The Battles Wage On

Training camp took a turn toward the humorous Wednesday morning, but there was still plenty of news on the depth-chart positioning. Wide receiver continues to be a tight race, linebacker is being shuffled after an injury and tight end also saw a change.

Nate Burleson is catching everything at training camp, and he might be catching Kelly Campbell for the third receiver spot.

"He does look polished for a rookie, and we like everything he does," coach Mike Tice said after Tuesday's scrimmage.

Burleson, the Vikings' third-round draft choice from Nevada, made an NCAA-best 138 receptions last season playing in a pro-style offense.

That experience pushed him ahead of other rookies, and at the beginning of camp, Tice announced that Burleson had wrapped up the No. 4 receiver slot.

However, Burleson's play has been impressive enough to warrant some work with Randy Moss and D'Wayne Bates in the three-receiver sets.

"I take it as a challenge," said Burleson, brother of former University of Minnesota basketball player Kevin Burleson. "When a coach says something nice publicly, it's a challenge to see if you accept the pressure or you shy away from it. I just want to play ball. Wherever they put me I'll be happy."

Burleson caught three passes in the scrimmage Tuesday. He made one in the preseason game with Jacksonville on Saturday.

"I'm happy any time the ball comes my way," Burleson said. "I'm pleased with what I'm doing. I'm playing with confidence."

NOTES
* It was rookie hazing day at training camp as several rookies took the field with their heads partially shaved. Burleson had two numbers shaved in his head -- his own 14 as well as the 71 of David Dixon, one of the "barbers."

"They all ganged up on me," Burleson said.

Ben Nelson had the front half of his head shaved; Gavin Walls had one side shaved. The best might have been running back Onterrio Smith, who pronounced himself the "Steal of the Draft" when he came to camp.

Somebody had shaved SOD in his hair. Tice said he would make the rookies take the field for the afternoon practice without any helmets, hats or skullcaps so the fans could see the "artwork."

"Somebody has a knack with the razor," Tice said. "If Dixon wanted to cut my hair, I'd just sit in the chair. I'm not going to fight the big guy."

* Linebacker Henri Crockett was in the Twin Cities on Wednesday to have an MRI done on his left shoulder. Crockett injured the shoulder in Tuesday's scrimmage, although it was thought to be a sprain. Tice, however, said he was very concerned. Nick Rogers will start at linebacker Saturday at Kansas City with rookie Gavin Walls as his backup. Tice said a roster move at that position is possible.

* Rookie tight end Sean Berton had moved ahead of Jeff Kostrewa in the battled for the No. 3 position. Tice said Berton had a very strong scrimmage Tuesday. He also said Nelson, who made a highlight-film catch Tuesday, is moving up the receiver chart.

* Tice said that defensive tackle Fred Robbins was the most improved player at training camp. The Vikings had originally positioned rookie Kevin Williams at Robbins' spot but have since moved Williams to end, pushing Lance Johnstone out of the starting lineup.



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