 record-setting season in 1998, when the Vikings set an all-time NFL single-season mark of 556 points — with Reed, Carter and Moss accounting for 200 points. Between them, they caught 33 touchdown passes and Moss added a two-point conversion catch. Moss had 17 touchdowns, Carter had an even dozen and Reed chipped in with four more.

With that kind of production from the three wides, what more could you ask from the team's passing attack? How about turning it into the "Fabulous Four" with the addition of a tight end who caught as many passes (seven) in the Vikings' season opener as the combined total by the team's three starting wide receivers? He's Byron Chamberlain, an unrestricted free agent acquired by the Vikings during the offseason after the Denver Broncos released him.

In Denver, Chamberlain had established himself as one of the leading receivers in the league at his position. He caught 32 passes for 488 yards in 1999. His average of 15.3 per catch was the highest on the team. His second highest total of 22 catches came last season, but he was cut loose by the Broncos because, he says, "They told me they wanted to go in a different direction."

It would seem as though Chamberlain's record would indicate that the team should continue in his direction, but apparently the folks in charge in the Mile High city felt otherwise.

"After Shannon Sharp left, they wanted to go to more of a tight end by committee deal by playing Dwayne Carswell, myself and Desmond Clark," Chamberlain told VU. "I think that was one reason why my numbers went down in 2000, because I had to share playing time with two other people."

Then, along came Green, and in spite of the presence of the reunited three wides Green told Chamberlain he'd be the main tight end and a big part of the passing offense.

Whether it's been a matter of salary cap problems, free agency considerations or simply because a team says it wants to go in a different direction, Chamberlain says he has no regrets or bitterness regarding his previous six seasons in the NFL. As he sees it: "It's just part of the business, and I deal with it by coming here to Minnesota and playing well. Yes, it was hard (to leave Denver)," he confessed. "I was there for six years and I had some great times there and I got along with everyone in the organization. I have some lifelong friends in that organization, but you just have to chalk it up to how it is in the game today." VU

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