When the Vikings' offense is on the field this season, all eyes will be on Daunte Culpepper to see if he can overcome a turnover-plagued 2002 season and handle his new $100 million contract.
When he's on the sidelines, no doubt some will look toward No. 2 quarterback Gus Frerotte to see how he can assist and mentor Culpepper.
But in the background will be the Vikings' No. 3 man, Shaun Hill, a second-year player who must feel like his rookie season is literally a world away, having spent last spring playing for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe.
"My goal is just to keep improving and make the team," Hill said following the Vikings' Tuesday-morning workout. "If I can improve on what I improved on in the world league, I'll be all right."
In Saturday night's preseason game against Jacksonville, Hill played in the second half and was 7-for-11 passing for 63 yards. That included a 5-for-7 performance on a third-quarter touchdown drive.
"I feel a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "We're starting to get things down with the young guys. The main thing is I feel more comfortable with my reads."
On Tuesday, coach Mike Tice said the Vikings' offense has "really picked it up a notch" over the last two days of practice. Hill agreed with that assessment.
"It's a lot more crisp," Hill said. "Sitting in meetings with (offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan, he feels the same way. There's a lot more cohesion."
* Tice said rookie running back Onterrio Smith will not start the Vikings' regular-season opener at Green Bay. "That won't happen," Tice said. "I won't go into Green Bay and start a rookie. That certainly won't be a possibility. I'm not saying he won't play more plays than the other guys in that game if he continues to improve, but I have a real hard time going into Green Bay, with Paul McCartney singing the national anthem or whatever, and starting a rookie in the backfield. I'm very uncomfortable with that."
* There appears to be another close competition for the Nos. 3-6 wide receiver spots. Rookie Nate Burleson lined up in some three wide-out formations with the No. 1 offense Monday and could push Kelly Campbell on the depth chart.
* Speaking of catching the ball, one of the highlights of the morning session was a fake field goal play that involved a double reverse, followed by Byron Chamberlain's pass to Matt Birk. Birk was being held in the end zone but reached out and made a nice one-handed grab.
* Tuesday night's passing scrimmage will be a long one, Tice said. "We took the pads off this morning," he said. "We want to have a really good practice tonight in the stadium. We'll go longer. We'll go right up until we can't see anymore, literally." The lights over Minnesota State University's Blakeslee Stadium are not in working order.
* Two newcomers were on the practice field Monday morning, defensive end Andrew Tippins, an ex-Minnesota State University player, who was signed Monday, and tight end Ben Steele, who was not yet signed.
Hill, Offense Both Improving
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